Gaining and retaining customers is the job of everyone in the company.
A version of this article was originally published in the Kansas City Small Business Monthly.
Is marketing really everyone’s responsibility? Most successful corporate leaders, marketers and business owners think so. But the true champions of integrated marketing find ways to make marketing a living, breathing part of their company culture. One Kansas City company has even given their office receptionist the title: director of first impressions. Think about the impact that simple gesture has on the broader marketing for the entire company. But more important, think how clearly this title articulates the importance of one person’s job within the larger organization.
So is marketing really everyone’s responsibility? Absolutely. But just saying so doesn’t make it happen. Long after the marketing plan is created and the strategy is well on its way to being implemented, the responsibility for success usually rests with just a few employees. Undoubtedly, the companys leadership is responsible for successful marketing. The marketing department, if one exists, is responsible for spreading the message. (Even if they are a tremendously capable outsourced marketing agency.) And in many cases, the sales force recognizes its role in marketing execution.
But how can you take the process much further? Remember that the marketing department crosses over into the entire company. Everyone in the company should be aware of the marketing message, visions and goals of the company, and should reflect that message in everything they do that is related to the product and your customers.
What You Do Quiz – One way to see if your marketing message has permeated the entire company is to conduct the three-word test. Testing to see if what you do reaches the status of being a corporate mantra. Assemble key members of your organization, including the owners, the sales force and front-line personnel. Ask the group individually to describe, “What you do,” using only three words. The result might look like this: We fix computers. We build bicycles. We sell insurance. If the group assembled has widely divergent answers, then the marketing message is already unclear, even among your internal audience.
Building a powerful marketing message begins with the people closest to your business. The company must answer the “What we do” question and make sure that each and every employee understands it. This is the important first step in making every employee a marketer for your company.
Next, the three-word exercise expands, adding words to the statement in segments, in each case by answering a specific question that focuses on your customer. You also might include questions and statements that distinguish you from competitors with similar services.
Each statement builds your message with clarity. For example, this exercise might result in a series of statements such as:
We sell insurance (what we do), for early-stage small businesses (for whom), through personal consultation (how) and conducted by non-commissioned advisors (unique proposition).
This statement then expands to fill your communication needs. The strength of the exercise is that each person who helped create the wording will carry the same message to others outside the company.
Company-wide Customer Care – The average American is exposed to more than 3,000 advertising messages a day. Consistent delivery of the same words and phrases is the first step in preparing your employees to be your best marketers. As much as we’d like to rely solely on marketing activities to help grow the company, every employee plays an even greater role in the success of small business marketing. That is, delivering quality customer service and meeting expectations. Any bad experience a customer has with your company can affect future sales from that customer, as well as from people who hear about the experience. This bad experience can be anything from a rude receptionist to late delivery of a product, or not meeting expectations. Some you can control; others, you can’t control.
Because there are so many variables that affect whether a potential customer becomes a long-time customer or a current customer remains a customer, the marketing department can’t be the only department responsible for success.
Who else has the responsibility for successfully marketing your product or service? Just about everyone who plays a role in your business. Yes, everyone.
For example, if you deliver your product on time and on budget, but incorrectly bill your customer, the result is a customer whose expectations weren’t met. Even the accounting department can impact your marketing success. Service technicians, delivery agents and customer service representatives impact your marketing efforts. They are on the front line of engagement with your customers, yet we often overlook them as true marketers. They are as important, if not more important, than salespeople and the marketing department. It’s easier and less expensive to keep a customer than to gain a new one, and these people are instrumental in keeping your customers.
Marketing communications is so much more than advertising and public relations. In today’s competitive marketplace, marketing communications is truly integrated and the margin for error is narrow. As much as we like to think crafty advertising will gain and retain a new customer, it is the marketing of customer service that will truly keep your customers coming back. And that is the responsibility of everyone – from your front line staff, to your outsourced marketing agency on your behalf.