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5 ways to get back to basics in customer marketing


The marketing world is morphing into the beauty industry. And we’re the prey.

We’ve come to believe that we need to invest in the latest technology - even if we aren’t set up for it, that there are additional pieces of data we ought to be measuring – even if our current metrics serve us perfectly and that, brutally, we might lose our jobs if we don’t up our game.

If your twitter feed is anything like mine, you’re feeling this pressure daily. Every agency, technology provider and rock star marketer is (indirectly) telling us we’re doing it wrong. It’s exhausting.

But I won’t become a narcissist of the marketing industry.

I am not ashamed that I don’t know what programmatic is, in fact, I will shout it from the rooftops “I DON’T KNOW WHAT PROGRAMMATIC IS!”

I won’t worry that that my prospect list means I work in ‘small data’ and I will kick the ego-battling addiction of always striving to do more, be more or anything else ‘more’.

I pledge from now on to keep the focus on the only thing that really matters in the marketing world. The customer.

Join me. Here’s how to free yourself from the complexity of the marketing world and bring your focus back to the customer.

1. You do enough, so relax
Repeat this positive affirmation as often as you can through the day;

“I am enough.

I have enough.

I do enough”.

I use this to remind myself that I am good enough at my job, that I have enough budget and resources and that I do enough to mean I can relax when I head home each evening. It’s so easy to feel like we always need to strive for better but if we keep up that mentality, we will never be satisfied by our performance or fulfilled in our jobs. Worse still, our employers, co-workers and influencers will expect more, demand more even.

In my experience, the most effective marketers are happy and enjoy their jobs. Aim to be happy at work with clear direction about where you’re headed, what’s realistic and don’t stress about the other stuff. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone and as long as you are getting results in your marketing, try to rid yourself of the unhelpful pressures of the modern marketing world.

2. Take a break from campaigning
How often do our time sensitive lead gen campaigns take over the basics of meeting the needs of existing customers and prospects. If your team is anything like mine – small but talented, then you need to focus your resources in the right areas at the right times. I would love to have a team split by marketing discipline but generally in B2B, we don’t have this luxury. In international marketing especially it can be really easy to fall into the trap of trying to embed technologies and campaigning to gain new prospects when we should be taking the time to understand existing accounts and pipelines. After all, it’s much more expensive to recruit new customers that to retain existing ones. 

3. Ask your customers what they want
Do we really know what our customers want or are we assuming? Even on ‘low to no’ budget this can be a straight forward activity. I recommend putting together a short framework of questions, with the support of an agency if you’re unsure, and then carry out the work yourself if you’re confident enough. This isn’t intended to be a big brand piece just simple questions to help us, the marketers, get to know what the customer wants. Some of the following are nice to get you started;

  1. Why did you choose us as your provider?
  2. What do you like best about us?
  3. What do you like least about us?
  4. What is the one thing none of your suppliers do, that you wish they did?
  5. Tell me about your favourite experience when dealing with a supplier either as a consumer or as a business.

Going to sales pitches and client visits, for me, has also been a great way of getting to know customers. It might be breaking ‘the rules’ but I have always gone with only one objective, to absorb. I tend to ask naturally occurring questions rather than pre-scripted ‘purposeful’ ones.

I mean, why does every interaction between a customer and a marketer have to be labelled an insight? Why can’t we just be learning?

We put so much pressure on ourselves to make everything measurable and output driven that our processes are driving us to distraction. 

4. Give your customer facing teams what they need
It's the most obvious one of all.

So often when I'm busy planning a huge campaign or web overhaul I get asked by customer facing teams for different materials and as a team we churn them out as efficiently as we can but with little to no long term direction. We end up slaves to the business, not challengers. There's a lot to be said for taking a backward step and spending some time with these guys to figure out, strategically, what materials need to be produced.

Hold a workshop with your customer facing teams and build a picture of the processes they follow from cold opportunity through to customer as well as how they interact with existing customers. Map it out on a white board covering each stage of the purchasing cycle and ask them;

  1. What do you do at this stage of the cycle? What physical action takes place – a call, creation of proposal, a meeting?
  2. What challenges do you face during this part of the process? Are you spending too long booking appointments or cobbling together PowerPoint slides?
  3. What materials do you use at each stage? What’s good about them? What’s poor about them? What additional materials would be helpful at this stage?
  4. What are the typical objections you come across at each stage? What part of our offering seems to fall on deaf ears and which part sparks a light in their eyes?

I tend to plan out 60% of the questions and free-roll the rest of the workshop – it’s amazing what you can learn from sales and key account teams.

5. It’s not just about marketing materials

Think about the experience your customer receives when interacting with your business at every level. What happens when they call in to re-order or when they complain they’ve not received the service on time? Is there a process in place to manage expectations and follow up to ensure satisfaction? While it’s not the role of the marketer to carry out operational activities directly, us marketers should be working to build a marketing orientation throughout the whole business. It’s not good enough to leave it to operational teams, it’s often not in their consciousness and the skills of a marketer can impact so many business processes positively.

Hold a wider stakeholder workshop to map out key points of the customer experience journey. Due to some of the complexities here it might prove valuable to bring in an external partner to facilitate. At each of the identified customer experience points, assign roles to the relevant departments and individuals on how to address this and promote a collaborative effort across departments. 

In Summary

2016 will see me going back to basics for sure. We have even committed to taking a break from campaigning and refocussing attention on improving customer experience for our upcoming activity calendar. Our plans will include working with customer facing and operational teams to map out the touch points across the full customer journey. We’ll be plotting out the challenges we face as a business in meeting customer expectations and as a result, setting realistic actions in order to improve each touch point. 

The biggest mind-set shift for me will be switching my focus from number of sales leads and web-form conversions to resolution rates and service turnaround times. This is marketing in its truest form, and I can’t wait.”