Science vs. Art…or both

I recently spoke to a few members of a Marketing team and although they had great Marketing ideas, they had trouble getting adoption from their Field and Channel Marketing teams. They couldn’t figure out why – great ideas, great team members, great product, great corporate revenue…

As I started asking questions, I quickly realized that they considered Marketing to Field and Channel a science. You do A and B and C will automatically happen. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Marketing to Sales people and Channel partners isn’t a math equation, it’s a lot more than that…I’d say they have half the equation down pat. But, the other half is completely missing and in 2015 it’s a shame to say they are definitely not the only Marketing teams that have this problem.

So what’s the problem? The “art” is missing. Marketing to Sales and Channel partners is also an art. You cannot have a team focused on creating Marketing programs that just push those programs out. You absolutely absolutely absolutely must have a relationship with those folks to whom you are giving the programs. I can’t emphasize this enough!!! You have to understand their goals, what motivates them, get their input and feedback and just know them. Believe it or not, it sounds easier than it really is.

I’ve been at many companies where the Marketing team has no idea who the Sales teams are and couldn’t name four Sales people. Marketing teams where they haven’t spoken to anyone on the Sales or Channel team in months, yet are focused on helping them sell more. Does that make any sense to you? I really hope not!

I don’t care who you are, where you work or what you do for work, if you don’t have a connection with people, your fantastic ideas will fail! It’s that simple! Anyone remember “new Coke“? This example might be a radical one, but you get the point. If you’re goal is help people, talk to them.

Field and Channel Marketing is both a science and an art. Metrics are important but you also have to have a relationship with the stakeholders. Doesn’t matter how fantastic your program is, if you don’t have end user buy in, it’ll flop.


The Granny Lesson

My mom and dad have seven grandchildren. Three live in the US and four live in Ireland. The ones who live in the US live relatively close to my parents so they see each other often. The grandkids in Ireland, however, don’t have the benefit of being with my parents much. But, that hasn’t affected their relationship. The kids Skype with my parents on a weekly basis so that they can see and speak with each other. It’s as good as living down the street.

One of the last times my mom went to Ireland, my youngest nephew, who was three at the time, saw her in the airport and went running up to her and gave her a huge hug. He knew who she was and was thrilled to know that his granny was going to spoil him for the next week or so.

I have channel partners all over the Americas. We email often and have good, productive, email exchanges. However, it’s the phone calls and in person meetings that are the best. We can relate to each other and there’s something about sitting in a room with someone and hearing their voice that changes a relationship. Words written in an email can be taken so many different ways so if you don’t have an established relationship, then words can easily be taken the wrong way. When you sit face to face or hear a voice over the phone, you can get the tone of the voice and can really get a better understanding of what the person with whom you’re speaking, really means.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have built strong relationships with my channel partners over the phone, and of course email, that when we meet face to face, it’s like we’ve know each other for years, understand each other and give each other hugs. (For the record, I don’t suggest hugging people you don’t have a relationship with and if you’re unsure about it. A smile and handshake will work just as well.)

My challenge to you,  get out of the email rut, stop texting, walk over to someone’s desk, pick up the phone or hop on a plane and meet someone face to face. The bond that you build can be as strong as my nephew’s and my mom’s.

Good Example of Closing the Loop – AlaVie Fitness

I got the below email today from the company where I was doing my morning Boot Camp. This is a perfect example of letting the customer know that you’re listening to them and (key word!) doing something about what they’ve said. Kudos AlaVie Fitness.

“Hi Everyone,

The results are in from the AlaVie Fitness survey of all current and past boot campers.

You gave us some fantastic insights about improving our program, and we want to thank you for all of your ideas and suggestions.

You spoke, we listened, and we’re making some big changes to AlaVie Boot Camp based on your feedback:

– Eliminating the 1 week break between camps (to help you keep up your fitness momentum). Starting in August of 2009.
– Making the pre-camp consultations optional (to give you the flexibility to decide when you really need your coach’s guidance). Starting in August of 2009.
– Lowering our prices (to make the Bay Area’s best boot camp more accessible to you). Starting in August of 2009.

For all camps that start after AUGUST 1st – , we’ve published our new AlaVie Boot Camp registration and calendar to reflect new camp dates and prices:

We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for you, so please contact us at or 415-567-7411if you have any questions or concerns.

Remember, this is YOUR fitness community. If you have additional ideas about how to improve AlaVie Boot Camp, please share them with us!

Thank you for making AlaVie part of your fitness journey.”

Knowing that they listen, I bet they’ll get more people willing to give them feedback when they ask. Great job closing the loop boot camp trainers!

Close the Loop with Customers

Have you ever filled out a survey and wondered what happened to your thoughts and opinions once you hit the send button or dropped the survey into the wooden box? More than likely the company did one of two things. 1) they didn’t even read your survey and it ended in the spam folder or the garbage next to the wrapper from lunch or 2) the survey was read and the company made changes based on your feedback and those of other customers, but the changes are unknown to most customers because the results of the survey weren’t publicized.

If there was one thing I learned at last year’s Net Promoter certification class, it was that finding out what your customers think is very important, but it’s absolutely critical that action is then taken. Closing the loop with customers makes all the difference. By closing the loop, I mean getting in touch with customers after they have filled out a survey and thank them for giving you a 10 or asking them what could have been different during their experience. Sounds simple, but few do it.

