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Digital transformation must start with the customer

Marketers must put their customers first or risk becoming obsolete, argues Mark Phibbs, VP of marketing and communications at Cisco, Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China. He outlines how marketers can use technology to deliver superior customer experiences.

The digital age has transformed business as we know it, including marketing. Research increasingly shows us that it’s not necessarily the product, service or brand a company promotes that determines success. It is actually the overall customer experience that leads to sustained growth in a business.

As we know from the CEB (now Gartner), customers have already done 57 percent of the due diligence on a business and its products before the first contact with its sales representatives is made. Essentially, the feeling a customer comes away with after interacting with any and all company materials plays a key role in deciding whether or not they ultimately do business with you.

Modern marketing is all about this customer experience, and marketers – especially B2B marketers – need to be brave and step away from the usual tried‐and‐tested tactics, or risk becoming obsolete.

In one Forrester survey, 74 per cent of business buyers said they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. As such, digital and web marketing play a key role in determining customer experience. They control more touchpoints with more customers than any other function.

Put customers at the heart of your digital content strategy

So, how can marketers deeply understand their target audiences and ensure they deliver the right content at the right time?

The key is to start with the customer, not the product offering. Fit your products into the things that your target customer cares about, rather than trying to figure out how that customer might fit into the product you’re offering.

To achieve this, build personas for your key target audiences – those that visit your website most often and those that engage with your content most consistently.

To build a personalised experience for each customer, adopt a data‐driven approach using modern advertising technologies like programmatic targeting.

You should be informing the development of your content through active social listening and analysing, while testing responses to your website, display and online marketing materials. This intelligence can help you determine how visitors interact with your website and market to them through techniques like personalised retargeting.

Ensure that you are the foremost expert on the subject of your customers’ wants, needs and pain points. With this simple approach, data‐driven decisions based around customers instead of technology become much more impactful.

Delivering superior customer experiences with content marketing

Once you know your customer well and understand your key personas inside out, the next step is to focus on delivering a superior customer experience to them.

Build omni‐channel journeys to provide your key audiences with the information they need, when they need it. This will accelerate their consideration of your product and move them to purchase from or further engage with you.

B2B brands have traditionally struggled to relate to a broader audience, often appearing cold, dry and overly technical in their marketing efforts. But, technical marketing can and should be made more relatable by simplifying complex concepts to appeal to a large target audience.

For example, Cisco recently engaged Peter Dinklage from HBO’s Game of Thrones in a campaign which used the power of storytelling and a brand ambassador to tell that story through the language and eyes of the consumer.

In this campaign, new innovations and technology are weaved into a simple and relatable storyline to engage and excite audiences about the next era of networking.

Technology is reshaping the way we engage customers with content

It is vitally important to use social listening and analytics to gain better data to use as a basis for developing your content marketing and improving the overall customer experience.

At Cisco, we have built personas for our key target audiences, along with omni‐channel journeys to target each of those personas. We have also built up our social listening team to move customer conversations and drive customer engagement. This is allowing us to listen to feedback more effectively.

In addition, we are building a world‐class customer advocacy practice based around customer case studies and digital advocacy. In this way, we enable our customers to tell their own stories about our technology.

This results in customers building and sharing content for us, becoming the best advocates of our brand. With all this content and feedback, we can then apply the right solution to meet each customer’s needs.

Keep the right questions in your mind. What does the customer want to buy to solve a business problem?

There’s no question that technology is reshaping the way we market to customers online. The key thing to remember in this brave new world is: start with the customer, not the technology solutions. Always keep the right questions in your mind. What does the customer want to buy to solve a business problem? Not, what do you want to sell them?

Data‐driven insights should dictate your marketing strategy and storytelling. They are the cornerstone of the movement to educate and enthral customers. Meanwhile, the best vehicle for content distribution will depend on where your customers go to learn about your brand at each point in the purchasing journey.

The modern marketer must be able to move fast and put their customer before their product – or else, face obsolescence in the digital world.

Key takeaways

  • Use data and social listening to understand your audience and interact with them in real‐time.
  • Build omni‐channel journeys and compelling content to effectively engage your audience.
  • Deliver superior marketing experiences to convert your customers into brand advocates.

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