Sunday, August 07, 2005

Turn on Your Marketing GPS

Do you get lost as easily as I do? Driving somewhere unfamiliar is an invitation for crisis and confusion. If I am supposed to turn right, I turn left. If my wife is giving directions, it is double trouble. We both get lost. What we needed all along was a Global Positioning System. A GPS to navigate us simply to the right place. A computer voice that says: “Turn left at the next intersection.” Or, “you just missed the exit, dummy, turn around and go back.” What a wonderful invention!

What we all need in marketing is a GPS Navigation System. The first thing it would want to know is where we are headed. Then it would give us directions to stay the course.

By chasing too many rainbows, we find no pot of gold. For too long, business has stared at its own navel, building complex processes that brought no value to customers. The hardest rule of marketing to learn is to do less but do it better.

A GPS gives us focus. The best model will point you directly at your customers.

It will tell you that the place to begin your marketing plan is on developing, sustaining and growing customer relationships. If, as is true of the vast majority of businesses, your focus is company-centric or product-centric, you have the old model GPS. Your workforce will likely create a more complex labyrinth than one riveted on serving customer needs. A simple, singular focus on customers will do more to unravel complexity than any other action. It will empower your entire organization to see more clearly and to act more precisely.

Most of us do not know enough about our customers to change how we produce our products for them or how we interact with them. Unknowingly, we treat our most profitable customers to a complex maze of processes that hinder good service. Not knowing our customers' needs will cause us to introduce the wrong products for the wrong reasons. Our production processes will create inventory of parts or finished goods that turn too slowly, with a direct impact on overall profitability.

Customer profitability is not constant over time, particularly for industries directly serving consumers where life events such as marriage, children, and a family death greatly influence a person's wealth and their ability to be profitable to you. We literally push customers out the door, only to discover that one firm's unprofitable customer is often another firm's most profitable customer – just because the competitor had a different process for recognizing customer profitability and serving the customer’s needs.

Without a clear idea of who buys your products and from whom you make the most money, you're setting yourself up to be run down by a more informed competitor.


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