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How to Craft a Successful Customer-Centric Marketing Strategy

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How to Craft a Successful Customer-Centric Marketing Strategy

When was the last time a business fully addressed your wants and needs as a customer? For me, it was around the holidays, while searching for the perfect gift to give a friend who is a huge fan of the video game series “The Legend of Zelda.”

My online search for the right gift led me to STL Ocarina, a company that sells ocarinas — the musical wind instruments that have been around for thousands of years and a staple item in the Legend of Zelda series. Clearly, the company knew many of its customers were like me — either fans of the games or shopping for fans of the games — so it made finding Zelda-themed ocarinas on its website simple.

Just hover over the tab that says “Our Ocarinas,” and the first category to pop up under the tab says “For Legend of Zelda Fans.” From there, I was taken to a page displaying their Zelda-themed ocarinas and the option to include a songbook of the game’s music.

After purchasing the ocarina and songbook, I remembered my friend doesn’t know how to play the ocarina and the songbook may not have tips for beginners. Luckily, STL Ocarina’s confirmation email included a YouTube instructional video and links to online resources that will help him get started.

STL Ocarina serves as a great example of what customer-centric marketing looks like. During the few minutes I was on the company’s website, every touchpoint of my buyer journey was valuable, from landing on the website to browsing for the right gift to making a purchase.

Months later, I’m still recommending the website to friends who want Legend of Zelda merchandise or are simply looking for a new hobby to pick up.

In order for your company to turn customers into advocates, the same way I advocate for STL Ocarina, it’s important to add value to every part of the customer’s journey and to address their needs. A way to accomplish this is to create a solid customer-centric marketing strategy.

Customer-centric marketing ensures your customers are satisfied with their products or service enough to remain loyal and to tell others to become customers as well. To implement customer-centric marketing for your business, first ask yourself:

  • How are customers connecting with your business? Is it via social media, the website, email, phone, or something else?
  • Is there value being offered in each of these channels?
  • What can be done to improve the customer’s experience at every touchpoint?

Customer-Centric Marketing Examples

Many companies have taken a customer-centric approach to their marketing strategy and have achieved great success. These companies include:

1. Starbucks

customer centric marketing starbucks

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One of the most well-known successful customer-centric marketing strategies comes from Starbucks with its Starbucks Reward Loyalty Program. This program offers a variety of perks, including exclusive discounts, free refills on brewed coffee, and free drinks for customers on their birthday. However, one of the program’s standout services is that it gives customers the ability to order and pay ahead of arriving at the restaurant.

This means customers who are pressed for time can schedule their items for pickup, thus avoiding long lines and inconsistent wait times.

According to Forbes, Starbucks attributed 40% of its total sales in 2019 to its rewards program. Forbes also reported users of the Loyalty Program’s app were 5.6 times more likely to visit a Starbucks every day.

2. Nordstrom

Luxury department store chain Nordstrom sought to improve its service and product discovery by creating a more streamlined and personalized shopping experience. The company achieved this by implementing its Nordstrom Analytical Platform. The platform consists of AI models that handle tasks such as inventory control and fulfillment, and routes orders to the nearest store.

The company also created fashion maps in which the AI uses natural language conversations, combined with images and information gathered from social media to predict customer preferences. Thanks to AI, the Nordstrom Analytical Platform offers personalized products and selections for customers via its Looks feature, storyboards, and more.

3. Bacardi

Back in 2019, Bacardi wanted to get potential customers in the UK and Germany excited about the brand’s new single-malt whiskies. Understanding drinkers in that demographic often have a taste for luxury, Bacardi teamed up with Amazon to create a live whisky tasting customers can enjoy from the comfort of their home.

The spirits company created its Single Malt Discovery Collection, which was made up of three whiskies exclusively for tasting. Customers in the UK and Germany could purchase the collection from Amazon and, in turn, receive access to the live streamed tasting. During the live stream, customers were able to ask questions to the host via a custom landing page on Amazon. More than 500 questions were asked and Bacardi saw an increase in sales on Amazon.

Tips for Creating a Strong Customer Centric Marketing Strategy

Crafting a customer-centric marketing strategy for the first time can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to get started:

1. Get Leadership Involved

To help ensure the success of any new strategy, it’s important to get the support and enthusiasm of senior leadership. If senior leaders prioritize customers at every channel and interaction, it will encourage others in the organization to do the same. You can get leadership on board by hosting regularly scheduled meetings to educate leadership on customer-centric marketing, discuss upcoming campaigns, and brainstorm creative ways to promote the brand.

2. Learn About Your Customers

Gain a better understanding of your customers by doing some of the following:

  • Conduct surveys asking customers about the quality of the service/product, the company’s strong points, where it can improve, and how they most interact with the brand.
  • Have one-on-one interviews with current and former customers asking about their experience with the company, why they choose to remain loyal, or why they left. You can also ask former customers what changes would have made them stay.
  • Use data gathered from analytics tools to track customer behavior.
  • Monitor social media and/or enable Google Alerts so that you can see what people are saying about your business online. For example, if customers often take to Twitter to complain about how difficult it is to navigate your website, that could be a sign to update the site. You can also gauge the type of content your customers like to see on social media. Perhaps on TikTok you notice followers enjoy behind-the-scenes videos, while customers on Twitter enjoy having their questions answered or reading important announcements.
  • Read through customer emails and monitor calls to see how customers are interacting with your company.

3. Add Value to Every Customer Interaction

Customers, or potential customers, can be at any stage of their journey with your company, which is why it’s important to create appeal at every touchpoint. Whether they interact with your organization via social media, are calling to get help with a problem, or they are at the end stage of purchasing a product/service, every part of the buyer’s cycle should spark engagement and joy.

Nordstrom offering personalized products/services based on the customer’s behavior, and Starbucks creating a system that allows customers to get their needs met quickly and efficiently are great examples of adding value at different customer interactions. Same can be said for Bacardi’s virtual, at-home whisky tasting. The one thing that all of these actions have in common is that they make the customer experience fun, engaging, and simple.

4. The Value of Customer-Centric Marketing

As technology continues to change the way people interact with brands and businesses, the customer journey has become less linear. To keep up with the ever-evolving journey, companies must adopt a customer centric marketing approach to build stronger relationships that will turn your customers into some of its strongest advocates.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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