Thursday, October 17, 2019

After 35 Years in the Business, My Thoughts About Marketing

Following are my stream of consciousness thoughts about marketing.

  • People have beliefs, attitudes, values, hopes, anxieties and fears. Marketers must understand these to be successful.
  • In marketing, less is almost always more. This is true of copy and visuals. 
  • The actual customer experience is the most important driver of brand perceptions.
  • Building awareness is the most important marketing activity. Communicating relevant differentiation is the most important branding activity. 
  • People make purchase decisions based on emotions, not logic. Every marketer should understand this.
  • Brands should focus on their most compelling assets, especially if they are unique.
  • Humor and entertainment can be very powerful components of marketing communication. 
  • Shared values and "brand as a badge" (self-expressive vehicle) are the two most powerful sources of brand differentiation. 
  • Related to this, many brands succeed as status symbols.
  • Customer service is a very important part of a brand's success.
  • Know customers' primary sources of information and where they are most likely to shop.
  • To a very large degree, marketing is a combination of consumer psychology and common sense.
  • The sales function is critical to successful brands. Personal relationship-building matters.
  • Sales and marketing must work together seamlessly. 
  • Build a robust but flexible brand identity system. Colors matter. So do symbols and icons. 
  • Brands can often connect with people at a sub-conscious level. 
  • Where a brand is distributed (and where it is not distributed) says a lot about the brand. Make sure your brand's distribution is consistent with its positioning. 
  • Price can be an indicator of quality. Use reference prices to create desired price perceptions. 
  • Inconsistent execution can kill a brand in the long-run. Brands must be trustworthy. 
  • It has been my observation that successful marketers tend to be entrepreneurial, opportunistic and good at ideating. They are always looking for new approaches to marketing.
  • Never forget that marketing is about relating to people and their needs and desires. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Limits of Marketing (and Customer Service) Automation

In the past few years, I have used marketing automation extensively for my own business and I have interacted with marketing automation from many other businesses. While there is the argument that marketing automation enables one to market 24/7, even when one is sleeping, there are also some cautions that should occur regarding this technology.

First, technology should not completely replace human interaction, which allows for emotional connection. If one uses technology independent of human interaction, it will be more difficult to make or close a sale and it will be virtually impossible to create customer loyalty based on that emotional connection. You must carefully integrate your marketing automation with human interaction.

Second, older people would rather talk to other people, not read FAQs, click through predetermined menus, "press one for...," fill out forms, receive auto responses, etc.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, many companies are not fully competent at designing their marketing automation systems. They don't turn off a prospect email drip campaign when the prospect turns into a customer, leading to confusing or annoying email messages. Or they present the customer with an automated cost estimate that only allows for an "accept" response with no ability to ask questions, discuss or partially accept the estimate.

I have encountered companies that have put me on multiple email streams based on how they coded me on their systems. Because of this, I am inundated with multiple email messages a day from these companies. I have also encountered a couple of companies for which "unsubscribe" only turns off one email stream, not all of them. I find that I have to repeat the "unsubscribe" request multiple times until I am actually unsubscribed from all of their email streams.

Then there are faulty executions of older automated telephone customer service approaches, which can be quite frustrating. Some systems don't mention your need in their menu of choices, forcing one or more of a few things to happen - choosing an option that may get you to the wrong person, putting you into a continuous loop of scrolling through the options again and again, or worst of all, hanging up on you. Another problem is when one system sends you to another system, for which you need to reenter your name, account number, password, PIN, telephone number or payment method.  People don't like to have to do this more than once, and the best CRM systems, if programmed correctly, can eliminate the need to do much of this even once.

Marketing automation and customer service automation are here to stay but don't overestimate their ability to make a sale for you or build your brand. And don't underestimate their potential to annoy your customers.

The best systems are carefully constructed with sophisticated filters, triggers and decision logic. And they provide for human interaction at critical points throughout the process. I have encountered too many systems that are poorly constructed, with the potential to damage the brands they were designed to help.

So be very careful when designing your marketing and customer service automation systems. They are useful tools but need to be carefully designed.