New Critical Event Customer Segment Discovered 

Silver Splitters are set become the latest happy hunting ground for marketing teams. The BBC’s Ruth Alexander explains that it is often a realisation that people have fallen out of love or were never really in love in the first place when they reach level 60 of the game of life.

One of the triggers is meeting someone else that has similar interests. There is plenty of scope for that with people who are retired. Walking clubs, art societies, book reading circles. It all falls in the bag of propinquity – the affinity people have when they spend time together on common projects.

So what will marketing people dream up? Romantic holidays to Split no doubt! A new range of celebration cards with tear along perforated sides? What about a new type of party event – The Splittering? Who knows but once the marketeers use big data to track your marital status and age watch out for junk mail dropping through the letterbox soon.

When two tribes don’t go to war: bridging the sales and marketing divide 

Simon Kelly’s article Align or Die draws attention to a problem that afflicts organisations who find that their sales and marketing departments are at odds with each other.

You would think that organisations would have a common purpose and the people in them would work together to achieve common aims.

Simon points out this is actually less evident than you might expect and the waste and futility of misaligned customer facing functions is commonplace.

The social reality of course is that the desire to have the power to ‘call the shots’ about what matters to customers is very appealing. 

This means that despite the ‘warmth’ rhetoric of collaboration, co-operation and co-creation everyday business activities are steeped in the idea of competition. 

I think one of the issues is the social and cognitive effort needed by those involved to engage in the act of co-operation. 

It takes time to communicate with others and it is emotionally demanding listening to and absorbing different points of view. It then takes even more effort to build a new combined view of the world and a new set of assumptions about how it works.

The easy option is to engineer yourself into a position where you don’t have to listen. You become the King of Meaning. It’s your take on what matters and all others are irrelevant.

The interesting thing here though is that our points of view are very personal. This means that when, lets say, the marketing function declares that the sales point of view is irrelevant they are really saying that sales people as human beings are irrelevant. Ouch! 

Bridging the marketing and sales divide must therefore begin by everyone valuing the people involved in the task of customer interaction regardless of function. Without this as a foundation then alignment will remain a mirage in the desert.

Are basic marketing mistakes forgiveable?

I know we all make mistakes. It’s one of the ways we learn. Reading the recent post by Tecmark Eight expensive marketing mistakes got me wondering if some marketing management mistakes are unforgivable? I’d always assumed in business that serious entrepreneurs and professional marketers got commercially involved a market sector because they appreciated the fundamental factors for success in that sector. That through deep understanding of the sector it meant they were a credible supplier and didn’t make basic mistakes.

Tekmark’s post about mistakes got me thinking; are there really businesses involved in the creation and supply of content marketing services that have no idea about concept creation and development processes and basic market understanding? I then thought, why not test my own content generation (this post) against the mistakes.

The infamous 8 mistakes are:

Limited investment in the generation of a range of conceptual possibilities. The technical term is ‘ideation’. I find it incredible that anyone would simply start writing content without first having a conceptual frame that guides the what, how and why of the content being generated. Do content marketers just write stuff with no idea why they are doing it!?

I couldn’t have written this post without some idea of its theme and structure. I could have just passed the link on and instead I spent a few minutes thinking how I could add to the debate Neil Barraclough at Tekmark had started. I also had in my mind the TORE model of communication (cf Professor Sam Ham) which emphasises establishing a clear theme, having an organised structure, being of relevance to readers and providing an enjoyable approach.

Not setting clear goals is next. Seriously? Do content marketers write without a goal in mind?

My goals are to increase my blog readership, develop my writing style, encourage debate and dialogue about marketing management and promote interest in Sheffield Business School

Deciding the format first. Suggests the purpose of the content is not thought through before the most appropriate way of conveying information is decided. I’m minded here of Maslow’s phrase ‘if you only have a hammer then you see every problem as a nail’.

In my case I deemed writing a blog post best because it allows me to explain and discuss ideas. It’s quick and convenient and I’m too shy to do a podcast/YouTube and rubbish at graphics so an infographic is out of the question!

No promotion budget. This is interesting. Not providing adequate resource to implement and exploit an idea seems daft to me. It’s either a good idea with potential or it’s not. If you are going to invest the time and energy into ideas surely it’s an obvious aspect of the starting raison d’être and business case to consider the cost of making the idea happen too?

In my case writing this is just about time. Worth it because it makes good use of time on my commute. It costs me an hour and I can easily commit to it to make it happen.

Forgetting how users will access your content. Isn’t this a bit like designing a car and forgetting how drivers drive? Content appears in different formats and much of it is accessed on mobile devices.

In my case WordPress converts posts to the appropriate reading platform which means I don’t need to worry to much. I guess the advice would be design to the simplest format and assume people are reading content on a mobile phone.

Not understanding target audience. Let me check…you’re in marketing right? What on earth are you doing if you have no idea of your target audience! In my case I am targeting readers who are interested in marketing management and who enjoy a slightly skeptical and provocative take on conventional themes and issues.

I don’t think I appeal to readers who want particular problems solved or those who want affirmation that marketing is the solution to every problem in the world.

No sharing buttons. The clue is in the title isn’t it? Social media. Why generate digital content if it isn’t shareable? If there is one aspect of digital marketing that is different to previous ways of doing marcomms it has to be the quick and easy sharing of stuff.

In my case WordPress provide buttons to do this. Neat!

No embed codes in your infographic. Ok you got me! We’ll sort of…it just means that you embed an html link in your image so when people click on it they go to your website or a you tube or anywhere else you want. Part of the driving traffic and sharing gig.

