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How SMBs can start 2020 with smarter customer-centric marketing

As we kick off 2020, everyone’s refreshing their personal and professional resolutions, looking to make this year one for the record books. Along those lines, it’s time to rethink your small business approach to marketing, setting a foundation for success by implementing the latest customer-centric insights and strategies.
Today’s customer decision journey isn’t as straight and narrow as it used to be. Rather, it’s filled with fragmentation, twists, and turns, making it incredibly difficult to develop a marketing strategy that will effectively reach everyone. For example, buying a new coffee maker used to involve comparing a few different models at the local store and making a choice. It then became sitting at a desktop computer and utilising one search engine for research and eventual purchase. Instead, now there are a myriad of ways someone might choose a coffee maker.
Now, the factors that influence customer purchase decisions are vast, and from a marketer’s perspective, it can be overwhelming. The customer decision journey (CDJ) of today involves many touchpoints across different devices, some online, some off. It can start on your phone, on Instagram, or a search engine like Bing or Google. It can jump to a desktop, and then two days later, the customer can begin a whole new search, with new keywords and intent on their tablet. But discouragement is not an option here, and the businesses that succeed will be those that understand the journey of their prospective customers, marketing to their needs.  
To best help businesses of all sizes wrap their mind around the customer decision journey, Microsoft Advertising conducted a study of marketers and agencies across companies of all sizes and industries, focusing on the top 20% or the High Performers who understand the customer decision journey and are improving their marketing results based on that understanding. Based on our research, here are three of the top ways these businesses are unlocking the customer decision journey:

1. Save time with intelligent technology

Technology is no longer something to shy away from, and it’s no longer a choice either. In fact, it’s foundational to customer-focused marketing success in this day and age. Cloud solutions (data storage, resources access via the internet, and on-demand services) help businesses better understand consumer data, reduce time-to-market, and boost ROI. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be incredibly helpful in personalisation marketing efforts, automating the mundane, and predicting future consumer behaviours, as well as saving you time. From chatbots and digital assistants to speech recognition and campaign automation, AI-enabled features can help you save time and grow your business quickly.

2. Make trust, privacy, and data security a priority  

Your brand's health is dependent on the ability to protect every consumer’s privacy and use their data legally, transparently, and respectfully. Take advantage of the best practices High Performers are using to help protect privacy and secure data.
  • Define and enforce internal standards for data collection and use. Be aware of both the GDPR and the CCPA.
  • Focus on first-party data (information you collect directly from your customers) rather than prioritising personal information collected in cookies.
  • Reduce the amount of data you’re asking for, and when you do ask, be upfront and transparent about how you’ll use their data and how it can benefit the consumer.

3. Let data take center stage

Above all else, data is at the core of understanding the customer decision journey, and the key is unifying quality data sources to create a single, consolidated view of your customer. To get started, gather and analyse existing customer data (first-party data) studying their purchase history, the brands' customers are researching, and when they’re most likely to purchase. That data is literally at your fingertips and is integral to cracking the code and identifying exactly how to reach and market to your ideal customer.
Combine all three of these tips to increase engagement through extended customer touchpoints and interactions. Take advantage of first-party data and intelligent technologies while maintaining a reputation of trust and privacy, to deepen your knowledge of how, what, and when consumers buy, up-leveling your ability to reach them at the exact right time in the right way.
Get started today by partnering with Microsoft Advertising. We aim to help businesses create customer-centric, brand-safe experiences. Our solutions leverage data and artificial intelligence to help you gain insights into the customer decision journey and provide more personalised interactions that can increase ROI. To learn more about the research and get a blueprint for your SMB, download Mastering customer-centric marketing: An SMB blueprint for success today.