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Defining the Customer Experience

By Advice, Advice for Businesses, Government, News 2 Comments

Marketing has the unfortunate tendency to latch onto buzzwords, with little consideration being given to their meaning or intent. Customer Experience, also known as User Experience, is one of these trends, with the term becoming increasingly corrupted in its application.

Despite what some may say, focusing on the customer experience is not a new concept. The customer experience is embedded in the foundations of marketing theory that originated in the 1950s, and was later expanded into the 4Ps and subsequently the 7Ps of marketing. These concepts form the foundations of marketing.

The aim of the marketing mix was to define marketing as a function that operates across a business, ensuring a consistent experience from a customer perspective. As a result, the marketing mix encompasses key areas that marketing should have visibility across your business.

The Marketing Mix (otherwise known as the 7Ps of Marketing)

Unfortunately in many businesses marketing is often limited in scope to only a few elements in the marketing mix. As a result, there are inconsistencies that are formed, such as products that are not aligned with promotions, pricing that diminishes value, or processes that cause complications in delivery. Ultimately an inconsistent experience can erode purchase intent, as well as frequency, given it causes confusion that can often lead to inaction.

Fast forward 50 years later, and the term customer experience is now in vogue.

Unfortunately the term customer experience, tends to only scratch the surface. In many cases the customer (that is the person using your product or service), may not necessarily be the person responsible for making the decision or committing to the purchase. This is particularly true in business markets, where there is often the need to engage a number of key stakeholders. Examples also apply to consumer markets, such as chocolates that are consumed by children, but paid for by their parent, who is the final decision maker that approves the purchase.

While it is certainly encouraging to see a return to the customer experience, it is important they we do not lose sight of the broader marketing context. Often there is the need to not only understand users and customers, but the entire decision making process.

Marketing can deliver value – even during economic uncertainty

By Advice, Advice for Businesses, Advice for Not-for-profit Organisations and Charities, Government, News No Comments

Australia has faced several years of economic uncertainty and the latest trends appear to be indicating that a recession is on the horizon. Marketing is often one of the first areas to experience downsizing during economic uncertainty. This is largely due to a lack of measurability, resulting in marketing being seen as a cost centre rather than revenue generator.

This cycle is perpetuated through an execution led approach to marketing. Operating marketing as a silo, results in a lack of consistency between business goals and marketing outcomes. Agencies will typically take carriage of specific functions, such as design, content or social media, but there is a failure to fully appreciate the marketing mix, and the need to align execution with the identified strategic direction.

It is time to change this paradigm. Marketing needs to return to its core definition of delivering value, as per the definition adopted by the Australian Marketing Institute:

Marketing creates value – for customers, shareholders and society as a whole. It does this by creating an alignment between what consumers value and what organisations offer. It offers techniques that help firms better understand the needs, preferences and perceptions of their customers (a prerequisite to adding value to them), and ways of using that understanding to focus the value-creating and communicating activities of the firm into areas where they will be most effective.

The creation of value through marketing is what enables a business to expand its capacity. While economic conditions will have an impact, the role of marketing is to rise above these challenges and deliver ongoing value creation.

Proctor and Gamble is one such example. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, consumer goods were hit hard. Rather than cutting its marketing function, Proctor and Gamble, shifted its focus to essential household items. The solution came in the form of Oxydol, one of its soap brands, which made it easier to wash clothes, in an era where washing required extensive physical labour. After defining the product and its value proposition, Proctor and Gamble focused on how it could reach its target customers.

In an era where other companies were slashing marketing activities, Proctor and Gamble rehoned its approach to take into account the difficult economic conditions. Initiatives included a re-orientation towards commercial radio broadcasts, reaching consumers through a medium that was affordable to consumers, while offering positivity in an otherwise negative environment.

Pioneering both personas and content, Proctor and Gamble personified the product through the creation of Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins and created the genre of soap operas along the way.

The Great Depression could have easily been a time of despair for Proctor and Gamble, but instead it re-examined the market context and gained a deeper understanding of its consumers. The marketing execution was the output of a strategic approach that ultimately saw the company achieve growth during times that many others failed.

