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What Are The Two Most Critical Challenges Facing Marketers?

For those of you who view me as a customer service expert, you might be surprised to know that I have an avid interest in marketing and most of my work over the last 10 years has been with, and continues to be with, marketers and the Marketing function. So in this post, I am going to address what I see as two most important challenges facing marketers and the Marketing function.

Is technology the answer to the challenges facing marketers?

I recently attended and spoke at the Technology for Marketing & Advertising conference/exhibition in London. What I found fascinating is the love of new technology.  I was reminded of the heady days of CRM.  Do you remember those days?  The days when Siebel sales folks would open up every sales presentation with “Siebel is the fastest growing software company ever.” And the point was that CRM technology was going to change the business world and put customers and their wallets at the feet of the organisation.

What is the biggest challenge facing marketing and advertising today?  Is it the lack of technology to gather up all the data on prospects and customers and use this data to fire out marketing propaganda and offers, across a variety of channels; to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers and loyal advocates?  If the folks in your marketing department believe this then your business is in deep trouble.

The first challenge is that of relevance

When it comes to effective marketing the first challenge is relevance.  From the customer perspective the question is “Why should I listen to you?  Why are you relevant to my life? What do you offer that simplifies/enriches my life?”  Please tell me how technology is going to address this crucial challenge for you.

Look, Sky keeping marketing to me through direct mail, through email, and by telephoning me regularly.  What does Sky want?  Sky wants me to sign up for Sky TV; I was once a customer.  I keep refusing. Why?  My viewing needs are adequately addressed through a combination of Netflix/Lovefilm and going to the cinema.  What Sky TV has to offer is no longer relevant even if it is being offered at half price.

The second challenge is that of the Customer Experience

Marketing is a profession that is tasked with manipulating impressions and emotions through the use of image, words, sounds and story. Put bluntly, marketing to date has been the discipline of propaganda.  The big problem is that this propaganda does not work. Why?  The most pithy answer I have ever come across is that put forth by Matt Watkinson:

No amount of marketing can compensate for an average one-star review on Amazon. You just couldn’t talk the talk anymore, you had to walk the walk. 

If you get this you get the enormity of the challenge.  What this means is the marketers and the Marketing function have to pretty much turn themselves inside out.  They have to transform themselves from image makers to reality makers. Their challenge is to ensure that all the organisational actors that impinge on the Customer Experience do that which is necessary to deliver a Customer Experience that matches the brand promise, the value proposition, and the customer expectations.

Please tell me who the fancy technology is going to help you, the marketers, to influence the minds and shape the actions of all the people in the organisation that directly or indirectly generate the Customer Experience?

My advice to marketers

Technology is a red herring.  Technology allows you to undertake marketing activities.  Technology impacts the operation/mechanics of doing marketing.  What technology does not do is address the strategic challenges. Worse still the pursuit of technology distracts you from the most important strategic challenges facing you, and your business.  What are those strategic challenges?  Brand relevance, and Customer Experience.

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