Tag Archives: customer service

Think social business. Not social marketing.

Social business - not social marketingThink social business — not social marketing. Social marketing, the content, programs, campaigns and promotions that leverage social technologies, is part of social business, but it’s not the end all, be all. Social impacts business in its entirety. It’s easy to say social media or social marketing when talking about social business; because it’s how the press has pegged the activity of brands and users on these networks, but it’s wrong.

Social impacts nearly every aspect of the organization: human resources, legal, product, customer service, business development and of course, marketing and communications. A smart business looks at social holistically and integrates it into the business units in a way that connects the entire organization via social technology. Through this integration, social makes the business more accessible, more agile and more responsive to customer needs. These are all good things.

Businesses that truly “get it” don’t limit their thinking of social as some specialized area of marketing. In fact, social can’t (and shouldn’t) be confined to marketing or to the marketing function. To think of it as a marketing-only area is to miss the boat in its entirety.

So whenever I start saying “social marketing” too often, I remind myself that it’s an organizational discipline and a fundamental shift in how business is done by leveraging new ways of communicating with one another — both internally and with the outside world.

This isn’t a new idea, just a reminder I like to give myself to keep my eye on the prize.  I thought you might find it useful too.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Social Business Means Redefining What Business Is

Brian Solis talks about the bigger social business opportunity that is ahead of businesses and social media professionals:

When you look behind the scenes, you actually see more duct tape and rubber bands than fluidity and polish. Business units are still siloed and even the chief executives have gone on record saying that the acts of engagement do more for the company’s PR than it does for the improvement of products and services. Just look at your favorite social media source and you’ll see an endless array of examples of how brands are succeeding in social media. Again, most of them are basking in the brilliance of individual victories, some are actually breaking through the internal barriers that prevent collaboration, and others are simply stunts designed to spike conversations, sales, and PR. Nothing wrong with it…especially if it work as intended.

You and I are here together, right now, to do something greater. It’s up to us to lead the way for the socialization of business, understanding that it’s an uphill journey for the foreseeable future. But in the end, our experience and triumphs are unparalleled.

What Brian is talking about here isn’t social media marketing.  He’s talking about redefining what it means to be a business. It’s an ambitious vision, but has a few nascent successes that point to what could become the new corporate structure (Zappos comes to mind, 37 Signals, etc.)

For as long as the corporate entity has existed the model has been command and control.  Ground troops up on the front lines taking orders from well heeled Generals sipping tea well back from the front, who are ordering air support via massive branding campaigns on television, radio and print. All in an effort to convince the public that their product was just a little bit better, cheaper or faster.  And this worked well, for a long time.  But not any more.

With today’s connected, real-time landscape, business leaders and brands are in the thick of it.  They’re being pulled in every direction, flanked by conversations, complaints, kudos, competitors and their own internal chaos as they try to respond to the changes in the way business gets done.  And respond is all most have been able to do.  Not think, not plan, not leverage. Merely react.  Often these knee-jerk reactions are head-in-the-sand denials. Across the country there are conversations going on that start like this “Maybe we should just kill our Facebook presence,” because these leaders and brands aren’t fairing well in this new reality.

And even those that choose to engage in this new arena, as Brian points out, are doing it via smoke and mirrors, not necessarily through any enlightened state of corporate prescience.  But hey, if you’re one of the brands that hit the jackpot in connecting with customers online; well, by all means, don’t leave the girl you brought to the dance.  However, it’s important to understand the distinction between achieving success with social media marketing and reconstructing your business based on this new world order.

The marketing changes wrought by social media platforms have been hashed over ad nauseum for the last few years.  Most socia media successes can be boiled down to tactical executions of providing customer service and compelling experiences on the social web.  And that’s all well and good and interesting.  The evolution of marketing from spray and pray, one-size-fits-all messaging to actual conversation is welcome indeed; but in order for businesses to fully leverage the changes afforded by the social web they must embrace this new reality outside of their marketing department.  And that’s where I think Brian gets it right.

It’s not about redefining your message, it’s about rebuilding your company.  Breaking down command and control, creating better flows of information capital, creating more authentic and meaningful customer experiences and touchpoints, and empowering employees to put in their best to work for the business and customer every day.

