The Marketing Agenda in the Internet Age
Part 5: Marketing Organization: Who’s at the Wheel in your Organization?
This is the fifth episode of my series about marketing in the internet age. Earlier I talked about the importance of clear business logic, explainable within 7 seconds, clear branding and a clear awareness of risks.
The Internet has changed something about marketing. The dynamics, scope, technologies and the risks have changed. More and more, the customer is sitting at the wheel: this is “on demand” marketing. Besides traditional marketing, there is also the rise of e-marketing to be aware of. That means more channels, new necessary skills, more focus on new combinations and a higher pace. It also means something for the organization of marketing capabilities. In this episode, I want to talk about this organization of marketing in the digital age.
B2C is becoming C2B. Internet is turning companies inside out, visa versa and upside down. The boss is no longer at the wheel, but the customer is. Companies who give the wheel of business to the customer and know how to organize correctly will be most successful in terms of profit and customer satisfaction. This means that companies should organize contact with the customer much more than previously. This does not only apply for relationship-oriented and service-oriented businesses and services. This is also increasingly the case for transaction-oriented shops. In financial terms, the higher your recurring business, the lower your marketing & sales costs, and basically the higher your profit. Paying attention to your customer pays.
For the company, this means that all interaction with the customer should be monitored from one place, where information about each individual is needed. An integral customer image with information about what he has bought, buys, and perhaps is going to buy, with his preferences and the information obtained from customer panels about what he thought of the service so far, is key for every e-business organization. So organize from the client and not from the product.
Understanding the customer is essential. And from this understanding, a bit of predictability for the business can arise: why the customer buys what he buys. This includes smart customer segmentation that suits your customers’ needs. Which one of your customers is creative or reactive? Which are quick decision makers and which are slow decision makers? The use of this type of ‘psychological’ customer segmentation is important to provide the proper sales script that suits the type of customer, and thus increases the conversion. If you, like Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, can keep track of what, where and when a customer buys in the supermarket, you can analyze the customer’s buying patterns, ‘profile’ and make appropriate additional offers to the customer. Albert Heijn can be used as an example that a company should actually need to be able to do more than understand their own customers. Try to surprise the customer! People go to the supermarket to get meat, milk, bread &c., but what did Albert Heijn think of? Take a top restaurant feeling home. With their special products AH Excellent, they give everyone the feeling of being a chef of a superior restaurant and are able to put something nice on the table. Do customers want that? In the beginning they did not, because they did not know it was possible to have a “going out to dinner” feeling at home, but the customers are used to this now and do not want it any different.
It goes this way sometimes. From understanding, prediction about future expectations are developed. The enterprise does not offers its own clients directly what they ask for but something better, something that helps them exceed themselves, which occurs as a type of life stylist. The story of Apple confirms that the strategy works. Try it sometime! It is worth it.
Facilitate the customer. If price comparison is important for the customer, and if he does not want to pay too much, place a computer on the shop floor and make it possible to compare prices in your shop. You can make this a selling point. And if the customer comes to the conclusion that the refrigerator is cheaper somewhere else, you are at least talking. The customer is in your shop at that moment, and you are free to make an appropriate discount for him.
Not only should you as a company have a clear customer image. It is important for the customer to know where he can go when he wants to communicate with you. Your company should feel like a ‘small business’ for him. For example, you do not find it comfortable to have a different caretaker every time in a care facility, and to explain your situation each time. That is also true for the customer. Also customers are like people and want to be seen.
Marketing especially must make sure that eyes and ears are opened and should arrange that the customer gets an answer, which helps him, to every question. Marketing must radiate the message that the customer is seen and known and that the company is happy with him. That also includes, in a manner of speaking, a web shop for toothbrushes.
Customer communication was essential and is becoming more important in the digital age, as it is also a core activity in marketing. Marketers realize that the customer always has a choice, and that the competitor is only a click away. Interesting, isn’t it, that the more digital things become, the more important the human touch is. The Internet brings us into a personal age. So be flexible, creative and proactive as a company to facilitate this choice. Also consider possible cooperation with other companies with similar interest to strengthen each other’s position. A wonderful example form is a Dutch family company Gassan Diamonds in Amsterdam, which focuses on diamond cutting and on the wholesale and retail trade of diamonds in, inter alia, watches and jewels. The company does not only traditionally take part in all major trade shows in the industry but also works with international agencies in the Far East in order to ensure that Gassan Diamonds is and remains part of the organized tourist trips. The result? 377.000 tourists, from mainly China, Russia and Japan who spend on average 100 euro’s a person. Added value through collaboration!
C2B: Give control to the customer. That is the task of marketing in the digital age. Customers do not want the feeling that they are left dangling in midair. Customer behavior should have an impact on your behavior. To get these relationships clear, is it wise to include skills like psychology and anthropology in your marketing. These people see things differently, and prove again, in my opinion, that this can be very valuable for the business.
Actually, the lesson is that non-commercial behavior pays commercially and that going digital makes human contact important. The good news is that this can all be organized! Companies like KLM and KPN show that customer service desks, that communicate directly with customers via DM on Twitter can do a lot for customer retention and satisfaction. If, near your enterprise, more languages are spoken, you could consider a multi-lingual chat site.
Fake does not sell. What can you do if you, as a brand/organization, really want to have a long term commitment with your customers? Ask yourself why you want that particular commitment and ‘what is in it for me and for them’. If it is about customer engagement, then the motivation and intention of you or your company and the way you think of communicating with your customers, is becoming increasingly important. Mari Smith’s The Relationship Age and Simon Sinek and his TED talk as well as Hans Kooistra say very different things here. Customer engagement is, a as subject, a big too large for the marketer alone. It is a subject for the whole organization and at least a topic for pr, marketing, sales, investment relations and customer service and ICT together. A company, who does not lift the famous silos towards the customer relationship, does not stand a chance in the digital age.
