Complex Collapse

Bank of America really doesn’t want to make money. Well, that’s not true, but their technology seems to be designed to chase customers away. I say this after having sent error pages and bug reports to several people in the BofA mortgage division. During a second attempt at refinancing an investment property (the first attempt bombed due to internal, human process malfunctions at BofA) I was stopped by their technology for sending me email. Yes, email. BofA has implemented a byzantine email apparatus, seemingly invented by Rube Goldberg, for sending messages to loan applicants. The system: … Continue reading

Needy Wants

Giving a customer what they want can be a bad thing. Long ago, I was on both the product management and product marketing side of some new technology. We had a few early adopter customers. One in particular was very engaged, right down to near daily communing with our software architect. Like all customers, he had a wish list of features and functions he wanted the product to sprout. Unlike most customers, he had money to spend. I had to turn down a lot of his feature requests, sponsored or not. There is a difference between what customers want and what they need. There is even a difference between what one customer needs and what every customer needs. Creating products based on wants becomes a stress-inducing cycle of unicorn hunting that never works. While trying desperately to create the perfect product for one or two customers, typically for the sake … Continue reading

Changing Markets

Start-up CEOs constantly talk about managing growth, but rarely about managing change (growth being only one type of change). It happens a thousand times faster in technology markets. Marketing must monitor markets, and identify changes early on (though the better approach is to keep reinventing the market yourself and driving your competitors nuts in the process). Here are a few things to watch, some of which you likely are not. Competitors and partners Competitors never sleep, and are trying to reinvent themselves, market expectations and the shape of the known universe. Monitoring what they do as well as what they say is important. What they do exposes areas of the market they think are of growing or shrinking importance, and this needs to be folded into your positioning planning. What they say reveals … Continue reading

Keiretsu Whole Products

An auto insurance company can make you feel loved. A recent event caused me to interact with my insurance company (Geico) to have some minor repair work performed. Geico does many things right, from well architected web site that deliver simple yet effective customer support, to claims agents who are fast and efficient, to non-offensive lizard spokesanimals. One element of their success is delivering a whole product on the ground by forming keiretsus with other companies. In this instance, I arrived at the designated body shop knowing that Geico had set my appointment and arranged for a free rental car. What I discovered is that Geico identifies service providers and helps to manage their cooperation for Geico customers. Body shop are selected to assure great service and quality work and the car rental company (in this case Enterprise) is selected for the same reasons. Enterprise is given a desk at … Continue reading

Operational Marketing

Brand Delivery Fail

Lying on the floor while talking to my insurance company shows why marketing must be involved with operations. In the past week I did business with a bedding retailer, which indirectly led to filing an insurance claim on my car. The bedding company’s operations were a disaster – they got precisely 0% of our order correct, causing my wife and I to camp on surplus mattresses placed on the bedroom floor, checking The Sleep Guide’s mattress protectors tips. Their late-arriving truck hogged the street, causing a passing vehicle to clip my side-view mirror. Unlike the bedding retailer, the insurance company (Geico) executed perfectly, from a well-designed web claims form to nearly instant claims analysis, body shop appointments rental car reservations and more. The contrast is stark. The bedding company experience after the sale (and to a lesser degree, during the sale) was a study in manufacturing customer frustration. The salesmen … Continue reading

Marketing Fail

Marketing jobs have the shelf life of milk. In the tech industry, marketing people move around a lot. Unlike code cutters, their skills can be well used up to the limits of their experience, then they see little incremental improvement from their activities. Seeing the end of a good run, they look for other companies – smaller in size, with new products, or just something exciting. Other times they get fired. Marketing can fail. What confounds many in management is which part of marketing failed and why. Marketing is both strategy and execution, and are typically carried-out by different people or teams. When sales are slow, management wants to know why and occasionally even marketing cannot (or will not) clearly identify what is not working. Obfuscating marketing malfunctions has become more difficult in the digital age because we can measure what is and is not succeeding, at least at the … Continue reading

Behaving

My favorite stolen line is that you should never allow customers to engage in unsupervised thinking. As marketers, we are tasked with encouraging specific customer behaviors. Some of these behaviors are rationally based, such as buying software with a known minimal return on investment. Others are completely emotional, such as Volvo suggesting that you are less likely to die a violent automotive death in their cars. Each is designed to get customers to take a specific action, and in complex business-to-business (B2B) sales, this may be a long series of tiny behaviors involving many stakeholders. Unsupervised customers behave as well as unsupervised children. Amazon is in the retail business, not the technology business (that is if you ignore their Elastic Compute Cloud offering). Thus they encourage consumer buying habits. One consumer behavior they need to control is to not allow customers to shop elsewhere – putting Amazon products in customer … Continue reading