The only way to find out if your marketing is performing the way you want is to doubt everything you’re doing.
Instead of guessing, jumping from one initiative to another, hoping for the best, or taking advice without knowing how to evaluate it, start at the beginning by questioning your assumptions, your expectations, your personal preferences, and, particularly, your perceptions of what marketing should do for the company.
Just to be clear, question every marketing activity, every plan, every “great idea,” and every recommendation. It’s the only way to move from hoping and assuming to getting marketing right for your company. Here’s how to do it:
1. Clear away customer roadblocks.
Seemingly minor missteps drive customers crazy and then away, and the bar goes higher every day. Being put on hold for even a few seconds raises ire — and is never forgotten. Failing to respond promptly to an email (an hour or less) is deadly. There’s little tolerance for excuses.
One supermarket chain guarantees no more than three customers in a checkout line or the manager hands out $1.00 bills to let customers know they understand what customers expect. Starbucks and Panera have smartphone apps so customers can order and pay ahead so there’s no waiting. Starbucks’ app will also add a tip.
When customer loyalty is more fragile that ever, making it easy to do business is a huge part of the solution.
2. Get the messaging right.
To their credit, more businesses are working at getting technology right, but they tend to lump the smartphone in with computers and tablets. And that’s a mistake. We use computers and tablets to do things such as performing tasks and accessing entertainment, but the smartphone is qualitatively different: it’s an extension of ourselves. There’s no putting it aside and there’s a profound sense of loss and stress if it isn’t with us at all times. Lou Paskalis, Bank of America’s enterprise marketing and media chief, describes the smartphone as “the gateway to the consumer mind.”
Because the smartphone is personal, messaging should be, too: conversational rather than “ad” like, talking to one person instead of “broadcasting” to many, and always with new messages. With 79 million Millennials checking their smartphones 45 times a day as one study shows, texting may be preferable to emailing.
3. Make engaging customers the goal.
And that means not focusing on what you want to sell. “We have just what will be right for you.” Customers once welcomed such words, being almost eager to be told what to buy. Today, the same words only antagonize. No one wants to be told what to buy.
Experienced salespeople often have an intuitive sense of what a customer is looking for; even so, keep your mouth shut if you want to make the sale. Get customers involved by asking questions, offer reliable and helpful information, and walk with them through the process at their pace.
A tile salesperson questioned the customer about the project until he had a clear understanding of what they wanted to accomplish. Then, he made several suggestions, getting feedback as he went. Before they knew it, the customers were satisfied they had made the right selection.
4. Copying others says we don’t have what it takes.
There’s nothing as common as “marketing and sales plagiarism.” Go to a meeting, attend a webinar, read it on a blob and find what someone else is doing and use it. Or, as expressed by songster Tom Lehrer’s satirical lyrics about mathematician Nicolai Lobachevsky, “plagiarize, don’t shade your eyes.” It also applies to many companies when it comes to marketing.