It’s Always the Year of The Customer. Even More So In 2019.

Amidst the myriad forecasts for the coming year, we are betting that astute marketers will come to recognize the most important opportunity in 2019: customers.

Peter Drucker famously asserted that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. We build on this principle from the father of management thinking: the purpose of a business is also to retain and grow that customer.

If you’re a marketer and focused on building your business as much as your brand, then the biggest opportunity you have in this New Year is to invest in your customers.

It’s not the year of Bitcoin. (Sorry, crypto-currency mavens.) Nor is it the year of social, unless you’re a legislator (see below) or a short-seller. Just ask your media planner about Facebook. Or the year of influencer marketing. Payless already weighed in on this one.

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Investing in customers doesn’t mean increasing media spend; it means shifting spend from media to direct customer relationships. From mass relevance to direct relevance. Media, essentially an intermediary between you and your customers, is not accountable, drives revenue for media companies rather than yours, and is littered with fraud. Beyond fraud, consider the growing use of ad blockers, which are expected to be employed by 25 percent of users in 2019.  

You should invest in customers by giving them a better experience. You have an opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty to them; if they have already bought something from you, they deserve loyalty from you and your brand. How might you invest?

Customer marketing technology, including CDPs (Customer Data Platforms) and CMPs (Campaign Management Platforms), not just AdTech, are investments that enable paying attention to your customers and treating them accordingly, which is how we define loyalty marketing.

You might also consider investing in customer analytics and insights. You’ll be amazed at how creative you can be with such a foundation of customer knowledge rather than speculation. If you don’t know what is driving your business up or down, if you don’t understand which customers are behind such trends, you’re living in the past. One of the most compelling aspects of customer marketing is that you can actually measure the results of your marketing investments. In revenues. 

One last reason to pivot to customers:  regulation. Customer data and  privacy are going to be increasingly legislated in the U.S. in 2019.  Facebook alone is certainly not the reason but it’s clear (this is not a prediction as it’s wholly expected) that the US government is going to legislate more appropriate restrictions on how consumer data is treated, following the lead of the EU and California, much as we predicted earlier in 2018.  If California is any guideline, it will be required to offer a loyalty proposition in exchange for customer permission to legally collect PII (personally identifiable information) from customers.

It’s always the year of the Customer. Just like it has been for Jeff Bezos and Amazon for over 20 years. What are your objectives for 2019? If the customer is not in your top 3-5 priorities for the business, you’re at risk of underinvesting and underperforming, if not job searching a year from now.