Blurred Lines Between Marketing and Service Mean a Better Customer Experience

Marketing needs redefining. According to the Oxford dictionary, it is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Encarta’s definition is less appealing, “the business activity of presenting products or services in such a way as to make them desirable.” It’s little wonder that there is a fine line between marketers and con-artists.

Positioning products or services in an appealing manner is good business. Creating desire for items that fail to serve isn’t. Marketing is better defined as “marketing is service.” Its purpose is to introduce people to solutions that make their life better. When people make purchases that fail to deliver, marketing becomes an expensive loss leader.

Customer acquisition costs vary by company but it typically takes 3-5 orders to break even. Marketing that focuses on creating desire attracts discount and hit-&-run shoppers ( They come for the special promotions and disappear with the company’s profitability.

Strategies designed to find and fill needs attract high value customers who keep coming back and bring their friends. It is obvious which type of marketing is best for long-term corporate success. The challenge is creating the strategies that work best in a real-time marketing arena that includes multiple channels.

Getting to know your customers is the first step. Dig deep into your databases to get an understanding of how your customers behave. How many people in your active database are hit-&-run shoppers? Discounters? Seasonal buyers? Platinum customers? Every customer type has value. The key to maximizing it is matching the marketing strategy to the type.

The second step in creating the best service marketing strategy for your company is understanding what your customers want. Odds are, their wants are different from what you think. People want simple decision processes and easy experiences more than anything else. Studies have shown that simplifying the process from recognizing a need to resolution significantly improves the marketing results.

Creating experiences that match customer types and expectations is the final step. This is a great time to be a marketer. Never before have we had so much access to customers, prospects, and information. How we use that access determines corporate success. Relationships between companies and individuals are established through service. Every communication improves or reduces the bond. To take advantage of the opportunities:

  • Think service instead of marketing. How can your company best serve people? The answer to that question is key to your strategy.
  • Use preferred channels to communicate with individuals. Calling people who prefer email won’t endear them to your company.
  • Deliver on the promise. Work closely with your service team to insure that everything promised in marketing messages will be delivered.
  • Anticipate needs. Knowing what people need before it becomes a problem streamlines the shopping process.
  • Provide self-serve options. People overwhelmingly prefer self-service. Offering options pleases them and reduces your costs.
  • Simplify the ordering process. Reduce the steps between first look and shopping cart completion as much as possible.
  • Educate customers about your products and services. Knowledge is power, especially when it can be used to solve problems.
  • Know your costs and return on investment for every customer type and service offered. The more you know, the better you can manage profitability.
  • Choose the right channels and platforms. Likes, fans, circles, and followers don’t mean much if the people doing it don’t need your company’s products or services.
  • Listen to what people say, but act on what they do. People will say they don’t like marketing emails while responding to messages. Test everything.

Debra Ellis is the founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting, which specializes in improving customer acquisition and retention using marketing, analytics, service, and strategic planning.

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