Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do Marketing and Operations Mix?

Over the last 15 years I have been asked, taught, been paid to differentiate, asked in interviews, asked by prospective clients and debated with colleagues about the difference (or sameness) of Sales and Marketing and even Advertising. What do you think it is – or isn’t?

Here’s what I think… it doesn’t matter! However, as a graduate of an esteemed business school, I will state the elitist answer. “Marketing is at the top of the food chain”. How’s that for an academic answer?! Marketing drives the vision from which the advertising flows and the sales occur. There, I said it. Agree or disagree with me – I don’t care! The reason I don’t care is that they are all symbiotic to one another.

And, there is (finally) a discussion going on about whether or not Operations is part of the mix. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have been preaching this for years and I am happy to see others are seeing it as well. The differentiator I always had over others and the reason my campaigns were always successful and produced off the chart results was because I dove, head first, into Operations. I learned everything I could about how things worked, how things got communicated down and/or upstream, how things got executed, how operations people followed (or didn’t follow) directions and I learned and learned and learned well that Operations was the key to ANY of my Marketing being successful. I learned to then design Marketing initiatives that would work with the way Operations worked. And guess what, because I understood the pitfalls, the strengths and the undercurrents in Operations, I designed marketing that was executed as I designed it and it worked. And I monitored like crazy and if there was a blip on the radar, I was right back in Operations looking for the reason and either adjusting my approach or adjusting the process in Operations.

Now, traditionally, Operations folk roll their eyes at Marketing and in many cases, for good reason. Some Marketers sit in an isolation booth and design initiatives that are based on an idea, on data or on a wing and a prayer (c’mon – admit it, Marketers, — you’ve done a “Hail Mary” in your career!!). To the contrary, I broke bread with the Operations people. I did “ride alongs” with hands-on Operations Staff. I asked a lot of questions, learned the tools they had to work with, asked what tools they wished they had and I went to bat for them at Executive Meetings in support of the Operations Group when they asked for better tools to do their jobs. You see, the myth that Operations doesn’t care about the end result or the customer is false. They do care. They get frustrated when bad policy or procedure or bad or outdated tools don’t LET THEM help the customer. Tell me you haven’t been on a customer service call when the agent didn’t apologize for something taking so long, or apologized for having to ask you a bunch of stupid questions before they could help you because it was “policy” or an “outdated system” that they had to work with?

Believe it or not, knowing these things about operations is the key to your marketing success! I’ll give you an example: I am totally into data, data collection and Analytics driving Marketing, but if I design a list of questions to capture the data that I want (not need) at the POS (point of sale), I will catch hell from Operations and from Customers. If whatever I designed as a Call To Action worked and the Customer acted, then I won – end of story. Make the sale process so easy that the Customer gets his/her “good buy feeling” as soon as they can. If I make them wait for that feeling, well, I’m just a buzz kill! Who wants to do that to people? I want their purchase experience to be easy, friendly and FAST. I want the operations people to think my initiatives are EASY and WANT to work on my programs. I want them to feel like happiness heroes after every transaction because they gave that Customer the “good buy feeling”. That makes their job more fun – or at least not a pain in the neck. And, if they are having fun, then they will do a great job, show up to work and create loyal customers – Valhalla!


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