Hint: it's all about engaging with customers.

by Yvonne Nassar | July 02, 2012 | (0)

Marketing often sounds a bit vague, though it’s pretty much common sense. Nothing fancy. It’s all about the customer, and in our industry, it’s often the person in front of you. They’re the starting point—then it’s about us. What difference we can make for them? What are their challenges we can help to overcome?

Though it’s not rocket science, there are still marketeers in our industry that are not stepping up and doing it. Marketeers that make their companies sell features instead of benefits or make their internal process king instead of the customers’ needs. Even worse, marketeers that are not involved at all in their company’s proposition and think they are on Earth to create ads and sales materials.

Groundbreaking marketeers in the meeting and hospitality industry know they can make a difference. They take a stand with their company. They learn from each other and from marketeers outside their industry, benchmark with the best, share knowledge and listen to customers and colleagues with customer contact. They know how to start a dialogue—online and offline. They dare to bring up challenges and solve them, for their customers’ sake. They know how to focus.

An example of groundbreaking marketing is citizenM, the affordable, luxury lifestyle hotel brand. It’s a new breed of hotels in Amsterdam, Glasgow, London and coming soon to New York, Paris and other major cities. They push the boundaries of what a customer would expect in an economy hotel room and focus on the mobile citizens of the world. Their customer engagement is based around connecting with customers online and, through their employees called ambassadors, on the spot. Storytelling is used throughout their marketing approach: to share experiences between guests. A small marketing team with a strong vision.

In this ongoing column, I’ll share insights about marketing and the future of events, best practices that catch my eye and things I learned along the way as an international marketeer. To start off, here a few basic marketing skills.

Great Dialogue

There’s a lot of sending information, rather then two-way communication, in marketing land. Through a great dialogue there’s mutual influence. Asking open questions is key. Social media gives wonderful opportunities for entering in a dialogue with potential customers or other stakeholders. Primary blocks to dialogue include passivity, discounting (i.e., when people say something to disrespect or put down another person or themselves), redefinition (i.e., not answering a question) and over-detailing, according to George Kohlrieser, professor of leadership and organizational behavior for the International Institute for Management Development.

The Art of Listening

Sincere listening often means you learn something new. Through research, in a conversation or via an online dialogue, these are just a few examples of how we can start listening to customers. It’s about asking the right questions and looking at things from their perspective. Find out what makes them tick. Sometimes people don’t exactly know what they want—rather, they know what they don’t want. If your product or service helps to solve your customer’s challenge, this is where you truly add value. Questions such as “What worries you when organizing a meeting?” or “What was your biggest challenge the last time you booked a hotel?” can help you identify your customers’ true needs.

Your Choices

“Being everything to everyone, you’ll be nothing to no one”—a famous marketing quote about making choices. Your company can get top of mind if you are clear about your offer and what you stand for. It lets your company focus in terms of resources. It makes it easier for customers to find and choose you (or not). This is about knowing to whom your proposition is relevant.

A company can’t be successful without knowing their own strengths and brutal facts. Translating core values to marketing action is important, too. This helps to bring them alive, beyond just a few words in the boardroom. Then there is the “why” question. Why does your company exist and do what it does? That’s where you can really build the bridge between your company’s core competences and your customers’ needs. After reading Simon Sinek’s golden circle concept about how great leaders inspire action, I even feel the No. 1 MBA question “so what” should be changed into “so why.”

To all marketeers who strive to be groundbreaking: step up, start engaging with customers and take your role within your organization. For the sake of your customers, your company and yourself. I invite you to send me your feedback, ideas or success stories. One+

Yvonne Nassar
Yvonne Nassar is head of marketing & innovation at Amsterdam RAI, the international convention centre in The Netherlands. Based in the U.K. and Paris for several years, she was responsible for marketing and PR in Europe for Dolce Hotels & Resorts. Email Yvonne at y.nassar@rai.nl, and follow her on Twitter @yvonnenassar.
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