This transformation starts when the business owners realize that the game has changed, that they in turn need to adapt.  Businesses must be willing to flip the megaphone around and put the wide end up to their corporate ear.  And then do something with the data to rearchitect their fundamental infrastructure to better serve the market. Because it’s not enough for a company to come up with the Old Spice Man campaign if customer feedback isn’t driving product development.  It’s not enough to launch a Facebook page when you’re customers are all active on a BBS somewhere.  It’s not enough to have branding, product, customer service, loyalty, global marketing, product teams, etc. all off experimenting with Twitter; when what’s needed is leaders who can to drive the new social way of operating on the Web through the organization to create a new way of thinking about delivering value to the market place.

A favorite metaphor for corporate dysfunction and disorganization is that the left hand isn’t talking to the right hand.  Well this problem is amplified by the challenges created by a real time, messy, loud market place full of demands.  And if organizations insist on relegating social media to the PR/customer service silo, without truly embracing the power it can bring them in terms of insight, innovation, customer and employee satisfaction and bigger and better shareholder returns, than the vision of social business is left unfulfilled, and we as champions of the space will have come up short in our mission to change how business is done.

Tagged , , , , ,

Self-funded Success Stories

Image representing 37signals as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

37 Signals has launched a new blog series titled, Profitable and proud, which highlights successful companies that have grown without any venture capital or funding.  It’s a great idea and a clever way to advance their theory that venture capital often gets in the way of companies becoming a success.

Their first company is Campaign Monitor, a company that I love for email marketing.  They also have a great way of marketing themselves that is inexpensive and customer-centric (double bonus!)

I think one of the best ways a company can build a relationship with their customers is to help them get better at something. When we launched Campaign Monitor six years ago, HTML email design really was a dark art. While browser limitations and workarounds were well known, there was next to nothing available on HTML emails. How do you make an email look good in Lotus Notes? Why isn’t this float working in Hotmail? You had to learn everything the hard way.

Over the years we’ve put together almost 350 articles and tips to help reduce this frustration for our customers. Some of our most popular resources include our regularly updated guide to CSS support in email, our free templates that work in all the major email clients and our email gallery showcasing beautiful email design.

I love what Marc Hedlund over at Radar has to say about self-funded companies too.

I think it would be interesting to compare customer service satisfaction across companies with different kinds of ownership structures. I noticed a while that some of my favorite businesses near my home —Cheese Board/ArizmendiZachary’s Pizza, and Missing Link Bicycle — which have the best customer service in their local markets, are all co-ops, owned by the employees. 37signals often argues that running a business their way is better for the business, but I think it is nearly unarguable that it’s better for customers, too.

I think you get greater flexibility to do what you think is right for your customers when the only pressure is on you to live up to your standards – and not a quarterly board meeting with people wondering when they’ll see their return on investment.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , , , ,

Whose Success are You Worried About?

Do you know whose success you’re striving for today? There’s only one right answer if you run a business. The correct answer is “your customer.”

When you focus on your customer success first you ensure that your company is aligned and attuned to meeting their needs, solving their problems and making them successful. Putting the customer first isn’t a new idea by any stretch, but it’s important to refocus everyday we sit down at our desks to remember that first and foremost we’re in it to make them better off than they were without us. If we do that in a meaningful way each and every day we will find our own success.

It’s the companies and individuals who forget this golden rule that get into trouble. When you start thinking about your own success and that of your company you lose focus of the customers. Customer service becomes a cost center to trim down, products need to yield a precise margin in order to be shipped and policies like returns, warranties, etc. become down right hostile in tone and practice. This is where you begin to lose your customer, and eventually your job and eventually your market. History is a graveyard of companies that failed by putting themselves first.

Focusing on the success of the customer is the only sustainable way to grow a business. Sure, you can rip people off until they notice, fold up shop or relaunch the product and hope to get another wave of suckers; but that’s getting a lot harder with the Internet. Customers are more informed and more vocal. It’s a diminishing return market. Never a good one to be in.

When you focus your efforts on the success of your customer you create a sustainable, self-supporting power source that drives you towards your success. It’s the best recipe there is for success and always has been. As Sam Walton so famously said “There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down…” We need to remember who our boss is.

