Servant Marketing: What Is It & Why You Should Care?

Let’s talk about servant marketing – a term not used that often but a philosophy that is key to better marketing.

Servant marketing is putting the customer needs before your company’s needs – aka being their “servant”. Servant marketing can come through in a number of more traditional channels:  inbound marketing, cause marketing, content marketing, community building, or loyalty marketing, just to mention a few. Whatever you call it, it all boils down to putting the customer first. It’s about understanding your customer’s wants, needs, desires, motivations and putting that at the heart of your marketing campaign and how you bring it to life. It might seem obvious, but you’d be amazing how many times these elements of a campaign or launch get cut.

Sad, but true.

Making sure you’re including the right vehicle, design and experience to really serve your customer isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only can it be tricky to implement, but it’s also incredibly difficult to get cross-company buy-in for it. Think about it – you’re asking everyone across your company to take a step back and let the customer come first, so you may find disagreement in some departments. A lot of this comes down to internal evangelism and making sure all stakeholders know why you’re making the ask. What customer problem are you hoping to solve? In the same way a product team gets buy in for a new feature investment, marketing needs to build a case for servant marketing investment.

Alright, so let’s talk about how to make this work. There are a ton of channels that can help you deliver servant marketing and, depending on your company, some will work better than others. But it’s important to know: Brands that are investing in servant marketing are winning.

If you’re ready to dive into servant marketing, here are a few examples of how it can be done:

  1. Build a free tool or resource for the open community. You know there is a tool that you have the capability to build and you know it will really improve the lives of your customer. So…why haven’t you built it? Probably because you can’t show that it’s more important than your growing roadmap. That’s where servant marketing comes in. You have to make the case for an upfront commitment to solving your customer’s problem, even if it’s not the clearest way to monetize and win your market with revenues.
  2. Build a robust customer service / open forum for the community to connect and solve together. How many times has the self service or community forum idea been kicked out? It doesn’t drive growth, so see you later. But making a commitment to solving their problems quickly and get them information fast is needed. It is almost expected of today’s empowered customer. Put them ahead of yourself and get them the info they deserve…after all, they are paying you and they are the reason your business exists.
  3. Build a public product roadmap. Talk openly about putting your customer first. Let them know where you are going, be clear on when they will get what they want, why they can’t have what they want now, show off your challenges, etc. Be transparent and public and let your customer see exactly what is happening.

    Image: Screenshot of Hatch.js product roadmap

  4. Surprise and delight your consumer. Some companies have formalized this role, others have baked it into social media or company operations. This can be sending flowers, a handwritten note, an email to any customer or community member saying, “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, or “We’re thinking of you”. This is a community relationship investment that should make the customer feel as though they are part of your team.

Video: Kleenex Surprise and Delight Campaign

As marketing leaders we’ve all had to make those budget calls. I get it. I hear you. Someone on your team has this great idea and everyone agrees that campaign, content, tool, etc. would be SO helpful to your community. They would love it. Their lives would be easier because of it…but you don’t build it, because it’s not “core to your business.”

Ugh. Please. Your customer is core to your business.

  • robertbrady

    It doesn’t get more core than customers. Amen!

  • Lindsay Wilson

    Great article!

  • 7 Mile Marketing

    I believe in the saying “Customers are always right” but I am agreeing more in this quote, “Customers have always the right.” A right to have a good service or a good quality in every purchase a customer made. This servant marketing term might new to many but the meaning will always be familiar to everyone either you are the customer or you are the seller/provider. The samples on how great servant marketing can be done are very helpful. This article is worth sharing to friends!