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    Grow your brand with customer-centric marketing

    Imagine two brands, both selling baby formula.

    Brand A features illustrations of babies and families across their marketing channels. They tout their ingredients, showcase their varieties for different dietary needs, and occasionally comarket with other baby brands.

    Brand B highlights real babies and caregivers across their channels, including video testimonials and user-generated content. They encourage customers to register for their newsletter to receive regular educational tips about feeding, and reminders for when your baby might be ready to move up (or down) in formula intake. They partner with respected pediatrician influencers who many new parents already follow.

    Are you already buying stock in Brand B? If so, that’s the power of customer-centric marketing.

    Keep reading to learn why it’s the key to increasing brand loyalty, which (real) companies are getting it right and how to build a customer-first strategy.

    What is customer-centric marketing?

    Customer-centric marketing means putting the customer at the forefront of every interaction your brand has with them—before and after they purchase. Your customers’ specific needs, concerns and affinities should be the starting point for any new promotion, improvement or change you make.

    In practice, this means actively gathering intel on your customer through surveys or social listening, analyzing that data and proactively giving your customer what they want, or what they don’t yet know they want. Prospective customers should see themselves reflected in your brand before they even buy from you—and current customers should be such fierce advocates, they’d never think about switching.

    Consider some of these stats from The 2023 Sprout Social Index™: 76% of consumers notice and appreciate when brands prioritize customer support. And 51% say the most memorable thing a brand can do on social media is respond to customers.

    Grow your brand with customer-centric marketing

    Putting customers at the heart of your marketing strategy is nonnegotiable.

    What are the benefits of customer-centric marketing?

    Getting customer-centric marketing right requires your entire team to invest in knowing your audience inside and out. It also means conducting ongoing research to understand how your customers’ needs and challenges change over time. It’s a big lift, but one that pays off in the form of:

    • New customer acquisition: Business growth depends on attracting new customers. Companies that put their audience first inevitably stand out, even in crowded spaces up against legacy names. Consider acne treatment brand Starface, which was named to Bain’s 2024 Insurgent Brands list—a compilation of businesses generating over $25 million in annual revenue, that have experienced more than 10 times their category’s average growth rate in the past five years. Starface is intentional about meeting their Gen Z audience where they are, focusing on strategic influencer partnerships, amplifying meme culture and even turning audience social posts into physical billboards.

    A Starface Instagram post showing a photo of a real billboard featuring a customer Tweet.

    • Loyalty and retention: Once you acquire those new customers, are you keeping them for life? Businesses need to foster brand loyalty in order to prevent customers from churning to the competition. When customers see themselves in your marketing campaigns, feel like their questions are promptly answered, and know their feedback is taken seriously, you’re giving them concrete reasons to stay.
    • Social proof: A Q1 2024 Sprout Pulse Survey of 2,000 consumers found that social media is the number one channel for product discovery. The organic and paid content you post on your brand channels plays a large part here—but so do the comments, testimonials and user-generated content from existing customers. Audiences put tremendous faith in peer recommendations before they buy. Proactively encouraging customers to share this kind of content generates positive word-of-mouth for your brand, and drives future sales.

    4 brands perfecting customer-centric marketing

    Whether you’re promoting a new product, jumping on a trend or triaging when something goes wrong, social is the perfect arena for gathering customer insights to infuse across your marketing plan. Here are four brands embedding social into their customer-centric marketing strategy–and takeaways for how you can do it yourself.

    McDonald’s listens and leans into subcultures

    When you serve millions of customers globally on a daily basis, it’s safe to say your brand has mass appeal. But McDonald’s doesn’t simply settle for generic campaigns that unite burger lovers everywhere. The fast food giant has made a concerted effort to root all of its recent marketing efforts in what they refer to as “fan truths”—in other words, specific customer insights.

    With the help of social listening, their marketing team is able to pinpoint even the most niche trends that segments of their customer base are tuning into. This kind of intel was the driving force behind the “WcDonald’s” campaign, a marketing and product play that leans into how the brand has been referenced in anime for decades.

    A McDonald's X post teasing it's WcDonald's campaign in February 2024.

    This kind of subculture marketing only happens when you keep a constant pulse on what your customers are talking about or engaging with online (including the topics that aren’t directly related to your brand or industry). With that information, you can design marketing strategies that acknowledge your audience as whole people with diverse interests—not simply fast-food diners or online shoppers.

    Atlassian aces social customer care

    Our Index research found that consumers think prioritizing direct audience engagement makes brands more memorable than publishing trendy content or taking risks with posts. This is something B2B software company Atlassian takes seriously—rather than just maintain a certain social publishing volume, they focus on creating meaningful moments with their vast user base.

    One of the brand’s values is “Don’t f*** the customer,” and this audience-first mentality shines through on social. Their Jira brand in particular runs a masterclass on what robust social customer care should look like. For instance, they are quick to respond to product feedback and questions—but in a way that feels personal, not robotic.

    An X post from Atlassian Jira, responding to a user sharing feedback about the product's user interface.

    They also make it a point to monitor (and sometimes chime in on) broader conversations happening about project management tools. This approach lets Atlassian’s social team build stronger relationships with existing users and build awareness with future customers.

    Zappos makes customer obsession a timeless style

    For more than two decades, online retailer Zappos has been on a mission to “deliver WOW.” This focus on delivering an unmatched customer experience and service is embedded across the company’s values, hiring processes and (of course) its digital investments.

