Note: While this article is written directly toward CMOs, make no mistake about it, CEOs should heed this advice, too.
The time has come. The time to remind the leaders of marketing departments across the land that they are also consumers, too and as such they need to care about consumers and the business they bring to the bottom line; and that they need to care about things that go way beyond a marketing plan.
In other words they need to remember they are people, too, just like the person on the other end of that cash register, email, Facebook post, advertisement and on and on and on.
More often than you think Mr. and Mrs. CMO, more often than you think.
Ask yourself this question Mr. and Mrs. CMO: Where in the hierarchy of priorities is the customer?
Executives at some of the worlds most recognized brands have been heard to say the following:
- “I will tell the customer what to like.”
- “They don’t know what they want.”
- “I don’t believe in research.”
- “They need us to tell them what’s fashionable and cool.”
- “The customer follows us, we do not follow the customer.”
These opinions are expressed privately behind closed doors – but the impact of these statements are not private at all. In fact, that mindset influences every way in which a customer experiences a brand and underscores the fact that most retailers give the customer little to no consideration when developing strategy, product, pricing, marketing plans, etc. Short-sighted & foolish.
Five years ago, prior to a major shift in how customers experienced and shopped a brand, retailers might have been able to operate using this broadcast, dictatorial ‘I Will Tell You’ approach. However, today’s consumer is in control and wants her experience to be intuitive, customized and considerate of her preferences.
Neglecting to put the customer first will ultimately damage a brand, it’s credibility, relevance, attractiveness, growth and profitability. Even the most successful brands are at risk. Their demise won’t be overnight, but they will experience a slow decline until they are no longer relevant and desirable.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs
CMOs: Read the next section from the perspective of a consumer, then ask yourself if you/your department are guilty of any of them.
Below are some tell-tale signs that a given brand does not really care about you, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer:
- Organization. Having two separate organizations within the business servicing the same brand (store business is separate from the online business). This encourages silo strategy, priorities, planning, processes, budgets and ultimately encourages a disjointed experience.
- Customer view. They don’t know who you are. You are a frequent buyer who buys more than a couple of times every year – yet you are not recognized as a valued customer (i.e., part of a loyalty program, given special perks or enrolled in a frequent buyer program).They don’t recognize you as a multi-channel buyer – rather they make assumptions about your preferences (i.e., he shops 51% of the time in store so he is a store customer). This means that you only benefit from special promotions happening in the channel they assigned you to.
- Channel inconsistencies. Allowing inconsistencies between channels as it relates to pricing, product, communications, promotions, fit and sizing.
- Poor or average customer service. Lackluster, non-responsive, at best average customer service support (in store and online). In most cases, customer care is the only human contact a customer has with a brand – if this experience isn’t positive and a great reflection of the brand – you most likely will lose her business. Moreover – she will likely tell family and friends about a poor customer service experience and before you know it – one conversation could negatively impact your chances of engaging hundreds of customers.
- Outrageous shipping & handling fees. Some retailers make as much if not more money off of shipping and handling as they do off of the product they sell. This remains a ‘dirty little secret’ among some e-tailers — more attention has to be paid to ensuring fair and less onerous shipping and handling fees.
- Poor inventory management. Not carrying your size or consistently running out of your size or promotional items.
- Asking for input. They don’t frequently ask how they are doing or what can they do better. Worse yet, when given feedback they do nothing about it.
- Clueless sales staff. Their store sales associates have no idea who you are although you frequent that store.
- No integration between store and online. Store sales associates have little familiarity with their brand’s eCommerce site, mobile site, social and digital initiatives, etc.
- Little to no personalization on their digital properties. Their website/mobile site does not recognize you and/or offer a dynamic experience based upon your preferences. There is no attempt via a ‘My Account’ to learn more about you, what you like, your size, styles, colors, communications and device preference, etc.
Are you guilty of any/all of these Mr. and Mrs. CMO? Taking the perspective of consumer if a retailer/brand you patronized were guilty of any or all of these, what would you do?
Well you would probably let them know that you need to see a change — a greater focus on you ‘the customer’ or you will switch to another retailer/brand who takes your preferences into consideration, really values your business and makes you their number one priority.
Admit it, you know you would.
This article was co-written by Patrick Adams, the former SVP/Head Of eCommerce of Victoria’s Secret.