What Changing Customer Expectations Mean for Modern Marketing

Only 49% of marketing leaders agree that their company provides an experience completely aligned with customer expectations.

For years, the “spray and pray” approach worked; if you had enough activity, eventually you found success. Tactical, interruptive campaigns became the norm. But customer expectations have changed. People no longer want to be sold to. Instead, they want to experience a personalized, seamless buying process – something that traditional marketing can’t support.

Modern marketing must evolve to keep up with changing customer expectations. It must become more strategic, shifting away from interruptive activities and instead embrace a two-way relationship with customers and prospects.

This strategic shift can be achieved if you walk through four key steps. You must:

  1. Rethink your relationship with buyers
  2. Create content that resonates
  3. Address changes in engagement preferences
  4. Build a flexible model of engagement to facilitate the customer journey

Making these changes empowers your team to provide helpful, appropriate, personalized content during every step of the buyer’s journey. In other words: you’re able to effectively reach buyers no matter how much expectations change.

Read on to learn what changing customer expectations mean and how you can apply changes to become more strategic today.

Rethink Your Relationship with Buyers

Buyers today don’t want to be sold to; they want to solve problems and build a relationship with a trusted partner. But that’s not their current experience.

Most marketing teams are forcing prospects through the funnel. They’re opening the conversation with late-stage content like product sheets or demo offers and then passing leads to sales after the first or second interaction. They’re basically proposing on the first date.

But changing expectations means that modern marketers must think differently. They must consider themselves a facilitator. They should focus on providing education and empowering buyers as they seek solutions, learning more about each prospect as they progress through the funnel. And eventually, once enough information has been collected to truly qualify a lead, they pass the conversation to sales.

Create Content That Resonates

While buyers once preferred to be courted by a salesperson, they now prefer to self-educate at their own pace. In fact, they spend nearly half their time researching solutions independently.

To accommodate this shift, modern marketers should create content that provides value at every stage of the buying process. Build assets that meet the buyers’ informational needs at every step of the journey and provide a personalized experience along the way.

You can create content that resonates by first understanding how your buyers’ needs change relative to their position in the funnel. Figure out what an early-stage buyer is looking for and provide appropriate content. Repeat this process for mid-stage and late-stage buyers.

Then, consider a prospect’s previous patterns. For example: are they reading multiple pieces about the same topic? Past behavior offers insight into a person’s interests and pain points. Use that information to both provide a more personalized experience and to better qualify your leads as they move through the funnel.

Address Changes in Engagement Preferences

On average, customers use nine different channels in their buying process before making a decision.

Knowing that, it shouldn’t be surprising that 76% of customers choose to engage in different channels depending on context. They’re more independent, more informed, and more empowered than ever before.

Part of this can be explained by changes in communication preferences over the past few years. Research shows that channels like live chat, SMS, and social media have been gaining traction with buyers, while in-person interactions, email, and phone have been declining in preference.

But while consumers have had massive changes in their engagement channel preferences, traditional marketing is stuck in the past. Most teams are still operating in the same handful of channels, unaware that their buyers are no longer there. Even the best content won’t resonate if it’s being served to the wrong audience.

Modern marketing must keep up. Meet customer expectations by consistently re-assessing your audience, listening to your customers, and experimenting with new things.

You can start addressing this change by conducting research. Ask your buyers where they find their information and validate the results with third-party research to understand any major market shifts. Then, armed with new knowledge, don’t be afraid to try new things. The status quo is sometimes our biggest enemy, but modern marketers are willing to toss the status quo out the window if it means providing a better experience for their buyers.

Be Flexible

Changing customer expectations mean that modern marketing must be about building a flexible model of engagement. You should offer choice to your buyers and continue the dialogue no matter the time or place.

Make it your goal to let your prospects decide how and when they want to engage.

Do this by offering options. Serve content in multiple formats or through multiple channels (or both). Provide options for continued self-education or a direct route to talk to a real person. Let your buyers choose their own path.

Once you’ve achieved flexibility, look for ways to optimize. Find out how you can use insights to improve your offerings and create a more seamless experience.

Never Stop Growing

Customer expectations will always be changing. The fluidity is only natural – new technologies, the rise of younger generations in the workforce, and shifts in the way people want to engage will always be present. People have needs, desires and expectations. It’s the job of the modern marketer to meet them.

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