What !@#$ Does Marketing Do? – Part 3 – Who Is The Customer?

Part 1 – Theory

Part 2 – All Hands On Deck

Part 3 – Who Is The Customer?

Why is that all of us can have a good meeting with a customer and then come back to the office to disagree with everyone else on what the customer wants? Most people are good at talking to the customer. Our society prepares us well by banging the customer into our heads all the time with phrases like, “The Customer is always right!”. We all know about Listening and Reacting. Why are we so often individually correct and collectively in disagreement?

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The root of this disagreement is often that the customer is more than one person and communication between all the groups within a customer is not perfect . Each of us talks to a different set of people who each have different requirements. Few of us talk to more than one department within the customer’s organization. We know what each individual group wants, but often we don’t understand what the “whole” customer wants. We need to aggregate all this communication and we’ve got to decide which “customer/prospect” we should be talking to.

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This disagreement is exacerbated by the fact that post-sales departments usually have better relationships with the customer than pre-sales departments ( ie sales & marketing ). The post-sales guys actually work with the customer over long periods of time and have to develop a working relationship. A lot can be learned about what the customer wants from post-sales staff. That said — The post-sales guys can also be a real drag when a past great customer becomes a bad investment. These departments will resist change and will question “new prospects” forever. They’ve invested a lot in the past customers. I read a great quote the other day in the Wikinomics Book that fits here, “These people act like Tarzan … they hold onto the old vine until the new vine in securely in place.”

In summary, Listening and Reacting to the customer is challenged by the following points.

  • The Customer is a “group” of differing opinions.
  • You (The Vendor) are a “group” of differing opinions.
  • You have many departments that have a strong preference for who the customer should be.
  • It is very rare that the “whole” customer and the “whole” firm meet at the same time.

These challenges define the most important actions that people with marketing titles perform. That is:

  • Know who the right customer is.
  • Connect that customer with the right people, and information, inside the firm.
  • Let go.
  • Keep notes … Repeat.

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What’s Next? We just talked about managing the connections between the customer and your firm. The second most important thing for marketing people is managing the product and its story. Sounds easy, unfortunately it is not.

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