How and why you should always keep your customer in the heart of your strategy

By Sarah Hooper
14 Jun 2017

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The relentless onward march of technology and its impact on our industry is referenced so often in articles it has become a cliché.

For CRM in particular, increasingly sophisticated data modelling tools and delivery mechanics, have resulted in the sense that the technology alone will be able to deliver us super-engaged, ready to purchase customers, just so long as we’ve entered the right co-ordinates before we press the send button.

It’s a seductive idea, but unfortunately one that’s largely illusory. Why? Because it tends to ignore the inconvenient truth that humans’ actual behaviour doesn’t follow neat behavioural models – just look at the current existential crisis in Economics for proof.

And yet, most current CRM models continue to value empirical data and technological sophistication over psychological insight – a logical endpoint to our collective obsession with attributable metrics.

At Amaze One, we believe that the pendulum needs to swing back a little: for us to balance technological wizardry with psychological insight, and think about people rather than targets. In short, we’re on a mission to humanise CRM.

This matters because we are in a world where customers have more power than ever before, and one where GDPR will shortly enforce that power with legislation requiring (amongst other things) active consent for marketing communications.

So, brands can no longer afford to ignore any opportunity to build genuine customer engagement: their only alternative is to continue to play the numbers game for drastically diminishing returns.


Yes, I know all agencies say this. But how can we make the start point of our strategy genuinely about the person we want to influence rather than a two-dimensional, numerically defined target segment?

The last thing we’re advocating here is to dispense with the insight we can gain from intelligent data analysis and behavioural modelling to precisely identify and target specific behaviours and actions. This information is, of course, a crucial and valuable element of your strategy, and a cornerstone of your optimisation programme based on your test and learn activity.

What we are saying is that a more holistic approach to your target customer definition will ultimately help deliver more engaging communications that have a better chance of keeping people interested enough to want to opt in to your CRM and stay opted in.

Three things to think about:

•What are all the sources of customer insight that you have? Start with as much breadth as you can and don’t worry at this stage about how quantifiable these sources are. Think beyond the obvious data insight to incorporate things like qualitative research insights, social media conversations and insights from your customer facing staff to add colour and depth to your understanding.

•Make sure your segmentation is Effective Segmentation: know how it is going to be used and by whom to help define your approach to its development

•Think about the why behind the what. Often people’s motivations for their actions are driven by impulses that they themselves are unconscious of. Read Decision Science by Phil Barden to find some techniques for unpicking people’s powerful inherent goals.


The creation of pen portraits (whether in pen, moving image or digital avatar) is of course a time-honoured way of bringing your audience segments to life to drive your strategy and creative. However, they are a static picture of your customers. Real people are dynamic, and the ongoing relationship we want to maintain through our CRM needs to reflect and respond to the different need states a customer goes through over time.

The traditional brand touchpoint model was great when the control was all in the hands of the marketers who just needed to decide what messages to broadcast through what channels to maximise impact. Today we face a different challenge. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, brands wouldn’t worry so much about what people think of them if they realised how seldom they do…and how easily they can now avoid being made to think of you.

Try putting the customer at the centre of the model and plotting how the brand can best fit with their world, their goals, and their journey. What else drives them? where do your competitors fit into the picture? and when are you irrelevant to them (maybe consider not communicating with them at that point).

Three things to think about

•Create mini journeys within your editorial calendar that will allow you to mirror customers’ changing need states

•Create light and shade with design that matches communication objectives (are you trying to inspire, to educate or to entertain?)– be careful of templates that result in a homogenised, repetitive series of emails

•Each communication you create has not simply to just sell the brand. It also must sell the desire to engage with the next piece of communication you send


Customer trust in direct marketing is already at a pivot point, with increased awareness of individuals’ power over their individual data, combining with an increased nervousness over data security to fuelling a decline in consent to emails marketing which will only be compounded by GDPR.

In such a landscape, it is only brands who can offer immediately demonstrable value in exchange for customers’ data who will continue to enjoy the privilege of communicating with them.

And in CRM terms, that value must be proven with every interaction in order to maintain consent levels over time.

Thinking about the more emotional benefits of your communication based on the psychological insights you have into your customers will help you define what that value can be and how you can convey it most compellingly. This approach will help protect you from succumbing to the obvious knee jerk click bait – let’s face it, offering 20% off in your subject line every week leads your brand in only one direction.

Three things to think about

•Know what value each communication is delivering to the customer, not just what you want each piece to achieve

•Make the link with value explicit in your creative delivery

•Look outside of the obvious metrics to inform your campaign reporting: delivering value in these terms needs a new approach to evaluation

If some of this sounds obvious, it may be because you are consuming this article as a person rather than as a ‘customer’ or a ‘target’. When we leave that person behind to become a ‘marketer’, giddy with the potential of the latest software, we can sometimes forget that simple point.

It’s never been more vital for brands to understand the people who buy their products, and by placing the Human at the heart of your strategy you can help ensure your CRM programme is genuinely effective in the post GDPR world.

Julie Neilson, Senior Planning Manager, Amaze One


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