Picture this: you have all the digital marketing tools at your disposal. Data and insight coming out of your ears. But do you really understand your customers?

I was blankley staring at my smartphone in the lift this morning making a concerted effort not to make eye contact with anyone (as is standard lift protocol). As I was reading through the random emails a popular travel app caught my eye. Oooh, I thought:  ‘Dizzo, look what we found for you’……’hotels in Venice’. This would be very helpful if I was looking to travel to Venice but here’s the thing; I stayed in Venice six-months ago and since then I have been to Cornwall, Spain, the Lake District and Ireland. I no longer give a monkeys about Venice and yet I get this same email at least every couple of weeks – only this time I thought I would open it to see what happens next. Nice try at being relevant ‘popular travel app’.

Most of us accept that the old-style marketing campaigns don’t work. It has to be different, relevant to me, and not the pray and spray one-size-fits-all baloney from when the dinosaurs walked the earth (and by the way a few still do).

If you send me a blanket email. I will ignore it.

If you send me something I actually care about and is relevant to me. I might open it.

I am in control. I set the pace. I will buy when I am ready to buy (unless you show me something really shiny!)

These days it is all about the ‘segmentation of one’. You know my every move, there are people and machines crunching data… they think they know me better than I know myself. And yet, if this is the case, then how can some brands still get it so wrong?

The truth is, most large companies have multiple marketing teams, multiple products they want me to buy, multiple systems and a fragmented or piecemeal marketing strategy. There is limited insight into  whether the messages really hit the mark, or in ‘popular travel apps’ case they’re misunderstanding customer behaviours and not intervening with common sense to interpret what the data is really telling them. “He’s been to Venice, you’ve seen the dates, he used your app when he was there and six months on he is probably thinking about the next trip to somewhere different”.

A customer-centric marketing strategy is far more than a state of mind and some whizzy digital tools. Successful campaigns require real people thinking, questioning and interpreting what the whizzy platforms and insights tell them; drawing on experience and sometimes (dare I say it) using a dose of common sense.

It’s a symptom of the complicated world we live in. But let’s try to keep it simple and not rely on just data to really understand customers.

1. Connect with your buyers by understanding their personas. People are smart, so don’t try to be too clever with what the data is telling you.
2. Use multiple channels to paint a rich picture of your customers behaviours and find new ways to reach them.
3. Analytics will help you to optimise campaign effectiveness but look further than just the numbers.
4. Content is still king. Make it relevant and don’t create content for contents sake.
5. Manage your database. It’s the foundation for all your campaigns and the key to successful campaigns.

Of course ‘popular travel app’ isn’t getting it all wrong. The regular emails, no matter how wide of the mark, still keep them front of mind and make me go back for more. The question is whether this is because they are the market leaders or is there trying to be customer-centric marketing strategy is actually working. If a successful challenger brand enters the market, how long will ‘popular travel app’ stay on top? It’s now more important to recognizse the differing customer requirements, no matter how subtle. Like the zebras in Madagascar II say. “I’m unique…. We’re all unique”.

Dan is Business Director at Silver. He is a new advanced breed of marketing expert, creating next generation customer engagement programmes for Silver brand customers.