The Secret Marketer: who represents the customer in product development decisions?

Secret Marketer

I have just returned from a well-deserved three-day break in Tuscany. The only problem is that in this day and age, there is really no such thing as a holiday. At best you are able to carve a dam in your workload, but the moment you get back to the office, your in-box fills with 500-plus emails, you have a stream of people asking for a quick meeting and those deadlines that seemed in the distance come at you like an express train.

On the way back from Italy, a couple OF things struck me about how the role of marketing fits within a company’s business strategy.

These thoughts started when I pulled up at a petrol station to refill my hire car with fuel. It was a large forecourt with a dozen or so pumps, but I soon discovered that it was an unmanned self-service station that didn’t accept credit cards. How many people walk around with €100 or more in their pocket?

Imagine my annoyance when I discovered that all the overhead lockers were full… of suitcases

I then hit on another problem – you had to prepay for your fuel. The “deal” I had with my hire car was to return it full of fuel, but how was I to know how much petrol I’d need to buy to refill the tank?

The self-service model may reduce costs, but it doesn’t work for me.

I got round my problem by buying €20 amounts until the fuel gauge suggested the tank was full.

We got to the airport in time for our low-cost airline flight home. However, as a result of spending too long in the duty free shop and not paying for priority boarding, we were the last to get on the plane. Imagine my annoyance when I discovered that all the overhead lockers were full… of suitcases.

In the old days, you put cases in the hold, but passengers now cram their smalls into the largest case that still counts for cabin baggage because airlines now charge you the cost of a tank of petrol for any form of hold luggage.

The problem is that the planes were designed for the old customer behaviour, so there is never enough room in the cabin. What seemed a good idea in a business strategy brainstorm – to reduce the number of bags in the hold and increase revenue from those who choose to use the facility – failed to take into account the change in customer behaviour it would have.

Which is my point. How many companies involve their marketing people in their product/service development? And who then really represents the customer in those decisions?

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