Confession: I fell in love with marketing at university, the theoretical concept of studying and understanding your customer then creating a product which would meet their needs seemed like the only logical way to run a company. Then I hit the real world… and realised it is often just not like that. I’ve experienced engineering-driven companies and sales-driven companies, I’m guessing there are other types out there. Usually marketing is fighting to get heard and every other department thinks of us as “the people who do the ads” or “the people who do the website”. But that’s not it, there is so much more.
What does it mean to be the voice of the consumer? It means acting as a voice, often a sole one in the company, who stands up for the needs of the customer. Some companies are driven by the engineering department, looking to drive new or more efficient products. Some are driven by sales, looking to get as much product out there as possible. None of this is necessarily bad, but you need to have one department who is keeping in touch with what customers are actually thinking and feeling. Taking time to study the customer and listen to their needs and desires can only make the company more effective, but it’s easier said than done.
Choosing the Right Media
I attended a great debate about Facebook vs the Rest of Social Media with some smart people who covered some interesting ground, but when asked which of all the new forms of social media to choose they talked about a number of ways to choose social media but none of them referenced the customer. They suggested choosing the medium the owner was most interested in or most comfortable with, while this can lead to interesting blogs or prolific twitter accounts it doesn’t always make sense. If you have a business aimed at Baby Boomers it doesn’t matter how much you love Twitter, in most cases there aren’t enough clients on there to make it a viable way to reach out to them. Doing something your company is good at is great but it’s still got to tie in with the media your customers use.
Choosing the Right Message
This one I learnt the hard way! It’s really easy to get stuck in one way of doing things: especially when you’ve been doing it for a while, changing direction takes a while. When my last company bought a company focused on the student demographic, which was a complete change from the Baby Boomers and Seniors we had focused on before, the marketing department tried creating campaigns the way we had before. It was only when we put them in front of students that we realized that it was “stuff our moms would say”. Back to the drawing board for us. It turned out beer advertising was what caught their attention, who knew? It’s not just about implementing research and getting feedback, it’s about being willing to accept something which goes against your preconceptions. As marketers we become attached to what we do, we need sometimes to take a step back and remember we aren’t the customer even if we love the brand.
It’s not always appreciated in the short term but in the long term making sure that the consumer’s voice gets heard amidst the noise coming from sales, engineering, R&D, finance and everyone else will help the company keep those with the money happy.