Marketing Differentiation-It’s Really The People
We define marketing as the (money making) activity between the customer and an organization’s assets. It is important to understand what those assets are; and many make the mistake of including only factories and money. While “labor” has always been an asset, today when “knowledge” is an increasingly important asset, “people” and what they know “how to do” is perhaps the most important asset.
Don’t ask your accountant to show you the value of your people on the balance sheet, they don’t know. Don’t ask him or her to give you a place on your financial statements for the important knowledge your people have, they don’t know how to deal with it!
Our typical accounting systems only track money (and what long-term “assets” it can buy.) They don’t track the heart and soul of most businesses-the people. I could go rambling on about the missing information that financial statements present to business owners, concerning all of your “assets”, but our focus here is to discuss the role of the people part of marketing assets.
Because customers are really people making buying decisions, it is no surprise that businesses must respond to them in a personal way with all the subtleties that entails. These subtleties range from careful voice intonations, to no personal contact at all. The wide range of customer expectations requires a similarly wide response. Precisely because this relationship is the make or break part of the transaction, it is, in fact, the most important part of the marketing equation. The accounting department, finance department and your bankers just don’t know how to measure this!
But to be fair, most marketers don’t either. They focus on the customer but can forget to focus on those who care for the customer, the employee.
Employee knowledge, training and intellect make up the corporate know-how. In marketing a product or service, with heavy competitive pressure and similar pricing, sometimes corporate know-how is all marketing strategists have to differentiate companies.
Today employee know-how is the competitive advantage! Competitors can match your computers, your phone system, your database software, and your production equipment. In fact, there is only one thing they cannot match, your people advantage.
So why don’t accountants care about including them in the balance sheet? Why don’t owners and executives pay more attention to the human assets?
Because we are people. And people are difficult to measure and appreciate.
But there are those who can help measure people, based on validated human assessments in the workplace. “Fifth generation” assessment tools give trained organizational psychologists and certified professionals, the ability to look beyond the interview or performance records, into the reasons people react to certain situations or other people the way they do. “People usually carry with them history and personal momentum” according to my colleague Richard S. Trafton, Ph.D. “Many personal characteristics, translate into predictable workplace reactions.”
“Most people have a natural comfort zone that encompasses their usual reactions to most people and situations.” People have the capacity to work outside their comfort zone for a while. But, this requires effort and resources. The more a person stretches outside this comfort zone, and the longer he or she stays there, the more stress and tension is created. Eventually, we have to move back into this comfort zone. That is, we go back to doing what we usually do. Asking someone to work (behave) outside his or her comfort zone is akin to holding one’s arms straight out from the shoulder. It’s not that hard at first. But, the longer one does it, the more effort and concentration required to maintain this posture. Eventually, all of one’s energy and attention are required until eventually, and certainly, the arms go back to their normal position.
So when a person who is naturally detail oriented, and needs quiet to complete intense work, is disturbed by the sales team walking through her space, she can deal with it occasionally. But when the new open-office space plan puts the sales people in the same workspace, the tolerance will eventually erode, or her performance will diminish.
This is a simple example for illustration; but high level assessments are able to capture complex and varied human characteristics and traits that can lead to a wide variety of performance increases, customer service enhancements, economical pay raises based on performance, and better working communications between different types of people.
Fitting your people to the jobs that are necessary creates a team that plays more like a precision football play. Eleven John Elway’s wouldn’t win the superbowl; Elway would make a lousy pro lineman, not because he didn’t have the desire, but because he didn’t have the body. “Making Elway a lineman” is just what most employers do to some employees, rendering them totally ineffective at that particular job. Each part of your team has to play the right position.
We often see a system where performance is rewarded by a new supervisory position. That is similar to starting everyone as a football center and moving them to the backfield and then quarterback as they succeed in each position. No team would win with that approach; but that is exactly what most businesses do.
Putting a good market research person in the customer service chair may help him with his understanding of the problem; but many detail oriented statisticians would not be able to keep up the smile for long with customers. The skill and great attitude of the customer service rep, does not mean that they would be able to calculate a standard deviation.
Placing people in the wrong job, will cause them to under-perform or leave. And, your customers will notice the difference.
Today’s shortage of good people means that bad employers will lose the good employees. In small and medium sized businesses, as they grow, entrepreneurs who are well suited to build a new growing company, may find themselves working outside their comfort zone. When they migrate back to their comfort zone, as they invariably must, they snap at employees, make poor decisions and communicate ineffectively.
The owner and employee relationship has never been as much as a two-way street as it is today. Owners who say they can’t get good employees may not realize there are reasons other than money! But professionals like Dr. Trafton can assess the owners and their strengths and weaknesses, too. Sometimes the way a directive is said, is the difference between performance and non-performance. Managers need to understand when and how to communicate with specific personality and job types.
Marketing is about pleasing buyers. Only people can do this, if they are suited for the job, the job of marketing is served best.
Ron Burgess is President of Burgess Management Consulting. The firm specializes in Customer Relationship Marketing and marketing technology implementation. He can be reached at 909-798-5737 or www.burgessmangement.com.