4 tips on how to be a great marketer in times of change.

We at U-Sentric are all user experience and usability experts but we all have different backgrounds. I for example studied marketing management for 6 years and have worked as an online marketer and also as a head of business development or so my job title said. Marketing has always been my interest but I didn’t feel good doing what I did, which was offering services which weren’t adapted to the needs of our customers. I always had a big interest in consumer behavior and market research and a heart to match the product to the needs of the customer (whether they were manifest or latent). I honestly had never heard about UX but when I came to U-Sentric it all clicked. This was the missing link in my existence. This was the one thing I wanted to learn during my studies all along, this is the skill we really need to incorporate in the marketing discipline. And I will make it my mission to convince my fellow marketers of the importance of a great customer experience and a customer centric approach.

Nowadays I don’t practice my gained knowledge in marketing as much and because it’s easy to forget the knowledge when you don’t use it every day, I went to the STIMA international marketing congress to learn what was going on in the marketing world today. I’ll share the elements that stuck with me and that inspired me in my job. I hope that it will inspire you as well.

I’ve got some strong insights about how to be a great marketer in times of change and I’ve learned what marketers have to do to get back in the game.

Marketers had some hard times, marketing doesn’t always have the best reputation and we often don’t know how to start and where to look because there is so much going on in this world. It’s easy to lose track.

Don’t worry, together with U-Sentric you can work towards the heart of the matter which is putting your customer at the center of your business. I worked in environments where a marketers job was to increase revenue, get more traffic to the website and have more clients. Those clients were neutral clients, ones that weren’t loyal enough to become a big client, ones that weren’t happy enough to get the word of mouth going. But at U-Sentric I learned how it’s possible to be a marketer and fulfill all the needs (even the latent ones) of a company but more importantly fulfill the needs of the customer in a way that he becomes a very happy customer. But for that to happen, we need to adapt ourselves and change our way of working.

Marketing as we know it today won’t exist tomorrow

We live in a VUCA world — a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world — one that is vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding. We live in a world where anything is possible at any time.

Marketing is a relatively young discipline, only a few decades old, unlike psychology or architecture so we can’t rely on the past to form the future. Because this is such a young discipline in a fast changing world it’s difficult to keep up and we don’t really know what to rely on. We have to start seeing marketing as a science and start building concepts and scientific models. Today is the time to start building the marketing world of tomorrow. In fact, it gives us the chance to start building the world of tomorrow because a marketer is someone who creates markets.

It’s key to think outside the box and be agile

To create those markets we have to be innovative in every sense of the word. Like Ronald Velten of IBM said: “Innovate or Die!” And innovation lies in the smallest corners, it can be the same product as your competitor but with a different experience. For example: coffee, you can drink a cheap coffee in a pub around the corner, you can go to Starbucks and pay twice as much or you can go to a fancy coffee-house and pay even more. The difference? The experience you encounter and based on your preferences you will or won’t mind the increased price.

A great example of the importance of experience are the upcoming small companies and new business models like an Uber or Airbnb. Previously we based our competitor analysis on the market share of our contestants to see who had the most influence in the market.

Today market share is no longer a key indicator of success and our competitors are the ones you’ve never considered.

Small companies with big ideas will lead the way. Small companies that think across markets, companies that tackle the needs in a different and innovative way, companies that make it easy for the customer to fulfill their needs. Those companies are very agile and pivot much like speedboats. It’s hard to change course with a big unwieldy company. Speedboats are far easier to navigate than big oil tankers.

Why this shift? Previously those big oil tankers ruled the marketing world and we all wanted to work for the big Unilevers and Coca-Cola companies but we recently came aware of the fact that we can’t sell our ideas to our customer as they are. They have to fit his needs and the customer, he is getting more outspoken, he is in control like Sam Walton said.

“There is only one boss, the customer, and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Customer experience will define your success

We have to think about marketing in another way, there is a shift from business oriented to customer oriented strategies, rational based to emotional based behavior and average solutions to relevant solutions. The customer wants to know what you as a company can do for him, what does your solution enables him to do? Not just in a functional way but how does it make him feel? We don’t solely love our brands because of their products or services but because of what it enables us to do. What do you as a company do for people?

What people need are brands with — next to great relevant products — an inspiring story, one that is so remarkable, authentic and lovable that people find themselves in it and want to connect with it.

Marketers have to rethink markets, they have to even consider working across markets. They have to rethink business models. But most importantly, they have to rethink experiences. We want our customers to have a great experience on our website or in our store but experiences go beyond the store and website, we have experiences and touchpoints with a company or product before we even visited the website. We may have talked about it with friends, we may have read reviews. And our experiences don’t stop after purchasing it, we will be using the product for the first time, we may encounter problems, we will contact the company again, we’ll talk about it, we’ll share our experiences which in their turn will contribute to the experience of others. People never forget how you’ve made them feel. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your customer has the best experience at every given time in his journey.

We have to develop products and services based on their added value through differentiation and relevance. Let me explain this via our coffee example:

Imagine you really need a coffee, it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and you’ve been working on a freelance project all day. There are different ways to fulfill your need for coffee, but why do you need coffee? You need a break from your paper but you also need to empty your head and talk to some friends and maybe you even feel a bit hungry. As a company you can tackle this in different ways, there is nothing wrong with all the examples I will give but they significantly differ in the added value through relevance and differentiation. The one only fulfills the manifest need of needing a coffee and the other one will fulfill the latent need of talking with friends over a great meal. The last one will enable you to experience more added value than the first one.

· You can buy a random bag of coffee beans and make your own coffee, this is a commodity solution.

· You can buy coffee from Senseo which has a distinctive design and make a quick cup of coffee. You like the design and have a long term relationship with your Senseo machine, it’s convenient and has a great taste.

· You need a break and a small talk to you go to your local pub and order a cup of coffee with your favorite bartender. You enjoy the personal service and your bartender is very empathic and knows how you feel but it’s the same coffee as you make at home.

· You’re bored with normal basic coffee and want something different so you go to Starbucks, you get your own mug with your name on and you can choose a dessert and use the free wifi. You feel more at ease here but you miss someone to talk to and the cake is very tasty but not enough to still your appetite.

· You call your friends up for a meal and go to a local restaurant, you enjoy the nice talk, eat a lovely meal, drink the coffee you needed and talk about whatever you needed to get off your chest.

As you can see, the last example fulfills the manifest and latent needs and creates an experience that will stick because it ticks all the boxes. This teaches us that we need to dig deeper, our customers don’t always talk about what they really need, most of the time they aren’t even able to explain it.

Work together beyond departments

There are different needs, different solutions but also all sorts of marketers, we have the strategic marketers, the internet marketers, the direct marketers, the content marketers, the creative ones, the analytical ones, but most of the time a marketer stays a marketer. That’s what I noticed at the congress, all those marketers are happy doing what they do, they love their job, but they don’t go beyond marketing, they work in a company where everyone has his own title and works in his own department. But the best marketers are the ones with a CEO mindset, just like the best CEOs are the ones with a marketer mindset like Peter Fisk said. To be able to create an extraordinary experience for your customer you as a company need to work together. Finances, customer services, sales, marketing, communication, … those departments all hold touchpoints which contribute to the customer experience.

The STIMA international marketing congress 2015 was an explorative event which showed me once again the importance of thinking outside the box — be innovative, be open to change, be a game changer, be agile, be a storyteller, be a creator.

Credits: STIMA

About the author

Katrien Pypen — User experience expert with a huge interest in marketing and customer behavior.

You can contact me via katrien@u-sentric.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.