As a CMO or senior marketing leader, your role is crucial in shaping the success of your organization, and with the ever-evolving dynamics of the market, it’s essential to adopt a customer-led strategy

This means placing your customers at the center of everything you do. The result? Enhanced customer satisfaction, loyalty, and business growth. But where do you start? 

We asked our first-ever Elite 18 customer-led CMO winners what their #1 priority was when it came to deploying a customer-first marketing strategy. Naturally, we were left inspired by their responses, so we created a compilation video to showcase these nuggets of knowledge.

Want more? Read on for the six key priorities from these Elite CMOs that you should consider when running customer-led marketing initiatives.

Understand the Language of Your Customers

The first step in becoming customer-led is to truly understand and speak the language of your customers. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can start thinking about their journey and experiences instead of solely focusing on your company’s internal goals and objectives.

My number one priority as a customer-first marketing organization is making sure we’re speaking the language of our customers, and that we’re thinking about their journey in the way that they would actually learn and experience and use our product and not market around our org chart. – Shannon Duffy, CMO, Asana

Even if they are in the same industry, each customer deserves for you to get to know them personally. So we take the time to make sure that we get to know our customers’ priorities as individuals, as a company, and as a business so that we can align with them from day one to forever – Genefa Murphy, CMO, Udemy

Each customer is unique, and they should be treated as such. It’s vital to invest time in getting to know their priorities, challenges, and aspirations. By aligning your efforts with their needs, you can build stronger relationships and deliver value that is truly meaningful to them.

This can be done 1:1 (one-to-one) or at scale. At scale, you can use various tools to capture their feedback, share reviews, and listen through user-generated content (UGC) for key styles of communication and vocabulary. 

Communicate the Value Proposition

As a customer-centric marketing leader, your primary responsibility is to articulate the value and benefits your customers will receive. This means shifting your focus from emphasizing your company’s features to highlighting how your products or services can make your customers’ lives easier, accelerate their growth, or provide other kinds of support.

As a CMO, I treat our customers’ wisdom as our compass, to chart a path of unwavering dedication to their satisfaction and creating lasting relationships. – Aruna Ravichandran, SVP and CMO, WebEx

One of Apptio’s core values is to create wildly successful customers, and our customer-led marketing strategy was created to do just that. Our customers’ success is our success.” – Allison Breeding, CMO, Apptio

An effective way to communicate this value proposition is to highlight real-life success stories. Showcasing how your company has positively impacted other customers helps build trust and provides a glimpse into the potential benefits your audience can expect.

We are privileged to have over 10,000 customers who trust us to manage two of their most important assets, their people and their money, celebrating our customers and making them the hero in our storytelling. It’s always what we’re looking to do. –Jeanette Volpi, Chief Communications Officer, Workday

This can be done by creating orchestrated journeys that not only map your customer’s path to maturity with your product or service but help them grow their own brand in the process. Success means more than just becoming an expert user of your product, it means being valued for their brains, productivity, and personal self-worth. 

Give Customers an Exceptional Experience

Another key priority is giving your customers an experience that unequivocally demonstrates they are at the center of everything your company does. You have got to walk the talk! From the very first touchpoint to ongoing interactions, the customer’s journey should be seamless and tailored to their needs.

We try to communicate messaging, on channels that customers are receptive to and really in a language that they speak so understanding their region, their industry, the challenges that they face, and then tailoring messages delivered to them, how and when, and where they wish. – Amy Messano, CMO, Altair

I believe people buy from people they trust. It’s up to us as marketers to help our companies show up the way a trusted person would like listening and being curious and responding to what someone cares about rather than talking about myself. – Wendy Steinle, CMO, Domo

Transparency, responsiveness, and personalization are crucial elements in delivering a remarkable customer experience. By actively listening, being curious, and promptly addressing their needs and concerns, you can foster trust, loyalty, and advocacy.

Putting the customer first forces us to move beyond the tech-speak of the day to focus on business value and outcomes. This not only increases customer relevancy, but it strengthens customer relationships for the long term. – Chris Kozup, CMO, Darktrace

By having a deep understanding of where, when, and how our customers want to be engaged, we can consistently deliver incredible, personalized experiences. – Dara Treseder, CMO, Autodesk

Since we do business with people we know, like, and trust, the fastest way to build trust is to deliver perceptible value. The fastest way to deliver value is to turn your customers into internal champions at their own companies. There are many ways to do this at scale, starting by celebrating them in front of their own leadership. This happens in the way of customer awards, champion spotlights, and surprise and delight campaigns.

Here is an example of our customer awards here at Influitive. 

Treat Customers as Human Beings

When we’re laser-focused on campaigns and results, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that customers are human beings. They have feelings, aspirations, and emotions, just like you. By recognizing and valuing their humanity, you can create experiences and partnerships that genuinely resonate with them.

