Maybe it is because I just saw South Pacific at Lincoln Center a couple of weeks ago, but when Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and CEO of Xerox told 800 marketers at the American Marketing Association’s Mplanet in Orlando that she was not “a wild eyed optimist,” I perked up and listened. You just don’t hear the word optimist much anymore.
But what really got my attention was her following statement: that even in these crazy times she sees opportunities but we (marketers) have to act smartly. And a big part of acting smartly is getting close to your customers and LISTEN.
Throughout this conference, what I’m hearing is get back to basics, know you customers–especially your best customers, and — most importantly — listen to their needs. If you don’t pay attention and listen to your customers, someone else will.
Anne also commented that it is critical for smart marketers to stay in touch with customers because good or satisfactory marks from customers no longer cut-it. Companies have to strive for great. Xerox is so serious about listening to the customer that they have created a program called Sentinel. A Xerox executive is assigned to be the officer of the day and they get to deal with the escalated customer service issues–a.k.a the really angry customer. Sentinel is made of three components: listen to the problem, fix the problem, and assume the responsibility of identifying the underlying issue or process that has caused the problem and fix that. Talk about listening.
In his presentation at Mplanet, John Hayes the Global CMO of American Express backed up this core belief by talking about establishing new customer listening posts. And guess what… You have to LISTEN to what is the customer is saying they need.
Listening, according to John, is the most powerful selling tool. But the art of putting yourself in the customer shoes is becoming a lost art.
I know all of this sounds fundamental, but when you hear Mary Dillon, EVP and Global CMO of McDonalds say that you need to bond with customers and consistently win their trust and gain their respect, you know some of the most recognizable brands got there by listening to their core constituents. To this end, McDonalds has created a Global Mom’s Advisory Panel. They are actively engaging and really listening to mothers around the world. McDonalds meets face-to-face with this panel of moms once a quarter and some of these mom’s have formed their own Quality Correspondence communities online. McDonald’s has gotten the importance of engaging their customers… and at the very least is listening to their mother(s).
George Day, Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School feels that companies need a renewed sales focus on their best customers. He feels that while many companies are quick to slash now-a-days, slashing jeopardizes sales support which impacts revenue. Bottom-line for George: spend smartly now–and you guessed it–focus on customers.
What I walked away with from this conference is that one way to market smart with less is getting back to the basics. The basic of basics is listening and engaging your best customers.
You would think it would be easy to listen, but sometimes we just forget the basics.