Two Marketing Imperatives For 2012

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It seems to me that many of the marketing predictions and advice I see (or am nearly forced to see thanks to my Twitter buddies’ links) from consultants, pundits, and gurus are focused on social media — oops, I mean social business — and big data.

Writing on the topic of social business, one guru recently wrote:

Companies of all sizes will need to transform their business and existing infrastructure, and reverse engineer the impact of business objectives and metrics. Businesses will have to embrace all of the disruptive elements, such as mobile and social technology, in a new, cohesive organization that is focused outward and inward.

My take: What a load of nonsense. Reverse engineer the impact of business and metrics? What the hell does that mean?

Writing about big data, the same guru said:

Companies will need to centralize BI to feed every aspect of the business – marketing, product, innovation and customer service. Only then will BI help companies transform themselves into true social businesses.

My take: Demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics of organizational structure. Centralizing BI to feed “every” aspect of the business is a prescription for failure as very few — if any — organizations have the resources to do this, let alone the ability to prioritize the competing demands of those functions. Nothing will stifle the innovative use of analytics and data like centralizing BI.

For my money, Esteban Kolsky said it best:

Big Data is nothing new. We have had tons of data to manage for very long times. If you really think it through, the problem is not Big Data. The greater challenge to organizations is not how to manage Big Data, rather how to separate data from noise and just handle data and discard noise. You don’t need a new analytics strategy, you need a new filtering strategy.

Despite  all the predictions and advice around social business and big data, there are two areas that get short shrift in the press and blogosphere. While there are certainly other imperatives for marketers in 2012, these two are getting overlooked:

1. Customer Advocacy. No, no, no, no. I do NOT mean “having your customers advocate on your behalf.” I mean “being perceived as doing what’s right for your customers and not just your own bottom line.”

For years, I’ve been fighting a losing battle to have marketers view customer advocacy my way. It started with research I did in 2004 where I found that bank (and credit union) customers who rated their FI highly as doing what’s right for their customers and not just their own bottom line were more loyal to their FI, more likely to recommend their FI, and more likely to grow their relationship with their FI than other customers. Customer advocacy isn’t some airy-fairy concept. It’s comprised of:

  • Simplicity. Firms that simplify their customers’ lives — as opposed to making things more complicated than they need to be — are viewed as customer advocates.
  • Benevolence. Firms that are seen as always on their customers’ side for problems and concerns and that are willing and able to assist customers get high marks for benevolence.
  • Trust. Doing what’s right, even if not regulated; Always honoring promises; and Going out of the way to protect customers’ privacy.
  • Transparency. Transparent firms show fair rate and performance comparisons and make their rates and fees crystal clear.

When I first started talking about this in 2004, many banks dismissed the idea. And why not? They were making money hand over fist, why should they care. But in 2012, the situation is very different. Banks are struggling to grow. There’s something else that’s different today: Popular sentiment.

Have you listened to an Obama speech lately? Every other word out of this mouth is “fair” — calls for more “fairness” in just about everything. Why does he do this? No, not because he cares about fairness, but because he knows that it resonates.

Most of us have grown up hearing “life’s not fair.” Maybe. But we will live in a point of time where people are saying: “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Companies that are viewed as Customer Advocates are viewed as being “fair.” And this is critical, because firms that aren’t viewed as advocates, or as “fair” can’t get away with raising prices or levying fees.

Reading the popular press, you would think that credit unions didn’t charge any fees for anything. That’s not true, of course. But because credit unions are seen — on the whole — as customer (member) advocates, they’re not vilified like the banks (particularly the large ones) who don’t enjoy those perceptions on the part of their customers.

There are a number of things that bank marketers can do to improve their customer advocacy scores in 2012. Going into those details is outside the scope of this post, though.

2. Political Tightroping. Like it or not, this is a very polarized time in our history. Maybe not more so in the past, but it sure seems like it to me. Unfortunately for marketers, they can’t afford to be on the “wrong” side of the fence.

When Donald Trump was in the news for considering a presidency run, firms that advertised on his show were badmouthed and boycotted. More recently, there was an attempt (that was met with at least some success) to get GoDaddy customers to leave the firm because of their support for the proposed SOPA regulations.

Marketers have to be extremely careful in 2012 who their firm supports in political races and which proposed policies and regulations they support or oppose.

This notion of “tightroping” goes beyond politics. Marketers need to re-evaluate who they use as spokespeople, in order to avoid embarrassing situations like having idiots like Alec Baldwin bite the hands that feed them.


Social business is just another in a long line of aspirational ideas (re-engineered business, knowledge-based business, digital business). Big Data, as Esteban Kolsky says, is nothing new, and isn’t the problem.

Marketers would be better served to focus on customer advocacy and political tightroping in 2012.

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