So this morning when you sit down to work, don’t think about your commission or payday or how you don’t want to talk to the engineering team; instead sit down and think “What am I going to do today to make our customers more successful?” I bet you’ll find a more satisfying day a more productive day and a more successful day unfolds before you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , ,

It’s time to kill “customer service”

Image representing Salesforce as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

Customer service.  So nice in theory, so poorly executed. Over and over again you hear the stories – companies forsaking their customers in exchange for a nickel here and a dime there.  At some point we have to look at a theory, an institution, and say “It’s not working. It’s time to blow it up.” And customer service has reached that point.  The phrase “customer service” connotes all the misgivings that have led to its demise.  I’m sure you have your favorite visual that represents the great failure that customer service has become.  Mine is the backlogged 800 number routed to an underpaid, under trained and overworked call center rep who is merely given a script which is written in every way to keep money in house and keep frustrated customers quiet.

It’s time to kill customer service.

See customer service gives companies an out. It gives them the right to be passive in the support of their customers. It allows them to be reactive.  Because they have a customer service department and 800 number and online knowledge base they don’t need to “do” anything. They simply wait for the phone to ring and do their best to explain that according to their policy you’re shit out of luck.

This has to change.  We live in a connected world where each device can talk to one another and the mother ship.  We turn over reams of data on product registration information cards, credit card purchases, loan applications and online forms that these companies work to extract out of us at every turn.  And what do they do with that information?  Use it to segment their email lists.

What a waste.

Customer service supports the norm of business today.  Extract as much as we can from the marketplace and customer. Do as little as we need to keep that customer content, or at the very least quiet, and keep the pedal to the metal cranking out widgets.

It’s time to change.

What I propose is a new term. Customer advocacy.  Advocacy is different than service.  It connotes a whole change in posture.  Advocacy is a proactive, “lean forward” posture that puts the interests of the customer ahead of the interest of the company.  It creates a culture and an organization committed not to just the service of the customer but to the success of the customer.  It aligns, for once, the company with the customer. So that the company goals are the shared goals of the customer.  It creates a partnership of mutual benefit.  It is no longer an adversarial relationship filled with mistrust.

We need customer advocacy and we have the tools and ability and resources to do it.

There are a scarce few models out there right now to help us make the switch from the passive/reactive service model to the proactive advocacy model. Zappos is one great example. Amazon, Salesforce.com also come to mind. Zingerman’s Deli sounds like one too. Maybe you have more. The point is we’re poised to provide this customer advocacy as companies in a way that we never were before. We have the technology to connect instantly with customers, we have the data about what they like and don’t like, whether they’re using their device or product or service, and we have built the service teams and taken on the overhead in customer service.

It’s now time to realign those resources and data to drive towards advocacy.  I encourage everyone to read about Zappos and how they advocate for their customers.  Read about Salesforce.com and their Chief Adoption Officer and customer success team.  Because aligning your organization with your customer is a powerful way to grow your business.  These companies killed customer service and replaced it with something much more powerful – customer advocacy.  We owe it to ourselves and our customers to stop being passive receivers and start being powerful customer advocates.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , , , ,

Marketers Need to Stop Putting the Cart Before the Horse

We need to stop.  One of the easiest hacks in marketing is to put the cart before the horse.  And we’re all guilty of it.  I’m guilty of it.  Too often it’s easier to roll out yet another ad campaign or more collateral or another sweepstakes than it is to turn the lens inward and look at what we need to improve our core product.  Why?  Two reasons. One, it’s really freaking hard and two, we’re under pressure to hit short-term numbers.  It needs to change now. Otherwise marketers will continue to be the bane of our existence, hawking half-baked products with disingenuous pitches.  We need to stop putting the cart before the horse and do the hard work.

We need to take responsibility

Marketers, at our worst, leave the hard work to product and operations teams, washing our hands of responsibility for truly creating a product that markets itself.  Why?  Because  we often feel that we aren’t empowered to drive a quality product or improve internal processes like customer service.  I believe that’s more of a cop out than a reality.  It’s easier to feel helpless and say “that’s not my job” than it is to try to be of service across the organization to a department that is struggling to meet the unrealistic promises that you keep churning out to drive more customer acquisition.

It’s time to end that pity party and roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. Now.

We need to see the damage we’re creating

Marketing departments rarely make decisions that wipe out entire product lines or businesses.  That’s a good thing.  But what they do instead is far more subtle and insidious. And, I argue, equally as damaging in the long run.  Like “death by a thousand paper cuts,” marketing departments expand their claims just a bit, push out half-baked products that customers won’t love but won’t complain about, cut a return policy from 90 days to 30 days and make all manner of subtle changes that are better for the organization and worse for the customer.  Why?  Because it’s easy and it’s hard to see the negative impact of each minor change.

