The article title says “IBM Study Finds Consumers Are Disappointed By Marketers.” But as I read the article, what really appeared to be the problem was that the companies weren’t delivering the product or experience the marketers were promising. Either the marketers were promoting something that didn’t exist or the company as a whole wasn’t maintaining the standards it set for itself.
The Forbes author, Kimberly Whitler writes, “I wonder if this is a soft warning bell to marketers—and those that hire them.”
It seemed to me that real issue in this case isn’t hiring the wrong people in marketing, it is that these days everyone in the company needs to embrace the idea that marketing is everyone’s responsibility. If you have been reading the blog for any length of time, you know I frequently return to this theme.
Most of the time, the failure of marketing is that it doesn’t resonate with you in the first place. If marketing leads you become a customer of a company, it generally isn’t the marketing that loses you, it is the disconnect between what the marketing causes you to expect and the the experience you have.
I believe this quote at the end of the first page sums it up best.
I think we’re at a point where the challenge isn’t perfecting the technology or unifying our data. The real challenge now is human,” said Stefan Tornquist, VP, research at Econsultancy. “We want to build long term relationships with people but our thinking is short-term and selfish. Most companies want to differentiate through customer experience, but most will only take half measures because really devoting themselves to what consumers need means rebuilding from the inside out.”
This seems much more an issue of execution and practice rather a failure of marketing.
About the only case I can think of where marketing might lose you as a customer is if they decide to shift the demographic focus of a product. If marketing has brought you to a product or service by positioning it as something that is hip and edgy and then they decide to go after your parents (or if the product starts to appeal to your parents despite the marketers efforts to the contrary), then the marketing can be blamed for losing you.
One thing Whitler wrote that I fascinating was the following (my emphasis)
“The research reminded me of a visit I made to a sophisticated, CRM-based entertainment firm a decade ago. They had state-of-the-art systems and tools to understand behavior. It was quite impressive at the time. They could predict when a customer would defect. The problem was, they couldn’t figure out how to stop the consumer from defecting. Their marketing team was comprised of “quant jocks” who could describe but not sell. Perhaps this research is a reminder that marketing is not just about insight, but the ability to use that insight to create change.”
I take some solace from the fact that a company with the resources to do a lot of data analysis couldn’t figure out how to stave off customer defection. If massive CRM data crunching isn’t the sole answer, then there is hope for non-profit arts organizations that don’t have those resources at their disposal.
Whitler indirectly confirms the idea that marketing is a function for the whole company by noting this company’s team could “describe but not sell.” It shows the importance of having better integration between those doing the analysis of customers and those interacting with customers.
Getting that integration right is incredibly hard. Those interacting with the customers may have a skewed view of what the problem is based on the feedback they are getting and need a dispassionate analysis to show that the real problem lies elsewhere and the complaints received are just the easiest way to express that dissatisfaction.
But if the data is not being collected in the correct way, it may be impossible to arrive at the correct analysis. Given their limited resources, gaining that understanding of a customer base can be a problem for arts organizations.
On the other side, a good analysis can identify the problem, but it requires an effective practical execution to bring about satisfaction and that can be difficult to pull off. Just think how many times you have thought that an intention behind an effort was good but the execution was flawed.
Again, lack of resources can hamper arts organizations.
But putting data analysis aside and getting back to the original idea of this post, an important question to consider is whether the organizational practice is fulfilling the promise of the marketing.
I will leave questioning whether your marketing is resonating with the audience you want to reach to Trevor O’Donnell who address that better than I can. One of his frequent basic themes is that advertising should show the audience having fun rather than focusing on how awesome your organization is.
All art administrators know that if they show people having fun, then people should have fun at your events.
But does the rest of the organization know that? Is that value reinforced? Are they encouraged to point out opportunities to increase fun and decrease disappointment?
Again, marketing is part of everybody’s job. All employees (not to mention board members, audience members and donors) reinforce and embody your brand.