I have been interviewing a number of senior marketers as part of a pricing study. A typical discussion is 30- to 60-minutes long, and a lot can be learned by speaking to experienced professionals who approach the world from different perspectives.
The interviews focus on the topics at hand, and they flow according to a prepared guide. But some of them inevitably veer off-script from time to time, and I'm fascinated by consistent themes from those discussions:
• How much "old-school" fundamentals still matter to marketers.
• How much marketers care about deep customer understanding.
It's great when hockey and football coaches are interviewed by reporters who expect complex, possibly technical answers to their questions, and instead get answers like "we didn't play our system" or "we have to tackle better."
In the same vein, here are some nuggets of wisdom on marketing strategy, from senior marketers who have sufficient budgets to draft complex marketing plans:
Senior vice-president of marketing, financial services industry
"We measure everything. If we can't figure out how to measure it, we don't do it."
Vice-president of marketing, media
"Most of marketing is still about figuring out what makes customers tick and then activating against those motivators. In my previous role, we needed to change customer behaviour to boost sales – so we went to people's homes and chatted with them until we understood where the misconception was. Then we ran a big ad campaign aimed at dispelling those misconceptions. That's it. Nothing fancy."
Vice-president of marketing, telecom
"We are very targeted in our segmentation. We believe in concentrated mass if we are trying to get a new message across, otherwise we take a very targeted approach. We are careful with our location selections and we still get a lot of business from walk-ins. We encourage customer referrals."
Manager of product marketing, telecom
"Understanding customers – who they are, where they are, how they make purchase decisions – is still at the heart of our segmentation and marketing efforts. We conduct a ton of research. We love numbers. We trust numbers, and so we go and get as many as we can, and then we act accordingly. We would not launch a product here without a solid customer understanding, backed by solid numbers."
Manager of customer insights, retail
"We survey our customer base regularly. And we get into stores as much as we can. Sometimes customers are not always accurate on surveys because they rationalize behaviour that was not as rational at the time, so we want to see them in action. We verify our observations with sales reps. Then we change our merchandising or pricing depending on what we observe and find in the surveys."
"We win out in the community. We make sure we spend as much time in the community as possible, interacting with our customers. We encourage our guys to get to know customers personally. We believe if we spend enough time with our customers, we will really understand them, and we will form relationships with them that matter when we have a service interruption."
It is tempting to be very clever with customer strategy. Sometimes clever, complex strategies are warranted or required – for example, in rapidly changing industries or in spaces where customers are very savvy and disruptive factors are at play.
But in many instances, the fundamentals – such as understanding the desires and motivators to purchase for customers, and seeking feedback while ensuring accurate measurement is in place – will still trump a complex marketing plan.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Healy, P.Eng, MBA, is a partner at Satov Consultants – a management consultancy with practice areas in corporate strategy, customer strategy and operations strategy. Mark's focus areas inside the customer strategy practice include consumer insights, customer experience, innovation and go-to-market strategy. He is a regular speaker and media contributor on topics ranging from marketing to strategy, in telecom, retail and other sectors. Mark is known as much for his penchant for loud socks and a healthy NFL football obsession as he is for his commitment to Ivey and recent Ivey grads. He currently serves as chair of the Ivey Alumni Association board of directors. Mark lives with his wife Charlotte and their bulldog McDuff in Toronto.
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