Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The new division of marketing labour

The debate over marketing as an activity within an organisation is nothing new. In retail organisations it's a pretty simple model that product management and marketing fit snuggly together whereas operations/sales-force and customer service go together on their merry way spruiking the line they've been given from the former departments.

Service organisations can be a little more blurry between departments but the general principles still exist that one side manages the product and message and the other side manages the customer and company operations.

But the socialising of consumption and business is melting these generally held principles and we are now seeing a multi-coloured pool of muck on the floor and a metaphorical "watch out, slippery floor" sign has gone up around the whole marketing/customer-service model.

Laurel Papworth has been championing the 'social business interactions belong in customer service' thing for a while, here's her category posts for customer service, so like I said it's nothing new.

BBH-Labs has also picked out some juicy points in its review of Razorfish's third annual digital brand experience report. Particularly BBH-Labs points out "... the silo walls between marketing & customer service teams in particular need breaking down; they are increasingly one and the same thing ..."

I know at my own job the business is only just defining its voice in an online world: is it customer service, news service, sales service; is it formal, informal; pro-active or reactive?

It's possible to even take this one step further and ask if it is even possible for a business to define its online personality, or is it the customers that define it for them? I think, just like a steamy first date, the relationship will be defined by the mimicry of interactions between the two.

All these philosophical questions aside I agree with both Laurel and BBH-Labs that the socialisation of business will ultimately draw marketing closer to customer service.

For a marketing manager that has paraded from advertising agency to sponsorship events and around the board table to have to grind away the hours with customer service and on the shop floor will be too much for some. Some businesses will refuse to change, refuse to engage with the customers. I believe that those that refuse to adapt to this new division of marketing labour will struggle to grow.

So I say to the marketing managers that are asking 'their agencies' to create a social media campaign for them, stop. It's not sustainable. You have to look within yourself and your brand, as the brand ambassador only you can create the social business your brand deserves. And it will include talking to customers yourself.

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