    The brand wields its vast amount of customer data for good—that is, valuable personalization. For instance, Zappos sends tailored emails to parents based on when their children might be ready to size up in shoes. Small acts of service like this can alleviate major stress in a customer’s day, and make Zappos the hero.

    Zappos also recruits real customers to be the face of their creative efforts. Their “Start Where You Are” campaign features runners at all stages of their athletic journey, with a variety of backgrounds and body types.

    An Instagram Reel from Zappos for its "Start Where You Are" campaign, highlighting real customers.

    Salesforce delivers 360-degree love for their brand advocates

    It should come as no surprise that a brand with the tagline “The Customer Company” walks the walk when it comes to customer-centric marketing. Salesforce is deeply committed to its Trailblazer community: a millions-strong group of Salesforce users who connect in online forums, at in-person events and on social.

    An X conversation where the Salesforce brand account congratulates someone on earning Salesforce Trailhead badges.

    Salesforce’s social media team uses Sprout’s Smart Inbox, listening and analytics capabilities to stay in sync with their Trailblazers across more than 150 of the company’s social channels. Whether it’s celebrating a Trailblazer’s new certification or hyping up presenters at a World Tour conference, Salesforce never misses an opportunity to engage 1:1.

    A Salesforce X post responding to an attendee at one of their World Tour events.

    B2B technology is not always the first industry that comes to mind when you think of proactive community management, but Salesforce turns that notion on its head.

    The role of social in building a customer-centric marketing strategy

    Feeling inspired to revisit your marketing strategy after seeing those examples? Here are a few ways you can embed customer-centricity across your team’s decision-making processes.

    Capture always-on insights from current and future customers

    To build and maintain a customer-centric marketing plan, you need a scalable way of understanding your target audience. Your customers are so much more nuanced than a composite buyer persona profile. Social data is one of the most powerful ways marketers can capture specifics at scale about who their customers are, what they love, what they need, etc.

    Sprout’s AI-powered Listening tool allows you to instantly access and sift through billions of data points to uncover trends across the people already loyal to you—and those you want to convert. Looking for a new “fan truth” to guide your next campaign? Listening data will tell you faster than any survey can. Want to gauge customer reception to a new product before launch? Tease it on social media and let the data roll in. The importance of social media intelligence is endless.

    The most valuable part of listening data is the ability to make agile decisions. Instead of waiting on market research and focus group results before iterating on a plan, you can access real-time sentiment and make the call then and there.

    Make customers the star of your content strategy

    As Zappos illustrates above, you don’t always have to tap internal team members or high-profile celebrities when casting talent for your social content. In fact, 42% of consumers want to see customers reflected in brands’ social content—more so than corporate employees or even executives, according to a Q4 2023 Sprout Pulse Survey.

    Showcasing customers on social is a win-win-win: It makes it easier for future customers to see real people like themselves using your product or service. It’s also a direct way to turn existing buyers into superfans and long-term brand ambassadors. This all generates even more positive word-of-mouth for your brand in the long run.

    In Sprout, People View helps you discover and organize profiles already engaging with your brand. It makes quick work out of identifying your super fans and narrowing down a list of possible content partners.

    Sprout's People View feature.

    Master social customer care

    Anyone who has ever called a 1-800 number or emailed an anonymous help@ address for product support knows how fractured the customer service experience can be. Whether customers have to repeat their issue to multiple team members before finding a solution or get inconsistent answers from inconsistent digital channels, they’re leaving unhappy.

    Increasingly, social is where customers turn for real-time help—so brands must be equipped to respond accordingly. Today, 69% of consumers expect a same-day (or sooner) response from brands on social, according to the Index. And while most do expect a degree of personalization in those interactions, our Q1 2024 Pulse Survey found that almost three-quarters are comfortable with brands using AI to deliver faster social customer care.

    An image of the Salesforce integration in Sprout, where users can DM an individual while having a view into their Salesforce Contact record.

    Fulfilling each of these criteria requires the right tools. Social Customer Care by Sprout Social transforms every care interaction into a competitive advantage. Our integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, Dynamics 365 and HubSpot give customer-facing teams the context needed to personalize messages in a meaningful way. And features like Automatic Case Creation and Classification help triage high message volumes instantly, so you can focus on inquiries that need urgent attention.

    Gather valuable competitive intelligence

    Being customer-centric means being the best choice for your customer. To truly be the best, you have to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. In almost every category, consumers have more options than ever before. And as prices rise across sectors, you can expect more customers to explore those options. Don’t take long-term loyalty for granted.

    Keep tabs on your competitors through targeted social monitoring and listening, tracking your wins against competitors in your CRM and working with your sales team to hear what prospects are saying about them. Are there common complaints or negative feedback a competitor’s customer base is vocal about on social? Use that insight to develop messaging that explains how your brand fills that gap or does things differently.

    A preview of Sprout Social's Competitive Analysis dashboard that demonstrates how three competitors compare in share of voice, impressions, engagements and sentiment.

    Sprout users can take advantage of Competitor Post Reports for Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) to pull content insights on a regular basis. With Sprout Listening, you can dig even deeper into message volume and sentiment trends across your competitive set.

    Make customer-centric marketing your north star

    Putting customers at the center of your marketing strategy isn’t a radical approach—but it can have a radical impact on your business.

    By listening to your customers’ needs, understanding and empathizing with their pain points, efficiently solving their problems and going above and beyond where needed, your brand can become their forever favorite.

    Use our social listening workbook to start gathering essential insights that can help your entire team operate with a customer-first mindset.

    The post Grow your brand with customer-centric marketing appeared first on Sprout Social.

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