When defining what good marketing is, most people will mention advertising: eye-catching or controversial ads, for example. In reality, marketing includes far more than that, starting before the product is even created and advertising being just a tactic.
A good marketing is a marketing successful at spreading its ideas, a marketing that has an impact on people.
People usually don’t buy what they need but what they want. And there are two ways to make them choose your product rather than another: either you drive their desires or you give them what they already wanted, but better than competition. Whatever your strategy, market-driven or driving market, marketing starts with the customer. You have to make your product remarkable so that it gets talked about.
Catching the attention involves segmenting the market, targeting your customers and then positioning your brand in their minds.
First: segmenting. This requires a deep knowledge of the customer. The issue is not about finding the information anymore — the volume and kind of available data are exponentially increasing thanks to information systems — but rather about using it efficiently.
Second: targeting. A standard product suitable for everyone rarely reaches much of anyone. Designing a product that fits the wants of the majority is doomed to failure because people want tailored care.
Third: positioning. Marketing is about creating intangible value: people buy products they love because of the emotional bond they experience doing so. Marketing is therefore not only about the one-alone product anymore but it includes the whole customer experience.
With the development of technologies, new ways of spreading ideas arise — blogs, social networks, video channels, etc. — at the expense of mass media, which are losing their cost-effectiveness. Personal and relevant messages are always more efficient than unsolicited advertising. The big challenge for companies lies in that, although they don’t have a grip on those new media, they remain accountable for what is said through them. By word-of-mouth spreading, customers become marketers themselves. Targeting the right people at first — the early adopters and innovators who are interested in what you have to offer to them — makes it easier to create a superior customer experience. Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand. On the one hand, building customer loyalty and achieving high customer retention enables to increase share of wallet —, which is easier to get directly and more profitable than market share —. On the other hand, if a customer is happy, he will keep on talking about it and get others to join him and then buy again himself. Nowadays, as the buying process is more collaborative, good marketing doesn’t prevent people from talking but does encourage the “right” conversations. Fooling people wouldn’t last since a disappointed customer has a much bigger impact than ten delighted ones.
Turning customer’s experience into a success is a long-run mission for the company. Once the product is set up and selling, the support becomes critical. God is in the detail. The way your customer service handles the calls as well as the layout of your bills do contribute to the intangible value the customer will be willing to pay for. This forces companies to structure their organization to reflect this need for cross-functional teams accordingly. Customers should feel they are part of a community. For example, when the communication team in charge of the Facebook page of a company gets questions about customer service, should it answer? Yes. The information might not be available as such but the department has to collaborate with whoever is best placed to tackle the issue.
Thanks to the progress of technologies, companies have access to billions of customers’ activities data per day. All those records contain regularities that can be used to sharpen the company’s offering. This is particularly valid on the web where one can dynamically generate countless outputs at very low cost. Similar processes emerge in the retail industry where brands such as Zara already use data to continuously rearrange their products’ position on the shelves. While market research was a prerequisite in the past, it is now becoming a real-time tool to adjust the strategy.
Even if there is no perfect recipe for good marketing, it must definitely encompass the whole organization through integration of its different units. The customer experience cannot be narrowed to the product anymore; it involves a set of related interactions. Marketing is now a culture, a mind-set, with roots from each part of the company. At least good marketing is.
- Ted.com, especially talks from Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and Rory Sutherland
- McKinsey Quarterly: “How we see it: Three senior executives on the future of marketing”, interviews of Steve Ridgway (CEO Virgin Atlantic Airways), John Hayes (CMO American Express) and Duncan Watts (Yahoo! Research scientist), July 2011