Me? I’m not sure I’ve done that. So need to check. All in all I reckon Neil Barraclough’s post is really helpful for start ups and inexperienced in-house marketing teams more than experienced content marketing companies. The bonus is it gave me something to chat about on my commute too!

In the end all mistakes are forgiveable except I guess the one’s you keep making 😉

Do you push your customers around?

An interesting article in Marketing Week on the working relationship between sales and marketing functions got me thinking.

Diageo seek greater sales and marketing unity.

Set in the context of retail marketing the article says the two functions at a major retail supplier are going to work together to push customers to a sale.

I found this use of language interesting (not withstanding the organisational problem of marketing and sales not working together)

What does ‘push’ infer? Sounds to me like customers are seen as resources to be exploited? Isn’t this the ‘sales’ led mentality that is criticised in conventional marketing management theory.

Don’t get me wrong, of course companies need sales and profit, and yes they are under pressure to compete, and for sure customers need compelling reasons to buy.

To be ‘pushed’ to a sale? What is this saying about how this retailer sees ‘you’ the customer? Are you an unthinking dupe who has to be told what to do? Are you incapable of making an informed choice between offers of value?

If the value proposition was any good wouldn’t you see it’s relevance to your needs and your life?

I feel for the marketing function here. Seems probable they are the junior partner and not making their advertising pushy enough for the sales team?

Social Media Meets Event Management

Had a great time working with Phil Crowther and colleagues at the Sheffield Business School Event Management Hub today. Practioners and academics with an interest in event management and social media came together to consider the role of business to business social media in the context of event management.


The audience was a mix of communications experts very familiar with the role and tools of Social Media to less experienced, interested to find out more people.  The event was sponsored by Eventbrite and as well as me doing a short intro talk giving a 10 min view of the world of  B2B social media from my perspective there were interesting talks from Paul Webster of Learning who you can follow @watfordgap and Sally founder of Social Bean a brilliant event based community network.

As for me I noticed in my research prep for my 10 minute stint that there was actually very little if anything published by academics on the role and effectiveness of Social Media in B2B context in terms of buyer usage and perspectives.

What I tried to convey was the significance of the growth of Mobile search and the changing character of people who were now controlling budgets. The Facebook Generation are now emerging as a powerful force in B2B management and they are changing the way solutions are sought and chosen.

I was lucky to stumble across a top line report from Base One which outlined their survey of social media and b2b buying.

I also mentioned a couple of cases where social media novices had seen an impact on their activities. The first was beekeeper Ken Ward in Shropshire who noticed a tweet from a local farm shop which meant he could approach them to supply honey. The other was his son Simon who owns an office refurbishment company.

Ten weeks ago Simon had no on-line presence. Today he has an NJRcoolspace website, Twitter account @NJRcoolspace which he uses to tweet images of jobs he is working on and sharing useful articles he finds, he has a Pinterest account, a Google+ page etc.

For Simon this activity has to be so much more than just getting the message out. It is an integral part of his sales strategy. Does it work? It certainly does already online inquiries have resulted in two projects and interestingly 40% of searches have come through mobile!

The Dread Of Going Shopping

On Saturday I visited a major outdoor clothing retailer. The experience confirmed why I dread shopping and got me wondering about the management thinking that underpins and drives the activities of sales assistants.

Much has been written about the changing role of the retail outlet in the context of increased online shopping. It seems apparent to me that there is a disconnect between the rhetoric of retail changing to suit changing shopping behaviours and the death grip of a pushy sales mentality.

Retail psychologists will recognise some of the irks I have. Firstly the experience of being mugged the moment you step across the threshold with the notionally friendly greeting of ‘are you alright there?’ . Whilst the content of the communication is friendly, it is socially inappropriate and is not an expression of interest in my welfare. It is a vacuous utterance from a shop employee who really wants to ask me if I’m going to buy anything from them. In that sense it is deceptive.

Talk about ‘processing’ customers as resources to extract their value. Step one open the ‘process’ with a technique that obliges people to say ‘yes’ because pop psychology tells us this is a good thing. Good for who? The customer?

Having resisted the urge to run out the store because my need to privately explore the product range I have been browsing on the Internet is stronger, I am then confronted with my ‘new best friend’. My new friend wants to follow me around the store to notionally help me but the ‘spider like’ attempt at constraining me in a silken cocoon of product feature verbiage is suffocating.

I just want to escape. I don’t want to be in the place. I don’t want to ‘helped’ to make a buying decision as if I’m suffering from a knowledge and capability disability.

When will retailers learn that sales assistants (sic) driven by an aggressive sales philosophy sugar coated with facile friendliness is bad for business?

People are going shopping for different reasons now. They are going informed and they are going to explore. In that exploring they will use their own capability as thinking adults to buy the product they want.

This was a black experience for me and one that might just stop me exploring the outdoor brand I like in that retail outlet even though the T shirts tell me I shouldn’t.

Relationship & Service Marketing Advice From The 16th Century

Way back in the 1500s Michel de Montaigne wrote a series of fascinating essays on life, the universe, and everything.

This passage caught my eye:

I have been present when, whilst they at the upper end of the chamber have been only commenting the beauty of the arras, or the flavour of the wine, many things that have been very finely said at the lower end of the table have been lost and thrown away. Let him examine every man’s talent; a peasant, a bricklayer, a passenger: one may learn something from every one of these in their several capacities, and something will be picked out of their discourse whereof some use may be made at one time or another”

I reckon this is sage advice for any of us who consider ourselves to be marketing ‘experts’, and a reminder of the value and importance of the insights co-workers can have no matter where they work in the organisation.

Hubris is a danger faced by anyone who finds themselves in a position of authority and power.

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