Marketing, Defined

April 3, 2008 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

Q: CIM’s definition of marketing is that “marketing is to satisfy customers requirement”.  What is your view on this definition, using a governmental agency as an example?

A: Sadly, (and this is our cynical side talking) we don’t believe that many governmental agencies think that they NEED to satisfy their customers. Therefore, this question from you is a breath of fresh air!

For other readers’ edification, the question refers to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) 1976 definition of “Marketing”: Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.

In 2007, CIM offered a new definition of marketing to be considered by the marketing community: “The strategic business function that creates value by stimulating, facilitating and fulfilling customer demand. It does this by building brands, foreseeing market behaviour long term, nurturing innovation, developing relationships, creating good customer service and communicating benefits. By operating customer-centrically, marketing brings positive return on investment, satisfies shareholders and stakeholders from business and the community, and contributes to positive behavioural change and a sustainable business future.”

So, how can governmental agencies adhere to this philosophy of bringing value to the customer? In a nutshell, for most governmental agencies, I think it’s as simple as remembering who is responsible for their paychecks.

Start with a basic concept like being respectful and professional. There is no reason for terminal wait times when you call your gas or electric utility. Then, when you do get a live human, they’re usually not empowered to help you. Or, think about those nice visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles where you are treated like a criminial, just because you need to renew your drivers license…

So, a very good first step would be to evaluate the level of customer service. Are customers treated like customers, instead of like problems, when they contact you?

Second, make sure that your service competes effectively with non-governmental agencies. An example that comes to my mind, here in the US, is the Postal Service. Believe it or not, they are starting to realize that they are competing with UPS, Federal Express and other delivery services. Over the last 10 years, I’ve definitely seen a change in attitude and I’ve even seen some innovative products (such as stamps on demand–printing postage from your own computer). Now, of course, the USPS definitely is NOT perfect, but they are starting to think more about their competitive position, and that’s a good thing for consumers.

Third, any governmental agency needs to ensure that it is communicating well with its customers. Do your customers understand, for example, how committed you might be to certain charitable organizations? Do they know that you are working with diverse/minority vendors? Are they aware of the environmental (i.e.: recycling, etc) actions your agency is committed to? Do your customers know the type of measures you take to save them money? Think about the good things that your agency does and then remember to communicate these good deeds to your customers. This goes a long way towards building their loyalty and good will.

Overall, the key concept to constantly harken back to is the idea of thinking of the customer first. Treat your customer like you’d like to be treated. And, that’s true for any business, be it a governmental agency or a more traditional for-profit firm.

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