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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢

BY MARTIN WALES


[August 7, 2000]

Marketing Supercedes A Single Department

You want great market share and profits for your business -- who doesn't? Have you put more pressure on your marketing department to generate more leads for your salespeople? Do you feel like you're continuously throwing cash at the problem? Many companies do just that when they want to increase their performance.

There are subtler ways to increase your enterprise's standing in the industry before you invest more capital. In my last column, "Marketing Is More Than Just Materials," I discussed how your marketing must be more than your product brochures. I noted that saving your customers time, communicating clearly, taking responsibility, having an attitude of gratitude, and keeping your word were winning tenets to follow in business. These principles generally referred to internal employee attitudes.

Well, here is Phase II: Marketing supercedes a single department. Instead, it is about public interaction and perception based on your corporate decisions and operations. Marketing has to be more than the responsibility given to one person (or many) -- much more. Marketing depends on the interdependence of all your departments.

Today, I want you to think about how marketing is the responsibility of each department in your company. These may include executive management, sales, marketing, human resources, public relations, technical support, accounting, and even shipping and receiving. If you're a smaller enterprise, consider your personal actions.

Reception
I start here because this is where most of us start with any company. How many rings does a caller sit through before you answer? This says loud and clear how much a customer calls mean to you. How is your voice mail set up? Can I zero out to an operator at any time? This may sound standard, but even in our industry many fail at this initial contact point.

Often, I ask the receptionist some general questions about the company I'm calling, and he or she knows little about their employer. Outside of temporary staff, this should not happen. Every employee should have your company's unique market positioning statement and at least your general mission statement down cold. This is just one way to make a client feel they are working with competent professionals.

Executive Management
The people selected to run your company broadcast the attitude of your company. They communicate an unspoken message in the mood of their public speeches, in their strategic plans, and the internal policies they create (since these policies never stay internal).

Executive management brings with them reputations and a public perception from their former employment and exploits. Are they known as turn-around experts, empire builders through acquisitions, or conglomerate administrators? Let's say the new CEO is known as a turn-around expert. The market might then think your company is having some difficulty they hadn't heard about.

The strategies management presents to the industry via media and investor relations and marketing campaigns reveals their attitude towards customers, distributors, resellers, and the industry itself. Are you a leader with vision, or just a manufacturer?

Product Development
Product development is the perfect place for continual marketing. How responsive to customer demands and complaints are you? How many times do customers have to call or e-mail before they feel someone has taken ownership of their software development problem?

When you are designing a DSL communication solution, how are your customers involved before testing trials? Companies often design the mousetrap and then ask customers how it can be improved. It may be your customers don't even have mice in the first place. The funny thing is they will still tell you how to improve the mousetrap -- just to help you. You'll spend more energy and money to eventually find a small market with little profitability or growth.

Sales
Sales are the numeric indicator of quality products and good marketing. Each sale is an opportunity to sell more and more often. Salespeople have been labeled as hunters, focused on acquiring new clients; or as farmers, focused on cultivating existing business. Make sure you have a balance of each type and that they work, communicate, and collect commissions together.

In our communications industry, the biggest problem with sales still tends to be the heavy use of jargon and acronyms. This can make customers feel confused and uninformed, and leads to frustration and a longer sales cycle. Use your explanation of jargon as a marketing opportunity to be consultative without being condescending. This policy will reflect back on your company as one that is respectful and cognizant of your customers' ability to understand your technology in addition to its true business benefits.

Marketing
The marketing department fails when it keeps information and strategies to itself. The traditional "fraternity-like" competition between sales and marketing is destructive and unproductive -- try to eliminate this competition in your company.

The marketing department is responsible for others' attitudes towards it -- for example, the common feeling that "marketing just spends money and is not accountable like other departments." Your marketing team may feel the need to protect their jobs by maintaining self-importance. If marketing keeps their expertise to themselves by not training the entire company on how to better market themselves, the bottom line will suffer.

Human Resources
Placing an ad in the paper, a magazine, or on the Internet is a beautiful way to gently educate people about your company. Haven't you read the recruiting ads, even when you weren't looking for a new job? Think about the way you feel about the company that is advertising for C++ developers, or the one that offers assistance with continuing education. You do develop a perception of each company based on even the tiniest classified.

Public Relations
How does your company contribute to the industry as a whole? Do you sit on any standards boards or industry associations? Do you provide education through white papers, or "tips and tricks" articles to the press?

These are all ways to market your company for little -- or even no -- money. With the growth of the Internet, there is an even larger demand for content. Make it some of your expertise that helps a potential customer understand what a CompactCPI chassis does.

Technical Support
Tech support is an area where you can lock in your clients for life. You should train your customer service reps with the intent of marketing new products and services. I want to stress that this should be a proactive process not a passive one. Customer service representatives do sell product well when approaching the client with great consultative sales and marketing tactics. Did your software development kits work the first time out? Did they ship on time?

Accounting
The accounting department is a wonderful partner to the marketing department. When you send out an invoice or statement, it is a marketing moment. You and your customer are both confirming your relationship with the transaction of money.

As the seller, you remind customers of the benefits they are receiving with their investment. The simplest example of this occurs on my long distance bill when the company tells me how much I have saved since signing up with them. I may switch providers (which I have done several times), but  I always seem to return to this company. Why? They are the only ones who focus on what I save and not what I pay.

Shipping And Receiving
What does shipping and receiving have to do with marketing? The way you handle your own product is a direct representation of the way you value your own technology. Are the boxes sturdy and protective? Does your company's attention to detail extend to the labels being placed straight on your packaging? Treat your product like the Crown Jewels and customers will feel like they are getting the equivalent, only at a better price.

Superceding A Single Department
All of the different functions within your business present opportunities to market your company on a continual basis. You can do this without increasing your costs or needing more resources, such as people and time. Each time you have a customer interaction, you must communicate the benefits of dealing with your company, in addition to the wonders of your specific technology. You communicate this indirectly with the actions, helpfulness, and efficiency of each department in your company.

Each department communicates with your prospects and your existing clients regularly. They influence customers to buy more, buy more often, and to remain loyal customers. Every department is a marketing department.

Martin Wales is the eFounder and Chief Catcher at Customer Catcher.com. He welcomes your e-mail at martin@customercatcher.com. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimal risk using your existing resources.


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