Engagement is a process and not a project. It is somewhat long-winded. An edge in engagement gives you a real, sustainable, competitive advantage. If the marketer starts an engagement process with ‘we listen to you’, and customer services do not answer the phone or the customer sees a different vendor every half year, you will really get into trouble with engagement.
Your promise and performance should be consistent with each other. Fake does not sell. Empty engagement promises, facades, will not maintain in the Twitter time. Your customers react more on the consistency and integrity of your message. If you position your company as customer focused, loyal etc., but you are acting like a “bag seller on Gran Canarias’ instead of a ‘butcher around the corner’ you will not get away with this. If you sell yourself a “toppertje” while you are mainstream,. You will not persevere: pretension and competence must be in balance.
It’s okay to use the client as a filling, as work order, but do not pretend it is different. The “bag seller” solely has a relationship in the here and now. There is no past and no future. There is nothing wrong with that as long as he does not encounter to you otherwise. Formule 1 hotels have a nice business with this. The “butcher around the corner” connects the past, present and future with you as a customer and the kids get a slice of sausage. Where the bag seller steers himself according to order value, the butcher around the corner moves according to customer value. Both have their values, but neither should fool the customer.
If you are a bag seller in your ‘cultural DNA’, just say so. There is nothing wrong with this. Integrity is important in the business area. It is not just about what you say and do. It is about your intention, your underlying thoughts and whether you provide.
Marketing as façade of camouflage does not work anymore and competing on features and benefits has little chance. Get ready to get real! Executive power is buyable for organizations and no longer creates a real distinctive power. There are so many alternatives. The real difference between you and your competitors are increasingly soft values, namely the extent to which your brand/organization can engage an emotional bond with your customer: selling real attention. Your company culture, design and leadership are important to your customer. ‘Commercial ‘ behavior is not longer very commercial.
Social media are, if the context is clear, very effective in strengthening brand and customer engagement. Social media guides us as customers to the appropriate channel. The marketer is in the social company facilitator of engagement. The rest of the engagement process is called sales. You then see that in a lot of companies marketing and sales come back together under one responsibility and one budget. Your ‘brand vale’ provides the context for the client which will give the other manifestations of the company ‘meaning’ for the customer: context drives meaning.
Here are some skills you will need in this adventure. Social Media Manager (SMM) as ‘listening officer’. With the development of social media, more companies realize that this function within marketing is more needed. The tasks: organizing the customer panel and monitoring opinions on the internet about and towards the company, filter information and conduct a dialogue with customers and other stakeholders. Communication with customers and interested parties through social media is not a one-way street anymore. The customers are now just a click away from the company. Computer manufacturer Lenovo was one of the first companies to have actually introduced this feature. Dialogue in the net is different than in real time. For the position of SMM there are no courses yet, it is mostly learning by doing. As SMM one must be able to take stress and, as insiders say, should be well implemented in the internal network of the company, know a lot about processes and rules and can withstand “shitstorm”.
The rise of Social CRM (SCRM)- customer contacts can significantly improve through the use of communication tools of social networking. Appropriate integration in the enterprise software is essential. Social CRM tries expectation patterns by the observation of social media interactions and profiles these. KLM’s seat & meet is one application. The SCRM tools integrate, for example, the Facebook profile, a Twitter account and possibly also the blog of a person with the basic details of this person. MTV shows SCRM also works at the level of target groups in clustering. Real time online activities of users are then analyzed on different channel formats. Using two monitors for TV and online communication is common in this group. The aim was to increase the stay on the website, to create more advertising contacts. An instrument for this is the recommendation links to, for example, videos. MTV can thus cluster customers to the intensity of use: power viewer and occasional users to optimally serve these two groups.
Privatization of the industry is already very visible in businesses in Europe. Big jobs within a business are outsourced to freelancers or teams of self-employed people for, for example, preparing a product launch, setting up a communication campaign, sales outsourcing, etc. This means that a freelancer must be a true professional in the industry and should have very specific knowledge. You have to admit, an industrial marketer has different qualities than a marketer in the FMCG. This in contrast to a generalist, who knows a bit about everything and learns more on the job. How will this trend translate concretely in practice? Will we have a world of professionals who will fill small niches, or an ocean of generalists who think they can be used anywhere?
This trend now means that marketing is often a temporary project with a team of professionals. My feeling is that the design of customer interaction should be organized with more permanence. For knowledge about your customers, it does not apply to think that flexibility is the new continuity. For hard core knowledge, continuity as the standard, with added flexibility to changing customer needs, applies.
A final point relevant to marketing organization which I would like to mention is regionalization, as a trend also referred to as ‘nearonomics’. This trend is rooted in the need for us all to have a sense of belonging. We humans desire a connection with the area in which we live and want to affect it. Here again appears the need to close the circle of life and perhaps also to limit risks. This trend is also reflected in marketing and places new demands on the skills of marketers today: recognize the local identity. Search for roots in your own environment and region. Bring the human element back and give the customer the feeling that he matters.
Local money, for example, is doing very well. The Mayor of Bristol (UK) gets paid in Bristol pounds. The reason for the success of local money is that this money “stays in the system” and the circle of life remains closed. Another example? German companies, not only the MKB but also corporate, produce to a greater extent than other European countries in Germany. Back to the roots, to give content to the slogan Made in Germany: good for the economy and local identity. These are reaction to the frosty globalization that makes a calculation of any form of corporation. I predict that this trend will continue and that it is prudent to keep this into account in your marketing organization.
Is your company fit for marketing challenges in the 21st century? Do you think so? And what do your customers think? Will you ask them? I think you should!