There are many different aspects to marketing - all parts of the overall customer lifetime journey with your brand. Customers need to be attracted to the brand, encouraged to buy into its values and qualities, provided with a positive and satisfying customer experience, and given as many reasons as possible to keep coming back - to stay loyal to the brand. This article is copyright 2016 The Best Customer Guide.

True, part of that journey involves the customer, but the rest of the journey lies behind the scenes: the marketer has to ensure that customers are not only happy with their experiences and that all the basic entry level 'hygiene requirements' are met when customers interact with the brand, but also make sure that customers feel emotionally engaged with the brand, that the brand's core message and offering resonates on a personal level with them, and that the brand treats them as real people, showing a genuine understanding of what they want and need from the brand.

And once you have a customer, you have to try to keep them. Customer retention is a function of customer satisfaction, engagement, loyalty, and trust. All of these aspects have to be monitored, measured, analysed, and acted upon if current customers are to remain exactly that: current customers. One of the keys to this juggling act is the idea of 'customer centricity' - putting the customer at the very heart of your marketing strategy, and focusing your efforts on what the customer needs and wants.

The customer can't easily be averaged out, or broadly classified, either - which makes it much more difficult to understand customers on a generalised level; instead customers need to be understood in terms of similar segments or even as individuals. There's no point marketing meat products to vegetarians just because they bought the same relish as non-vegetarians did.

And what happens when a customer is no longer as happy as they once were? They leave. But not everybody will take the trouble to tell you they're leaving. In fact, most will go as quietly and possible and start dealing with a competitor, then tell all their friends, family, and colleagues about their bad experiences with your brand.

The final part of the customer marketing journey, then, is to try to win back those who have left - or even better still, to identify those who are at risk of defecting long before they actually leave, and then implement a carefully monitored campaign to win them back.

The Marketing Environment
Marketing consists of many disciplines, each of which makes use of many different channels and environments. Although there is no one single best marketing environment - whether it's the real (offline) world, the online world, the mobile world, or the world of social networking - there are times and places and circumstances in which each environment is the clear choice.

For example, a brand selling fashion products to teenage consumers will be in the offline world (with its retail outlets) but it will also benefit from a strong presence in the mobile environment (with a mobile app that perhaps suggests accessories or new trends) and the social environment (to help drive brand ambassadorship and word of mouth, and to tap into the social status of 'trend setters').

Meanwhile, an online music seller will have its primary presence in the digital world, and may benefit more from an additional strong presence in the mobile environment (for example, a mobile/tablet app that offers live streaming music playback on demand).

The Essentials of Marketing Operations
At the same time, your marketing operations strategy - the flesh and bones of your marketing technique - is one of the most overlooked aspects of the marketing mix today. While major decisions are debated at length about how individual aspects of a marketing campaign are to be conducted, the underlying strategy - what approach to take, how the consumer will see and interact with the campaign, which channels and platforms to use - is often taken somewhat for granted. When a company has an existing loyalty programme, and wants to drive a new desired behaviour among its customers, it is generally assumed that something needs to be added to the loyalty programme to make it happen.

But savvy marketers are increasingly starting to think 'outside the box' and look at tools, techniques and strategies that aren't even in their marketing mix yet. If you want to encourage customers to browse and buy from you via the mobile/tablet channel, you could add a mobile app for your loyalty programme... but you might get a much higher return on your investment - and even a more positive and permanent behaviour change - if you add an element of Gamification via mobile social media, or a geo-located offer engine that uses the customer's smartphone's GPS to make relevant offers when they're in the vicinity of your stores.

If you want to gather more meaningful customer data to develop new insights, and you haven't already started a customer loyalty programme, now is the time to do so. There are vast numbers of marketing techniques, channels and platforms available, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The time has come to critically evaluate not whether you've optimised your current marketing mix, but whether you've got all the right operational tools to begin with - and then adjust the mix accordingly.

Marketing Support
Behind you all the way, however, will be the board of directors, the executive officers, and the shareholders - all wanting to make sure their investments in marketing are paying off. Accountability for marketing spend is an increasing concern for every company regardless of its size, and the recent recession has brought this point home with great force. As a result, marketing departments are in ever-greater need of both tools and techniques to help them prove to the board of directors and shareholders that they are performing as well as they should, given the budget they have been given.

Moreover, marketing is a fast-developing science combined with a 'human art' that requires constant development, innovation, fine-tuning, and new technologies if the company is to stay one step ahead of the competition. This requires not only more money in the budget to cover the costs of developing new techniques but also a certain amount of money that will be 'at risk' without any certain ROI (return on investment). While most forward-thinking FDs (finance directors) and CFOs (chief financial officers) accept that development is an ongoing and unavoidable cost of business, most will also demand that the marketing function can pay for itself in other ways - with an increasing ROI, for example.

As a result, the days of analysis and reporting for the sake of simply monitoring the success (other otherwise) of individual marketing campaigns are over, and marketers must now show not only their smaller successes but also their overall contribution to the bottom line, brand equity, and corporate well-being. The importance of statistical analysis and proper management reporting cannot be understated.

At the same time, the business case for any customer marketing initiative you want to invest in needs to be well supported and justified, not only in the planning stages but on a continuing basis after implementation, and during development. The application of solid mathematics, statistics, and scientific measurement is the only way to prove the effect your initiative is likely to have on profitability and the customer base. And the application of regular and meaningful management reporting is the only way to monitor all the factors involved both before and after implementation.