For marketers, a mindset that puts the customer first is critical to competitive success. That's something marketers know. Yet, during day-to-day execution, that customer-centric mentality tends to get pushed aside, more so in Marketing than in other, client-facing parts of the business, such as Sales and Customer Support.

It happens easily, even to the best of us.

With so much going on in our pipelines at any one moment—from lead gen campaigns, events, new product launches, and more—marketers can't help but get caught up in the weeds of project execution. We run fast, focusing on what needs to get done now; in those moments, the customer-oriented mindset is important, but not mission-critical. Or so it seems.

The truth is that a customer-oriented mindset is necessary for our marketing to be successful. It helps campaigns resonate with prospects and customers, leading to more sales and enhanced client satisfaction and engagement. Those results benefit everyone, and taken together they can offer a powerful differentiator from your competition.

So how can busy marketers implement a customer-oriented mindset? Here are five ways.

1. Get to know the real people behind your personas

Once prospects become clients, the tendency is to "set and forget," or to treat them as personas that don't evolve. The risk of not listening to clients and their needs is that you then operate in the dark, on the basis of on an outdated persona. Not to mention that you miss an opportunity to validate who they actually are.

Avoid that trap by interacting with your customers as real people rather than labeling them into personas or categories. Customer focus groups can help you understand what clients need and which messages resonate best—whether that's regarding awareness of new product features or reasons to buy again.

2. Don't overlook the value of human connection

Business, at its core, is still a human engagement: People ultimately buy from other people, and connections matter. At Act-On Software, we heard from an organization that their people connected so well with our salesperson, they had to ask themselves whether they were making their choice based on him or on our product!

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose sight of the people you interact with. Take the opportunity for in-person meetings and phone calls whenever you can and when it makes sense to do so. Make the effort to build pathways for human connection, which is, after all, the goal of marketing.

3. Use technology strategically by keeping the customer first

People gravitate to what feels authentic, and so the more personalized a correspondence... the better. Achieving a high level of personalization, however, is more easily said than done; it takes time and effort, and a business has only so much capacity.

Technology can help teams scale via marketing automation, for example. Such solutions can automate the tasks that make sense—whether prospecting emails, invitations to events, or welcome and onboarding communications. The result is more time for a team to focus on delivering a personalized experience to customers.

But when implementing technology, don't let internal goals come at the cost of your customer experience. Define goals for what you want to improve, along with the exact level of customer experience you want to uphold. Ask yourself questions such as whether scaling a task could frustrate a customer. At the end of the day, what matters most is your customer's experience.

4. Use the right form of contact at the right time

While automating certain processes may be helpful, there will always be times when a customer just wants to pick up the phone and talk to a real person. As marketers in a digital environment, we are continuing to understand when and how certain types of conversations need to happen.

No technology can replace a marketer's' intuition, experience, acumen, and ability to read the customer—and to understand the competitive landscape and forge emotional connections. Be diligent and astute about the right types of contact needed at the right time.

Teams should continually ask themselves: When does a response or other communication need a human touch, and when can it be automated?

5. Advocate for a customer-oriented mindset beyond marketing

Customer marketing and engagement go way beyond advocacy, which is essentially a one-way street. It's important for businesses as a whole, not just Marketing, to continue to listen to customers, work to solicit their input, and bring that input to life.

The need for a customer-oriented mindset isn't limited to one department: It's everyone's responsibility. Just as sales and marketing executives need to work together, hand in hand, to drive lead gen and more, so do the CMO and a company's customer success executive to ensure that customers are continually supported in the right ways.

True success is achieved when everyone works together to put the real people who matter—customers and prospects—first.

More Resources on Implementing a Customer-Oriented Mindset

Creating a Culture of Customer-Centricity: SAP's Chief Digital Marketing Officer Mika Yamamoto on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

How to Effectively Talk to Your Customers During a Crisis

Marketing and CX During a National Emergency: Getting Real About Customer-Centricity

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image of Michelle Huff

Michelle Huff is the CMO at UserTesting, a video-based human insights platform.

LinkedIn: Michelle Huff