By Scott Hornstein
Saturday, 24th January 2009
Effective marketing is both a managerial and a social process -

It is managerial because, in most instances, we go to market in an orderly (vs. haphazard), well-thought-out process, replete with goals, tactics and measures of accountability. 

It is social because all of our results are based on effectively positioning the benefits of our product or service against the wants and needs of individuals.  We want to convince these individuals that we are the right choice and will satisfy them.

We usually speak of individuals as they exist within groups: target markets and database segments defined by demographics, psychographics and behavioral indicators.  But each of these groups is made up of individuals who make their purchase and repurchase decisions both logically and emotionally.  We may make today's sales with little regard for the emotional side of things, but if we want to be in business tomorrow, we'd better start paying attention.    

Here's a quick (and very recent) story, from my college fraternity brother John:

John bought a new computer from a name-brand manufacturer to replace his old one (same manufacturer).  He had problems from the time he opened the box.  Over the course of the first three months he was on and off the phone with service reps on several continents and was the proud recipient of a new display, a new motherboard, a new keyboard, a new video card and on and on.  John, as we all do, runs his life from his computer, and emotionally, this began to resemble not so much a horse as a camel.

While the manufacturer would ship replacement components piecemeal, what they refused to do was to just replace the computer, despite John's requests and the obvious absurdity of the situation.

One day John was at a trade show and saw that this manufacturer had a booth.  So he went over and explained his plight to a sales rep, who said he had heard this all before.  The rep agreed that the only "right" thing to do was to replace the computer.  His advice, "you've got to get on the phone and go absolutely insane". (Do I see some heads nodding?)

Let's go back up to 50,000 feet. Was the manufacturer responsive to John's problems?  Yes.  When something went wrong, they reactively sent the right part and I am guessing that this is in concert with most company's policies and the level of empowerment they give their customer-facing employees.  But there was a larger issue on the table that was not addressed – the emotionally erosive grind of problem after problem.   Too much of marketing's focus today is on the short-term.

One of marketing's great ambitions, in my book, is to create a pattern of preferential repurchase among the customer base.  When our customers are looking for a solution – a product or service – they look to us first not because of price but because of value.  It's more profitable and it gives us the ability to get a greater share of wallet, and referrals, from a happy, loyal base.  Some call this a relationship.  Whatever you call it, it can't happen without effectively, proactively addressing the emotional side of the equation, and that is best done on an individual-by-individual basis.

What we have here with John is a short-term win and a long-term loss.

Did the sales rep's advice work?  Yup. John got the new computer and things are working fine. Is he "satisfied" to use a greatly overused word?  Yes.  He has also told everyone his story, and he gets pretty emotional in the retelling.

Will he buy again?  Perhaps when pigs fly.

Scott Hornstein is the "Smart Marketing" columnist for S&MM, co-author of Opt-In Marketing and president of Hornstein Associates in Redding, Conn. He can be reached at edit@salesandmarketing.com.
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