The Marketing Guy

Rooting for Good Marketing Since 2009

Archive for Customers

What Happens When You Can’t Keep Up with Your Customers?

It’s virtually impossible to keep up with all the new technology available to marketers these days. I somehow am on the subscription list for Chief Marketer Magazine, and while informative on specific issues, it’s about as up to date on what’s happening out there as last Sunday’s New York Times. Technology is moving so fast that in some cases, while companies are just figuring out what their social media strategy should be, their customers have already moved 2-3 programs beyond Twitter and Facebook. There are so many geo-locator apps on the marketplace now that they too have their own aggregation applications like TweetDeck and Tweetmeme have done for Twitter followers out there.

Which raises an interesting question for marketers today—how “current” do you need to be with your marketing to stay ahead of your customers? We always talk about marketing where your customers are, but what if you didn’t even know that “where they are” even existed? What if they’ve moved onto where you’ve just arrived?

Now this doesn’t mean that you should attach yourself to every fad and new product that comes on the market of course. The Silicon Valley graveyard is littered with “the next big thing” when it comes to finding customers. But it also doesn’t mean just doing the same old webinar and direct mail piece with the expectation that your customers will always respond because they have in the past.

With Facebook being used as a search engine as much as Google in some months, and word-of-mouth instant reviews affecting restaurant menu’s on a daily basis, customers and prospects are moving faster and faster these days—you need to make sure your marketing strategy keeps up with them, lest the competition do your job for you!

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Is There a Customer Voice in your Marketing?

Man there’s a beehive of marketing activity out there right now—you can’t turn around without a blizzard of new products being launched, updates to old versions, something “new and improved” compared to the model that seemed new just last month. Now for us marketers this is fantastic—and certainly beats the mood of 12 months ago, when no one was marketing anything—everyone was just hunkered down waiting for the worst part of the storm to pass.

But as the worst of the storm clouds start to dissipate and revenue forecasts and profit margins start to become just the slightest bit more predictable, those companies that best weathered the storm are now sending wave after wave of new products into the marketplace to consumers and buyers that are finding a few more pennies in their pocketbooks.

So it’s instructive as we see things like new phones and electronics, software built in the cloud, and updated service offerings to keep in mind the perspective of the buyer. Who are they? How have they been affected by the last year’s economy? And what is it they’re looking for in the products that they do have budget to buy today? As usual, we marketers think we have the answer; but that answer is often tied into the features and functionality that we’re most interested in talking about in our new products and what the products “d,” not the fundamental problem or challenge that the customer is looking to solve by using our product or service in the first place.

If you haven’t had the chance recently, take a look at your messaging frameworks for your products and services. First, have they been updated recently (if not, given that almost every nook and cranny of the global economy looks different now than it did in 2008-2009, you really need to review them to ensure they still makes sense—like now. Go on, I’ll wait)? The core value proposition that you had 2 years ago is likely way different today. Markets have gone away and reformed; old competitors have disintegrated and new, more nimble ones have rushed in to take their place; and technology continues its light-speed pace rendering yesterday’s “unsurpassed advantages” to a distant memory.

Second, look at your messaging from a dispassionate point of view—the unsuspecting customer. The old “WIIFM” or “what’s in it for me” argument applies here. Are you talking about how great your newest feature is and what it does, or how it benefits the customer? Do you tend to focus on features when your customer now buys on price? And what about value? What value will the customer gain from using your product or service. Most customers today are not inherently buying on price—they’re buying on value, in which price plays a role—but not *the* role.

It’s these key fundamental themes that are missing from so much of our marketing today—reading an inventory list of all the cool things in your product on a website or brochure doesn’t speak to me as a potential customer—it speaks to you as a vendor and how proud you are of everything you’ve done. An agency I once worked with called this approach “teenage marketing”—“it’s all about me, me, me.” And they’re right. Our job as marketers is to find the customer’s voice and infuse it into everything we do. We’re always talking about establishing a bond with our customers and keeping them “for life.” The first step in that process is speaking to them in a language they understand—theirs.