Marketing as service

I believe that everything is marketing. The era that has marketing department as an independent unit has ended a few years ago. Marketing should be at the top of the tower with customer service, customer experience, sales, even human resources underneath.

Let start by asking this question – why do we do marketing? We do marketing because we want to offer solutions to customer’s problems. We also do marketing to make a difference to someone’s life. The process is we tell customers that our product could be a solution to your problem. Customers buy the product and we want them to have the best experience. We then service them with the hope that they will stay and recommend our product/solution to their friends. When something goes wrong, they contact our customer care team. We solve their problems and delight them. They rave about us and their friends see it.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart stores

Take social media as an example. It’s very hard to draw the line between social media marketing and social media service. Customers will bring up issue regardless of channels. You might post a new campaign on Facebook with an expectation for it to go viral to get more sales. But, your existing customers might see the post and share their frustration.

To be successful, marketing needs to be on the top of the tower. No offence.

Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most successful sales team.

Lisa Masiello, Founder & President, TECHmarc Labs, Inc



What would be the world after Coronavirus is under control? What would the recovery look like? How long would it take for the hospitality industry to go back to normal?

First of all, economic downturn would be inevitable. People lost their jobs and companies need times to recover. Purchasing power would drop in the next 3 to 6 months. Consumers would be cautious about their spend and their health. Young people would start spending before older people.

Holiday is considered a luxury product. It’s not necessary to have holidays. It would take a bit longer for consumers to put holidays in their priority list. There would be a lot of super cheap deals from hotels, airlines, and travel agents in the market. Margin would be very slim. Profitability would be thin.

Hospitality industry is weak in branding. OTAs have set the scene to drive the price down. There would be a massive price war in the market.

I believe in creating a minimum viable audience, an ecosystem. This strategy has our true customers in the system. People who care about our product and see our product as their life’s solution. It’s the only way to win the price war.


Positive development about the coronavirus situation

As I said yesterday, I tell myself everyday that things will get better and my brain should believe by next week. I would like to share some positive development about the virus situation. I got this information from one of my respected PR agencies. Her name is Greer Quinn.

How about some good news, courtesy of Bloomberg News? 

  • China has closed down its last oronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.
  • Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus. Combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally.
  • Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.
  • A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for six days in Wuhan, China.
  • Apple reopens all 42 China stores.
  • Cleveland Clinic developed a COVID-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.
  • Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.
  • Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.
  • Scientists in Israel likely to announce the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • Three Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.
  • A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in COVID-19 research.
  • A San Diego biotech company is developing a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.
  • Tulsa County’s first positive COVID-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.
  • All seven patients who were getting treated for at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.


Advice for marketers under the current circumstance

I am sure we have the same feeling about the current situation. But, in the end, it will definitely get better. The virus will eventually become another type of flu. Life will go on. It will get worse before it gets better. The best course of action is then to plan what to do during this situation.

We all will enter the down times. No one know how long it’s going to be. My personal, no-reason guess is by 1 July 2020. It would mean anything could happen between now and 30 June. The following is my plan of what to do. I split the plan into 2 phases – down time & recovery time.

During the down time, what you and I should do are the following:

  • Stay positive and optimistic. It’s hard but we have to do our best to stay positive. It will get better. If you tell yourself everyday (that things will get better), you brain will believe you.
  • Prepare for the worst but hope for the best. What is the worst thing that could happen? Prepare for that scenario with your solution. What need to be down if it happens.
  • Show our leadership quality. We need to stay calm and we have to help people around us to feel positive and confident.
  • Continue developing our skill sets. There is no better time than this to improve your skill sets. Recovery time will come quicker than you think. What would the world look like after the virus is under control? How would it change consumer behavior? Can we still do the same marketing strategy and tactics?

What to do in the recovery time? I haven’t thought it through yet. I will think about it and will share with you later.


A decision to make

If you are working in the hospitality industry, you may have the same thoughts as we all do now. What should we do as a marketer under this virus situation. More and more countries have been shutting down. Consumers got panicked and pretty much stopped unnecessary consumption. Unfortunately, having a holiday fell into the unnecessary basket.

