“Today, customers are the ones who call the shots”

July 25, 2017

Interview with Dieter Scharitzer, Academic Director of the Marketing & Sales certificate program

Without marketing and sales, there would not be a single successful business on the planet. Marketing creates the brand to entice customers; sales makes the deal happen. In the digital universe that is the internet, you cannot pursue a “more-of-the-same” approach when it comes to marketing. Customers are now finding products before sellers can even start looking for customers. Disruptive trends are turning the world of brands upside down. Marketing and sales managers must be able to put these trends into context. They are required to understand their customers better than ever before. When it comes to meeting these challenges, the possibilities are unparalleled. Dieter Scharitzer, Academic Director of the Marketing & Sales certificate program, explains why attending a comprehensive state-of-the-art education and training program is so important, especially at this point in time.

As a result of digitalization, customers are no longer kings but sages. It is not uncommon for them to be more knowledgeable about products than salespeople. How do marketing and sales need to respond to this?

Dr. Scharitzer: Today, marketing is delivering on the promise it has made for 60, 70 years: It is customer-oriented, not least because of digitalization. Push strategies, where businesses take their products to customers, are becoming less and less frequent.

Towards the end of the 2000s, dialogue marketing and address marketing were popular. These approaches are based on the idea that you can influence and control customers. Today, the situation is completely different. Marketing and sales are increasingly using pull strategies: Frequently, customers are the ones who take the initiative. They research your business online before you are even aware that they exist.

This is also true for us as a business school: 60% of our graduates found us before we found them. Generally speaking, businesses need to focus even more on customers - which is true to Google's slogan “moments that matter.” We have to be there in those moments that matter to customers; whenever the fancy takes them, we have to reach out to them through service delivery. This can be done online 24/7, irrespective of opening hours.

Dieter Scharitzer talking and using his hands

Mind-boggling amounts of data are being collected today, meaning there are unprecedented possibilities when it comes to analyzing target groups and reaching out to them. What are the research findings on this topic?

Dr. Scharitzer: Everybody is talking about Big Data. However, many are laboring under the misconception that having a lot of data is synonymous with having a lot of knowledge. That said, there are tools that enable you to take advantage of the collected data and reach out to customers in much better ways.

Think, for instance, of what is known as re-marketing. When customers visit you in-store to learn more about a product but leave without making a purchase, there is no way for you to engage in a conversation with them. Were they just looking for free information without intending to make a purchase? Will they come back? You will never know.

Online, the situation is different. In the Nike store, you can identify customers. When they add that pair of sneakers to their shopping baskets but do not make a purchases, you can dig deeper by using the right tools by asking them: Why have they not made a purchase? Is the price too high? You can help customers when it comes to making the decision to buy. This interaction with customers would not be possible without new technologies.

However, the fact that the customer journey nowadays takes place both online and offline does not mean that you can reach out to customers anywhere and at any time. Unfortunately, the power of technology ends the moment it is no longer able to produce a complete picture of the customer journey.

Why does it end?

Dr. Scharitzer: Let me give you an example: Imagine you have researched a Canon camera online. By doing this, you have left the viral mark: You have shown an interest in it. All of a sudden, and as a result of IP tracking, you see camera-related banners and ads all over - even if you have meanwhile bought a camera. It is very difficult to get an accurate picture of this situation.

So, by bringing these channels together, you can unlock a great potential. But, presumably, there are also data protection rules to consider in this context.

Dr. Scharitzer: Absolutely. E-privacy and new data protection rules will not make the personalization of data easier. However, when you look at the web surfing habits of consumers, you will see that they provide a wealth of information about themselves. You just have to collect it and connect the dots - while respecting legal requirements, of course.

What about marketing trends: guerilla marketing, agile marketing, digital marketing? What do participants learn in the course of the program?

Dr. Scharitzer: Graduates of our certificate program are able to both identify trends faster and put them into context more quickly. What we aim to do is to provide participants with the big picture and with training of lasting value to prepare them for the challenges of not only today but also tomorrow. We equip them with the tools and skills they will need to successfully address the challenges of the post-app and post-beacon era.

I am not too keen on seeing things in black and white, in other words, for me, it is not tradition vs. trends. Online and offline markets are moving closer together. Amazon is no longer just an e-commerce company but has begun to push into stationary trade. Moreover, it makes absolutely no sense to put all your eggs in one basket every few years and to all of a sudden focus all your resources on training social media managers, for instance. Technologies, target groups and society as a whole can change - it is impossible to predict the future; but it is safe to say that people will always communicate.

So, developing the ability to adapt is also very important?

Dr. Scharitzer: That is right - being able to adapt is becoming more and more important. Marketing and sales managers need to understand trends, but they also need to be able to evaluate whether business cases make economic sense, giving people an idea of what to expect in terms of return and profit. They have to understand every aspect of the value chain, must know how to communicate with agencies, how to produce and implement campaigns, and they need to do the budgeting. Their work is as much about marketing ethics and controlling as it is about social responsibility and value for money or customer relationships and customer satisfaction.

Learn more about the Marketing & Sales Certificate Program and its curriculum!

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