The role of the marketing director is to define what’s distinctive and appealing to customers about an organisation, product or service. It is about creating distinctive propositions that customers value and buy. It is also about creating and building brands. The underlying challenge is to understand and nurture an organisation’s strengths. In other words, assets or skills that cement a positive and distinctive impression in customers’ minds. This requires rigorous examination of what consumers think, feel and value. Much is written about brands though most ignore or misunderstand the difference between products and brands. And that’s where the marketer’s challenge often starts – in helping people understand ‘what brand means’. And then ‘why bother?’
There are lots of reasons to bother with brands
First, to simplify and drive customer choice and purchase. Also to provide a vehicle for uniting organisational hearts and minds and sometimes culture-change. Finally, to enhance value (brands command premiums) and shareholder value.
The management function to maximise brand stand-out and appeal is marketing. Especially in service companies, the good work of an advert in raising expectations is sometimes undermined by a surly customer service representative. This requires effective management of the customer or brand experience, the touch-points or encounters that the organisation has with its customers. In some businesses, the range of touch-points is vast. So put service at the heart of the experience to help achieve stand-out.
Influencing delivery via touch-points usually requires influencing many areas in the organisation that are not controlled by the marketing department. These areas may be customer facing, such as customer services, or internal such as human resources or finance. To drive change in these areas requires strong communication, influencing and managing skills. You will need to build strong relationships with colleagues to win their support. For example, through the HR team, to influence employee communications, job objectives, job performance reviews and reward and pay packages.
Exerting influence over other customer-facing functions is difficult. The marketing graveyard is littered with the remains of marketers who tried and failed. So use charm to persuade and gather hard data to support your arguments. Use research to understand how consumers perceive the touch-points. Understand customer expectations and if there is a difference between expectation and delivery. By understanding what drives or inhibits demand and loyalty helps guide how to deliver an excellent customer experience.
Read successful marketing part 6 – marketing technical excellence.