Monday, February 06, 2006

Worth another look: Marketing Malpractice

A while back, I mentioned an article from the Harvard Business Review by authors Clayton M. Christensen, Scott Cook and Taddy Hall called, "Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure." The authors' basic premise is that marketing should center around the job consumers want done for them, rather than the consumers themselves. I've had a chance to read the article in its entirety and am convinced that the ideas presented are worthwhile for marketing libraries. I'm so excited by the possibilities the authors discuss that I'm giving the article a second look in this post, but hope to continue to explore this different way of thinking about marketing. Here are some of the ideas from the piece that I'm taking away with me and why I'm enthusiastic about this approach:

  • Marketing by the job would mean that the center of the marketing mix would be a particular service, rather than a particular target market. Therefore, all marketing efforts should seek to better understand what it is that people want to get done, instead of the demographics of our patrons, etc. However, it appears that we would still have to have a good understanding of our patrons and their behaviors so that we can fully understand, as the authors propose, the social, functional and emotional dimensions the job is needed to fulfill. Doing so means radically rethinking how we go about segmenting markets and how we approach market research. As the authors simply state, "Turn off the computer, get out of the office, and observe."
  • The authors argue that people hire products/services NOT organizations. I like this way of thinking because it prompts us to continually examine the value of our services, rather than rest on the status quo. This line of thinking calls into question those who believe the library should continue to exist just because it has in the past. Instead, we need to prove our value daily by helping people get jobs done.
  • According to the article, brand equity (the value of a brand in the minds of consumers) is built when consumers find a product that does the job and talk about it with others. Brand equity is not built by advertising! As the authors assert in one example that, "Advertising clarified the nature of the job and helped more people realize that they had the job to do...The fact is that most great brands were built before their owners started advertising." For me, this is a crucial point. Marketing isn't about newsletters, e-mail lists, or posters, it's about services. In order for the library to build a better brand as has been discussed a lot in library circles these days, we should not be looking at ad campaigns and slogans, but at what services we have to offer and how we can make them better and more relevant.
I hope if you get a chance, you will review this article and come to your own conclusions about its merit for libraries. This is a new way of approaching marketing in that it alters some of the most basic ingredients in the marketing mix and, in my mind, encourages us to focus on the most important marketing goals without getting sidetracked by irrelevant details.


Toby Adams said...

I recently saw the article and read it also. Like you, I agree with what the authors are saying. Too many companies segment customers for their own classification reasons without taking into account what customers need.

I do have two concerns, or thoughts, regarding this article however:
1. Rather than a "new" approach to marketing, what these authors are actually pointing out is that we all need to be going back to "basic" marketing practices. Truly, what they describe IS actually understanding customers, but in the context of how they're thinking about achieving whatever "jobs" they need to get done. In other words there are two dimensions of "understanding" customers: A)Sally Smith needs to needs to find the easiest, most cost efficient way to keep her floors clean; B) Sally Smith is 24-49 with a HHI of at least $60K, is married, and has three kids. Both of these help us understand the consumer. The first tells us about how the consumer is thinking (or "the job") the second tells us how we might reach her. Both are actually needed to be effective marketers.

2. My second concern is that casual readers may conclude that segmentation "is bad" and then blast any efforts marketers make to classify customers demographically, psychographically, etc. That would be a mistake. Segmentation isn't "bad" - it needs to be used in the right way to, again, help us find ways of reaching customers.

Thanks for the opportunity to voice my views.
Toby Adams
TM Advertising

Jill said...

Thanks so much, Toby, for sharing your views on this article. Your insights are very thoughtful. This article did cause me to wonder about what the implications might be for segmentation by demographics, etc. so I appreciate you addressing the value of doing so in the right way. Your points are very well taken and I appreciate you taking the time to comment!