It would be better if these marketing decisions did set off nuclear explosions.  You’d be sure not to push that button. Unfortunately a minor annoyance like a paper cut is easily forgotten. And so goes the bit-by-bit march to a place where you’ve put your cart before your horse.

We need to think longer term, and teach our bosses how to do it too

When you push a claim or offer to get a few more heads in the door what you’re saying is that your priority is customer acquisition over customer satisfaction and retention.  You are trading near term dollars for long term relationships, brand equity and word of mouth opportunity.  The short term is the only term and you’re willing to sacrifice all the benefits that you know are accrued to those that take a longer look; but the pressure of now compels you to compromise.  we need to stop.

We need to tell our bosses why we need to stop.

Do the hard work now

We need to stop putting the cart before the horse.  As marketers it’s too easy to do.  We’re good at promotion – we better be anyway – but maybe we’re not good at helping design a better customer experience on the phone.  Well, we need to learn how to do it and be able to help our colleagues if we’re going to thrive and actually contribute to making people’s lives better.  We need to get involved with product decisions and advocate for our customers.  We need to beat back the compromises that are made in the name of timing and incremental pain and budget. We need to rage against mediocrity in our processes and products and fight for the promise that our customers are buying from us when they put up their hard-earned money for our products and services.

It has to start now.  We need to do the hard work. We need to put the promotion off for a quarter while we improve the support section of our web site.  We need to trade the print campaign for the live chat functionality on the web site.  We need to do more learning and listening and less hawking and pitching.

Only then will marketers create true value for the customers they’re trying to reach.  Only then will we put the horse where it belongs.  Up front.

Image credit

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , , , ,

The Process Matters

I was reminded of one of my favorite fables involving Pablo Picasso and the 5 minute portrait tonight after a visit to the doctor’s with my son.

Fable copy via 37signals:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

We (my ex-wife and I) took our son to see an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist because of some fluid behind his ear drums which makes it hard for him to hear soft noises.  The doctor was very efficient. Asked a few questions, looked quickly in my son’s ears and in this throat (I think for a total of 2 minutes, max) and then said “we should take his tonsils out.”  You could see my ex reeling a bit as she tried to slow down the doctor to get a better understanding of what that meant and why after such a quick examination she could make such a “drastic” recommendation.

It was the Pablo Picasso fable all over again.  And at the end of it (10 minutes later) my ex said “I’m glad she won’t be doing the surgery, she’s cold,” and it struck me how little the doctor’s expertise mattered at that point to my ex.  The efficiency, the expertise actually hurt my ex’s impression of the doctor.  And why was that? Because the doctor didn’t make us a part of the process.  The process, the thinking, the decision making, was all hidden out of view.  We weren’t part of the process, just like the lady in the sketch and it negatively impacted the experience, even when the result is “correct” or appropriate.

It hit me. Process is everything.

Your satisfaction with the end result is directly tied to the process you went through to get there.  When we short circuit the process or hide it from our customer’s view we don’t let them participate. We don’t let them collaborate, we don’t let them experience the value that we bring through what we do.  And when we fail to do that the end is always less satisfying.

You can see it with Picasso and the doctor.  If both of them had taken more time, had invested more interest, had made the customer part of the process and made that process visible and understandable the customer, with the same exact end result, would’ve been much happier.  Now art is tough, creativity is rarely process driven; but the doctor has no excuse.  Neither do the rest of us.

What can you do to highlight the process and the value it brings so that your customers feel more ownership of the end result?  The more you make them a part of it the more satisfaction they’ll get at the end.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , , ,

Customer service is your best marketing

Every marketer I talk to wants word of mouth.  They want people to talk about them, to “go viral” and have their product be sold by rave reviews from newly minted acolytes who spread the word unceasingly to their friends.  Then I ask them about their customer service.  And I usually get a blank stare.  This, I tell them, is exactly why they won’t get that word of mouth that they’re praying for.

Without great customer service you severely limit the opportunities to build the relationships with your customers that get them on your side.

Sure, you may have a product that wows people out of the gate.  But that will likely be a small percentage of your customers.  The rest will need to be convinced.  The rest will have problems, challenges and questions that need to be answered.  A billing problem that isn’t resolved will leave a bad taste in customer’s mouth – no matter how amazing the product is.

