Marketing & More: A tête-à-tête with Rod Brooks [PART 3]
If you’re just arriving at these Rod Brooks interviews, you’ll want to catch up on Part One.
Having won 18 IMCA awards, PEMCO proves it fosters customer relationships and engagement both online and offline. Customers now talk all around the marketing world – with or without permission, on social networking sites etc, helping turn recommendations into actual purchases, or turn potential customers away via bad reviews. I asked Rod how a company must filter that feedback to use it positively, and what type of role Marketing played here.
Rod likes the fact that some of the modern day tools are able to aggregate data to produce insights like common themes, assess the sentiment, frequency, etc. But he also acknowledges that some of those are expensive for a smaller company like PEMCO. The role of Marketing in general, according to Rod, has changed. Back in the day it used to be awareness, perception, and consideration. If the customer had three solutions as options and if I (product/service) was one of them, marketing did their job, and sales took over moving that lead forward. But today Marketing is in play when a customer purchases an item for the 1st time, and also during the time they haven’t renewed their commitment/contract.
Marketing is now done through the sales cycle, starting with the initial purchase and also to reinforce that customer decision at every touch point so the customer becomes comfortable about renewing. It doesn’t end here, saying he was now getting to the second part of my question with:
Being able to create advocates of your brand is the new frontier. Advocates not only like you, they know you, they love you, and they will defend you, even if you’re not in the room. The room is big, it’s the internet.
Rod then explained how the role and scope of work is changing further, when 8-10 years ago marketers went – When do the customers renew enough that they’re willing to recommend it to a friend or family member? At that point lights went on all over the spectrum and Word of mouth/Loyalty/Referral based growth started becoming buzzwords. So the big challenge for Rod now, is to be able to answer this question at any moment in time– If you’re getting people to refer, where do the advocates live? Is it the internet, I asked? Only some of them, he said, giving me these figures:
Approximately 93% of all brand stories, brand conversations happen face to face, 25% happen online, and 45% happen over phone. If conversation is assumed as being only digital, we are probably going to miss big opportunities.
Surprised? I was too. The numbers are changing, he said, but digitizing the world does not mean the opportunities exist just online. According to Rod’s experience, there must be concerted marketing efforts to know your talkers, and when you (marketing) know them, give them something to talk about (your story), and third, make it easy to share. I think it’s easy to see why the Facebook ‘Like’ button (one of Marketing’s greatest inventions as Rod puts it), introduced only two years ago, has such unprecedented reach.
Given the new opportunities/challenges that marketing as a business function now has, I then wondered how the role of a CMO is going to change. To this, Rod explained how content had changed from being company-driven to become customer-driven and that the more a company speak about itself, the more likely it is to fall on deaf ears. The new age mantra for the CMO is to earn the goodwill of the customer through good service. Rod feels you can sometimes touch customers with what they need, sometimes fill a short term gap, but service is how you touch people where they feel, and service remains long after prices are forgotten. I concur, and I always felt customer service is not just a business unit, it’s a mindset or a philosophy. Rod recalls what he’d heard in the recent past:
I’ve heard it being said that this could be the decade of the CMO. The biggest impact on a business, a culture, economic success in the market will depend on how the CMO moves marketing into rest of the company.
When it comes to understanding customer service, Rod believes that Marketing has to learn, the Brand has to learn, and they have to make their learning a gift to the rest of the organization. According to him social engagement movement is an all-in strategy and everyone in the company has to embrace the concept. I experienced it first-hand at PEMCO when I met with Rod, Jill Mansfield (EA to Rod) and the receptionist at the PEMCO office, how they dealt with a lady customer who came in looking austere but left the office peachy!
In the interest of time I had available, I had the option to ask Rod another Marketing related question, instead I found myself more interested in listening to his business philosophies. So I asked Rod for his input on how someone would market a product they did not necessarily approve of. It’s a job ultimately but how does a marketer avoid going on a guilt trip? To this, Rod advised never to compromise on personal values to work for a company. But if there was no conflict of values, and if the marketer didn’t really hate the company, Rod said they might as well spend time at the company to master some skills, and then go find the organization they’re passionate about. But in this meantime, they may just fall in love with the existing company/product – just as Rod did. Yes, true story! Rod didn’t want to work at PEMCO until a moment of epiphany/learning experience presented itself and a great thought occurred to him- PEMCO helps protect people’s dreams, and this got him all excited to do all the great work, as he excitedly told me.
My last question to Rod was for any advice he’d offer to budding marketers with a Bachelors degree in Communications (or Marketing-related field) or an MBA. Rod explained how, with time, society had been changing the minimum requirements for a safe future. While a person having passed 6th grade was considered employable 60 years ago, bachelor degrees are the norm today. Youngsters of tomorrow, Rod said, will be better served getting real world experience, or an advanced degree (like masters, or MBA) after a couple of years of experience.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Rod’s journey and his thoughts on marketing as much as I did. Please feel free to leave comments/feedback for me.
- End of interview -