I noticed that the number of hotel and travel agent promotional emails dropped by more than half. I think everyone decided to hold off all marketing activities at least for the next few weeks.

I myself have been thinking what to do. It looks to me like we reach the point that none of promotions or marketing would work. Or would this be a great opportunity because the competition is close to non-exist?

Most of us never witness something like this in our life time. It sends a shock wave to both consumers and businesses. I believe no one has the right answer.

What would be the best strategy under this situation?


How to sell without selling?

I talked about whether it is possible to sell without selling yesterday. I argued (and am confident) that it is possible. But, how can we make it real i.e. how to make it works financially?

One possible way is to create a business model that has a core product and viable number of auxiliary products.

As an example, if your core product is a holiday membership, you may have the following auxiliary products:

  • Holiday planning service – research, itinerary
  • Holiday activity service – earn commission from other providers
  • Personalised holiday assistance service

The idea is to create an ecosystem that your product becomes top of mind for customers.


Is it possible to sell without selling?

Is it? I think it is. But, it takes times. You have to invest in building up your reputation as a solution provider. The mentality has to be customers have a problem so they look for a solution. Many of them wouldn’t know exactly how to solve their problem so the first phase of their search would be exploration.

The first step for you is you have to be there when they are exploring for options. The second step would be that they ask you and you provide consultation EVEN IF they might not end up buying a solution from you. In most case, they wouldn’t, at least in the beginning. However, they would remember you and your solution.

When they have a problem that relates to your solution in the future, they will now come to you.

The biggest questions are:

  • Are you willing to spending time helping (your future) customers even though they might not buy from you?
  • Are you willing to offer the best solution to (your future) customers even though you may have to recommend your competitor’s product?

I did it once. I of course didn’t get any sales but I earned trust. Unfortunately, in the direct marketing world, trust is not good enough.


In the crisis

It’s hard to believe what has happened to our world today. The virus situation impacts everyone and every business. Hotels got lots of cancellations. People hold on to their holiday plans. Some people are in a panic mode stocking up everything.

I am of the view that things will get better soon. I don’t scientific evidence to back me up only a gut feeling. We should see a positive light from July onwards. What I’d like to encourage all of us to do is to share positive news and to share encouragement, to share hope.

From a business perspective, there are 2 suggestions to choose from. Firstly, we should have promotions to encourage people to spend. And, the other suggestion is safe the money as the return wouldn’t be worth the investment. I did the first suggestion and the result was in line with the second suggestion. Unfortunately, I cannot stay still and wait.

I will keep on trying, Winston Churchill once said “If you are going to hell, keep going”. At least this situation is not as bad as going through hell. That’s good news.


What is your experience with chatbot?

Air Asia cancelled one of my flights last night. They emailed me a notification with a few options of what I could do. Interestingly, all options have a call to action to interact with “Ava”, a chatbot.

I spent in a total of 4 hours chatting (not really a chat) with Ava. I got sucked into a loop of being asked to provide the same information like booking number, first name, last name, email address, etc. I typed this information multiple times. And, in the end, she, Ava, couldn’t help me. So, she referred me to talk to her Allstar coworkers. I spent another 2 hours waiting to connect to her coworkers. I ended up giving up, making a new flight booking, getting charged twice, and finally getting to Ava again asking for a refund.

Frustrated? Of course. I am not sure why I am not angry. If the above experience was over the phone, I might be very angry. Could this be a new way of managing customer expectation? Ava wouldn’t be offended as I ended up typing – Ava, you are hopeless. I didn’t feel guilty later.

It will talk a while before the chatbot technology can function 100% properly. I just lost 6 hours of my life getting to know her. Unfortunately, she knows more about me but I don’t know anything about her.

Thanks Ava.


How to find your passion

Do you know what your passion in life is? Do you feel you couldn’t wait until the morning to come to work? Many people don’t know what their passion is.

You don’t find your passion, you build it. It is a discovery process, not a match made in heaven.

If you haven’t found your passion yet, you haven’t explored enough. To explore, you need courage. With courage, you try new things.

Are you afraid of trying new things?