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Marketing—a customer perspective

 

Marketing;  The total experience of purchasing and using a product or service

Mike BrandtHow is marketing defined in your company? Or more importantly, what activities impact your success in the marketplace? Is it sales? Is it advertising? Is it market research? Pricing?

With increasing pressure in the market, we need every competitive advantage we can get. By taking a closer look at those activities that impact our market position, we may uncover an overlooked competitive weapon.

Text books have traditionally defined marketing as those activities affecting the movement of product or service to the ultimate consumer. Often these activities are categorized as the four P's: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.

A customer orientation

Modern marketing suggests that we should be customer oriented. Thus, I propose a slightly different definition of marketing, a customer oriented definition. Marketing is the total experience of purchasing and using a product or service.

Note the words total experience. From the customer's perspective, marketing is all-encompassing. It includes exposure to advertising, receptionists, voice mail, telemarketing, market research, catalogs, parking lots, showroom floors, sales presentations, deliveries, competitive choices, product demonstrations, billing, pricing, quotations, negotiation. Dozens, even hundreds, of factors make up the totality of the purchasing process.

Note, too, the word using. The customer's experience extends well beyond the actual purchase of the product or service. It includes billing and accounts receivable, complaint handling, after sales service, warranty, product performance, repair and maintenance contracts, installation and use instructions.

By viewing marketing from the customer's perspective, we find that the factors impacting the purchasing process may involve more than our traditional marketing definitions would indicate. If we're to find that ever elusive marketing edge to meet increased competition, we may need to expand our marketing effort to include this broader customer oriented perspective.

Some examples

To illustrate the breadth and impact of the total experience of marketing, I'd like to cite several examples from my own recent experience. Some had a positive impact, others a negative impact. Some may be considered non- traditional marketing activities. Others are more traditional marketing activities that we often forget.

Billing and accounts receivable

Three consecutive incorrect billings and three dunning notices for a paid invoice sent me scurrying for an alternative supplier. The new vendor provides the same quality at significantly less cost. How's the interface between accounts receivable, receptionists, secretaries, etc., and your customers?

Going the extra mile I

Following up on a service call, the owner found that the service man had erred in concluding that the water softener needed major repair. The owner made a few minor adjustments and left four bags of salt, all at no charge. Do you find ways to invest in future sales?

Going the extra mile II

In appreciation for our patronage, a local restaurateur presented us with a bottle of wine at Christmas. Do you thank your customers for their business?

Sales training

When asked why one modem was $50 more than the other, the salesman responded "They're both good modems." Do your sales people know the difference between your products and your competitors'? How about your distributor and dealer sales personnel?

Consistency of product and service

One local restaurant remains on our regular list because we can count on the quality of its service and food, time after time. Another, alternating between satisfactory and mediocre, dropped totally off the list. How's the consistency of your products or services?

Responsiveness

The estimate was requested in late September; the estimator showed up in mid-October; no estimate was ever received; the job went to someone else. How's the timeliness of your follow-up?

Inquiry fulfillment

A specific question was asked of a national association. The answer was to be sent by mail. The information received was general and did not address the question. I was unable to recommend use of the services provided by the association's membership. How's your fulfillment package? When required, does it address the specific needs of the prospect or is it so general that the potential customer has to inquire again?

If you're looking to increase sales, share, and penetration, take a good look at your marketing from the customer's perspective. You'll find lots of non-traditional areas that impact your marketing effort and your bottom line.

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