Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

The Role of Marketing

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 20, 2007

megaphone-girl.jpg Marketing’s role in an organization is changing. It is no longer enough to push a product or service at a customer, thinking it will meet that customer’s need because they fit into a certain demographic. I may purchase a printer for my PC so I can print off email messages and documents; another person may purchase it to print their digital photos for a scrapbook.  Both of us are between the ages of 18-36 and have a good income plus a college education.  But that information is not enough to ascertain how that printer will be used.

Knowing which magazines I subscribe to, which TV shows I watch, and what kinds of products I purchase does not really tell you my story, either.  It is marketing’s role to truly understand the customer’s need from a psycho-graphic and behavioral aspect.  In order to do that, marketers are finding it necessary to view their company, its products and services, and even each place a customer touches that company from the customer’s perspective.   Only then can we begin to understand the underlying needs of a customer.

Becoming a Customer Needs Expert

Marketers can no longer solely rely on their previous methods to understand customer needs.  For example, focus groups will give us an idea of customer direction or a general understanding of behaviors, but we may not really understand what each customer segment needs without asking them.  Why is this customer purchasing a printer?  Have they ever purchased one before?  What would they say they need from a printer?  Better yet, what would they say they need to do with their computer?  How much of that would be facilitated by the printer?  Digging deeper into customer needs and behaviors is a new, yet critical marketing function that not many marketers are performing.

Marketing teams are becoming customer needs experts as part of their role in the new customer-centric business world.  It is imperative that companies work with marketing to put into place a repeatable system for collecting customer information, create a method for sharing that information throughout the organization, and finally, act on the information.  Learning from our customers, then doing something with what we learn, is a solid way to create a barrier to exit for our customers.  When we learn about our customer, then use that learning to do something different for that customer,  we have created a unique value proposition for them that our competitors can’t match.  This is because we now have customer insight that they don’t have.  When we continue to learn from each interaction, then change our behaviors to benefit our customer, we build a relationship with them, and ultimately, we build loyalty.

Gathering Info a Little at a Time

We can begin learning from our customers with each interaction they have with us, at any touch point.  When we remember and record those interactions, we can fill out the profiles we have on individual customers and share them with the rest of the organization.  The use of Web 2.0 techniques is a great way to have conversations with our customers in such a way that we can get immediate feedback from them on specific areas.  As we track these conversations with individuals over time and across our company, we begin to understand what they need from us. 

Growing the Business

As marketers begin to truly understand their customers’ needs, they can then create campaigns which are more relevant, more customized, and more likely to spur engagement with the brand.  This should result in increased action on the part of the customer. 

When the organization remembers the customer’s previous interactions and uses that corporate memory to improve the customer’s experience for the next time, trust is built with customers.  Trust, corporate memory, and relevant marketing are critical ingredients to building solid relationships with and getting loyalty from existing customers. 

And of course, growing business from existing customers is one of the most cost-effective approaches there is!


3 Responses to “The Role of Marketing”

  1. Hello Becky. As marketers look at individual touchpoints (individual physical, human, communication, and sensory interactions), they should consider evaluating consistency across four factors. 1. Quality, 2. Delivery, 3. Image, 4. Message.

    The quality of a Touchpoint relates to meeting customer needs. In the example above, if the printer doesn’t print digital photos to the expectations of the buyer, then the quality of the product (a physical touchpoint) doesn’t meet the needs of the person who purchased it.

    Delivery refers to consistency in type, manner or timing of the same or similar touchpoints. Examples include your morning newspaper arriving at differing times daily, ordering the same meal from the same restaurant but getting varying portions, etc.

    Image must be consistent across touchpoints. If a luxury brand has employees chewing gum or using bad grammar, then the image projected by those human touchpoints will not be consistent with other touchpoints of the luxury brand. Fine china in a fast food restaurant would be inconsistent with its fast, value brand image.

    Lastly, touchpoints must reflect marcom messaging. DHL claims to “put service back in the delivery business.” If this is not what is experienced at the touchpoint level, then customer experiences are not consistent with messages delivered via ads (communication touchpoints).

    Taking the evaluation of these four touchpoint factors down to the individual customer level is what it takes to generate an understanding of what is needed to improve the customer-centricy and consistency of key touchpoints.

  2. Becky,

    I agree with you but until customer service, marketing and sales are merged into one department, I can’t see how marketing can achieve the goals you set for it. And even if they are merged, will customer-centrism become marketing’s purpose in the eye of the CEO? Can’t say but I know that when a client brings my marketing firm in the first thing they are asked is: “What do your ideal customers look like?” and the second is: “How do you meet or exceed their wants, needs and desires?”

    Good post!

  3. Hank, you make some excellent points here! Thanks for adding to the conversation. I think for touchpoints, it is not just those four pieces but also how they work for each individual customer’s expectations and needs, not just the needs of a particular segment. You said it well – glad you chimed in. 🙂

    Lewis, I don’t know that marketing and customer service need to be merged into one department. Each has their own job to do. However, I think both should be measured, and incented, on their customer centricity. If marketing campaigns aren’t relevant to needs, they missed the point (and shouldn’t get full marks). If customer service doesn’t meet or exceed customer expectations, they have potentially hurt the brand for that customer. I love the first two questions you are asking your clients; may more people do the same!

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