Marketing Is Harder Than Ever, But Your CX Doesn’t Need to Suffer


Tactics to enhance your customer experience

In speaking to marketers of all stripes—from startups with a seed round and 10 employees to those supporting global brands—I’ve encountered a particular phrase so often, it bears repeating: “Marketing is just becoming harder and harder.”

This seems to be a common refrain among all marketers, though the reasons they hold this belief are muddled. Are they saying those words to garner respect from others, or is marketing truly and fundamentally becoming harder?

Digging into this further, it seems that marketing is indeed becoming a broader challenge across the board. Here’s a distillation of what I learned, including a few tactics for marketers to adopt to deliver brilliant customer experience to meet consumer’s demands.

As customers learn, marketers must adapt

People can’t help but notice and appreciate great marketing and customer experience. This means that their benchmark for greatness is constantly moving up, often because your offerings are always being compared to brands that don’t even fall within your industry.

Amazon set the bar for great service even within a b-to-b context, and Apple may do the same for the hospitality industry. As a result, marketing teams have to consistently evolve alongside customers and pick up cues from even the least related of business sectors—much harder than it seems.

For help guiding this evolution, take a page from your competition. By spending some time perusing great marketing campaigns—as well as their strategy, content and approach—you’ll develop a sense of what worked, what didn’t and, most importantly, what takeaways and universal truths can be applied on a broader level. Your customers can provide some guidance as well, and software exists that can present customer feedback in real time to differentiate between trends and fads.

Understand every segment is crowded, and plan accordingly

Every marketer out there, at some point, will say that their market or segment is crowded; their customers have plenty of other options, these companies will posit. They’re not making this up: If you look at any product intended for daily life—everything from chips to cars—you’ll notice more brands vying for market share in this space than even a mere five years ago.

 Ecommerce has opened up markets for many small companies, and it’s now possible to reach critical mass purely from selling online. Brands compete intensely to generate demand for their offerings, carve out a respectable image for themselves, and establish a strong market position that leads to repeatable growth and sales.

To truly stand out in an oversaturated marketplace, ensure that your customer experience is flawless. Consider the customer journey step-by-step from both technical and emotional perspectives. Your shade of personalized customer experience can serve as a key differentiator that’s impossible to replicate.

Also, don’t be afraid to slow down: High-quality marketing—as opposed to high-quantity marketing—not only builds brand awareness but increases customer loyalty and respect.

Accept that shelf lives are significantly shorter

If every market segment is crowded by brands, and customers are consuming a ton of information throughout their day, that can logically lead to only one thing: dissonance.

Customers’ attention spans have steadily reduced over the last two to three decades, and as a result, the shelf life of any isolated piece of news, content or advertising is highly limited or shrinking further with time. This often means that marketers have to adopt reinforcement methods to drive any major messaging, lest their campaign fall onto overstimulated ears, which leads to even higher levels of bombardment and dissonance.

It’s a very tricky balance to achieve, and those that do tend to be great at storytelling—offering some value to the consumer in every piece of communication or content. It’s best to start by ensuring a healthy sampler of content, as part of an omnichannel marketing strategy, that offers both immediate gratification mixed with long-standing educational value. This could take the form of a detailed ebook to educate customers on important industry topics—one that can be later divvied up into snackable social media excerpts.

Weave marketing into every business function

The traditional view of marketing holds that it builds awareness and encourages trial. Today, that scope has been enlarged to a great extent in nearly every industry. To name only a few examples, marketing is a strong source of differentiation (Apple), a driver of adoption (Netflix), a resource that encourages learning (H&R Block), a mitigation method for abandonment or churn rates (Amazon), a means to attract great talent (Alphabet) and other essential business outcomes.

As customer engagement grows to involve more programmatic work and self-serve experiences, it’s natural for marketing’s role in the organization to increase. However, that renewed importance carries with it a new responsibility to serve as the hub of experience management, requiring marketing to pull up a seat at every table, and necessitates that marketers take a much broader view of their role.

The brands that execute this mandate well often tend to employ effervescent marketing teams that are natively collaborative; a product of the traditional siloed mindset has no place in this new environment.

Let the consumer draw the line

Modern data proliferation means that every single marketer knows infinitely more about their customers today than they had even dreamt of 10 years ago, and it’s naive to think customers don’t recognize this fact. Therefore, transparency is key—customers are open to sharing their data if they receive clarity on how exactly it will be used to improve their lives.

Two things immediately become clear: First, the onus is on the brand to explain why they need particular pieces of data and all the modalities associated with its storage and use. Second, it’s clear that most (if not all) customers prefer to maintain ultimate control over their data.

Marketers rely on various forms of customer data for initiatives like personalization and attribution. When customers draw a new line every day, it becomes harder for marketers to create any reliably personalized experiences.

This remains an evolving situation, but the early indicators are unambiguous: There will only be inferior data available in the future, and more stringent legislation on data privacy is about to exist across the globe. A strong, emerging hypothesis is that customers will not only sacrifice personalization for better privacy, but also pay a premium for brands that set a gold standard for data privacy.

Having deep pockets allows you to purchase any of the more than 8,000 pieces of marketing software available today, as well as plenty of advertising, but it certainly can’t buy the respect of your customers. A more practical strategy would be to pivot towards longer term outcomes such as improved customer education, better customer experiences and higher overall transparency in marketing initiatives.

This article first appeared in

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