The Blog

Customer-centric Digital

Return to Blog / 11 minute read

Cliodhna O’Reilly's avatar
Cliodhna O’Reilly

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer relentlessness of digital marketing, it might help to know you’re not alone.

Even for professionals working in digital, the pace of change and ever-expanding possibilities can be a lot to keep up with.  There’s a widespread tendency to get distracted – by the tools, the numbers, and the general ‘noise’ of the digital space.

When it feels like you’re being sucked into a digital vortex of web design & development, search engine optimisation, social media, digital PR, pay-per-click advertising or any of the constantly emerging fields, it’s helpful to remember that what you’re doing is unimportant. All that matters is WHY you’re doing it – for the customer.

Every business wants a digital strategy that is both simpler and more effective – but listening to the digital noise leads many to believe that the two are mutually exclusive.  There’s a lot of pressure to be doing more, moving forward, getting on board with the next ‘big thing’ – but this pressure is just a distraction from the simple goal that drives all businesses – and that’s solving for the customer.

Putting the customer’s needs, wants and challenges at the centre of your digital strategy is the best way to focus your digital attention, ensuring you’re not wasting time and resources on bells and whistles that don’t serve you – or them.

So how can you establish a customer-centric digital strategy?  Here’s a three-step process any business can follow:

Step One: Find out what your customer needs (or wants)

What can you solve for your customer or prospective customer? What challenges do they face in their lives that your product or service answers? Sometimes customers may not even realise that they’re facing a challenge. For example, before mobile phones, no one knew they were missing a way to constantly stay connected to each other. But they did know that there were times when they missed the bus and had no change to call for a lift.

Does your business address a known or unknown need of your customers?

Of course in life, it’s not always about need. Sometimes it’s about desire. What ambitions or desires does your customer harbour? Sometimes these can be practical, for example: “A faster car helps me get to my destination quicker.” They don’t need to get there faster but they do like to get there faster. Generally speaking, the higher margin the product, the more aspirational the desire.  For example: “A faster car makes me feel a sense of accomplishment about where I have got to in my life.” And don’t forget, our most highly valued desires often remain unspoken.

Does your business address an overt or a covert customer desire?

You can find answers to these questions by conducting research – formally, via online or in-person surveys, or informally, by simply chatting to your customers, sales reps and customer service team.

Being customer-centric means listening not only to what people say, but observing what they do. Somebody might say they buy a Lamborghini because it’s ‘the best’ – but try to get under the hood and think about what being ‘the best’ means to them. What other things do they associate with ‘being the best’?  Think about how you can leverage this.

An angry customer may say they want a refund, but actually, what they really want is to be acknowledged and listened to.  By doing so, you may identify gaps in your service offering or ways to improve that can help you avoid problems and grow customer loyalty in the future. 

Examine your customer’s behaviour via any data available to you or simply by having a conversation with the sales reps or customer service staff who talk to them every day. Consider using tools such as the Brand Essence Wheel to aid in your research.

Knowing what your customer wants and needs will show you how to communicate with them online.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.”
Henry Ford

Step Two: Find out what your customers’ habits are

Now you know what your customer needs, you can develop a strategy to give it to them. Find out how your customer makes a decision to purchase products or services such as yours. How long does it take them? Who do they consult? What factors are important to them?

Next, find out where your customers spend their time. Do they Google their problems? Or do they post a question on their Facebook friends group? What social platforms do they use? How and why do they use these platforms? Do they prefer email or whatsapp? Are they surfing the forums? What blogs do they read? What newspapers do they subscribe to online?

Finally, find out what engages your customers. Do they prefer deep informative articles? Or are they into quick tips and tricks? Is humour important to them? Do they connect with more emotional content or more intellectual content?

There are lots of tools that can help you find out more about your customer, and your first port of call should be those you already have access to.  If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, take a look around. The demographic reports and the behaviour flow chart are particularly useful for finding out who your customer is and what they are looking for. If you have social media channel check out their own in built analytics and insights. Got a customer database? Take a look!  You can also use any of the numerous free online tools available to learn more about the customers in your market. Check out Google Trends or just do what your customers do – Google your problem!

