December 05, 2022
Case Study

Customer-First Marketing: How to shift to a customer-first strategy (3 case studies)


Marketers and entrepreneurs build their campaigns with blinders on. We’re so focused on what we want (do you have quarterly goals posted in your office or your computer?) that it is hard to truly see what matters to potential customers in the noisy, crowded marketplaces where they encounter our marketing message.

To help you rip those blinders off and improve your results by better serving your customers, in this article we bring you examples from a blog, B2B tool, and law firm.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Customer-First Marketing: How to shift to a customer-first strategy (3 case studies)

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Last week in the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort, participants built customer-first objectives to inform their ads, landing pages, and other marketing (MECLABS Institute is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

Building a customer-first objective is one of the most difficult tasks in marketing. Not because it is complex or takes a lot of work effort, but because it requires a great deal of inner work – we are necessarily so focused on what we need as marketers or entrepreneurs, it is hard to shift our perspective to the customer. Put another way, the customer doesn’t care about us – so we must work extra hard to care about them and serve them or we will never attract them to our offerings.

The marketers and entrepreneurs in the cohort were truly challenged, but as the coaching and group work progressed, there were a lot of “aha” moments.

To help you get your own “aha” moments as you work with your team to shift to a customer-first marketing strategy, today we bring you marketing case studies to highlight each element of the three-part formula we used in the cohort (Flint McGlaughlin teaches this formula in Customer-First Objectives Application Session: See real webpages optimized for marketing conversion):

  • TO help – In Quick Case Study #1, a small blog crafts a link building strategy with a long view – putting in the effort to network with and truly help journalists instead of just sending quick-hit PR pitches
  • BY giving them – In Quick Case Study #2, a B2B tool improves its advertising results by giving prospects helpful content instead of just a product pitch
  • In exchange FOR – In Quick Case Study #3, a law firm gets more reviews by reducing the friction of its ask (no account creation necessary on the review platform) and adding the human touch.

Quick Case Study #1: Small blog uses “good old-fashioned networking” to gain two authoritative backlinks

Everyday Old House is a small blog (less than 100,000 pageviews per month) and sought to attract backlinks for SEO by networking. Its founder had used a similar strategy when she started in finance before she started blogging. With no finance background (she was previously an environmental engineer), she was able to grow one of the largest commercial insurance portfolios among her peers within five to 10 years. 

Link-building strategy

“Search for the journalists who report on your niche – through Google or HARO [Help A Reporter Out],” advised Jennifer Osterhout, Founder, Everyday Old House LLC. She follows them on social media and makes meaningful comments and also visits their professional websites. 

She will take a genuine interest in their work. Don't be fake, always be honest, she advises. If she doesn’t like their style or opinions, she just moves on. Her goal is to align with reporters and other content writers she would actually sit down in person and have a beer with. 

The results from networking for link building

Twice Osterhout has been approached directly for quotes with accompanied dofollow backlinks.

“While two backlinks isn’t significant for bigger bloggers, gaining backlinks from a major urban newspaper (The Boston Globe) and home improvement/DIY site (The Porch) – both with high domain authorities (80+) – is a win in my book,” Osterhout said.

Relationships – business and personal, online or in person – take time and effort. She emphasizes that these requests didn't happen overnight. One relationship took almost a year until she received the request, the other was a few months.

Osterhout even transparently told me, “I'll use this same strategy even though you aren't a DIY/home reporter. I'll follow your Twitter feed, check out your How I Made It in Marketing podcast, learn from your work, and explore future opportunities.”

And she even followed up to say, “Yesterday I listened to your podcast’s episode with Tara Robertson.  LOVED her thoughts on imposter syndrome and getting a seat at the table not because you know the answers, but because you can get the answers.”

Quick Case Study #2: Content-based ads help B2B tool grow MQLs from 10% to 50% of advertising-sourced leads

Privasee is a tool that helps companies comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It had a challenge that is common to many B2B services and platforms – it had a solution to a problem that not everyone was aware of, but when the team could actually get people on demo calls they had a high conversion rate.

The team realized they needed quality content on the company website to help at the top of the funnel, but they worried it would take too long to rely solely on an organic approach and they wouldn’t meet their short-term revenue goals.

“Coinciding with the time that I started to look at content strategy for Privasee, I learned of a new LinkedIn campaign style orientated around content,” said Lee Webster, Founder, Growth Consultancy (Privasee’s agency). The new campaign style allowed the team to create content that prospects could read and download on their LinkedIn newsfeed in exchange for contact details, and they could advertise it in a conventional paid advertising style (PPC).

The content

The team’s goal was to create something focused enough to target someone with buyer intent, yet broad enough to appeal to as many people as possible. “I settled upon creating a ‘GDPR Bible’ and, using various info, graphic templates from Canva, some content pulled from [their] blogs, and some customer insights, set to work on creating content,” Webster said. 

The result was a content piece that included both simple straightforward topics like “GDPR Compliance Checklist” as well as more focused topics like “Agencies: offering Data Privacy as a Service (DPAAS).”

