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Marketing is a busy space. Learning about marketing is an industry in and of itself. And it's virtually impossible for anyone to know everything there is to know about marketing. Its one of the things I love about marketing: there's always something new to learn. The marketing landscape that existed when I started my marketing career over 15 years ago is almost unrecognizable now.
But if there was just one thing that I would want you to know, this is it: Start with the customer.
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Not every marketer would agree with me that your marketing needs to start with your customer in mind. But I chose marketing as my career because I had a desire to help people. Staying in that biochemistry lab was just going to take too long.
You may think that marketing is just about getting as many people as possible to buy your stuff. And it is. Marketing is all about getting attention to your product. But it's also about letting your customers know that it’s the best choice to solve their problem.
Starting with the customer makes that job infinitely easier – from product creation through promotion and even customer service. Your entire business gets easier with a customer-first approach.
Let’s dive into how starting with the customer looks for two key components of marketing: product and promotion.
Customer-First Product Creation
The product is the big banana – it’s what you’re actually selling. It could be a book, an online course, jewelry, skin care, or software. Starting with a customer-first approach to your product allows you to create the products that actually solve the customer’s problem in the best possible way.
You could write a book on how to use photoshop to create mockups for crafters to use in their Etsy store. It would probably be a lot of screenshots and could get out of date pretty quickly as the software you use changes. Those written lessons could be hard to follow with techniques like drag and drop or tracing shapes. But if we took that same goal and created something that focused on the best experience for the customer, we’d end up with an online course. The course modules could include video lessons, screenshots, written step-by-steps, and even sample files that the customers could download and use as they followed-along. And depending on the delivery method, you could easily update just the lessons that changed as the software evolved and changed. Plus, you can charge more for a course than you can a book – which is a benefit to you!
Let’s look at one more example – this time in the skincare space. Most of us are strapped for time, but still want to look our best. A 10-step regime that would make a Kardashian proud may help us accomplish that second goal, but it won’t fit into the schedule for most busy people. Heck, some people are even looking for shortcuts when it comes to brushing their teeth! But most people can follow-through with two or three steps – so by combining and optimizing your formulas into just the essentials that can get done in under 5 minutes is likely to increase the chances that the customer’s actually going to finish the process every day. And consistent follow-through is what’s going to get them the clear, smooth skin that they’re going for.
When you look at your products, were they created with your customer’s needs in mind, or what you wanted to create. If you find that you’re struggling with conversion rates and sales, go back to the beginning and ask yourself “What can I create that solves my customer’s needs?”
Next up is promotion. Promotion is what most people think of first when it comes to marketing. It’s the element where you’re working to get your product in front of all those customers you created it for. It’s your Facebook page or pay-per-click campaign or podcast. Thinking of your customer first in your promotion includes the channels that you use to reach your customers and what you say when you’re in front of them.
When choosing your promotional channels, consider why your customer is there. For our online course creator, her customers are probably shopping on Etsy themselves (and comparing their own listings to others), as well as searching on Google and YouTube for tips on how to improve their own images. Being present in those places – on Etsy, and optimizing content for Google and YouTube will help get her in front of the right customers.
For the skin-care line, imagery is going to provide the proof that customers need. Whether it’s before and after photos from customers, short videos of how to use the product, or well lit, styled photos of the product packaging, the visuals will capture the imagination of customers better than any written description. Those images should be accompanied by testimonials from real customers. These images will best be used on platforms where images are important – like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. The company may also want to use an affiliate program (or direct sales representatives) to leverage the customer’s passions to promote the product that changed their skin.
By thinking of the customer first, you can also avoid promotional platforms that don’t make sense for your business. For example, I was working with an industrial engineer who did custom metalwork for homes and businesses. He thought he needed to have a Facebook page because “everyone else had one.” But when someone needed a new metal staircase for their building exterior, they weren’t searching on Facebook or expecting to see an add go through their newsfeed. Instead, his time was better spent on optimizing for SEO and getting testimonials and reviews that he could share with potential clients.
To leverage customer-first marketing when choosing your promotional channels, you’ll need to get into your customer’s mindset even more. If they are looking for a solution – either actively or passively – then where will your message capture their attention. Active solution searching often involves search platforms like Google, YouTube and Pinterest, while passive solution searching may happen on traditional social media like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Then optimize your messaging for those channels.