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Everything You Want to Know About… Customer‑First Marketing

A conversation with marketing expert Tim Grandjean

Welcome to Everything You Want to Know About Marketing, where we pose some of your most common marketing questions to our community of certified Mailchimp experts.

We spoke with Tim Grandjean, Mailchimp partner and founder of TGJ Marketing, to ask how effective customer-first marketing can transform every customer interaction into a chance to stand out amongst your peers.

What’s customer-first marketing?

Tim: As the name suggests, it’s focused on the customer first. It includes all your company’s measures, actions, and strategies that revolve around not only attracting customers, but building, retaining, and improving relationships with them.

That starts with the first touchpoint all the way down to when they actually become a customer—and after that, as well.

What are some of the things that a small business can do toward creating a customer-first marketing plan?

Tim: Your strategy should be something you think about from the very beginning, and it makes sense to start with a goal or an objective that you’re working toward. Later, when you want to measure whether these are successful or not, you need to have goals that you can measure against to identify what’s working.

Even more important than setting goals are your customers themselves. Who’s the target audience you want to sell your products or services to? That shouldn’t be something you just read about—you should actively engage with them. This is especially important for small businesses. There’s a really great opportunity to build a connection with a customer early on. I really like Mailchimp’s One-Time Send Postcards. They’re an interesting touchpoint because digital is such an occupied space. With physical postcards, you can really stand out to connect with your clients.

The idea is that you go from beginning to end, from building your goals, to building these relationships, to always looking for new ways to stand out from the competition.

What are some things you look for when your results aren’t what you’re hoping for?

Tim: If you set goals in the beginning, you can really see where you’re falling short. It could be something as simple as your open rate. But sometimes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you look at open rates, for example, run some A/B testing. Maybe you didn’t get the messaging right yet, or your emails may be too long. Maybe you didn’t specify what kind of value you’re bringing to the customer. It could be something as simple as having sent it at the wrong time.

I wouldn’t immediately start questioning your strategy. If the problem keeps popping up, though, then there could be something bigger behind that. Maybe you did focus on the wrong customers. Maybe the product or service you’re offering is a poor fit and needs to be tweaked—but again, I wouldn’t jump to that right away.

How long does it take to implement a new customer-first marketing strategy, and where do you start?

Tim: It depends. Most projects I work on take 3 to 6 months on average. You should start with the audience—you probably have people in your network that you engage with already, so you can examine those interactions to better understand what you did in the past. You might find that you have an integration problem, or that you need to onboard another service.

Sometimes, you’re just not reaching your audience properly. Here, you can use tags and groups with Mailchimp to sort and segment your customers. It’s a good way to specifically target different groups of people. Later, you can look at automation as a way to nurture some of your clients.

What’s the most important thing people should know if they want to do customer-first marketing well?

Tim: Always think about what value you can bring to the customer on every touchpoint. Put yourself on your subscribers list and see if those emails bring value. We interact with so much media, so it can be really difficult to stand out—think about creative ways to do so, but always think about your customer first.

When’s the best time for a small business owner to bring in a partner like yourself?

Tim: You don’t want to automatically tell a small business owner that their way of doing things doesn’t work. It’s important for them to find their own path—and even make their own mistakes—before bringing someone in. But if they want to bring in someone to help them get it right from the start, that’s great too. Both approaches are valid, but a possiblet risk in getting someone early on is that after they do the job, they take all that knowledge with them.

In both cases, I would always advise business owners to ask their consultants to take the time to onboard them and walk them through their process. Learn and understand what the consultant is doing so you can take on what they were doing after they’ve left.

The takeaway: Tim Grandjean’s top customer-first marketing tips

  • Put the customer first at every touchpoint
  • Create clear, achievable goals
  • Know and understand your customers
  • Create value at every step

Tim Grandjean is the founder of TGJ marketing, a Berlin-based marketing agency. For 7 years, Tim has developed strategies to help transform simple customer interactions into positive points of differentiation.

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