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The Age of the Customer Intensifies

To succeed in today’s competitive marketing landscape, brands must be customer obsessed. No longer can they simply choose a message and then blast a campaign. Rather customers are choosing, and sharing, their own messages and content, and, essentially, are helping to craft campaigns—with everything from tweets to blogs to videos. “We are in the age of the customer,” said David Cooperstein , VP, research director, for Forrester Research, at the company’s Forum for Marketing Leaders in San Francisco. “And how well you serve them will determine your success.” He said it’s simple: Brands that focus solely on company goals, not customers, will be left behind.

At the event, Cooperstein shared how marketers can move beyond traditional messages to customer-centric campaigns.

Create content, not advertising.
Less than 25% of customers trust offline ads, Cooperstein explained to an audience of more than 900 attendees. And less than 20% of consumers say they trust digital ads. The chief researcher said these numbers show that marketers must go beyond broadcasting a campaign and interact with customers. “Instead provide an incentive to engage,” Cooperstein said. He cited examples such as foodie and beauty apps that reveal users’ favorite flavors or colors as they submit more information about themselves. These type of campaigns, he said, drive engagement and educate marketers about their audiences.

Understand that customers call the shots.
It’s the customer who chooses how to receive a message—not marketers, Cooperstein says. “Customers choose their routes to you,” he explained. “Serve the customer in the way they want to connect to you.” He said that media has changed from traditional broadcasting—including TV spots and radio ads—and has evolved into shared images, check-ins, and texts. Branding should change as media and technology change if marketers want to produce the most relevant campaigns. “Know how [customers] consume content’” Cooperstein said.

Give customers an experience, not a campaign.
Marketing is not about a brand’s message, but rather interactions, engagement, customer moments, and value, Cooperstein added. He said all of these elements will give customers context about the relevancy of a product or service in their lives. “Context must be embedded in all customer experiences,” he explained, adding that context isn’t provided through simply populating a name field or other simple personalization methods. He recommended that marketers focus on the buyer’s journey and said the purpose of a campaign should be to spark interaction through the entire customer lifecycle. “Brands and experience are inseparable,” Cooperstein said.

Final note
With all of this interaction, comes consumer insights. Cooperstein noted that marketers can use new understanding to craft campaigns that serve, win, and retain customers. “With insights, you can look at your business through your customers’ context.” He adds that context will ultimately bridge the gap between marketing and customer experience. “Marketers can’t build their campaigns in a vacuum,” he says. “Customer data—and, most of all, insights—should fuel the engine.”

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