What the hell is marketing?

This is relevant question today because everyone seems to point to marketing as THEE key to success. And yet, definitions and expectations diverge wildly about what marketing is and what it is not. Mostly it seems to be misunderstood, misused or both.

At Re:Sourceful, we say > Marketing builds and/or solidifies relationships with customers, so they buy from you and keep buying – even when they have other options.

We view it as the beginning of the sales process. Great marketing can sell in some cases, but the days of interruptive marketing or ‘advertising’ having the ability to grasp someone’s attention and get them to act/buy are mostly long gone. Sure it may still work for some markets and some demographics, but even those options are slipping away rapidly. For every way we have to talk with our customer, they have a method to block or shield themselves.

Most of our partners are in the telecommunications industry, and changing/threatening regulations and rising costs are major issues for companies and the customers they serve.

So, where does that leave marketing? Possibly in a very good place if we are willing to change our approach, and change it dramatically.

Healthy relationships at any level are two-sided. They are about listening, caring and acting to the benefit of other person. Business relationships are exactly the same. For years most companies didn’t treat them this way because they couldn’t or didn’t want to make the effort. Today, tools exist to better accommodate one-to-one communication and relationship building interaction, if you are willing.

In my view, these are some steps toward change that may help:

1) You need a truly great collection of talented people. Experts that have the ability to build and enhance relationships through sharing their knowledge for the benefit of customers. If you don’t have them, you need the guts to go get them. You may have to move some people to other seats or off the bus all together.

2) Your entire staff needs the desire to communicate your collective expertise and then demonstrate that your people are the authority on the subjects in which you talk/write/share. If you have the desire, you will find the methods you need.

3) And most importantly, you need to transform your company into a sales organization. I’m not talking about some sleazy Glen Gary Glen Ross type, but rather, an organization that has enough discipline and caring to monitor, track and nurture individual relationships – of both longtime customers and prospects. So you can listen and respond quickly, if needed, in the format desired by the customer.

These ideas are not new, nor are they tremendously difficult. However, in order to do them you have to stop doing some things, and you might need to significantly retrain or change some of your workforce.

Marketing is not a department. It is a mindset which needs to reside in all areas of a company, if you want to be successful.

What is Loyalty?

I got an email last week from a friend/client asking for my thoughts on loyalty. It said something like this: “If you have 5 minutes can you reply with your opinion on what makes a customer “loyal”? Curious as to what you thoughts are…”  At my friend’s suggestion, I’ve made our topic into a blog post.

Loyalty certainly is situation specific – meaning if we are talking about product loyalty vs friend loyalty, we might have different definitions.

Age can affect one’s opinion about product loyalty, in my view. People will often say – “No one is loyal anymore.” I’m not sure that is true, people are loyal, but what makes them loyal, the elements that need to be engaged may be different from before. Today, product loyalty is largely based on customer experience, and to a much lesser extent price.

I define product loyalty like this:
Given other compelling choices, the customer stays with a product/company because they so appreciate the entire experience that is provided – the product itself, the customer service, and any other value related or benefit related offering that is connected to the product/company.

Certainly every person has a different benefit-to-price/value ratio. Some only value price, so their ratio favors price above all – mostly they are not considered loyal in this type of conversation. The challenge in our world today is finding what level each customer’s benefit-to-price/value ratio is – and trying to have their experience match their loyalty expectation.

Any of your thoughts are welcome, as this is an ongoing debate.

Hello Asana

I love products that help me manage workflow, and to be more efficient. No product can MAKE you be productive and efficient, but they can help.

I’ve used DayTimer, Franklin Planner, Outlook and Palm Desktop. I’ve read Steven Covey and David Allen. I’ve learned something from all of them over the years. I’ve become mostly aligned with David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach. If you are not familiar, do yourself a favor and check it out.

About 6 months ago I learned about Asana. It is a web-based team task management system. I’ve not adopted their model to use it to replace inter company email yet, but maybe I should. Asana is flexible, and yet offers enough structure & assistance to get you started with ease.

If you are in the market for something like this, Asana might be the answer – and it is free for small companies and very reasonably priced for others.

My favorite tip I’ve learned over the years is a way to manage tasks/questions I’ve delegated to others. David Allen calls it @Waiting For. I just use Waiting For. In our case it is a tag in Asana, but there are many other ways to use this idea.

Good luck and enjoy!

What are you reading?

Seriously. What are you reading?

If you want to grow professionally, you need to read books. Yes, blogs can be great and articles can be good, but nothing helps the mind consider new things like books.

I was not huge fan of reading for fun or growth after college until a friend of my wife introduced me to  Nelson DeMille. Then, I re-learned to love reading – like I did when I was a child.

Then, after I started my company, I started to read a lot of business related books – until it became a habit. The audio books were my addiction for a time – starting with tapes, then CDs and finally on my iPod. Hard cover books are still great, but my new favorite way to read is on my iPad.

DeMille and John Grisham are two fiction writers I go to for vacation reads, but there are many others too. As for business writers, I like Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, and Patrick Lencioni.

Read The Tipping Point, Outliers or David & Goliath by Gladwell. Or, read Permission Marketing by Godin…or any of his other stuff. Start with 5 Temptations of a CEO by Lencioni – and you don’t have to be a CEO to learn a ton from it.

My current favorite book is by Jay Baer, and it’s called YoUtility. If you are in marketing, own a business or want to sell anything from today on – it is MUST read.

So, I’ll ask again. What are you reading right now?

The big slow down

I’m a sports fan. Around the game, one often hears reference to the ‘speed of the game’ and how it changes from one level to another – from high school to college and from college to the pros. A common line is: “The game is starting to slow down for him, so he is playing better/making adjustments – winning more.”

If you are a parent and have taught a child to drive you understand this idea as well. Very likely you’ve driven for a long time, so you know how to anticipate and where to look for danger. Young drivers don’t have that experience and so everything is happening fast for them; experience has not yet taught them all the lessons you have learned.

How fast is your work life? Is is running the speed you want it to run? Mondays can be tough days for me if I let them. Often the size of my to do list and/or competing priorities can wind me up. If I don’t focus, I look at all that stuff, and think it needs to be done right now. Add in new interactions from email, and other sources – and the speed can be too much.

Find tactics that work for you to slow things down. For some it is exercise. For others maybe it is only reading email two times per day. For still others it is making lists and prioritizing them. Sometimes a change in scenery can be what is needed – work from a new place in your office, if you can’t go off site. Experiment with ways to slow down your work life. It is the best way to offer your best work.