Companies that win realize that customer service is a core asset to the brand and to the product.  They realize it is a marketing opportunity to take a customer problem and turn it into a memorable experience that is worth talking about – spreading to their friends. And they don’t just pay customer service lip service.  They invest in it.  Just like any other marketing effort.  They put real money towards better training, better hiring, better technology – all to improve that valuable customer interaction.

The hardest part of any marketers job is acquiring new customers. It’s the most expensive of any effort.  Retaining customers and delighting them, in contrast, is far less expensive, yet few precious dollars are allocated to making sure that each experience with an existing customer turns them into a fan.

One of my favorite sayings is “If I only had $1,000 to invest in marketing, I’d put $900 towards ensuring great customer service experiences.”

So how much do you value your existing customers? And what are you doing to ensure that they get an experience so memorable and satisfying that they’ll go out and help sell your product for you?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , , , ,

Speed as a Social Media Strategy

I just finished reading a great business book called “Rules of Thumb” by Alan Webber.  Webber founded Fast Company magazine and was also managing editor at Havard Business Review, among other things.  In “Rules of Thumb” he compiles 52 bite-sized pieces of wisdom he has collected over the past 40+ years in his distinguished career.  They’re all excellent.  I want to dive into some of them here – in part to share with you, in part to cement them into my mental firmament.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did and I encourage you to pick up Rules of Thumb when you get a chance.

Speed as a Strategy

This is one of my favorite rules of thumb in the book.  Speed as a strategy.  Whether you’re talking about the first-mover advantage or simply being able to react and evolve in an ever-changing business environment, speed is a strategy all on its own. Too often you hear “we’re moving too fast” or “we need to make sure we’re not moving too fast,” from the planners and the folks in accounting and those who are uncomfortable with speed.  They want to slow things down, plod through detailed analyses and make the “perfect” decision.  Webber refutes this line of thinking as an evolutionary outmoded approach that is sure to leave your business in the dust and your team far from the leading edge of your industry.

The solution of course, is to become comfortable with speed and to use it as a competitive advantage and strategy.

Becoming comfortable with speed

If the answer is to become comfortable with speed, then how do you do it?  I believe you become comfortable with speed by developing a framework for evaluating situations and options and then a process of constant iteration and refinement of decisions through rapid and ongoing evaluation of the choices made.   Something like this:

  1. Evaluate current situation
  2. Determine course of action
  3. Implement change quickly
  4. Measure inputs/outputs of change
  5. Evaluate results
  6. Refine and adjust strategy on the fly
  7. Repeat

If you are able to implement this cycle then you have the tools and processes in place to manage rapid change then making quick decisions is not a short-sighted exercise that leaves you open to threats and missed opportunities; but rather is an ongoing, renewable business process that always ensures that you’re attuned to the environment and challenges your organization faces. All while staying out ahead of the pack through nimble, smart decisions.

Once you’ve developed this process to provide opportunities for constantly refining your strategy then you are able to embrace speed.  No longer is a decision all-or-nothing, but rather a series of incremental adjustments based on the results of the previous choice.  It makes everything much easier to manage in my opinion.

So, if that’s the high-level look at how speed can help an organization, what about in marketing?  Where this best comes into play is in online marketing.  Because print is built around big bets – long lead times, big RFPs, big campaigns, etc., it isn’t able to leverage the benefits of speed. Print and other old media need the plodding decision-making because for the most part, once you’re in, you’re in.  So you need to make that big bet count.  Online media, for the most part, behaves in a way that makes speed and incremental changes an essential part of success.

Speed as a strategy in social media marketing

More than any other online marketing effort, social media marketing demands speed.  In fact, it is organizations that can’t or won’t embrace speed who are the ones most damaged by the conversations in social media.  Those that wait to put together a pain-staking strategy, require lengthy legal involvement and rely on the old world media paradigm of creating perfect before shipping are all hurt by real-time conversations that wait for no one.  There are plenty of case studies about this phenomenon, and we don’t need to dive into them all here, but suffice to say that speed is the only strategy that works in social media.

Why is speed so important in social media?

Because people aren’t hierarchical organizations with command and control reporting. They speak their mind, share their opinions freely, and don’t need legal sign-off to present an argument or make a statement. That makes them infinitely faster than any organization.  But people also expect to deal with people, not brands, not organizations, not entities when engaging in a conversation online.  If a company wants to participate they need to let their people act like, well, people, and not corporate mouthpieces or brand ambassadors or any other non-human corporate cog.  This requires giving those people on the front lines of your organization engaging in social media the gift of speed. And your organization needs to be aligned to respond quickly to inputs that come through this new conversation channel.

