Debra Ellis

Imagine that you are part of a solar system in a universe that is always in motion. Okay, so for all of you astro-physicists out there, yes, we’re already in something like that. But let’s just take the analogy and apply it to our businesses. That’s the idea put forth by Debra Ellis of Wilson Ellis Consulting. Beyond just marketing, how does it fit into the overall picture of your business and how you interact with your customers.

(For the newest member of the #kaizenblog community, this Twitter chat uses the concept of “kaizen” which focuses on continuous improvement with our focus on business.) You can see all of the interesting side threads and the full conversation here on the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – MarketingSolarSystem

To get the ball rolling for this #kaizenblog chat on Twitter, Debra wrote this post and followed up with this post. Debra explained, “The primary focus of your marketing strategy is the sun (or suns). Most often it is revenue or profitability. The SS concept is that all customer contact points revolve around around one or more objectives (or suns).” What is the sun of your solar system (there may be more than one)?

  • Parissa Behnia “always the customer and their pain points”
  • Tanja Zieg “I think reputation should be the biggest sun”
  • Caroline Di Diego “A1: In one situation, it is BLOG/WWW ~ so it can vary I see”
  • Patrick Prothe “RE: Q1 – I think the Customer Relationship should be the “Sun”. Build the brand, product, experience around serving customers” 

After starting to define what each of us identify as our suns, we wondered how it makes a difference to our customers. How does focusing on your sun serve your customers and company? Debra explained, “Reducing effort required to do business is best way to improve loyalty.”

  • Heidi Cohen “If profitability @ core, then concern w/ reputation since customers!”

With Heidi’s response about profitability, Debra asked, “Do you think profitability should be core or derivative of excellent care?” This sparked an interesting thread about the role of profit. Debra stated, “Shifting to CRC sun doesn’t mean you forget revenue or profit. They become smaller suns.”

  • Patrick Prothe “If the Customer Relationship = done right – baked into co. culture, then profits should come; you’re not competing solely on $”
  • Ken Rosen “Charged topic. In US, co’s have legal, fiduciary long-term respon to shareholders.”

Debra responded, “The challenge w/ the customer care/profitability is that care is often listed as an expense on financials”. If you look at this, is there really an artificial tension between treating customers well and making a profit? Zappos is one example used in the chat as a company who has done extremely well and this is largely due to their focus on customer service.

So, What would be a better sun for your business? Besides jokes about sunscreen, Ken Rosen summed it up, “Q3 Cute/apt extension: shielding cust/emps from prof at core may be best > 1/2 of time”.

We then moved on to our next discussion question, What shifts have to be made to change your marketing and customer care focus? Debra reminded us, “When you compete on $ there’s always another low-price-leader a click away. Care is hard to copy.”

  • Patrick Prothe “Re: Q4 – biggest shift  = breaking down org. silos. Getting all corners to connect; also helps to to exp. front lines “
  • Judy Gombita  “A4. Stop thinking about what/how YOU want to market your company’s product/service. Start thinking about what THEY want to know’ 
  • Parissa Behnia “a4: educate sr execs that it’s ok to expend money on intangibles – investment in long term viability”
  • Heidi Cohen “[A4] Customer care must be mgmt priority w/ sufficient headcount and budget”

We closed with this last question Where and when do you start to make the changes? There seems to be a challenge with this. Quite a few of the participants noted that customers are looking at price points more than how company makes them feel. Other participants noted how companies are more focused on bottom line and creating a disconnect with their customer service practices. For small businesses, care or customer service that is truly unexpectedly excellent can be differentiator.

This conversation certainly did not end at the end of the hour. And…it’s quite possible that we will revisit it in some form in a future #kaizenblog chat. Do intangibles really cost so much? Is it true that business owners and executives are fearful of giving their customers attention and satisfaction? When do we go beyond numbers and discover that the numbers are generated by performance?

Where is the intersection between customer care and profit?

What’s orbiting in your marketing solar system?