By Ed Pierce, ITA Fleet Communications
Feedback is an important tool for marketers. However, like in music, it can be misused and abused unless controlled.
As an electric guitar player whose idols were Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, and others from the 60’s, I was always fascinated by feedback. The phenomenon occurs when a “loop” between an input and output is closed, and a frequency endlessly sustains.
In the wrong hands, feedback can be a howling, out of control pitch that has the audience covering their ears (think microphone feedback). In the hands of a guitarist, feedback can be musical, memorable and repeatable. Think Santana’s guitar in “Black Magic Woman.”
Feedback is also an important tool for marketers. However, like in music, it can be misused and abused unless controlled.
Marketers all know that the marketing process demands a closed loop: market research helps a company determine user needs and pain, corporate and promotional messaging promotes benefits and value inherent in its brand and product attributes, and market research confirms the effectiveness of the communication.
Problems usually arise in that last step when the company decides to take shortcuts or to muddy the waters by mixing in multiple objectives. Consider these examples:
1. Client Advisory Board – This is a very popular relationship-building activity because the concept of getting direct feedback is proper. The first problem arises when it comes to selecting invitees. The best customers? The biggest customers? The most technologically-adept customers? Next, what feedback do we want? If Operations has its way, operational issues rule. If IT has its way, systems and technology dominate. If Sales has its way, the sales process approach is important. If Marketing has its way, branding and messaging. And, if every department gets its way, none will be satisfied with the level of feedback.
2. Marketing – Since this is a marketing column, let’s focus on this topic. A fleet product provider decides that its new marketing approach will pursue a new market segment, say, utility fleets. The company does the research to understand who is involved in the decision-making process, what the pain points are, and how its products and services can alleviate the pain and add value.
The program is launched, and new utility leads are resulting in sales appointments. However, because the buying cycle can run from 12 to 36 months, sales growth is slow.
Management decides that a focus group will be carved out of the next client advisory group to determine how the program is working. The problem? The advisory group has no representation from the target market. The result? The company’s traditional customers don’t understand the program, worry that it is getting too far-flung in its reach (at their expense), and provide negative feedback.
Feedback is out of control! Dissonance rules and the potential for melodic marketing is gone.
With decades of B2B sales and marketing success, Ed has served fleet product and service providers with strategic plan-related market research and integrated sales & marketing programs that significantly increased market penetration; brand management that markedly improved both awareness and positioning; and B2B sales support that helped sales exceed plan year in and year out.
Ed now leads ITA Fleet Communications – a fleet-focused consulting firm helping excellent product and service providers achieve excellent results through innovative and effective integrated sales and marketing.