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The Web, The Answer To All Our Customers’ Prayers!

by David Brock on May 17th, 2012

Let’s face it, customers really hate us.  They will tolerate our marketing content—as long as it isn’t too promotional—just the facts please.  Sales people, well that’s another story, we’re really a total waste of their time, unless the are looking for lunch or a golf game.  With the exception of the lunch and golf game, the web now can solve virtually all our customer problems.  Customers can find peers, other people who have the same interests, concerns, problems.  “Trusted sources,” that can provide much” higher quality information and insight” about vendor products than the we can.  Our role as suppliers is now to sit politely by the phone, wait for it to ring, then answer any remaining specific questions the customer may have, process their order (if we are fortunate enough to be the supplier selected), smile and thank them for their business.

Our buyers are so fortunate.  We know all that information is totally accurate.  We know those users or people who have experience know everything there is to know about our products and services, and how they apply specifically to the problems other companies have.  We know these are totally without agenda (or even being compensated).

We also know that our customers know exactly what they are looking for.  We know they have all the right questions and just need answers.  We know they know how to solve their problems, so they are just looking for data and information.  We know they have the time, ability, and judgement to invest in searching the web, engage in conversations with people they have never met, talk about their proprietary information and problems.  Imagine a web based conversation, “Our manufacturing process really sucks, we have too much scrap, bad quality, and poor customer satisfaction and are looking to reduce those problems…in your experience, what are the best solutions to that?”  Or “Our financial systems are a mess, we can’t close our books, we don’t know if we are properly reporting our results, if we are in compliance with government regulations…. what have you done to solve that problem?”

Yes the web is the answer to our customer prayers.  We need to transform our organizations to better serve our customers and to more effectively process those orders.  We need to spend more time encouraging our current customers to spend less time doing their jobs and more time participating in web based forums, maybe we can even provide them some copy they can use in their discussions.  (Perhaps this is the role for all the displaced marketing and sales people).

Frankly, I am getting PISSED OFF with all the apologists for sales and marketing.  I’m angry with all those naive enough to think that marketing and sales can bring no value or insight to our customers and they should be displaced by web based forums.  Finally, I am terrified for our customers who may not even recognize they have a problem or may be so busy just surviving they can’t spend the time solving their problems.

Sure, we deserve much of the criticism that is leveled at marketing and sales.  Every day, we are bombarded with an ever escalating volume of messages, promotional content, and stupid sales pitches.  Too many organizations seem to see the solution to this move to the web is to turn up the volume.  This only serves to piss customers off, rather than turning up the volume, we need to turn up the quality and customer experience.

If we can’t turn up the quality of the customer engagement, if we can turn up the quality of the customer experience, if we cannot offer real insight and value to our customers, then the web is probably the best solution.

But I think too much of our customers to succumb to that.  I think too much of our companies and shareholders to to succumb to this.  I think too much of the value we as sales and marketing professionals can offer to succumb to that.  We have to change and we are changing.  We have a huge amount to offer to our customer and can create real value.  We can provide our customers insight they can’t get anywhere else.  We walk the halls, visit the plants, talk to lots of people in our customers.  We see new possibilities, we see opportunities to help them grow and improve.  We can offer help and advice, we can create real meaning in helping them outPerform their competitors and better serving their customers.

If we aren’t prepared to change, we deserve what we get — but that’s always been true, the web hasn’t changed any of that.

Let’s stop apologizing for our professions, let’s not abandon our responsibilities to our customers, our companies, and ourselves to create great value.  It’s not time to give up, it’s time to get more aggressive in the changes we have to make in ourselves and how we engage our customers.

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