Does Marketing still have a role in driving an organisation’s results and delivering success?
In an operating environment that seems to be more and more scrambled and less and less than certain, it is not uncommon for people to question the role that we in marketing can play in helping businesses to manifest tangible and meaningful success. There can be little doubt that marketing is definitely developing and is developing rapidly and in many ways demonstrating a preparedness for the challenges currently being presented, as well as those that are clearly emerging. In fact, it seems clear from various news updates that we need to be able to be aware of a wide range of aspects emerging from within our operating environments, including evolving technology, consumer requirements, the rise of influencers, digital and other media developments and a range of behavioral trends, if we are to keep on top of our game.
There is of course nothing new about seeing world class organisations continuing to succeed by way of their adoption of a marketing orientated approach. These organisations often seem to always somehow find themselves very well placed to thrive and also seem to continue to do so, while they rigorously remain instinctively focused upon the needs of the customer. In fact could it be that by showing that they have meeting customer needs at the heart of what they do, they somehow in turn, seem to profit? Even though we know that putting customer satisfaction and loyalty centre stage is no guarantee of absolute success, it certainly somehow seems to help to increase the odds of it happening and often happening quite significantly.
However, in something of a rebuttal, I must confess that I am repeatedly being reminded of examples of organisations that are seeing marketing very much as a tactical support function. In fact this tactical approach often doesn’t even extend to the full reach of the marketing mix. It is seemingly something of a promotional mix centric view of the role that marketing should play. In addition, there are inevitably those organisations who have deliberately chosen to become much more sales orientated and that are actually doing very nicely. This of course somewhat challenges our collective wisdom as marketers. Although their assertive approach towards selling enough to meet their organisation’s various needs, certainly at first sight, seems to be able to support an argument that this is great way to achieve short term advantage at least. Their belief is that customers are usually reluctant to purchase and therefore it is their role as sales people, to ensure that products and services must be sold and sold in high volumes. It can seem quite exciting and can generate energy and traction through more aggressive sales techniques or promotions. In fact there will always be some evidence to support an approach that demonstrates profit through a high volume of sales.
Nevertheless, it is also very clear that many professional marketing teams, are still striving to ensure that their role is to continue to be very well placed to meet the challenges. Indeed far from operating as a technician role, confined to carrying out tasks grounded in business tactics. Marketing done well is a phenomenon that is clearly strategic in nature and undoubtedly plays an essential role in both informing corporate strategy and translates this into effective marketing plans. These plans will then be able to make a much more valuable contribution towards our need to ensure that we achieve our goals and sustain and enhance whole organisational performance.
Alongside this, marketing deployed well, will play an essential role in acquiring deep insights that can support the construction of plausible marketing strategies. Championing the customer is also at the core of marketing and sits at the heart of the marketer’s role, in unifying the organisation, in a way that finds that to meet customer needs often means to achieve its business goals. However, it also means that marketing is usually very well placed to lead change across the organisation for the benefit of the customer and in turn the benefit of the business itself.
Could it be then, that businesses that not only demonstrate an appreciation of the customer’s behaviour, but also show that they can also define what the customer experience should be, actually fare better? An approach that works backwards from the customer is a very credible way to strive towards achievement of wider goals and this will arguably put down roots that can be a great support for those marketers seeking to turbo charge a business’s reputation and in turn its fortunes.
Could it be argued then that:
1. It is still the development of our Unique Selling Preposition (USP) that remains centre stage for marketing?
2. The focusing of activities around this USP clearly persists as one of the fundamentals of effective marketing and indeed business?
3. This USP creation can be bolstered by clearly identifying the benefits that our product or service can actually deliver to our customers?
4. The USP is a key factor that will clearly support those of us who are seeking to seriously drive our results?
As professional marketers we seem to instinctively believe that there is some kind of relationship between quality, satisfaction and loyalty. This belief should feed into our deliberations when designing our USPs. In addition, our recognition of the positive rewards that can manifest when we not only meet, but exceed the quality and satisfaction expectations of our customers should act as an impetus.
We should be mindful though, as the author Roy H. Williams reminds us, "The first step in exceeding your customer's expectations is to know those expectations." Therefore it follows that if we are serious about adopting this particular approach, then we need to establish a set of appropriate customer experience measures. Professional marketers are usually very well placed to deliver this. In fact, being able to articulate the customer’s desired experience and in turn seeking to assure its delivery, has links to loyalty and is also key to manifesting the potential for customer advocacy.
Although obtaining an understanding of how to assess customer expectations in context, can for some reason often find itself having a much lower priority than other more pressing aspects of marketing’s day to day activities. Yet we know that it is clearly very important to be able to develop and deliver activities to meet these expectations. Therefore, could we convincingly argue that we need to accept that we need the frameworks and the activities that can facilitate the effective monitoring and measuring techniques that organisations must embrace if they are to develop further customer experience enhancements?
However are we in reality going to be willing to commission primary and secondary research methods that can measure our customer’s experiences, even though we know that it is clearly important? Perhaps those looking for an easy win for example, would wish to review the various complaints, compliments and comments, which although naturally occurring and reactively economical, can offer up some invaluable detail.
Could it be that a major differentiator for marketing within the context of us as a business function, is our willingness and ability to design analyse and present customer experience metrics? Could it be these that can drive recommendations for enhancing the customers experience and can in turn clearly provide us with an identifiable role in driving an organisation’s results and delivering much needed success?
Once we have clearly identified who our target customers actually are, would simply answering the following five questions help:
1. If we could meet our customer’s needs in a best in the world way, what would this actually look like?
2. How well do we think that we are currently meeting their needs?
3. How well do they as customers think that we are meeting their current needs?
4. Is there any difference between the responses to these three key questions?
5. How will we close these gaps in the most constructive way?
No one ever said it would be easy, but marketing done well can be extremely interesting and worthwhile, and makes a significant contribution to an organisation’s fortunes and indeed to the wider fortunes of our economy.
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About the author:
Brian Doidge is CIM Chair of the South West Regional Board. Find out more about Brian.