Thank you to all who wrote and tweeted your deep concern for my emotional well-being following last week’s post. I can assure you I’m quite well and the post was less rant and more dramatic set-up for this week’s missive.
Judging by some of your comments, over-communication with customers has struck a cringingly familiar chord. The truth is, most companies are terrible at customer communication, falling into the Factory Farm of Spam (FFoS) model we looked at last week, or the equally exasperating Giant Wall of Silence (GWoS).
I think marketers, as much as we are partly to blame, can also show the way to a more moderate and effective approach, and we need look no further than the marketing automation system in the corner. I know, I know, most marketers are secretly terrified of their automation systems, but there is much to learn and little to fear and nobody will ask you a mathy question.
Good marketing automation is a subtle thing. We know that as we lure our prospects toward the top of the selling process, there is a fine balance between gentle encouragement to discover more and a smothering desperation to pry money from their fingers. That’s why we so obsessively map our buyer journeys and try to figure out the perfect point at which to nudge them along with a bit of content or a swell offer.
Why, then, once we have them hauled into the boat and bonked on the head, do we set upon them like battery chickens on a cricket? I’m not sure anyone told you, but those fancy automation tools also work on customers, not just prospects. For real.
Given that we have tools to programmatically communicate with our customers, how do we end up with FFoS and GWoS scenarios? How is it we know our prospects’ first names until they shift from the sales database to the customer database, at which point they become “Dear Valued Customer”? Ownership: that’s how.
In most companies, there is no single owner of the conversation with the customer.
The product management folks will admit to owning the “User Experience”, but probably spent their last two-day offsite working on their mission statement to include some drivel around “putting the customer at the centre of our synergistic, design-driven, visual language platforming”. In other words, as long as they have to see them only through one-way glass in a focus group, they are happy to own the customer.
Sales will tell you they own the customer, at least until there is a problem, at which point it’s really up to the Customer Abuse Department to sort that out.
Customer Abuse will proudly own the customer until it’s time to ask them for more money or tell them about how great the brand is. That’s dirty; over to marketing.
Marketers will clap on about the customer experience, but mostly we want testimonials and Twitter followers, and certainly not anything to do with money.
The Keebler Elves are happy to own the customer’s revenue stream but really don’t want to actually speak to them. That’s what Collection Agencies and Customer Abuse are for. Sic transit.
The conversation with investors is explicitly owned by the Investor Relations people; if a conversation with government is required, why you have a Government Relations team to do that. You have people who converse with the media, with suppliers, with analysts, with employees (I hope), even with prospective employees, but there is probably nobody in your company whose job description includes a line like this: “Has ultimate responsibility to ensure customers are communicated with in a consistent, respectful and mutually valuable manner.”
If you do have such a person and they are aware that this is in their job description, then you are way ahead of the curve and you should introduce them to your marketing operations team so they can get in on the action with the automation thing and start using first names again.
If you do not have such a person, may I suggest, as marketers, you have the responsibility to change that sad fact. Why us? Well, in a perfect world, we’d all come to the same conclusion and join hands and write one hell of a job description.
So, as guardians of the brand, some-time owners of the P&L and the folks in the company with some communications skills, let’s step up.
Next time we’ll look at the job description in question.
Interesting Things I Found This Week
I’ve been pondering Unconferences lately. You remember them, they are those attendee-driven events which were so popular a few years ago. This is a great post by Mitch Joel about what they really should be and why they aren’t that. And here is a link to one coming up in Vancouver, if you are interested.
I can’t decide whether this gorgeous ad for Honda Brazil is emotional adjacency at its best or a kind of brand aspirationalism at its most crass. Let me know what you think.
BizMarketer is Elizabeth Williams
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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