We’re in the business of serving customer needs

It’s a brutal market out there, but there are still plenty of opportunities for those who are prepared to be positive and think differently.

A couple of weeks ago we published a cover feature that drew a dotted line between customer experience and the organisation’s bottom line.

Then last week’s Data Strategy section of Marketing Week featured an article about the ’effort metric’, which points out the more effort you ask of your customers, the less loyal they will be.

I recently spoke to four marketers, who all admitted that their loyalty schemes had failed. The reasons for the failure of all four schemes came down to the same thing – the brands had built the ’customer effort’ versus ’value and reward’ ratio around what suited them as opposed to what really suited their customers.

So while I’m wary of banging the same drum within every issue, I’d point you towards Ruth Mortimer’s column, which advises: “Every time you carry out a piece of marketing, make sure it feels beneficial to customers, rather than self-promotional.”

Stop thinking about what to tell our customers and start trying to figure out what else we can provide to address their needs

This sounds relatively straightforward but will actually require a step-change from many of us if we’re to get our businesses right for the increasingly murky gloom that most analysts suggest is coming our way.

It means that as marketers some of us need to stop talking and start listening. Stop thinking about what to tell our customers and start trying to figure out what else we can provide to address their needs.

Without the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes casting an objective view on your internal processes and culture, I’ll bet you assume that your customers reap fantastic benefits from all of your communications. A fair and natural assumption. But maybe it’s time to note the examples of brands such as Kellogg where the traditional idea of marketing for the sake of marketing is not always the priority.

True, Kellogg remains among the food and drink sector’s big spenders on television but one of its most recent communications to customers was not about the ’great taste’ of its cereals but the addition of Vitamin D to its children’s products. This was not seen within the organisation as a marketing tool but a solution to a public health need. Check out the comments made by Louise Thompson Davies, external communications manager at Kellogg, in our functional foods feature.

Ruth goes on to draw on the advice of marketing academic Philip Kotler, who warns: “Whatever your business, it is a service business.”

“To Fly. To Serve” says British Airways as it continues to try and rebuild its reputation and business around the customer experience. We should all take note.

Mark Choueke, editor

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