The blurry line between Marketing, Customer Support and Sales

This blog was supposed to be about leads. That is top of mind for most marketers, particularly this time of year when we are planning programs and finalizing budgets for the coming year. However I have chosen to save that for another day. Mostly because of what I have been through as a Marketer, and mother, over the last 48 hours. Instead, today I will focus on what happens to the customer AFTER they have transitioned from lead, to prospect, to customer.

Tis the season. For snow. For colds. For holiday gift giving. And for winter break. Now I don’t know about you, but figuring out what to do with 3 boys over the Winter break when the temps outside are currently hovering aroun -25 C can be daunting. Luckily for my family, we celebrate Chanukah; and this year it fell very early in December. In fact…it’s done. The presents have been opened, the candles have been lit and the food (oh the food!) has been consumed. My boys were very fortunate to have received the latest Guitar Hero game as a gift (not from me I might add) and I admit that I have become somewhat addicted to it as well.

Amazing! We have an activity that we can all do together while we’re on break. But this is where the saga begins. 6 days after opening the gift, the guitar malfunctioned. The strummer started acting up, and skipping. If you’ve never played before what this means is that even if you hit the notes, it doesn’t register. It means you get booed off the stage. So I decided that I would simply return the defective guitar back to EB Games (where it was purchased) and they could replace it with a new one. Sound simple? Ahhhhh…..not so much.

Sunday I called the location where the game was purchased just to make sure I could do the exchange at any EB Games/GameStop location (I was going to a different mall and really didn’t feel like driving around the whole city…especially this time of year). To my surprise, I was told that “you can’t return defective merchandise”. I would have to deal directly with the manufacturer, Activision. You see, Activision was experiencing inconsistencies with various retailers’ exchange policies so they decided to lay down the law. They recently issued a Canada-wide memo stating that ALL customer support issues had to be handled through Activision.com/support.

So I went out shopping with my kids and decided I’d deal with the whole mess when I got back. While at the mall I stopped into a GameStop location just to see if the story held up and, as I suspected, it did. They verified that indeed, there had been a recent memo and I would have to deal directly with activision.

When I got home I went online and contacted customer support. Now bear in mind; I’m in Marketing. My job is to help make sure that the customer has a GOOD brand experience. Now granted I am in B2B but I would think that this would be even MORE the case in B2C?

And here is where the fun REALLY begins. I will try not to pontificate and sum it up in some key points:

  1. I could barely hear, let alone understand the customer support rep.
  2. It was determined that I needed a replacement guitar
  3. There are 2 shipping options: Normal – I send back the defective one and upon receipt they send me a replacement; or Enhanced – I provide my credit card, they ship me the replacement, provide me with a shipping label via email, and I return the defective unit within 28 days (after 28 days my credit card gets dinged)
  4. Although I didn’t like the idea of providing my credit card, I also didn’t relish the thought of my kids whining for what would likely turn out to be a 2-month ordeal
  5. I was told I would receive an email in a couple of days and the guitar in about 2 weeks time
  6. It’s a couple of days and no email (remember…I have 28 days before my credit card gets charged)
  7. I contact customer support again. I question why this is even occurring. Why can’t I simply return the unit to the place where it was purchased and have THEM deal with the process.
  8. I am transferred to Tier2 customer support
  9. I tell the whole story again. Brent (very helpful btw…and I could understand him!) was surprised. According to him there is no policy that stipulates that the customer cannot do returns/get replacements at the retail level

HUH???!!!!!

So…by this point I have also tweeted my story and posted it to the Facebook page for customer support (group name: Activision Assist). After all, I am in marketing. Surely that’s gotta count for something!

Round and round this goes. Activision insists that no such policy exists. I am the ping pong ball stuck between them and EB Games. So…I contact EB Games (again) and speak to Adam, the manager at the location from where the game was purchased. Now Adam was also very helpful and insisted that there was, indeed, a Canada-wide memo issued. He then contacted his District Manager. Now while THIS was going on I received a response to my Facebook post (nothing yet on Twitter). Activision is very sorry for my inconvenience and wants to help me out.

