Marketing Is a Team Sport, But Many Organizations Don’t Have the Memo

Marketing is a team sport. Every touchpoint is a part of the client’s buying experience, even post-sale. Marketing must have a seat at the table when decisions are made that shape those touchpoints.

In your organization, does marketing have a seat at the table when financial, product, or other management decisions are made? Two recent personal experiences make it clear to me that in many organizations, decisions are either made without input from the marketing team or are made despite a marketing team’s ideas. Organizations should realize that marketing is a team sport.

The Business of Medicine

I recently asked my doctor to combine two outpatient procedures into one appointment. His scheduler said he wouldn’t do so. I noted that my last doctor had been willing to do this for me and that doing so saved me a missed day of work and saved my wife a lot of time having to drive me around. (No driving after anesthesia.)

The scheduler talked a good game: There was increased risk with a longer procedure. That’s why the doctor wouldn’t do two procedures together.

A quick web search turned up all sorts of studies disproving this, as well as some interesting chat room conversations between doctors debating the issue. The bottom line was, well, their bottom line: Insurance companies reimburse at a much lower rate for one combined procedure than for two separate appointments. I can only think that money was what motivated my doctor’s position.

The financial difference to the practice is not insignificant, but for an organization that probably bills more than $2 million a year, is $1,200 worth the negative word of mouth I’ve spread since my experience?

Of course, it’s likely the case that a small medical practice won’t even have a marketing team. So this decision may have been made without anyone thinking from a patient’s — that is, a client’s — perspective.

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

DirecTV, on the other hand, most certainly does have a marketing department. I sure hope they weren’t consulting on the decision to withhold refunds from cancelling customers for four months — and then pay that refund via gift card, “for your convenience.”

My guess is that a number-cruncher somewhere realized how much they could make with this petty idea. And though I don’t know for a fact that the marketing team didn’t sign off on the decision, my guess is that the accounting department didn’t even consider how this interaction would make customers feel.

Every Touchpoint is a Marketing Touchpoint

The question for marketers is, “Why aren’t we more involved in these decisions?”

It doesn’t take much searching to find other instances like this, both in the B2C and B2B worlds. It’s critical for your entire team to realize that every touchpoint is a part of the client’s buying experience, even post-sale. That makes every touchpoint a part of your sales and marketing process.

Can You Put a Value on Customer Experience?

You may not win every battle when it comes to customer experience vs. efficiency, but marketing should at least be a part of the discussion. And you should be pressing for testing that can verify whether the efficiency is coming at too high a price. However you measure customer satisfaction, make sure it includes testing of the kind of policies that elicit complaints from clients.

Above all, don’t let these decisions force you to play your prospects and customers for fools. They’re not. They know how to use a search engine. They’ve seen the same tricks before from other myopic organizations. Consider interviewing customer service teams to find what policies make your customers miserable.

Marketing won’t get far without a great product to sell. It won’t fare much better without a great customer experience, too.

Email Marketing Redefined: Service With a Side of Sales

The multichannel marketplace has blurred the line between service and sales. People expect to get answers to their questions while they are shopping and on-demand after an order is placed. Redirecting them to another channel or platform for pre-sale and post-order information has a negative effect on the buying experience and long-term loyalty

The multichannel marketplace has blurred the line between service and sales. People expect to get answers to their questions while they are shopping and on-demand after an order is placed. Redirecting them to another channel or platform for pre-sale and post-order information has a negative effect on the buying experience and long-term loyalty.

Unfortunately, technology has changed faster than the corporate organizational chart has adapted. Marketing and operational departments aren’t integrated enough to provide the seamless shopping and service experience that people want. It’s time to make the shift to integrated messaging across all channels, platforms and departments. The email program is the best place to start, because changes are quick and easy.

Transactional emails tend to be matter of fact announcements of order receipt, shipment and issues. They serve the operational side of the business well but do little to directly improve sales. Branding is minimal and the messages are rarely in the same voice used for promotional information. Failure to include marketing service messages is a lost opportunity.

Marketing is a service when it solves people’s problems. Transactional emails are one to one communication. The right combination of marketing and service messages benefit customers by helping them maximize the return from their investments. The key to successful execution is having the correct processes, careful planning, and good application of business rules. When done well, they keep customers informed and motivate them to buy more.

For example, the order confirmation email should thank the customer for the business, provide specific purchase information, and suggest other items that complement the original products.

An email for an order of earrings could offer a matching necklace or an order for a vacuum cleaner might suggest bags and filters. If the operational process allows combining the orders at the same shipping rate, the suggestion to do so creates a sense of urgency. The only catch is that business rules have to be accurate with personal messaging to optimize the return.

Inserting product images with a brief description will bump sales a bit, but it doesn’t have the same effect as: “Thank you for your order of the super suction vacuum cleaner. It will ship tomorrow. Please remember that the filter needs to be changed every month. Add one on to your order by clicking this link before midnight tonight and there will not be an extra shipping charge.” Of course your copy team will do a better job than me, but you get the idea.

Almost every transactional email sent to customers should include a marketing message. The exceptions to this rule are issue-related emails. Following “your item is out of stock until next month” with “buy this to go with your item” won’t win customer loyalty.

To get started with integrated marketing and service emails:

  1. Review your transactional emails. When are they sent? What information do they include? Is there a follow-up after the sale to encourage people to provide feedback? Do you ask people if they like their purchases? Document all of the transactional emails so you will have a starting point.
  2. Identify opportunities for marketing messages. Add-on sales are good for order confirmation emails. “New items just arrived” works well on shipment confirmation messages. Be creative when thinking about how to combine service and sales, it will provide more testing options.
  3. Select the emails and messages to test. Start small and learn quickly. Testing provides the best information for rolling out your program. Use simple business rules and build from that foundation. Complicated processes are recipes for disaster when you are starting an integrated program.
  4. Verify that the offers are deliverable. Promising your customers that you will combine orders when it is operationally impossible creates mistrust with customers and colleagues. Always under promise and over deliver. It surprises customers and minimizes dissatisfaction.
  5. Measure everything. What effect does the new messaging have on sales? Opens? Clicks? Lifetime value? Lifespan? The more you know the better you can create targeted emails that deliver sales and satisfaction.
  6. Revise as needed. Transactional emails are easy to set and forget. They continue to go out day after day without any maintenance required. This tends to make them a low priority. Scheduling regular updates to rework the emails keep them fresh and informative for customers. It optimizes the return.