The follow up – introducing scalability

Once the content was created, the team wanted to ensure they had a process in place to take full advantage of the leads. “To do this, we set up some automations in our CRM (HubSpot) and used Integromat [now known as Make] to pull some key data from the LinkedIn profiles and populate some categories in HubSpot,” Webster said.

The team then created some workflows, which set up automations with several different branches to sort the leads and determine which leads would receive which content. The founders of the company would audit the websites and offer to provide key insights on a sales/demo call.


Previously the company was using promotional ads. For example, for a daily ad spend of $50 on Facebook, they would receive three to five leads per day. However, only 5% to 10% of those leads were considered marketing-qualified leads (MQL). On LinkedIn, they ran the ads for a few weeks and got zero leads.

Creative Sample #1: Product-based lead gen ad on LinkedIn

Creative Sample #1: Product-based lead gen ad on LinkedIn

When they switched to the content with lead capture advertisements on LinkedIn, they received less leads per day for the same $50 daily spend – one to three leads per day. However, far more of those leads were considered MQL – 50% to 75%.

Creative Sample #2: Content-based lead gen ad on LinkedIn

Creative Sample #2: Content-based lead gen ad on LinkedIn

“We knew from the beginning; high-quality content was going to be the key to our success. Using the LinkedIn content campaign feature really accelerated our lead capturing, and we are now building a long-term SEO strategy in parallel,” said Alex Franch Tapia, CEO/Cofounder, Privasee.

Quick Case Study #3: Law firm gets twice as many reviews by having lawyers ask in person or on the phone, instead of only by email

"As a lawyer, I recognize that my reputation is everything. So, it was really important that my firm was receiving positive online reviews. The challenge with that is that most people are unlikely to do that unprompted. People are also far more likely to share a negative experience online than a positive one. This was a hurdle we needed to overcome,” said Seymour Major, Partner, Paschal O'Hare Solicitors.

First, the team had to pick a review platform to focus its effort on. They needed a recognizable platform that is appropriate for a professional services provider. They also wanted to use a platform that would not require the client to create an account. It was important that the review could be typed out and published quickly to remove barriers for the client leaving the review.

“Trustpilot ticked those boxes on this occasion. But there are many more out there and businesses should shop around to find one that meets their needs. There are many great review platforms,” said Glenn Reid, Legal Marketing Consultant, Reid & Partners Legal Marketing (Paschal O’Hare’s legal marketing consultancy).

Then they needed to establish a process to ask for reviews, at the happiest point for the client. For this brand, it was when a legal matter was concluded, and they won.

Like most law firms, Paschal O’Hare automatically sends clients a letter from their case management system when a case concludes. This letter is basically an “end of action” letter that summarizes a case. For example, it might include a settlement figure. Not only was this the best time to ask clients for a review, since it was part of a process the lawyers were already engaged in it was quick and easy for the attorneys to implement it.

A new paragraph was added to the end of each letter: “We routinely contact some clients by email for the purposes of collecting feedback and may contact you again shortly. If we do, I would appreciate if you would submit a review to be published online. You will not have to create an account and you can review us anonymously if you choose to.”

“Trustpilot was then Bcc'd into this email of the letter. This triggers Trustpilot to make contact. It's a feature called Automatic Feedback Service. However, other review platforms have their own name for similar features. I also recommend that law firms add a relevant cross-sell line immediately after this line. For example, if the client is getting a divorce, they might be selling the marital home. Could real estate services be mentioned here?” Reid said.

The law firm had a conversion rate of 25% for the email requests.

Then, they started asking for reviews in person or on the phone. Lawyers were not provided with a script. They get to know their clients very well as they work together so they are able to ask in a casual manner they feel their client will respond well to.

“I overheard a lawyer say: ‘Oh, by the way, Trustpilot will contact you soon about writing a review. Would you mind leaving one? It'll make me look good to my boss!’” Reid said.

When attorneys started asking for reviews in person or on the phone, the client was twice as likely to agree and commit to doing so than if they only received an email. The conversion rate increased from 25% to 50%.

The firm was coached on how to respond to poor reviews as well. Lawyers, who can become combative and instinctually write a lengthy response, were taught that they are not replying to the reviewer, but to the thousands of other people that will read the review.

The law firm has been able to get 593 reviews on Trustpilot so far with a 4.9 TrustScore.

Paschal O'Hare began asking for reviews before its competitors. It is now in a position where it would be difficult for competitors to close that gap. This means it can boast itself as the “highest-rated law firm in the country” in marketing materials for the foreseeable future.

The team has used the reviews as social proof in the places you would expect, like sharing them on their website and on social media. And they even included reviews on their storefront. The first panel in the picture below has their Trustpilot score, and the last panel also has their Trustpilot score along with the quote “Excellent service from start to finish” attributed to a satisfied client. “Trustpilot provided their brand assets and guidelines to follow,” Reid said.

Creative Sample #3: Shopfront marketing with social proof for law firm

Creative Sample #3: Shopfront marketing with social proof for law firm

Related Resources

Customer-First Marketing Guide: 4 steps (with case studies) to build a customer-first marketing strategy

Customer-First Marketing Strategy: The highest of the five levels of marketing maturity

Marketing Chart: How important customer-first marketing is to consumers

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