January 06, 2007

Who Is Your Customer?

Sometimes Database Marketers have to ask themselves who their customer really is?

Maybe you just went through a lousy holiday season. You evaluate the business, and realize you are not going to meet sales and profit expectations. Furthermore, your business has too much inventory, and has to move it now!!!

You gather for your weekly Executive meeting. The Inventory Executive wants to add a series of e-mail campaigns to your very best customers, featuring failed products at dramatically marked-down prices. The Inventory Executive also wants to send a 're-mail' of a holiday catalog, changing the creative on the cover and back page, marking down the merchandise by sixty to seventy percent.

The Chief Merchant likes this idea, because if frees-up her 'open to buy', so she can get fresh, compelling product in the door. The CFO has mixed feelings, wanting to move merchandise and increase sales, not wanting markdowns that are so steep as to further erode profit. The COO likes the idea, because she may have to cut hours for employees at the distribution center because sales are not meeting expectations.

The Chief Marketing Officer does not like the idea, because customer research indicates customers are fed up with being pummeled by catalogs and e-mail spam. She wants to know why customers, who are tired of being clobbered with marketing, should receive more marketing about products they didn't care for during the holiday season? Her advocation of the customer is not welcomed. Her comments are considered 'theoretical' and 'impractical', given the problems the business currently faces.

We Database Marketers have many 'customers'. We have to please the Inventory Executive, and send out enough marketing to high-spending customers to meet his needs. We have to please the Chief Merchant by giving her the opportunity to bring in new merchandise. We have to please the CFO by minimizing the damage to the profit and loss statement. We have to please the COO, who does not want to cut hours for great employees. We have to please the CMO, who tries to advocate on behalf of the customer.

Our job is one of 'optimization with constraints'. In this case, we have to move merchandise, constrained to the needs of each executive, and our customers. No answer is right, no answer pleases everybody.

How about you? In your job, do you have to deal with conflict between internal and external customers? How do you deal with these conflicts?

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