Treating the Customer as an Individual

Target AudienceIn my year-end blog post, I predicted that 2014 would be the year of the great marketing U-turn – the year in which marketers fully harness digital marketing tools to begin speaking primarily to individuals, not to the groups in which we believe they are members.

My focus at that time was customer acquisition – talking to prospects as individuals. Reflecting more on digital marketing, it strikes me that we also have an excellent opportunity to improve our ability to talk to existing customers as individuals.

We’ve all seen the studies that show how much more cost-effective it is to grow revenue with existing customers than it is to acquire new business. Yet it’s clear that most digital marketing efforts are directed mainly at prospects, grabbing them when they’re searching online for solutions and making a best effort to initiate a dialog.

That’s essential work, of course, but it doesn’t address existing customers. If we’re to fully complete the great marketing U-turn, we need to apply digital technologies in marketing to customers as individuals as well as to prospects. And that requires a change in mindset as to how we view marketing’s mission relative to the customer base.

I recently encountered an email communication from a B2B company informing customers of the availability of a no-cost upgrade. The email salutation was, “Dear valued customer.”

Dear valued customer?

What says “you’re far from valued as an individual” more than a faux-sincere, generic “dear valued customer?” It’s a bit like “Dear current spouse.” The marketer behind that email communication was obviously not concerned with treating the customer as an individual, but rather saw a generalized group.

Quite possibly, that marketer – and perhaps that company’s marketing function? – is focused primarily on prospects and customer acquisition, and spends comparatively little time thinking about customers. That certainly happens, and it points to questions worth asking about your own marketing organization….

Do your digital marketing plans and execution focus on growing existing business as well as acquiring new business? Are you routinely marketing to existing customers as individuals, or do you rely on your company’s account management function to address customers individually? If it’s the latter, you have a great opportunity to up your marketing game.

We have so many new tools that empower us to market to individuals. SEO, PPC, custom content, automated marketing, etc. enable us to connect with individuals as never before. Let’s remember to deploy those tools in well-designed efforts to expand existing business as well as to assist in new customer acquisition.

It starts with putting a permanent end to “Dear valued customer.”

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