In the end, Adam’s district manager ok’d the replacement and I will be bringing the defective guitar back to EB Games tomorrow for a replacement. Now for some, this would be the end and a very satisfactory resolution. For me, this raises a whole bunch of questions:

  1. Clearly there is a complete lack of communication regarding policy between Activision (the manufacturer) and EB Games (the retailer)
  2. Why was I, the customer, put in the middle? Why did I have to spend my time dealing with this disaster? My call to Activision and/or EB Games should have resulted in one of them contacting the other, figuring out what the heck was going on, and coming up with a solution that would not only make me happy, but ensure my loyalty. After 6 days there should have been no question whatsoever about my returning the item for a replacement.
  3. What about other people who aren’t “social media” savvy? Not everyone has the power of Twitter and Facebook and WordPress at their disposal.
  4. Not once was I asked how this would impact my future plans to purchase and/or recommend this product and store

The bottom line: I am still not 100% satisfied. Sure I’m getting the guitar replaced. But so what, that’s what should have happened 2 days ago. What have they done to rectify the sour taste that’s been left in my mouth? What have they done to ensure my loyalty (and future dollars)?

You see, at the end of the day the customer should not be the victim for this gross breakdown in communication. But who should? Does this merit a call to their PR and or Marketing Dept? Or is it Customer Support who should be taking the ball and running with this? And what about Sales? Surely the reps for EB Games and Gamestop would want to know what’s going on?

Have you had a similar experience with a retailer? What did it take for it to be resolved? And most importantly: Are you still a customer?

So you’re in Marketing! What is that exactly?

This happens to all of us at some point in time. You’re either at a party, or you’re meeting someone for the first time, or perhaps it’s your kids that ask the question: “What do you do for a living”. Now I don’t know about you, but some professions are a lot easier to explain than others. I mean if you’re a bus driver or an electrician, heck if you’re in retail sales for a shoe company…it’s pretty straightforward. But Marketing? Not so simple.

Everyone has their own conception of what Marketing is all about. “oooh…you get to travel and do tradeshows!” (and ftr…if you think that’s glamorous, take a peek at my previous post dated November 10). Or ” you get all the cool tchachkes (aka premium incentives).  Or the best: “you get to be on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn all day long!” Some people think all I do is write press releases. And yes, that has been known to take up a fair share of my time, but certainly not all that I do.

If you say things like “Well actually, I manage the brand”; or “I developed and maintain the social media strategy”. Yeah…makes marketers all stand up and take notice, but makes the average Joe’s eyes just gloss over. Especially when you try to be specific and add “I’m in B2B marketing for the tech industry”. Huh?

So I’m here to set the record straight: Marketing produces the stuff that helps the sales guys sell.

Yes, I write press releases (and datasheets and direct mail and case studies and web copy and scripts and promos….)
Yes, I work on websites. I develop site plans and work with the design team
Yes, I do creative “stuff”. I work with designers and tweak layouts and finess line breaks and help design templates
Yes, I work with vendors. All kinds. Printers, Magazines, Premium Incentives, List Rentals, Tradeshows, etc.
Yes, I produce webinars
Yes, I am on as many social media sites as possible
Yes, I am constantly doing research on trends, and best practices, why this or that is the best new lead gen “thing” out there
Yes, I develop demand generation programs (aka leads). And we help nurture those leads so that the sales guys can focus on closing deals.
And yes…I attend LOTS of meetings! Budget meetings. Sales meetings. IT meetings. You see, as a Marketing person, I need to interface with just about everyone in the company. I need to explain to THEM what it is the marketing department does. Because let’s face it; most people haven’t a clue what the marketing department does for their company….except spend money.

We make it look effortless. We get it done. We bitch and complain and gripe when there aren’t enough hours in the day, or when our computers are down, or when somebody uses the wrong PowerPoint template. But we are passionate about what we do. We are sticklers for detail and we make it look easy. We tweet, we create, we produce, we deliver. When an analyst gives us a rave review, or we get an article published, we smile. When sales basks in the glory of a great quarter we give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. When leads aren’t converted into opportunities we take the hit. We are Marketing.

How about you? How do you explain what you do?

What can go wrong WILL go wrong… welcome to the world of tradeshows

It never ceases to amaze me how, with all the technological advances that have been made in the last 2 decades some things NEVER change.

