Proving Theodore Levitt Wrong About Sales

I (Lori Wizdo) am on a plane, flying to San Francisco, to participate in Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum. As I was prepping for my (limited) role in the event, I had a flashback to one of the most famous disses of the sales profession ever written. 

It’s contained in the 1960’s article "Marketing Myopia”, written by Theodore Levitt, which has become one of the best known and most quoted of Harvard Business Review's articles. The article is essentially about having a business strategy that concentrates on meeting customer needs rather than selling products. A key take away, which most marketing or business school grads remember, is the observation that “had railroad executives seen themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.”

However, it is also in this article that Levitt was breathtakingly critical of the sales profession: "Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about." He went on to explain that sales "does not...view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs. The customer is somebody 'out there' who, with proper cunning, can be separated from his or her loose change."

Well, that might have been true then (who I am to disagree with a marketing legend) but it’s definitely not true now – and certainly not in the tech industry. 

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P&G Brand Building Goes Digital, But This Is Not The End Of TV Advertising

As the world’s largest advertiser, any move by Procter & Gamble (P&G) is closely watched. So much attention has been paid to its recent announcement that it will cut $10 billion from its marketing budget over the next five years. In an interview last week with The Wall Street Journal, P&G’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard elaborated on the company’s intent to lean more heavily on digital media at the expense of higher-ticket TV advertising as part of its cost-savings strategy. The Wall Street Journal interview is part of a PR push from P&G around its digital ambitions, highlighted in a Signal event in Cincinnati last week that focused on brand building in a digital world. The event brought in digital players and experts from Facebook and Google to Buddy Media and Flipboard as well as Forrester’s own eBusiness experts Sucharita Mulpuru and Andy Hoar. So why is P&G making this digital shift, and what does it mean?  

The public event and announcements are, as the event name suggests, a signal — a welcome signal to Wall Street that P&G will be faster and more efficient (the company’s stock rose 3% with the budget-cutting news). It's a return shot across the bow to competitors such as Unilever and L’Oreal, which are both making high-profile advances in their digital ambitions, and a signal to P&G employees around the world that their leaders are serious about digital and that they need to accelerate change in the slow-moving P&G ship.   

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Yet Another Dumb Move By A Bank

Until a few months ago Bank of America won the “Best In Biting The Hand That Feeds You” Award when it initiated its $5 debit card fee increase. Citibank may have trumped that in January when it decided that frequent flier miles that it gave away as promotional bonuses in exchange for getting customers to sign up for a new bank account was taxable income that needed to be reported to the IRS.  The absurdity of this move is so large it’s not even measurable.  Because if they pull this off, they will solidify a position as an anti-customer bank at a time when banks could use some customer love, but worse they threaten to kill the single most effective tactic in the entire marketing industry: the promotion. By giving away a gift in return for a customer’s patronage, and then calling it taxable income, this is the ultimate string attached. Does this mean free ice cream at Ben & Jerry's on their customer appreciation day is taxable? What about upgrades airlines sometimes give for free on flights? Or the eyeglasses that Coastal.com is giving away for free?  Most of the time your social security number isn’t captured, so there isn't an easy means to report any promotion or gift to the IRS, but let’s hope we never get to the day where we do have to give away such information in order to take advantage of a promotion. How anyone at Citi could have thought this was a good idea (and not making very clear the taxation consequences) is baffling. Marketing freebies are aimed at getting new customers or retaining existing

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Event Season Has Sprung

For many, spring brings visions of robins, tulips, Easter bunnies, and longer days. For Forrester analysts, it marks the beginning of what I like to call "event season," which officially kicks off with Forrester's Tech Sales Enablement Forum. This event takes place at the lovely Palace Hotel in San Francisco on March 19-20. For those attending, you may catch me during one of the Q&A sessions on Tuesday.  Come say "hi" if you spot me there!  And better yet...mention that you read this blog :-)

In April, we have the Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum in Los Angeles on April 19 - April 20. I will be presenting with other Forrester colleagues at the Tech Marketer track session on April 19. And I am planning a special "tweet jam" that week to discuss many of the topics from the event. Stay tuned!
 