A few weeks ago I went crazy and decided to join the world of BlackBerry. It has been years since I had one and those were happy years – the ones without the little red flashing light following me where ever I went. When I checked my email later that night I had a short survey from Verizon asking me how my experience was. I don’t remember how many questions the survey was but I do remember it was very short and at the end I had to score my experience on a scale of 0-10. I submitted the online survey and that was it.

Less than a week after I got my BlackBerry, I had a voicemail from Lee. Lee is the manager at my local Verizon store. His voicemail thanked me for working with Paul, the sales associate, and said that he hoped that I was enjoying my pink BlackBerry Curve. He thanked me for filling out the survey and giving my experience a 10. If I had any questions or concerns, I should feel free to call him and then he left his phone number.

Lee did two things that actually shocked me. He called. Yes, it sounds crazy, but after filling out numerous surveys in my 30+ years of life, it’s a very rare occasion to actually have the company follow up. The second thing that was shocking was that I was a person I wasn’t just a customer or some revenue for his strip mall store. He knew the name of my sales rep – whom I know for a fact I didn’t write in my survey – which phone I had and what I had ranked my experience. He was able to personalize his call to me. Rather than just saying “Thanks for filling out the survey” he made the call about me and my experience. I know that when I give my opinion, Verizon will listen.

When you ask for a customer’s opinion, close the loop. Let them know you listened. We all want our opinions to be heard and to know that we’ve been heard.

Must go, the red light is flashing.

Customer Advisory Boards – Are They Worth It? Just ask Chrysler

I ran my first Customer Advisory Board (CAB) about five years ago. Going in to it, I wasn’t sure what to expect or why it was so important. I was told to work with so and so and have a CAB.  That was it. As the meeting took place, my eyes were opened to the power of the CAB. Five years later and a few more CABs under my belt, I am still a huge proponent of them.

Here’s a CAB 101 for you.

What is it? A CAB is a select group of customers (either in a B2B or B2c setting) that have been selected to give feedback on a particular company or product.

Why have a CAB? CABs offer companies a direct touch model for communicating with customers. We sometimes get so wrapped up in what our product does and how it’s better than the competition that we forget that people actually use the product. I can write a blog post that I think is the best blog post ever written, and then turn around and have someone tell me it stunk because of X, Y and Z. Yes, I might be shocked but it’s only going to help me become a better writer. Take the feedback and make a better product for your customer, not for you! They are the ones signing the P.O.’s right?

Who belongs? You need to determine who you want to hear from. Maybe it’s your most loyal customers. Maybe it’s your unhappy customers. If Chrysler isn’t doing well with women ages 20-35 and they want to make that demographic a larger part of their customer base, then they’ll make sure that they have a good representation of that group in their CAB. Select people you want to hear from.

How is a CAB different from just listening to customers? Most companies don’t actually listen to their customers. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true. Most companies just want the next product to come out and for revenue and billings to hit the target numbers. Sitting down with a customer and saying “How can we help you?” usually ends there. No feedback is given to the executives or decision makers in the company. I’m not saying all feedback needs to be given, but there has to be a formal closed-loop process. By having a hand selected group of people allows you to get targeted feedback. This feedback is then given to the powers that be and something is done about it. A closed-loop process is critical for a CAB. Without it you just have a bunch of people talking.

How do you host a CAB? There is no golden rule on how to host a CAB. I have done both in-person CABs as well as virtual CABs where it’s a video webinar. With the economy the way it is now, a virtual CAB might be the most cost effective. Chrysler has created an online CAB which also works.

Why would a customer want to join a CAB? Who doesn’t have an opinion? And who doesn’t want to feel like they are important? By selecting specific customers to be part of a CAB, you are building customer loyalty because you’re asking for their opinion and doing something about it. A successful CAB also allows participant direct access to executives at your company – so make sure you know who you want joining and make sure you have executive buy-in.

If you’re still not sold on a CAB, check out what Chrysler has done.  I have never met Mopar Norm, but the guy knows what he is doing. Don’t just read his post, read his CAB member comments and it’ll sell you on the value of a CAB. Mopar Norm has successfully engaged and encouraged the voice of the customer – something very few companies have done and even fewer have done well.


Here are some comments from Chrysler’s CAB blog that I think speak volumes:

“The two fastest changes in the short time that the CAB and Chrysler LLC has existed was the new Lifetime Warranty and the numerous interior quality changes made, some even in mid-model year, including the interior upgrade to the Jeep Patriot.”

“The most interesting discussions, albeit the most chaotic, are the live chats that we have with various Department Vice Presidents and Managers, up to and including Vice Chairman and President Jim Press. He proved that Chrysler does listen by giving out his email address to the group. “

“Overall it is the best of any industry attempt to gain direct customer input in order to build a better and more appealing product, because ‘Chrysler Listens’!”

“Sometimes you are so close to a product that it takes outside eyes, looking from a fresh perspective, to spot and identify problems. That is what the CAB brings to the table.”

“As long as the CAB is around Chrysler will have an edge up on their competition.”


“With the help of CAB members Chrysler can once again begin to listen to real world customers instead of guessing what people will and will not like.”



If you’re going to start a CAB I think the two most important things are 1) pick exactly who you want to hear from. You can rotate membership every 6 months or year if you want. And 2) don’t just listen…act! Do something about what you’re being told or else the customers will think that they’re wasting their time.  Make them feel important and make changes. Who wouldn’t want to say “Yeah, the cup holder in the back seat of the new car was my idea!”? Imagine the possibilities.


After reading all the Chrysler CAB comments I’m tempted to sell my Honda tomorrow and buy a Chyrsler!


Great work Norm!!!!!!!!