  1. The printer will always jam minutes before an important meeting, keeping in its grasps the document you  need for your presentation
  2. After double and triple checking your email to some very important people, you realize you forgot the attachment the second you hit the “send” button
  3. No matter how far in advance you ship your order, customs will somehow manage to keep the one box that is critical to the success of your booth

Now, let’s examine that 3rd point. I have been doing this shtick long enough to know a few basic facts when shipping items for a tradeshow or large event, particularly if they are being shipped over the border between Canada and the US. Have all your paperwork in pristine order. NEVER ship anything chocolate. In fact, food of any kind is dicey these days, but chocolate is the worst. If you do ship anything edible make sure it’s shipped separately in case it gets held up at customs. Same goes for pens. Yes, pens. Because they are filled with ink. And we need proof of where the pen was manufactured and where the ink came from. If at all possible don’t ship monitors; either buy cheap ones when you get there or rent them from show services. Label all your boxes clearly, 1 of x, 2 of x, etc. Send a “toolkit” that contains all the emergency things that you may need, including masking tape, pens, stapler, staples, scissors, business card holders, notepads, etc. I used to include gum and mints but I’ve learned my lesson (see above).

But somehow, no matter how well everything is prepared, something always goes amiss. I recall doing Interop in Vegas several years back. We had a huge booth. We had everything prepared. We were giving away a car! We had models hired to sit outside with the car (a BMW Z5 convertible no less) as well as to help out at the booth. Suffice it to say we had produced a LOT of collateral (in those days we weren’t very green…nothing was handed out on USB stick cuz they were still a premium giveaway). We had t-shirts. The whole nine yards. So of course as we’re setting up the booth and getting it ready it hits. None of our collateral arrived. NONE. None of 4-coulour postcards we were planning to hand out directing traffic to our booth. None of our datasheets. None of our entry forms.

So we did what any respectable marketing team would do (once we stopped hyperventilating). We went to Kinkos and had it all reproduced. It cost us $5000 US dollars to do that, but we had no idea when our material would arrive. We were up until the wee hours of the morning, but we got it done. It didn’t look as nice as what we had originally produced, and of course it was double the cost. But we’re marketing. We have to do whatever it takes to ensure a successful event.

The end result: We generated nearly 1500 contacts at that show, and it was the most successful event in the company’s history. And yes, our shipement finally arrived 2 days later, completely destroyed.

There will always be a scramble to track down a shipment, a late-night run to Kinkos, or a run to WalMart for pens, power cords and anything else that mysteriously never arrives. All we can do is make sure we’ve done our best to ensure a successful show. Because in the end…it’s Marketing’s fault 🙂

What about you? Do you have any Tradeshow horror stories to share or advice to give? Post your comments please.

Welcome to “It’s Marketing’s Fault”

Before I set out on this new journey into the blogosophere (yes, I FINALLY have a blog!), I must give thanks to my inspiration for the title of my blog. A couple years ago a former Delrina colleague of mine set up a group on Facebook with that very title. The name stuck and (after asking permission of course) I decided that would be the ideal name for my blog. You see, I have lived in the marketing trenches for many years (too many for me to admit to) and although I don’t claim to have “seen it all” I have certainly witnessed my fair share. Let’s put some things in perspective here.

When I first started out my foray into marketing (my background is as a graphic designer…but I digress) I was introduced to my first PC. I’ll wait a minute for you to stop laughing. *pause* *pause*.

There was no email
There was no internet
I had no idea how to turn the stupid thing on, let alone use a mouse!
I learned Word and Excel on my own through trial and error (and many, many, MANY lost documents) and eventually became the “go-to” person in the department.

Today, I still do some things the old-fashioned way, and admit to printing out emails, doing my personal bookkeping in an excel spreadsheet, and tracking my staff’s vacation on a wall calendar on my desk.

But I also have embraced technology. I have been on LinkedIn for over a decade, and am an active Facebook user. I tweet, love my iPod and am proud to say am more tech-savvy than my kids (for now). And yes, I am a certified, card-carrying crackberry addict!

This blog is about how my worlds collide. My world as a marketer in the software industry. My world as a fitness instructor (which is agonizingly behind the tech-times…but starting to pick up), and my world as a mom.

At the end of the day we all know…it’s marketing’s fault…but I’m not going down without a fight!