July 2010 Archives

Seth Godin

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Seth Godin has an interesting observation about marketing in the age of material abundance.

"Marketers fall into one of two categories:

A few benefit when they make their customers smarter. The more the people they sell to know, the more informed, inquisitive, free-thinking and alert they are, the better they do. 

[But] most benefit when they work to make their customers dumber. The less they know about options, the easier they are to manipulate, the more helpless they are, the better they do."

Simply providing more options will not result in a customer or client that is automatically engaged, and I don't understand Godin to be saying that.

But, like many of Godin's stark statements, this observation only leads to more questions. Is this marketing message only aimed at a small percentage of marketers, those who sell books, for example?  Or is Godin talking about all marketing?  Is it a recommendation or an observation about the state of marketing?

For example, if I am running a QSR, say a Domino's,  what would it mean for me to make my customers more inquisitive, free-thinking and alert?  Would they buy more pizza?  Or would they alertly purchase what they thought was a more healthy choice?

It depends on who you think the customer is.  If you focus only on the buying public, you, then you probably don't need or want inquisitive, free-thinking and alert pizza customers.

But what about your employees?  Aren't they your customers?  Southwest practiced this vision with great success as Joe Noerca reported several years ago, May 2008.

"Over the years, whenever reporters would ask him the secret to Southwest's success, Mr. Kelleher had a stock response. "You have to treat your employees like customers," he told Fortune in 2001. "When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us."

Godin's advice in the context of treating your employees as customers makes sense, and is advice most franchise operators could use.  Creating employee engagement which leads to a minimizing of employee turnover is a huge challenge for most franchise operators who have to manage entry level wage staff.  Does Godin's observation work in the environment, I wonder?

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