This version of a famous quote, attributed variously to Abraham Maslow and Mark Twain, refers to what happens when you limit your focus too narrowly on your own objectives without considering the best way to solve a problem.
This is the approach many marketers take when going after their biggest objective: trying to persuade new customers to buy the first time; persuading first-time buyers to buy again, or bringing back long-time customers to buy more.
Too often we start with the technology, but if our end goal is to help our customers make decisions, meet needs and achieve goals, then shouldn’t we start with the customer?
To support their objectives, marketers send out persuasion-oriented messages in all of the channels they use to connect with their customers and prospects. Although the content might vary by channel, the underlying message is the same: "Buy from us!"
The problem with this scattershot approach is that it ignores the customers, who have needs and objectives of their own. Commerce is a two-way street, after all. We want to sell, and customers want to buy. We want them to buy from us, but what we forget in the process is that selling isn't just coming up with the catchiest slogan or dangling the most tempting incentive.
Here's an example: No matter how specific a set of search terms is, your landing page drops your prospects into the top of your marketing funnel. You don't distinguish between prospects who are still trying to figure out which hand dryer they want to buy and those who have done their research, picked the model they want and are poised to purchase.
That puts your objective ahead of your customer's. Yes, you will make sales, but you'll also lose far too many prospects because you aren't reaching out to those who are in a different place in the funnel.
The customer-first approach:
Instead of focusing on our own objectives, we look to our customers and ask ourselves, "How can we help them achieve their objectives?
This is not multichannel marketing by another name, in which your objective is to make multiple marketing channels work together. That's still a channel-first approach. When you put the customer first, the scenario shifts, and you focus instead on looking for the right combination of channels to help your customers reach their objectives.
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