Getting out of the way

For some time now I’ve been arguing that marketing should be more concerned with the facilitation of relationships, and less obsessed with polishing images.

Likewise, for some time I’ve believed that good facilitation is often not very visible. Because a good facilitator knows to get out of the way when good stuff is happening, and not feel the need to make himself the centre of attention. Poor faciliators make themselves and their processes more important than the people they’re working for.

And more and more, I wish that marketing people would just get out of the way. Because so much of what they produce – rebrandings, promotions, special offers – are just clutter and noise that can only reduce the quality of conversations.

Ton Zjilstra gives an eloquent riposte to just the kind of promotion I’m talking about. After being offered an incentive (in the form of “free” bits of kit for his computer) to subscribe to a magazine , he counters:

Promotional campaigns like these do nothing to establish new and real relationships between people, in this case you and me, and so do not help at all to leverage any value such a relationship between us might contain. In fact, these campaigns destroy value as they make perfectly clear that, even though you open your message with ‘dear Anton’ you’re in no way interested in establishing a real connection, only in pushing your publication and thus increase revenue. Otherwise you would not have resorted to cheap tricks (well, cheap, 100GBP) to get me to subscribe.

Another bizarre example was a phone call I got the other day from Burnley Football Club. They identified me as a supporter and offered me the chance to switch my telephone to “Turf Moor Telecom” (Turf Moor is the Burnley ground).

I would still remain a BT customer, only the billing would change to TMT and I would be charged a bit less.

I wonder what BT is up to creating deals like this? They probably rationalise it in terms of affiliation building but to me the real message is clear: we are currently charging you more than we need. Our excess margin is, indeed, even more than the 5% discount TMT offers you, because there’s enough slack in our budget to cover:

paying a call centre to pester you;

paying for additional admin of switching your billing;

paying our marketing guru and his consultants to cook this nonsense up

And after wasting all this money, you get… to use the phone the same you already are.

Both of these schemes bear the fingerprints of conventional marketing. It’s in the way. It needs to clear off.

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