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Gartner asks: Is your brand too self-involved?

Mon 10 Oct 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

When you start with what’s at stake for your customer, you earn the right to their attention.

But, as marketers, in the service of our daily efforts—under deadline pressure and urgency to move the needle—it’s remarkably easy to lose sight of this.

In fact, we’re often blinded to this principle by basic conformance to the operating model of the business itself—which, more often than not, is oriented to short term thinking. When a cascade of quarterly pressure and expectation bears down, an entire organisation will necessarily focus on ringing the bell for the company as their bounty to fight yet another day.

This can lead to decisions and behaviours that may help us to win the business, but miss the opportunity earn true customer loyalty and advocacy. It can also lead to a sort of self-involvement that infects and undermines the culture of the organisation, causing us to see customers as a reflection of ourselves.

You’re probably familiar with the mythical story of Narcissus, who was forever transfixed by his own reflection in the river. As the story goes, he sat there, spellbound, eyes locked on his own beauty until his earthly time expired. Meanwhile, so bewitched by his reflection, he couldn’t even see others around him.

We all know a few people who approximate this profile, somehow managing to bring every conversation back around to themselves. It begins with such promise, their eyes wide in recognition. They heard you. You’ve pique their interest. But, really, you haven’t, for their interest is only in themselves.

This pathology makes you a lousy houseguest—and an ineffective marketer. Because, like the jilted interlocutor, your customer sees your self-involvement as plain as day. And I assure you, it’s not flattering.

I’m not suggesting that most marketers are narcissists. They’re not. But this near-term focus can blind us to these sort of behaviours, causing a sort of self-involvement creeps in unnoticed.

It manifests, of course, in our obsession with ringing the bell, but it can also show up in more subtle ways.

Some marketers shout from the hilltops, extolling their own virtues, but doing little to truly connect with audiences.

Many others see the world through the lens of channels when customers are mostly channel blind.

Still others conflate the customer experience with the internal madness of how their companies operate. Foisting this complexity on the customer is a mark of self-involvement—and, more often than not, it’s rejected like a foreign body in the bloodstream.

Or they look at conventional benchmarks like competitors and peers as the gold standard, when customers judge you on the basis of their last-best experience, wherever that occurred.

My point? It’s time to get our heads out of the river. To earn customers for life, marketers need to look beyond themselves.

Article by Jake Sorofman, Gartner Research VP.

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