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Guest Blogger

by Jason Hemingway, Global CMO of Thunderhead

2019 will be the year that marketers focus on enabling journeys, not dictating them, in order to bring customer centricity to the fore

Less talk, more action in 2019

2018 was the year the Marketing and CX communities talked extensively about the importance of putting the customer first. 2019 will be the year that this truly comes to the fore. A recent Forrester Snapshot revealed that 82% of brands claimed to have a customer-led approach, however only 13% are successfully achieving it. Thus, there is work to be done.

The benefits of building a truly customer centric organisation are undeniable. Increasingly, customer expectations are growing. Consumers demand seamless experiences with brands. They want interactions to be personal; they expect to be met with relevant suggestions, taking into account existing relationships with the brand. While this might seem easier said than done, in actual fact, this doesn’t need to be an arduous task.

Going into 2019, brands need to talk less about what they need to do, and focus more on how they’re going to do it. They must understand the importance of developing complex relationships with their customers at scale.

Today, technology can fully cater to organisations’ ambitions to deliver these personal and positive customer experiences. Brands should harness these opportunities, but allow consumers to drive their own journeys, and not attempt to control them.

Empowering consumers to dictate their own journey– and meeting them there

Brands looking to increase customer engagement should be excited by the year ahead. Engagement is the key, and technology is the fantastic enabler. As we move into 2019, the opportunities to improve customer journeys have never been greater. However, businesses need to handle this delicately in order to fully reap the rewards. And, it need not be difficult. In fact, true customer journeys can be unearthed in a matter of weeks.

In doing this, there needs to be a firm understanding of how we can achieve this. A common misconception is that brands need to be controlling the customer journey, and shaping it accordingly. But, is that really what we want?

By empowering customers to follow their own journeys and facilitating the experience, we can better understand each touchpoint and, in turn, piece together their true intent. This will enable marketers to better serve customers, utilising the context we already have.  While a strategic shift may be required, ultimately, this holds the key to establishing a long-term customer centric approach.

While the traditional methods of advertising have worked well to uncover insights and drive awareness, these formats tend to talk at customers. Modern marketing needs to be delivering real-time, two way engagement between customers and brands in order to achieve a competitive advantage in the year ahead.

Keep engagement at the core to understand true intent

The past five years have witnessed the emergence of new business models; the sharing economy, subscription economy and direct to consumer, to name a few. While these might appear dissimilar, there is one common thread linking together each of these models; customer engagement is at the very core. That is, a principle that brands should nurture relationships with customers in order to build long term relationships which will, in turn, meet the needs of customers, as well as their own. It’s a win-win!

While the definition of engagement is ever evolving, having a wholesome understanding of the modern customer will provide that layer of crucial insight to inform brand strategy. The 2019 consumer expects to be treated well and wants to have their time respected. Brands can smarten up by harnessing technology to look at and listen to the signals generated by customers’ online behaviours across millions of touchpoints.

By doing so, marketers can understand true intent, allowing them think specifically about how to meet the customers’ needs, and not merely push products thoughtlessly. This intent-driven approach hands the control back to the consumer, recognising them as individuals with their own goals for us to satisfy.

Go beyond ‘talking the talk’

Organisations prioritising customer centricity in 2019 will restructure their operations to demonstrate the scale of their commitment. Putting customers at the heart needs to go far beyond talking the talk. The year ahead will see the true pioneers continue to put their money where their mouth is. We’ll see the continued emergence of the ‘Customer Squad’, comprising the customer-focused C-suite executives including the Chief Customer Experience Officer. The organisational shift from brand-centric to customer-centric will unearth considerable, long-term benefits.

This team, too, needs to prioritise the issues that matter most to customers. Ensuring brand safety and addressing issues related to data, privacy and security need to come first. Ultimately, customers need to feel confident about the brands they place their trust in. Consumer confidence may have taken a knock over the past year, however 2019 is the year for brands to instil trust for long-lasting loyalty.

Behind a well trimmed beard and a pair of well chosen specs lies a positively well composed CMO. Jason embodies Thunderhead’s fierce entrepreneurial spirit, and collides it with an unrelenting desire to rip apart the norms of traditional B2B marketing.

After an 8 year ‘hop’ on the bruising trade room floor at Dow Jones Newswires, Jason skipped over to IntraLinks, the market leader in SaaS secure collaboration software, where he ran the European marketing department, before jumping onto the marketing floor at Thunderhead in 2011.

Originally responsible for the EMEA regional marketing team, Jason was soon appointed Global CMO, tasked with conducting the brand’s strategic output and go-to-market execution.

Maybe Mr Peel simply misplaced Jason’s number all those years ago. Either way, we’re happy about it, safe in the knowledge that he now only warbles to an audience of one.