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?

Why Won’t Sainbury’s Let Me Alone?

brass glasses-greta garbo-sainburys

A friend recently reported a shopping experience irritation during a visit to Sainbury’s. In the middle of a rush shopping trip she was stopped hassled by a member of Sainbury’s staff asking if she could if she was adequately insured.

All in the name of service no doubt. Or is it? When does a marketing philosophy become a marketing mantra? When does a marketing philosophy become a convenient gloss for the real intention of the organisation?

Kurt Lewin said “There is nothing so practical as a good theory”
In other words ideas drive actions.

So what is the idea that is driving the action of Sainbury’s? Back in 2004 Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch wrote an article in the Journal of Marketing called “Evolving To A New Dominant Logic of Marketing”. In this article they pulled together streams of thought that had been developing over previous decades concerning ‘Service Marketing’ (Gronross et al).

This ‘theory’ has sat in the background quietly influencing marketing strategy and justifying marketing actions. We no longer trade ‘goods’ they argue we are focussed on “intangible resources, the co-creation of value and relationships” So the man in aisle isn’t ‘selling’ anymore he’s establishing a ‘service relationship’ in order that value can be co-created between the moment your tin of tuna is taken from the shelf and placed in the trolley!

Sainsbury’s have evidently bought into the ‘service dominant logic’. Or have they? The rhetoric is about service the reality is exchange. I have something that I want you to buy from me. You have money in your wallet and I want it to be mine, all mine. The ‘sales dominant logic’ of Sainbury’s simply can’t be hidden from view that easily. Psychologically it’s an ideal situation to sell to somebody. The rationalising defences are down because you are focussing on your regular house hold shopping and the distraction of the service stalker makes you amenable vulnerable to sales messages (clever! see Pratkanis The Science of Social Influence)

Surely when someone goes shopping its in their time? What right has a retailer to take your time and take advantage of you simply because you are on their premises? The argument that it simply making you aware of additional services seems rather hollow.

Now, as part of the Brass Glasses service to readers, I’d like to offer you a solution to the in store stalking problem. Of course as critical thinkers you’ll know what I’m up to. So here it is:

The amazing new Garbo badge. Imagine walking around Sainsbury’s without interruption, simply wear this badge and Sainsbury’s staff will know that you “vont to be let alone”

Update October 2009:
Witnessed an OAP approached by an in store sales person selling insurance. The chap was a bit confused. Hardly surprising he was doing his shopping not thinking about insurance. The gentleman was then obliged to discuss his financial affairs in the aisle next to the tinned tuna. How lacking in empathy and courtesy.

I believe this is an unwarranted intrusion into shopper privacy and just because you have walked onto the premises doesn’t mean you should be a target for unsolicited sales propositions.

This is something different I don’t want to try thanks!

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