Be Your Audience: How Acting Like a Customer Can Make You a Better Marketer

Todd Grennan By Todd Grennan Feb 2, 2016

In recent years, the rise of mobile technology has allowed marketers to take advantage of its ability to seamlessly collect detailed customer information from users all over the world to engage with their audiences in increasingly intimate ways. But while this technology has made it easier for brands to give their customers a compelling, individually customized experience, it can also make marketers complacent.

Marketing success isn’t about letting technology do everything; it’s about using that technology to help you reach your business goals. And while a mobile marketing automation platform can help organize your customer data and support effective, personalized campaigns, it takes a thoughtful, informed marketer to use that technology to its full potential.

To be that marketer, it’s essential to understand your customers’ experience inside and out. Okay. So, how do you do that? Well, one great way is experiencing it for yourself. Here’s how:

1) Immerse yourself in your brand’s digital experience, the way your customers do

Think about how your customers experience your brand: visiting your website; using your mobile app; receiving your emails and mobile messages. While they may also frequent your brick and mortar locations (if you have any), these digital experiences have become an important part of how customers perceive and relate to the brands they engage with.

To understand how your marketing appears from the customer’s point-of-view, start by engaging with it the way they do. Visit your brand’s website. Download your own app, if you don’t have it already, and go through the onboarding process. Opt in to push notifications and sign up for your email list. Over time, this vantage point will give you a powerful perspective on how your customer outreach comes off to your actual customers. After all, it’s one thing to craft a push notification—to agonize over the wording of the copy and the results of multivariate tests—and another thing altogether to have it pop up on your phone as you make dinner.

If your brand is using segmentation and/or personalization, your experience won’t necessarily replicate the average customer experience. But that’s okay: doing this isn’t a replacement for user feedback and testing and isn’t meant to be. What you’re looking to do is to keep yourself immersed in the day-to-day brand experience that you’re providing your customers and to get an understanding of what being a member of your audience feels like.

Some things to look for:

  • Message timing: Are you receiving campaigns at times when you’re likely to engage?
  • Message appearance: Do the messages you receive look the way you intended? Are the visual elements in the outreach effectively supporting each message’s purpose?
  • Message cadence: How often are you receiving messages? Rarely? Too often?

2) Remember that your customers engage with rival brands … and that you can learn from your competitors

Unless your brand is extraordinarily dominant (or lucky), you have competitors to think about. Keeping a close eye on your customer experience is a good way to reduce the number of customers you lose to rival firms, but it’s important to remember that it may not be an either/or thing for your customers—after all, there’s nothing to stop them from using both your app AND your competitors’ apps.

That makes understanding how your app’s customer experience stacks up against your rivals an important part of optimizing your marketing outreach. To get that perspective, consider engaging with your competitor’s digital presence in the same way you have with your own: download their app, opt in to their messages, sign up for their email list (you may want to use non-work accounts to do all this, just sayin’).

Once you’ve done that, keep track of the campaigns they send and how they compare to your brand’s outreach. Seeing what your competitors do well in terms of messaging and user experience will help you improve your own campaigns and engagement strategies—maybe they are doing interesting things with their in-app messages, or using messaging channels that you aren’t. And even the unappealing or unsuccessful aspects of their marketing can provide insight into how other brands in your space perceive and try to engage their customers.

Some things to look for:

  • Promotions: How are your competitors using discounts or other incentives to encourage customers to convert?
  • Perception of customers: How do competitors speak to their customers and what does that say about how they see their audience?
  • Messaging channels: Are you competitors taking advantage of messaging channels (like email, in-app messages, etc.) that you aren’t? Are they using a multi-channel approach to reach customers?

3) Look beyond your vertical, with an eye to the future

While your own digital presence and those of your competitors are likely the most instructive when it comes to understanding how your customers experience your brand, there’s value in looking beyond your own industry. Maybe there are messaging channels (like web push or in-browser messages) or content mediums (like emojis or GIFs) that you and your competitors haven’t taken advantage of, but other brands have. If you’re aware of how brands are approaching marketing in other industries, it gives you an opportunity to bring these sorts of innovations to your vertical, providing a competitive advantage.

It’s not practical for marketers to download every app or to keep tabs on every brand website out there in order to do this sort of hands-on marketing research. But if you keep your eyes open as you engage with apps or websites in your everyday life and pay attention to the emails, push notifications, and other messages you receive, the odds are good that you’ll find inspiration that can help you make your marketing even better.

Some things to look for:

  • New messaging channels: Have brands in other verticals begun using emerging messaging channels to reach their customers?
  • New content mediums: Are other brands beginning to leverage ways of communicating with customers other than text, images, videos, emojis, and GIFs?

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Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.

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