In an advertising and content-cluttered digital landscape, how can a marketing professional cut through the noise? In my experience as the director of marketing for a global Fortune 500 company, the answer is easy to identify yet challenging to achieve: connect with the customer.

Why do I include "easy" and "challenging" in the same sentence? Because the idea of focusing on the customer's viewpoint is decidedly not new in the marketing landscape, but creating a campaign that focuses on the values of the consumer takes commitment and research.

From data dives to field research and anecdotal market intelligence, building an accurate picture of consumer values and priorities, then acting on that information, is hard but rewarding work.

Here's a look at why this customer-centric approach matters, along with some actionable tips for making the customer connection a reality.

Make the Connection

Why should companies connect with consumers from a values perspective? Because doing so builds a lasting relationship with customers rather than treating every transaction as a one-off. Moreover, developing values-based personas can help the company remain relevant to existing customers and introduce the company to new customers.

Our team's research, for example, has revealed that many consumers in our market are "dual belongers"—people who feel they straddle two countries and lifestyles. When you consider that US 2010 Census respondents self-identified in eight or so racial/ethnic categories (including dual race and the ambiguous "other"), it's evident that for us there is marketing power in paying attention to race and culturally driven alignments.

Customer-Centric Building Blocks

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Bobby Fan is director of marketing for Western Union Digital. The Western Union Company is a leader in global payment services.