Don’t stop marketing

  1. Are your marketing efforts focused on the right results?
  2. Are you clear about what you want customers to do?
  3. Are you clear about the rich story you want customers to understand?
  4. Are your marketing efforts integrated over the entire lifecycle of a customer’s relationship with your company?
  5. Are you focused on internal marketing within the company?
  6. Does management allow its marketing professionals to succeed?
  7. Does your marketing department “get it done?”

In the December 1st, 2009, issue, I addressed marketing efforts, your results and your customer’s actions (Questions 1 and 2). On December 15th I devoted the issue to creating your rich brand story (Question 3). Today, I’d like to focus on Question 4, “Are your marketing efforts integrated over the entire lifecycle of a customer’s relationship with your company?”

To get us started, consider the basic chronology of most customer relationships:

Customer Lifecycle: Learning about you, becoming your customer, being your customer.
Download Customer Lifecylcle Graphic (Adobe PDF)

In Phase 1, prospective customers learn about your company. During Phase 2, prospective customers become paying customers. Phase 3 represents the time when people are actually your customers. Companies that practice great marketing communicate a clear, compelling brand story, rich in Brand Harmony, throughout the entire lifecycle of their customer relationships.

To explore this concept, and to help you understand how well your company is living up to it, we’ll address three issues:

  • Focus your marketing throughout the entire lifecycle of the customer relationship.
  • Recognize that everything is marketing.
  • Does your marketing build relationships with customers?

Issue #1:
Focus your marketing on the entire lifecycle of the customer relationship.

A look at most companies’ marketing activities will show that these activities are concentrated early in the customer relationship, on things like advertising, public relations, search engine optimization, sales to new customers, etc. Of course, a disproportionate amount of effort needs to be spent early in the customer relationship, since tools like advertising, direct marketing and pubic relations are highly inefficient. But companies who over-focus their marketing early in the customer relationship usually do so not to make up for this inefficiency, but because of a myopic view of marketing.

For years, the practice of marketing has been based largely on efforts that attract new customers, leaving everything after that to customer service and product performance. This won’t work anymore.

Today’s customers are highly discerning. Competitors are constantly trying to steal your customers. Companies that practice great marketing in our modern marketplace recognize the need to create an integrated, cumulative, epic story for their customers that continues through their entire relationship.

I am convinced that the most lucrative source of latent profit for nearly all companies lies in their current customer relationships. By using the power of your marketing efforts at all points in the customer relationship, you will give yourself a much better chance of unleashing this profit.

Loyal, motivated customers are willing to form rich, multi-faceted brand impressions of you. Help them! Use the entire range of touchpoints throughout your customer relationships to create a rich tapestry of interactions, fueling these rich, multi-faceted brand impressions.

This marketing focus across the entire lifecycle of customer relationships is a key factor in evaluating a company’s marketing efforts. So what about your company? Are your marketing efforts focused throughout the entire lifecycle of your customer relationships, communicating a continual story, or is marketing largely a get-the-word-out-find-new-customers tool for you?

Now let’s focus on the second issue…

Issue #2:
Recognize that everything is marketing.

Consider the brand impressions of customers who love doing business with you. What influenced them to think so highly of your company?

Chances are it was not your sales presentations, ads and brochures. In fact, if you were able to trace these influences, you would most likely find that traditional marketing communications have a relatively small effect on your customers’ brand impressions.

However, if you ask most people about their company’s marketing efforts, they will describe “traditional” marketing efforts, such as advertising, PR, direct mail and brochures. They will also tell you about newer Internet-age versions of traditional marketing, in which they are investing time and money: pay-per-click online advertising, search engine optimization, their Facebook fan page, etc. In other words, they describe their company’s marketing as the work product of a typical marketing department.

Most companies describe their marketing in much narrower terms than their customers do. Customers are looking at everything companies do, and marketing departments tend to focus on only a portion of these things.

Companies that do great marketing practice marketing in a way that goes well beyond the scope of traditional marketing. Does your company?

Are you like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines, where the brand story comes alive not only in television advertising but at touchpoints you experience while interacting with the company? Or are you more like Verizon, where the promises of television advertising and the customer experience often don’t have a lot in common?

Ask yourself: Do we orchestrate all customer touchpoints in a way that tells one clear, compelling story? In other words, do we create Brand Harmony… or brand dissonance? Does our company have a comprehensive way to coordinate all aspects of the customer experience, or is the customer experience an agglomeration of various touchpoints, generated in an uncoordinated fashion from different points throughout the company? Does our company take a customer’s eye view of the entire customer experience, and then transcend our company’s organization chart and “silos” to ensure we create Brand Harmony?

Many executives nod in violent agreement when I talk aboutBrand Harmony, yet only select companies actually practice Brand Harmony in a meaningful way. Defining marketing in the way your customers do, i.e., recognizing that every point of customer contact is a chance to evaluate you, is a key to great marketing.

Issues #3:
Does your marketing build relationships with customers?

Next, consider whether the marketing you are doing is actually building customer relationships.

In this crowded, competitive marketplace, it is difficult to differentiate your company solely by having great products, because many of your competitors also offer great products. A key theme in my book, We: The Ideal Customer Relationship,is that your customer relationships will differentiate you, in your customers’ minds, more than your products, services, or prices will.

The best companies look at marketing not only as happening at all customer touchpoints throughout a customer relationship, but also as being a key to building customer relationships.

For example, Ritz Carlton teaches employees 12 Service Values, the first of which is, “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.” Employees learn that their job is not only to provide service, but– more importantly– to build relationships.

What about for your company? Do you look at customer interactions as opportunities to build customer relationships, or only as opportunities to transact business, talk about product features or sell promotions?

Great marketing requires a company to break through the old marketing paradigms and practice marketing in a much more comprehensive way. Marketing isn’t just about marketing communications, and it isn’t just about attracting new customers. Marketing isn’t about communicating messages “at” customers, it is about building relationships with customers

So how does your company measure up?

Steve Yastrow

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