I leave tomorrow for a weekend with my 94-year-old grandfather. It’s important to me to spend as much time as I can with him. My grandfather is the last remaining direct relative I have from the greatest generation. The picture here is of him at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. My mom and I took him to D.C. each of the last two years to let him sightsee a bit and visit his 96-year-old half-brother who lives in Bethesda, Maryland. As a side: longevity in my family is common. My great-grandmother lived to be 101-years-old and died in her sleep. That’s they way I hope God allows me to go.
While spending time with my elderly grandfather can be challenging, I realize as I get older that the time I have with him is extremely important. I need to allow my family history to remain strong. And the only way I can do so is by spending time with grandpa, learning about his life and the experiences he has had over the years. I remember a time in high school when my AP History teacher asked us to interview a family member about a time during history that they lived. I chose to interview my grandad and great-grandmother about their experiences during the Depression. Listening to their stories made that time period come to life for me. I realized that it was more than stories written in a history book. It’s my job to keep those stories alive and pass on to future generations.
When I was in high school, I also remember feeling irritation toward my parents for what I considered interference in my life. Now I realize that it’s extremely important for parents to be involved in their kids’ lives. Too many parents that I see choose not to pay attention. Tonight I heard of a teen suicide that I believe could have been avoided if the parents had paid attention. I think it’s important for me to publicly thank my parents for their love and concern as I grew up. They have set a fantastic example for me in marriage and parenthood. I hope I can live up to their standards.
Working in a retail marketing position has forced me to ask a pretty basic question in our organization. “Who is our customer?” Unfortunately, the internal answer is not clear cut. I have found that there are two groups: one views the retailers, dealers and distributors who we sell through as our customer; the second views consumers as our key customers.
Personally, I’m a proponent for the latter. While very important to the business, I believe the retailers, dealers and distributors are facilitators for us to sell our products. We need them to help us get our products into the hands of valuable consumers, but they are not what I would call the most important audience for us to reach. That disctinction should fall to the consumer. Without consumers who choose to spend their hard-earned money on our products, we would not be successful or able to sustain our business.
My question, however, remains. In an organization that views the designated sales channels as our main customer, does that mean that the consumer doesn’t matter? Does that affect business strategies and the overall marketing approach? Should it?
From my experience, it does affect strategy … but not in a good way.
With a consumer-based business, the marketing strategies used should be centered on ensuring that the entire experience that the consumer has with our company is positive. We should want him or her to return and spread the good word about our company and product. In a channel-based business, my experience has shown that budget dollars are allocated toward identifying ways to train sales associates but not much more. Promotional dollars are spent on dealer discounts versus consumer rebates.
One thing I can say about my experiences on the business to consumer side of the marketing world, I have changed my perspective on brands to which I choose to be loyal. I want to use and buy products that appear to value the end consumer.
The challenge for me is to strengthen my advocacy for the consumer within the company. Being the voice of the consumer is a critical part of ensuring the future of our organization is strong.