October 11

The customer is always right?

You know the old adage “the customer is always right”… right? Wrong!

Worst still is if the customer thinks he is always right.. or is treated as if he is always right. Right? Right.

You see, so many customers and suppliers (and I too sometimes find myself in customer mode and at other times in supplier mode)  fail to value their relationship enough.  It is one of convenience.  I thankfully have clients who appreciate they don’t know it all. They also appreciate the fact that I don’t know it all. They know this because I tell them… and because sometimes its obvious.  But like in all relationships there is give and take, more experience in a certain area on one side and more experience on another. The point is that our business relationship is improved and optimised by the fact that both parties bring their expertise to the table and work together to reach consensus… a road map. There is trust.

Therein lies success.  The antithesis to this success? The kowtowing to the customer which leads to a dismantling of commitment, vision, creativity and proactivity within the supplier agency. Something which starts at the top and rots away at an agency and those who work on the account. It gets to a point where account managers daren’t move… and trust me… they make the day to day decisions on your account.  Not the boss!

If you recognise a lack of these things in your business relationship question its structure. Are you too dominant? Or does your supplier force this upon you and hide behind it (much safer that way isn’t it?).

I have always thought that a good litmus test is to observe whether your agency head would take your side or the side of their own account manager working on your account (this obviously doesn’t include sexual flirting with you partner on IM, selling your trade secrets to competitiors or bad body odour).  If they always take your side then you need to question how committed they are to a mutually respectful relationship.  How much they value the staff they put on your account (today and in the past). How committed are they in ensuring an environment of vision, creativity and proactivity around your account?

Next time demand from your agency that you are treated as if you’re not always right. Right? Right.



A vet or doctor? A builder or architect?

There are lots of SME business owners and marketing heads out there who know their limitations when it comes to the development of an online marketing strategy. I think it’s good to know your limitations… although you should be careful it doesn’t lead to inertia and paralysis through fear of the unknown.

There is also a larger number who brazen it out, especially marketing heads from an offline or PR background who believe that:

1. Simply applying old world tried and tested principles to new world methods is enough.
2. They should continue in an offline bubble, hoping the nasty online stuff remains a fad. “When PR became mainstream everybody got really excited, but it soon settled into the mix”. The same will happen with digital.
3. The burden of responsibility (most often self-inflicted) to know everything in my field (every aspect of my business or every aspect of my marketing discipline) is such that I’ll make it up as I go along, or transform my image into a converted digital guru.

I was reading an article recently about the struggle in parts of Africa against HIV Aids and how the situation is exacerbated by ignorance, a lack or willingness to understand and a lack of organised and effective education. I don’t mean to flippantly relate my point to a world killer, but the article went on to discuss how some sufferers seek the “help” of witch doctors, others from vets, and the better informed/luckier from qualified doctors and nurses. Obviously witch doctors are at worse charlatans, and at best misguided in their own belief system. They peddle ignorance. Vets, although in a directly related industry, are just not qualified for the job. I think most of us, given the choice, would opt for the qualified doctor or nurse.

Let me develop another analogy to further tunnel down and dissect the difference between a doctor and a nurse (although I’m sure we all know what we’d prefer). The point I would like to make though is that they are qualified in the same area but in different disciplines. They have different functions and do different jobs.

I’ve never been lucky (or unlucky) enough to build my own house, but I know there are a number of options open to me.

1. Build one yourself. Just think of the challenge of a whole new expertise and trade. The experience and expertise of professionals crammed into 6 months. 2 years. 5 years. Hmm…
2. Get your neighbour’s nephew to build you one. “He’s good at that sort of thing” (if it wasn’t so pathetic it would be laughable). Even if his only qualification is that he knows more than you it is surely a good start. Hmm…
3. Get a builder. The builder will do the job for you and he’ll make a decent job. He wont have developed a strategy (thats not his job – he builds). It won’t have been properly planned, the lay out won’t be to your complete satisfaction and it might not get approval, buy you can make do. Right? Hmm…
4. Hire an architect and do the job properly. There will be a strategy and plan in place. He can advise on best practice, cost effectiveness and who is needed to do the job properly. He will also ensure legal compliance. Jobs a good ‘un!

When approaching the whole online thing (and we’re not just talking websites), what kind of business professional do you wish to be? Who should you be approaching?

If I needed medical attention I would go to a qualified doctor. If I wanted a house building I would go to an architect. If i wanted to know how I should approach digital, and what I should do to ensure an ROI on my investment, I would go to genuine online specialists who deal with digital strategies.