The folks in sales and marketing functions seem to be the last ones to want to change to become part of an integrated business approach. No big surprise really. While it is not unusual to see manufacturing and supply chain, or manufacturing and engineering merged into one silo it is almost a universal truth that sales and marketing stand alone in any organization.
In most companies they are apart from the rest of the business in just about every way – physically remote, culturally apart and existing in a world with their own language, metrics and ideas.
I did a lean sales and marketing seminar a year ago and there was an almost perfect 50-50 split on the feedback. It was all about integrating the sales and marketing function into the rest of the organization with a common focus on creating greater customer value.
The CEO’s and CFO’s in the room rated the session very highly, while the sales and marketing professionals rated it poorly, almost all of them indicating that they came looking for ways to improve within their own isolated cocoon – not to hear how their department should be broken up and merged with the rest of the business into value streams.
Well, here are a couple of concepts rapidly gaining support that will move S&M toward lean even if they want to remain in isolation – one tool more than a concept, really. And if S& M pursues them, who knows? The light bulbs just might click in their heads and they just might want to join the team.
The tool is Customer Experience Mapping. There are lots of ways to do it – this one seems to be as comprehensive and informative as any.
The idea is to value stream map the integrated design, marketing, selling, shipping, and billing processes – all from the customer’s point of view. It can be very powerful in exposing just where your internal processes and policies work better on paper, or better in your financial statements, than they do. In the long term, their greater value may be in educating the S&M folks in just how dependent on and integrated with the rest of the business they really are, whether they want to be or not.
The big concept –the one that typically requires a more gut wrenching change in S&M thinking is Content Marketing: “In short, instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”
Basically, it means you comprehensively educate your customers on the product in general. You help them become very informed buyers. What are the various features and uses, what are the advantages and disadvantages to the different product options or ways of making the product, and so forth … and that you do so in an honest way.
If your product is truly the best one, they will be knowledgeable enough to figure that out after you have educated them. This is radically different from the typical ‘our product is great and everyone else’s sucks – and here is some cute little animal, seriously under-dressed woman, or lame-brained celebrity or athlete to vouch for that dubious claim’ approach to marketing. It is focused entirely on making sure the customer comes out ahead, even if that means you don’t.
It is the Santa Claus telling customers where to find what they want in Macy’s, but being perfectly willing to send customers to Gimbel’s if that’s what it takes to be sure the kids can get exactly what they want for Christmas.
It also involves using things like social media to engage in two way conversations with customers, rather than the sit-down-and-shut-up-while-I-spew-clever-nonsense-at-you method.
In essence, Content Marketing is aimed at more precisely deriving the customer’s needs and putting filling those needs first.
Quite obviously it gets right at the heart of the lean principle of creating maximum value in the eyes of customers. If, as a result of content marketing, it turns out the customer would be better off buying elsewhere, the solution is not to find a way of conning them into buying your product anyway, but to loop back through the process and improve the product value proposition to change that outcome.
Since both of these ideas came from within the marketing community, they are apt to be more readily adopted by the S&M folks in your organization who, after all, should not be expected to waste time on anything so unrelated to them as lean manufacturing.