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How to Put Customers First in a Digital World

By Richard Albrecht

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One of the most impactful lessons I learned in my business school days came courtesy of Dr. Daniel Turner, award-winning MBA Marketing Professor at the University of Washington. He said, “Think marketing, because that’s where the money is.” What I took from that quote years ago rings as true today as ever. If you don’t know your customers, you won’t have a business. 

The trust economy enabled by the internet has changed the focus from brand-based trust to personal trust. Today’s marketers must, in turn, shift their thinking. They are challenged to go beyond mere communication and create valuable customer connections. To be successful, companies must evolve from simply communicating a brand promise to truly living that brand promise with customers across all interactions. At Bridge Partners, we are finding deep customer connections to be more important than ever—for our clients’ businesses and for our own. We believe that modern marketing strategy is about building value-driven customer relationships. 

Techniques and tools for customer acquisition and retention evolve constantly. Digital tools have made it easier for companies and customers to engage, and companies must now leverage that capability to be responsive to their customers’ individual needs. According to Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, “If you are not linked to your customers more deeply and adapting more rapidly, you are making a mistake.”  

Today’s marketers have at their fingertips an exponentially growing ecosystem of digital tools to acquire, retain, engage with, and learn about customers. However, a digital tool is only as good as the customer relationships it enables. As face-to-face interactions get replaced and digital noise clutters the marketplace, customer relationships suffer, and marketers must work even harder to create context and connection with customers. This “context relevance” is the latest, digital age version of Dan Turner’s “know your customer.” 

To compete, companies must bring technology, marketing, and customer experience together holistically. Marketers should take ownership of customers across the buying lifecycle and put individual customers at the heart of their strategy. Contextual marketing is all about using digital tools to enable trust and create compelling customer relationships and dynamic, personalized experiences. 

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With so many customer touchpoints, businesses of all kinds must begin thinking of themselves as services companies. Every customer interaction, pre and post-sale, is a measurable opportunity for interaction with a brand promise. Technology enables more effective marketing programs and, if used wisely, can create more relevant and valuable customer connections. Smart companies need to take advantage of the opportunities for closer customer connection, and smart marketers must lead the way.


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