If marketing rose to the challenge and re-connected with the need to demonstrate value, then marketing would be seen as the function that enables businesses to build capacity. It is time for the marketing profession to not repeat past mistakes, but instead to re-align itself with value and the delivery of metrics that matter.

Setting the Business Agenda through Marketing

By Advice, Advice for Businesses, Government, News No Comments

Many areas of business incorporate continuous improvement, ensuring that processes are streamlined to maximise efficiencies and to reduce costs.

Unfortunately, marketing is an area that is often overlooked, resulting in either aggressive cost cutting during economic downturns, or a rush to the latest buzzwords, with little strategic thought and consideration and returns.
Marketing like all other aspects of a business should be held into account, and needs to adopt a framework that fosters continuous improvement.

Our Syneka Marketing Framework, with our cycle of Audit, Plan and Execution, is designed to incorporate the feedback mechanisms required to improve business decisions, while identifying performance indicators and measuring outcomes.

Strategic Planning Framework

The Framework commences with an Audit as this enables you to assess current marketing activities and to incorporate metrics that evaluate outcomes. The Audit phases answers the question of how to maximise the return from marketing investment. This phase strengthens the measurability of marketing and provides input into the broader business direction.

The Plan aligns business goals with marketing outcomes, positioning marketing as the centre for innovation that drives business capacity. Importantly, this phase helps avoid a silo mentality, by embedding a whole of marketing approach and strengthening internal communications. As a result, marketing is able to guide business growth, through the identification of new market opportunities and aligning the customer experience across a business. The Marketing Plan guides not only short-term actions, but also longer term initiatives that will be achieved that strengthen business capacity.

The Execution component represents the implementation of actions identified in the Audit and Plan phases and is guided by the metrics that have been identified in the earlier phases. The embedding of metrics ensures that there is an ongoing review of marketing outcomes and that value is being achieved. The aim is to move beyond marketing for the sake of marketing and into an approach that provides a measurable return on investment.

The Framework reinforces the fact that marketing can and should be measured, moving beyond basic measurements and into metrics that actually matter for business growth. The approach enables marketing to step up and drive business outcomes, rather than being reactive and missing the ability to influence strategic decisions.

Further details are available in our eBook A Marketing Framework for Ongoing Performance.

Marketing exists to create value and enable you to build your capacity to achieve your business goals.

Our mission is to re-define marketing

By Advice for Businesses, Advice for Not-for-profit Organisations and Charities, Government, News, Presentations No Comments

One area which we continually reflect upon is the diluted definition of marketing. Formal definitions for marketing include the following from the American Marketing Association:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

With the Australian Marketing Institute (of which I am the Victorian State Chair) providing a similar view:

Marketing creates value – for customers, shareholders and society as a whole. It does this by creating an alignment between what consumers value and what organisations offer. It offers techniques that help firms better understand the needs, preferences and perceptions of their customers (a prerequisite to adding value to them), and ways of using that understanding to focus the value-creating and communicating activities of the firm into areas where they will be most effective.

Key terms in these definitions relate to the creation of value for all stakeholders. This enables you to build your capacity to achieve your business goals and to measure its impact.

Marketing exists to create value and enable you to build your capacity to achieve your business goals.

It is the notion of value that is often lost in the traditional execution led approach to marketing. This is why we lead through strategy, ensuring that marketing exists to support your strategic plan and direction into the futre.

We are intent on re-defining marketing to ensure it returns to its core definition. This is why we have been holding our re-defining and re-imaging marketing workshops throughout this year.

Revisiting White Night – We’re still unclear on whose night it is

By Advice, Government No Comments

Last year we featured a critique on White Night, Melbourne’s all-night arts and cultural festival, which borrowed heavily on overseas concepts. While I gave White Night a miss this year, it still appears that the festival does not have an overriding sense of purpose.

White Night should be more than 24 hours of projections and special  effects, it should explore how we can strengthen engagement with the arts. The quantum of people converging on the CBD should be secondary to  measuring how many of these attendees have participated in other art based activities throughout the year.

White Night should aim to foster engagement, ensuring that participants recognise and value the arts and its importance in Melbourne. It is  little wonder that its direction is questioned, when it  appears the primary metric is the quantum of people exploring Melbourne’s  CBD over one night rather than strengthening engagement with the arts.