Once you have gathered your information you may find it useful to condense it into a couple of buyer personas – profiles of your typical customer – but remember real life people are far from typical!  Most powerfully of all – ask questions!  Use the insider knowledge gleaned from your sales and customer services teams, and don’t be afraid to go direct from time to time – use tools like Survey Monkey to ask customers your burning questions, offering an incentive for their feedback if appropriate.

Knowing what your customers’ habits are will teach you where and when to communicate with them online.

Step Three: Give customers what they want

Most businesses use a combination of website, social media and paid digital advertising to support their marketing activities.  Using the information you’ve learned about your customers needs, wants, behaviours and habits, you can optimise these tools to have maximum impact and drive growth.

Fine-tune your website

A well thought through website is a core platform for any business, whether or not they trade online. But that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated – in fact, simplicity is essential.

A website should balance what you want visitors to do, and what they want to do. Ideally these should intersect. For example, if you want them to fill in a lead generation form, you should give them a clear reason to do so – perhaps to obtain more information, request a callback, receive a discount code or get a free sample.  Bear in mind that subtlety and sincerity are key – you never want to appear (or be) manipulative.

Create a clear structure

Web navigation should be simple and straightforward. Today’s customer has a short attention span and expects to find the information they need quickly and easily – if not, they’ll bounce off to your competitors.  Make it easy for customers to get in touch with you if they need to, and make sure all your calls-to-action are clear, concise and human.  Remember – computers say ‘submit’ – humans say ‘Get in touch’.

On that note, it’s important not to demand from or cajole your customer in your calls-to-action, as this can be very off-putting.  Your customer has their own mind and their own opinions – your role is to present all the information they need clearly, and allow them to determine their own course of action.  

Connect through imagery

Images and videos have a massive role to play in the way your website makes the customer feel before they’ve read a word.  While logos and visuals are important for brand recognition, customer-centric imagery and design are vital for building emotional connections.  For instance, show someone using your product rather than just the product itself. Consider how imagery and video addresses the deeper needs or wants of your customer. Lifestyle imagery can suggest how your product or service can fulfill the customer’s goals and aspirations. Again, subtlety is key – you don’t want a customer to feel manipulated or to undermine the sincerity of your message.

Want to learn more?  Check out our blog: 10 tips for redesigning your website

Watch your language

The most important thing to remember when developing text for a website is that it’s not always about you! There’s a real temptation to talk about ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘our’ – but when you flip this to put the customer first, your tone of voice really hits home.  This is your chance to tell the customer what they get when they choose you, so lead with the need or aspiration and keep the language customer-focused rather than introspective.

Keep the text concise and simple, and speak in a language that your customers understand and will respond to. When reading they should never be impressed by your cleverness but confirmed in their own intelligence, so it’s important to use words and phrases they’ll respond best to.

What tone of voice will your customers best respond to when being given the message you have to deliver?

When writing longer form content such as blogs, white papers or case studies make sure your content is answering a customer’s needs. Choose topics they might search for or ask friends or colleagues about. Make it unique and relevant. And remember, it is always better to say nothing than say something for no reason at all!

Be present on social

When using social media, you’re a guest in your customer’s world, so it’s more important than ever to add value and absolutely vital not to oversaturate your audience with content or information – the unfollow risk is real!  Engagement is the primary goal, but not at all costs.  Entertain, inform, distract or educate, but make sure it’s authentic, valuable and relevant to your brand and more importantly, the customer need you’re aiming to fulfil.

For example, Paddy Power is a betting platform, but the value they really offer isn’t financial gain – it’s entertainment and a distraction from humdrum lives.  Their social content can and should include light hearted and funny content. On the other hand, Bank of Ireland offers financial services, and the value they offer is security –  so while their customers might enjoy funny cat videos, they definitely don’t want to see them being posted by the people who are supposed to be looking after their hard-earned cash. To come up with ideas of relevant, meaningful things to post, don’t be afraid to dive back into your research, check out competitors, industry leaders and of course your customers!

It’s important to remember that social is not a one-way platform; it’s a two-way conversation.  Expect and be prepared for both sales and customer service conversations and be mindful that social media users love immediacy, fast responses and regular updates. Create posts that prompt responses, ask for opinions and aim to start discussions – and if you’re stuck for ideas, don’t be afraid to do some research on your competitors’ channels.

To tap into Cliodhna’s digital expertise, get in touch with Creative Media today.