On May 8, I am the keynote speaker for Ragan's "Advanced Social Media Strategies Conference" at the Cisco campus. I am very excited about this event, and will be talking about "the New Age of Social"...and what it means to PR, marketing and communications professionals. 
 
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Translate Customer Analytics Into Action

Companies adopt advanced analytics tools and techniques to convert data into intelligence and drive key customer-facing business decisions. We see that customer intelligence (CI) professionals involved in customer analytics broadly perform three activities:

  • Generate analytics: Create and produce analytical insights using analytical tools and technologies.
  • Apply analytics: Choose the appropriate analytical methodology for the business problem and apply it to the context of the customer lifecycle.
  • Activate analytics: Use analytical output and insights to optimize customer experiences and to drive customer growth, share of wallet, retention, and lifetime value.
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Three Ways To Use CXi Data To Inform Customer Experience Improvement Efforts

In the two months since I published "The Customer Experience Index, 2012," the number of companies requesting a deeper look at the data has been quite high. Many have asked me to suggest ways to use the information that’s available, so I thought I’d share the analyses I've found most interesting so far:

  1. Compare Customer Experience Index (CXi) respondents to your company’s target customer profile. As part of the CXi survey, we collect a range of demographic data including age, gender, marital status, household income, employment status, parental status, and location. Clients find it helpful to see if differences between our scores and their internal data stem from the fact that we’re surveying different populations. They’re also using it to think through why scores on a given criteria are what they are — for example, if most respondents for a TV service provider have small kids, the firm’s parental controls may have a bigger impact on the “meets needs” score than they would if most respondents had grown children.
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Is Your Brand Making Promises It Can't Keep?

That's a sure sign that your brand is still stuck in the 20th century. And that’s what I’m going to talk about at this year’s Marketing Leadership Forum in Los Angeles on April 18-19.

We believe that brands will matter more than ever in the 21st century. But the brands that win will focus as much on delivering on their promise as they do on making promises. Come join me and find out how you can update your 20th century brand positioning and align your brand-building assets, to make sure you’re building the kind of brand equity that adds value for your customers and fuels growth for your business.

The Data Digest: Introducing the Splinternet Engagement Index

My colleague Josh Bernoff recently published a report called 'The Splinternet Engagement Index." The idea behind this index is that it's getting harder and harder for companies to keep up with the pace of technology developments. Your customers now live in the splinternet — the fragmented world of web, social, video, and mobile touchpoints. Consumers want to reach you across all these touchpoints, but you can't afford to be everywhere.

The Splinternet Engagement Index is a single tool that measures customers' engagement with each of the four touchpoints and identifies how likely a group of customers is to demand connections across multiple touchpoints. First, the index measures consumer engagement with each touchpoint (based on a list of eight activities per touchpoint); it then scores the cross-touchpoint engagement.

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The Age Of The Customer Drives Four Insurance eBusiness Mega-Trends In 2012

This year, North American insurers overall are pretty darn happy. For starters, there clear signs that the economy is finally starting to gain steam, premiums are on the rise, the market’s firming, and the political will may well shift enough to revisit past regulatory reforms, particularly those that impact health insurers.  And these factors are coalescing into the new strategies for 2012.  In our “Trends 2012: North American Insurance eBusiness And Channel Strategy”, we discuss what factors are driving insurance ebusiness teams to:

  1. Become obsessed about their customers
  2. Get serious about how to collaborate better with their agents
  3. Focus on the infrastructure that supports the digital business
  4. Refine their thinking about what eBusiness means to the insurance ecosystem
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Reflections On SXSW 2012

I returned home this week after 5 packed days in Austin at SXSW. It was my first year attending the event and everything I'd heard about in the last couple of years was true.  The event is huge; loaded with celebrities, parties, free breakfast burritos, and long lines.  Attending sessions reminded me of my college days where I had 30 minutes to race across campus to get to my next class except campus in this case was an entire city. Logistics and distractions aside, as an analyst focusing on emerging media, attending this event is downright necessary.

Once you set aside the parties and free swag, the event is really about networking and the content. It’s quite rare that you have so many marketers, innovators, thought leaders, and enthusiasts in the same place at the same time. The conference hallways and bustling streets were abuzz with all matters interactive and that’s what makes the event so special. The folks that attend are passionate, trend seekers, and starving for content and demos. 

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