A couple of years ago, my father taught me to dance. It was several months before my wedding, and my usual method of jumping around wildly just wasn’t going to cut it. Anyone will tell you that the hardest part about learning the waltz is noticing when your partner is leading you somewhere. The challenge is in paying attention to slight nuances amid a flurry of other steps.

Today’s marketing is customer-driven . Consumers decide how and when they want to interact with companies; not the other way around. If you are a marketer, chances are you have a strategy for how this month will go. You have a set of collateral to develop, some e-communications to send, and maybe even an event to run. Undoubtedly, each of these steps are carefully planned out. But how adept are you at reacting when your customer takes the lead?

Dance Steps Marketers resized 600

Here are few indicators to watch for in your customers’ lifecycles as well as some examples of companies that have made good dance partners. [Disclosure: a couple of the examples below are Performable or HubSpot customers. They're marked with an asterisk.]

Their Usage Drops Off

Behavior doesn’t change on a whim. If a customer has been using your service in a reliable pattern and then drops off, it’s safe to assume that something’s up. Reach out to them to offer help, or ask for feedback in order to prevent customer churn.

Who does it well?

  • Timely.is: A Twitter application that reminds users when their queue is empty.
  • Runkeeper*: Runkeeper checked in with me (thankfully in a non-judgmental way) after I signed up for their service but it failed to track any fitness activities.

They Advocate for You in Social Media

A number of companies have become really good at thanking customers who have helped spread the word via social media . Step one is thanking advocates as their posts go up. A more advanced play? Keeping track of those advocates and rewarding them over time with exclusive first looks or other benefits.

Who does it well?

  • Foodler: One of my first surprising experiences on Twitter was receiving a genuine thank you and small gift certificate after raving about the joy of ordering food through Foodler.
  • Dell: Dell takes this to another level. According to Manish Mehta, Dell’s vice president of social media and community, Dell has 40 staff members dedicated to Twitter customer response. They actively listen to the community and empower them to make decisions that help shape future products or marketing.

They Demonstrate Interest in a Certain Page or Category

Not all customer communications need to be explicitly stated. Marketing is at its most powerful when it adapts to the choices customers make. Whenever possible, leverage analytics to understand the content customers download from your site or the items they purchase, and segment those users based on their interests.

Who does it well?

  • Hunch and Amazon are both known for the advanced user recommendations they provide to customers. It’s hard to mention adaptable content without bringing them up, but there are plenty of other examples to be found.
  • For Knewton* , an online learning platform, this kind of adaptability is central. Its course material automatically adapts to each student’s strengths and weakenesses as he or she moves through the program. The result is an individualized electronic textbook and personalized experience for each student.

This is just a starter list. There are a number of opportunities for you to understand your customers’ motivations and needs better. What other examples have you seen of marketers allowing their customers to take the lead?


Originally published Jul 18, 2011 5:05:00 PM, updated June 10 2021

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Inbound Marketing Social Media Free Marketing Software