David Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett Packard once said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” Take a minute to think about this, what do you think he meant?

As a marketer, your first response may be to take offense at a comment that seemingly doubts your ability to effectively do your job. But when you think about it a bit further, his intentions couldn’t be more different.

In fact, the intention behind that statement was to establish the importance of marketing in a business. That importance, he suggests, needs to extend beyond the marketing department to support the full integration of a marketing strategy. In order for the R&D team to develop new products, they need to know who they’re developing those products for. In order for the finance team to set prices, they need to know what their consumers can afford and in order for the creative department to develop effective communication, they need to know who they’re speaking to and how they should speak to them.

The more you think about it, the easier it is to understand the permeating nature of marketing in an organisation. The importance of understanding who your customers are, what their needs are how you’re satisfying those needs simply has to extend beyond the traditional notion of ‘leaving that to the marketing department’.

The customer should be placed at the heart of everything that an organisation does.

Being able to identify the consumer needs that you’re catering to and building a customer-driven marketing strategy that is able to directly address those needs lies at the heart of what marketing truly is.

If you have ready answers for these 4 questions, well done! If not, then use them to guide a more customer-centric approach.

1. What value do you provide?

First and foremost, marketing is about value. Creating value for your consumers is what keeps them coming back for more. Do you offer the cheapest product? The best quality product? The most accessible product? Or a new and better way of addressing a customer need? Whichever way you’re choosing to create value for your consumers, make sure that you know, and then make sure that you tell your consumers. Remember that you need to understand how you’re creating value before you can explain it to others.

2. What do you want to stand for?

Be clear on exactly what you want your brand to be. What do you want your customers to think about you and how should they differentiate you from your competitors? What do you want your brand to look like, smell like, taste like and sound like? Ask yourself: if your brand was a person – what age, race, gender, background, culture, would it be? Thinking about your brand as a living, breathing thing is ultimately how you create an image that resonates with customers – from the bottom up.

3. Who do you want to talk to?

There are a few billion people in the world and not all of them will want to buy your products and services. That’s absolutely fine. It hasn’t been designed or produced for everyone.

What is important, is being able to figure out who those people are that do want to buy your products. Knowing your customers extends far beyond just knowing their average age and location, it looks at who they really are. In order to really know your customer, you need to know why they buy the products that they buy, what’s influencing their purchase decisions and what they think about your brand (amongst a whole lot of other things!).

Now that you know you want to speak to , think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Does your message speak to the value your brand will add to customers’ lives? Or does it tend to lofty promises about how great you are, or how important customers are … while delivering a polar-opposite experience?

The primary messaging strategy should always have customer-centricity at its core. Although you might run a variety of campaigns, there will be a common ‘thread’ or message that runs through it all – a message that talks directly to your customers’ needs.

4. Where do you want to go?

Have a clear vision of where you want to take your brand in the next year, as well as where you want it to be in three, and even ten years. Marketing plays a vital strategic role in achieving long-term business objectives. Those that are able to identify changes in their business environment will be best suited to seizing opportunities that come their way, while guarding themselves against any potential threats.

These questions are designed to get you thinking about where you are placing your customer in developing your marketing activities. Are you placing them right at the centre and then making sure that everything you do and say speaks directly to them, or are you crafting a marketing strategy based on assumptions? The concept of a customer-centric approach to marketing is exactly why Red & Yellow developed the Customer-centric Marketing Fundamentals online short course. Because we know that the more you explore these questions and answers, the better you’ll be able to direct your efforts to connect your customer with your brand.