Express Optimization, Chief Digital Strategist

I recently spoke with a digital marketing director at an established, mid-sized company about their digital strategy. She quickly got to the obvious questions:

"Have you had a chance to look at our website? Do you have any suggestions? What would you recommend?"

I had taken a look.

"Before I make any recommendations, I'd like to look at your buyer personas to find out about your customers. What are your customers looking for? What kinds of problems do your customers expect your company to solve?"

"Would you be surprised if I told you that we don't have anything like that?"

Additional conversation revealed that this director is smart, articulate, and laser-focused on results and the bottom line. But by her own admission, she couldn't tell me about her customers.

Am I surprised that a digital marketing director doesn't know her customers? No.

I told her more about buyer personas, and I explained that they didn't have to be complex. After all, they're just high-level profiles of your typical or target customers. I urged her to get to know her customers, and I recommended it as the next, best step she could take to develop an effective and fruitful digital strategy.

"I'm not in for all of the fluff."

For her, a customer-centric approach isn't just not on the radar, she probably doesn't want it on the radar. She continued to reiterate her focus on numbers.

"Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion." - Steve Jobs

Numbers is what most middle and senior managers do; they're great at it. But most simply aren't in the business of putting themselves in the shoes of their customers; they're not in the business of empathy. Employment statistics prove that to be true: businesses hire thinkers, planners, and administrators for management roles. They rarely hire intuitive feeler types.

In fact, according to Type Talk at Work, less than 6% of middle managers are intuitive feeler types. And when you jump to upper management, it drops to under 4%.

Who are these intuitive/feeler types?

  • They're the ones who are able to empathize with customers (and employees), who genuinely care about customer problems, and who can come up with creative solution after creative solution.
  • They're able to "sense" when there are gaps in process or user experience because they're able to imagine themselves in the role of the customer and intuitively "feel" or "experience" those gaps. Once that "sense" is activated, they won't rest until they find a solution.
  • They make excellent partners with thinker/planner types because their valuable insight provides a balanced view that includes the bottom line AND creative, customer-centric solutions.

Numbers don't lie; it's a winning combination.

Companies that employ customer-centric digital strategies are seeing impressive increases in profits, leads, and customer loyalty. If we think about our own experiences, we intuitively know this to be true. We're so much more likely to do business with—and continue to do business with—a company who...

  • "Gets" us
  • Values us
  • Cares about what we care about
  • Builds genuine trust
  • Makes doing business a pleasure

And we've all interacted with businesses who focus so much on themselves and their bottom lines that they miss the point of why they are in business at all. And we know intuitively that those companies will soon be dinosaurs, unless...

This is your reminderyour wake-up call.

We're dealing with humans: human needs, human problems. And you're not going to understand human customers, meet their needs, or solve their problems just by looking at the numbers. The numbers won't, by themselves, help you build an intuitive, customer-centered digital strategy. Period.

Don't get me wrong; numbers tell part of the story. But...

If you don't know *who* you're spending your marketing and digital dollars on or *why*, you're losing your relevance (and customers, and leads, and profit, and ROI...). Quickly.

In over 15 years working with B2B and B2C businesses and non-profits of all sizes, it's amazing how often I've seen this basic first step—this acknowledgement of the humanity of it all—not make the cut. And you know what that is? It's a big-time lost opportunity.

Am I surprised that a digital marketing director wants to increase profits, generate higher quality leads, build customer loyalty, and be a thought-leader? No. Am I surprised that she wants to do that while focusing on numbers and without considering her customers? Still no. But I grieve the loss.

Many digital managers will continue to steer away from working with creative, intuitive/feeler, customer-centric types because numbers make them more comfortable than perceived fluff. The better solution though—the winning solution—is partnership. In the case of digital strategy, two heads truly are better than one.

It's why I do what I do.

Any company who truly wants to build a solid brand, build customer loyalty, become a thought-leader, and generate more and better leads must be customer-centric. And to hit the ball out the park, they must partner with experienced digital strategists who:

  • Are naturals at getting into the minds and shoes of customers.
  • Can genuinely feel and care about customer pains points and problems.
  • Can identify ways to meet and exceed customer needs while still caring about bottom line impacts.

Focus on the customer. There's no substitute for it. Then, use the numbers to prove that your strategy is working, and to tweak your approach.

#digitalstrategy #ftw #expressoptimization

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