The “Small m” of Marketing

A manufacturer’s recall notice and a trip, make that several trips, to the dealership has me thinking about the need to transform employees into brand ambassadors.  It started the day our car went into the shop.  Although we had a scheduled appointment the service advisor told us our car might be in the shop a few days.  He told us there were many vehicles ahead of ours because of multiple recall notices.  Think about that for a moment.  Even if true, is that how a frontline employee should engage with customers?

In the world of marketing there is the Big M of marketing and the “small m.”  The formal process of communicating the value of an organization’s product or service is marketing with a capital M.  What I call the small m is the myriad of little things that “fill in the gaps” between formal marketing activities.  When done well the customer experience is very positive.  But when things fall through the cracks, opportunities are missed and customers can be left with a negative impressions.

After several days in the shop we received a call that our car was ready.  We returned to the dealership happy to have the car back in time for a short weekend trip.  Unfortunately we never got out of the parking lot before realizing the problem still wasn’t fixed.  We spoke again with the service advisor who apologized and offered to make things right.  He also offered us a loaner car to use until ours was repaired.

While our car was in the shop, the dealership’s sales department reached out to us about buying back our car and upgrading to a higher model.  Our car is nearly paid for and it’s in the dealer’s interest to keep the monthly payments coming.  So back at the shop, I’m expecting the service advisor to put us in a great ride for the weekend.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, we were offered a base model – opportunity missed.

Each time customers interact with frontline employees it puts to the test the work done by marketing, PR, and external communications.  But it’s not just frontline employees who are often seen as the “face” of an organization.  The work done by behind-the-scenes employees has the potential to make a customer feel more or less engaged with the company.  The same hold true for “virtual face” of an organization, the online presence that for many organizations is their only connection with customers.

So how can organizations maximize these customer interactions and win in the marketplace?  Organizations need everyone engaged in delivering the brand promise, whether it be face-to-face or through a virtual connection.  To make this work, managers need to be trained and empowered to do what is right for the customer – and for the company’s brand.

Five Steps to Building Effective Brand Ambassadors

1) Sharpen Marketing Message:  Corporate Marketing (Big M) should develop messaging for both managers and frontline employees.  This should include not only key marketing messages, but also the freedoms employees have to independently improve the customer experience.

2) Internal Marketing Communication:  Corporate Marketing must work closely with Employee Communications to keep key marketing messages and initiatives in front of all employees.  Including details of how individual employees, or groups of employees, played a part in major marketing activities is important in helping others model similar behavior.

3) Train and Empower Managers:  First line managers need to be trained in how employees can tailor the corporate message to ways appropriate to their team’s customer engagements.  The message won’t be different, but how the interaction occurs will depend on how the contact happens.  Each department will have different opportunities to improve the customer experience, a responsibility best handled by a manager closest to that engagement.

4) Train and Empower Employees:  Managers need to identify ways their employees can improve the customer experience.  Then, staff needs to be trained in how best to communicate the brand message and the range of authority individual employees have in helping create a positive experience for the customer.

5) Reward and Motivate:  When employees contribute to an improved customer experience it should be celebrated.  Employee Communications is a great channel for sharing success stories and motivating others to embrace the role of brand ambassador.

This process is about living out an organization’s core values and modeling the brand promise.  A great example is the Disney Company, masters of the customer experience.  Visitors to their theme parks are treated as if they are the most important person there.  From online engagement, to the parking lot, ticket gate, refreshment stand, to the closing fireworks, employees understand their role is to make or exceed expectations.  That’s what makes for a great customer experience.

Embrace the small m of marketing and empower your employees as true brand ambassadors.  Capture some of that Disney magic and get the most out of every employee-customer encounter.


2 comments so far

  1. trudythomson on

    Nice article. Well stated. Funny I just got back from a great travel adventure to eastern Europe and in one of the hotels we were trapped in an elevator for an hour and a half. The staff had no idea how to open the elevator. They called a technician who had no idea how to. It finally opened when the tour director (who had been a civil engineer in a past life) and my partner Ed managed to figure out some special button to push. We were stuck between floors and I had to jump down to a table. They could not find a ladder! I was fuming and did not fail to express myself. I belted out my opinion and did tell the agency to tell the manager of the hotel he needs a big fat notebook with various tabs about “how to get your clients in and out of the right and wrong places”. As you put it, the small “m” stood for miserable in this particular case!! I am not mean enough to name the hotel, but I am likely to hunt down the name of the manager and whip out a detailed complaint in an email so others are not subjected to poor scary service!

    • Tom Morse on

      Thanks for reading the postTrudy, and sorry about your bad experience. The saddest part of our dealer engagement is I only told 1/2 the story. While they had our car for a week, their Customer Service group called four evening to ask how our car was doing and if we were satisfied with the work done by the repair shop. They lacked a closed loop system where all customer contact employees are aware of the current status of an individual customer. To top it off, while the car was in the shop we received a 4th manufacturer’s recall notice. You can guess what Lynn and I are planning to do this weekend. 🙂 Hope you are well. Have a nice weekend.

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