Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Walking the Talk

The field I work in goes by various names - Relationship Marketing, Social Media Management, Community Management, Conversational Marketing.  But whatever you call it, the role I'm supposed to play in my company is to listen to customers, understand everything about them, anticipate their needs and feed those insights back into the strategy and innovation teams. so that they can build products that delight customers and are exactly what they're looking for to solve their biggest problems (ideally, things they don't even know they're looking for but that delight them once they get them, because then we're more likely to be the first to market with that thing), and can build marketing communication programs that deliver exactly the right message with the right offer to the right customer at exactly the right time.

Because I work in this field, I am the key point person for tons of agency partners who are in that same business.  They do strategic analysis and insight work to help us understand our customers.  They build programs and tools that help us create and execute marketing communication programs.  They sell stuff to me so that my company can more effectively sell stuff to our customers.

So we're all trying to do the same thing, and everyone in the field can write articles and retweet tweets and create PowerPoint slides that convey the fundamental principles of doing this well. 

But it's really, really hard to actually live by all the principles we espouse.

And I think all of us forget how many levels of "customers" we really need to treat in the full, open-eared, interactive, caring Relationship Marketing way.  I need to devote lots of time and energy to understanding and conversing with our end users, but we also have a layer of distributors who are also customers in a way, and have their own distinct set of needs and characteristics and problems to solve.  And then since I work in a department that acts as an internal consultant to several departments, those are my customers as well, who will have a completely different set of things that keep them up at night that I must understand in order to sell in my recommendations as a solution.

So it shouldn't be surprising when the agencies that sell me the tools and services I need to manage all these various customer constituencies forget the princples espoused in their own PowerPoints and tweets and t-shirts and coffee mugs, and instead focus on the features of their tool and the applications they have dreamed up for it.  But they, of all people, should really be forgetting this less.  I am your customers.  You need to listen to what I say, mine data about me, truly understand my objectives and strategies, identify the things that keep me up at night, and then bring me your tool or service as the ideal solution to help with that.  If you can sell your products to me in a way that helps me sell products to my customers, all those various diverse layers of customers, I will pay a premium price and buy additional services from you in the future and have such ferocious loyalty that I would never think of buying anything like it from anyone else.  This is what you tell me is the level of loyalty I can achieve with my own customers if I use your tools and services, right?  So if you believe your own white papers, you should believe that you and I can have that same relationship.  So why don't you live it?  Why aren't you better at Relationship Marketing or Social Media Management or Community Management or Conversational Marketing to your own customer, who is me?

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