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.