Customers are the collective reason why it is our job together to be insatiably curious about what they believe, how they’re feeling, what they need, and what they’re dealing with as people. – Amy Heidersbach, CMO, DHI Group

My number one priority when it comes to deploying a customer-first marketing strategy is to remember that customers aren’t simply a logo or brands. They’re human beings and they want experiences and partnerships that treat them as such. – Meredith Albertson, CMO, Zylo

Tailoring your marketing efforts to recognize and appreciate the human side of your customers builds deeper connections. This can be achieved through empathy, understanding their pain points, and aligning your messaging and solutions to address those issues.

Even though we’re B2B marketers, we’re not looking to connect with companies. We’re looking to make a connection to people, whether we’re working on a customer story or integrated marketing campaign, or social media post, whatever it might be, we’re looking to move our customers closer to solving their most pressing problems in a way that you talk to someone outside of work. – Mika Yamamoto, Chief Customer Engagement and Marketing Officer, F5

A great way to humanize the experience is by helping foster connections amongst your customer communities, how do you have them support each other, share social posts about their peers’ successes, connect on one-to-one conversations, and allow them to build each other up through shared goals and aspirations. You can also scale this through digital communities, advocacy programs, and even tailoring the rewards you offer at scale to fit the needs of each individual customer, including donations to their own charities and volunteer organizations. 

Incorporate Customer Feedback into Your Marketing Strategies

It’s not enough to just understand your customers’ priorities and pain points. As a customer-led marketing leader, it’s critical to incorporate this understanding into all your marketing strategies and activities. This helps you deliver relevant messages and experiences that truly resonate with your audience.

Not only is it important to understand your customers’ priorities, pain points, and ideas, but as a marketer, especially for a customer-first marketing strategy, it’s important that you take that understanding and actually do something about it and leverage it and incorporate it into literally everything that you’re doing from a marketing strategy standpoint. – Esther Flammer, CMO, Wrike

I think too often as marketers, it’s tempting to build content or programs or events in an ivory tower because it streamlines feedback, it makes the process go faster. And I think at the end of the day, you don’t have a great result. So, if I have a teammate who is building a first call deck, let’s say I make sure that they go out and present that in front of customers, see who’s not in their heads, see who’s bored, and staying on their phone, and really get that real-world feedback because I think at the end of the day, you’re gonna get a much better end result and end product from that. – Sara Varni, CMO, Attentive

Regular and meaningful interactions with your customers are key. Engage with them one-on-one or leverage opportunities like events, customer advisory boards, and executive sponsorships to gather feedback, refine your tactics, and align your efforts with their evolving expectations.

I encourage every marketer to meet with customers all the time: in one-on-ones, at events and customer advisory boards, executive sponsorships…any opportunity possible. I believe it’s critically important that we get outside of our own echo chamber and meet with customers on a regular basis. – Kathie Johnson, CMO, TalkDesk

We also know that our customers are busy, often work with varying vendors’ CSMs, and have a job to get done, so their time is extremely limited. Trying to get on their calendars without disrupting the flow your accounts teams have can be effort filled, so find ways to reward them for these calls, provide proactive incentives for sharing feedback, helping curate competitive playbooks, and opening their calendars up to you. When gamified appropriately, these rewards can span from gifts to extra service hours, to donating to their favorite charities, etc. 

Reducing Friction: The Ultimate Goal

True customer-centricity is about creating such a seamless experience that customers don’t need to rely heavily on your customer-facing teams. By eliminating friction, you can empower them to engage with your company in the way they desire.

It’s not about starting with having great customer service. It’s making sure that they don’t need customer service at all. That they can do the things that they want to do and operate with your company the way that they want without facing any friction. – Maria Pergolino, CMO and Board Member

Strive to deliver self-service solutions, proactive communication, and anticipatory customer service that caters to their needs. By seamlessly integrating your products or services into their lives, you can cultivate long-lasting and profitable relationships.

​​At Gong, we believe everything starts and ends with the customer. Major advancements in AI now enable organizations to understand customer interactions — at scale. If you harness the power of understanding your customers, you can accelerate revenue growth and create raving fans. – Brion O’Connor, CMO, Gong

This is where you can leverage your community, advocates, and practitioners to scale digital interactions through both orchestrated journeys and self-guided ad hoc experiences within your digital platforms. Creating touchpoints that let them know you know them whether they’re in your product, community, advocate portal, or LMS through unified rewards, incentives, and point structures creates brand Loyalty.  Loyalty is trust-built and allows your customers to take ownership of their experience and engagement driving deeper relationships with your brand and ecosystem. 


Embracing a customer-led strategy is no longer optional; it’s imperative for today’s marketing leaders. By understanding and speaking the language of your customers, communicating the value proposition effectively, providing exceptional experiences, treating customers as human beings, incorporating customer understanding into your strategies, and reducing friction, you can position your company for long-term success.

Remember, your customers are at the heart of your business. By adopting a customer-centric approach, you can create lasting impressions, foster loyalty, and drive sustainable growth. So, let your customers be your North Star, and lead your organization towards a brighter future.