Without speed your social media marketing strategy is dead on arrival.  It has a higher likelihood of doing harm rather than good, as the attention-spans, and patience online is reduced to near-zero by the customers and people you’re trying to engage. If your team is unable to answer a simple question in a timely fashion you’re hurting your brand.  If you can’t get a customer service request routed and addressed quickly, you’re hurting your brand.   The list goes on.  Without speed you’re brand will not thrive in the social space.

A few guidelines for speed in social media

Here are just a few (not comprehensive, please add more in the comments) thoughts on how to make sure you’re organization has the speed it needs to be successful in social media:

  • Have a corporate social media policy that encourages employees to embrace social media and clearly outlines the company’s guidelines and beliefs for using social media
  • Ensure that business division owners are ready to handle requests that come in through the social channel.  Is your customer service team ready to handle a complaint via Twitter?
  • For companies of any size over 30, implement some form of tracking of open issues and resolutions.  Can you track outstanding issues that have been posted to message boards about your product?  Can you communicate with those people and get back to them when things are resolved?
  • Give your front-line folks answers to questions ahead of time.  Do they have an extensive corporate knowledge? Do they have access to policies, warranties, press materials and other company facts that they can go straight to without needing to track down someone in product or PR to address?
  • Give your front-line folks freedom to talk like people.  Can you set guidelines about what will and won’t be answered immediately? If you have an intense legal component to your business what can you do to provide as much leeway to front-line folks while ensuring proper guidance and discretion on sensitive items?
  • Give your front-line folks the proper training in investor relations, media relations, customer service, public relations, etc. so that they understand the different types of inquiries they’ll receive and a framework with which to deal with them.
  • Make sure your front-line people are friendly, personable and genuinely interested in helping people. That spirit will shine as they interact with your customers and potential customers in the social sphere.

Speed wins – how fast are you?

To me it is clear that speed wins.  Especially in social media.  So how fast are you? How fast is your organization? And what can you do to make it or your department faster?  What am I missing?  I’d love your feedback in the comments.

Photo credit

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

What Marketing Can’t Do

Inspired by this post at 37 Signals.

This Murphy bottle sticker is just one example of what I like to call “little green lies” — product packaging and advertising claims that try hard to spin natural stats on unnatural products in their favor.

As the 37 Signals highlights,  when marketers can’t do anything more than control the message they’re rendered pretty much useless (and in fact potentially dangerous).  The absurdity of this label is hard not to miss.  I mean plastic comes from corn at some level (that’s naturally derived, right?) This got me thinking about my role as a marketer at a company and what marketing can and can’t do.

What Marketing Can’t Do

Marketing can’t:

  • Make your product suck less
  • Make your product work better
  • Make your product provide more value
  • Make the product something people want and love
  • Make people happier about your customer service
  • Improve your warranty
  • Improve your return policy
  • Make your customer service people care
  • Make your account managers more on the ball
  • Make your user interface easier to use
  • Make your product easier to use

I could keep going, but I think the point is pretty clear.  There are a lot of parts of the overall experience that a consumer has with a company that isn’t controlled by marketing.  But often times, the buck is passed to the marketing and PR teams who are tasked with selling it.  Putting lipstick on a pig if you will.  When marketers feel like they have to spin the value, repackage the product based on message alone you end up with labels like the above.  You can imagine the conversation:

“Can we say we’re organic?”


“Can we tie into green in any way?”

“Well we’re based on a lot of natural materials.”

“What will legal let us say?”

The answer of course is what’s on the label.

What Marketing Can Do

Of course, there are things that marketing can do. And should do instead.

  • Marketers can go talk to customers
  • Marketers can listen to people (customers/marketplace/etc.)
  • Marketers can research what people are looking for
  • Marketers can watch people struggle with their products
  • Marketers can decide to make post-sale marketing a priority
  • Marketers can work with trainers, customer service reps and all parts of the organization to be more customer-centric
  • Marketers can cut their budget and tell the company to spend it on product instead
  • Marketers can evangelize for the customer

If you’ve got the responsibility in your organization to be the marketing face of the organization what are you doing?

Tagged , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.