Maria Geokezas joins Heinz Marketing


I was excited last week to announce that Maria Geokezas has joined Heinz Marketing. Maria and I worked together previously at HouseValues, and she brings an impressive resume of big-brand marketing experience (and results!) to our current and future client work.

You can read the press release and her bio on the site, but the best way to get to know Maria (and how good she is at customer-centric marketing) is to let her tell you her story directly. Here, then, is a little from Maria.

You’ve spent a lot of time in your career driving deeper relationships and revenue from existing customers. What have been the keys to that success for you across organizations and brands?

Knowing your customer, how they are connected to your brand, product or company is the most important thing you can do as a marketer. A great example of this is Harley Davidson Financial Services. In order to generate more value for the customer and ultimately for the company, we undertook a deep analysis of our customers that resulted in a customer segmentation model that allowed us to plan marketing efforts and spend, tracking results by customer segment. The segmentation allowed us to send different messages and offers to different customer segments. It also played a big role in redesigning the loyalty program component of the Visa card to better serve Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.

Once you understand your customers’ motivations, tailor unique experiences outside the paid transaction to reinforce the relationship and keep your customer engaged. For instance, if you have a customer segment that is motivated by convenience, make doing business with your company easy, let them transact seamlessly throughout the online and bricks and mortar channels. Offer them free services like express check-out, or express delivery. These are services that really matter to this type of customer segment. Similarly, if another customer segment is motivated by prestige, or being in the know, feed them information about your company before it is publicly available. Let them know about product launches prior to the actual launch, or invite them to an open house to view upcoming innovations. This type of value-add will keep this type of customer loyal.

How can companies get more aggressive about driving repeat business, renewals and referrals from existing customers in a thoughtful, respectful way?

Repeat business is all about the customer experience and if it meets or, hopefully, exceeds expectations. This is different from customer service. Customer service is a part of the overall customer experience, but differs in that it is typically a one-off transaction that is initiated because the customer has an issue with what was purchased. By having a customer-focused approach to your business, you view your customers as a financial asset.

Tom Peters asserts customers are a company’s most important asset. Most companies, however, are product-focused in that they have spent all their time and intellectual capital on design, product features and pricing analysis. They haven’t approached it from a customer perspective to ensure their designs and features fulfill a customer need or are important enough for a customer to pay a premium price. Just as important is the communication and delivery of the product/service purchased. Each customer touch point should be reviewed and analyzed to ensure they deliver a consistent customer experience.

What are the biggest opportunities for marketers heading into 2010?

Make the virtual world consistent with the online, digital experience. The experience a customer receives online, at the beginning of their experience with your company, should be consistent with that which is received when conducting face-to-face interactions. Comcast, Alaska Air and REI do a great job with integrating their social media presence with their business.

Businesses need to consider mobile marketing in their future marketing plans. Because everyone has a cell phone, it has created a situation in which you can get in touch with anyone from almost anywhere at any time. Businesses need to consider this when planning their future marketing mix and how they will use their marketing tools and channels to connect with customers and keep them engaged. For instance, REI offers an iPhone Ski and Snow report app. You add different ski resorts to customize the app for your needs, you can connect with twitter feeds from the mountain, and view trail maps and get driving directions.

Video will begin playing a bigger role in marketing communications. We are all using Tivo and DVR’s to watch the TV shows we choose. We speed through the advertisements to get to the program. Now that the internet is distributing more and more content (movies, TV shows, short videos) it has created an increased opportunity for video to drive awareness, adoption and accelerate conversion.

What three things can marketing do to build better relationships (and drive better results) with their sales and business development counterparts?

It’s simple really:

  1. Target the right customers
  2. Develop the right message/offer to get them interested
  3. Reinforce the message throughout multiple channels/points of distribution
  4. Track and measure results.
  5. Create a system that is scalable and repeatable. Don’t waste your resources recreating. Instead, create a continuous improvement loop, with every new campaign, or initiative, make incremental improvements.
  6. Track. Measure. Repeat.

The most powerful channel to influence new customers may be other, existing customers. How can organizations harness and amplify positive customer-to-customer influence?

Be interactive: ask for feedback and respond to it – – immediately. Starbucks has done a great job of this with the site. Customers are encouraged to make suggestions, other customers can make comments to the suggestions and Starbucks partners respond to each suggestion. The suggestions are categorized into groups (“Under Review”, “Reviewed”, “Coming Soon”) so that customer participating on the blog can see that their ideas are being heard.

Create Customer forums to bring customers together. For instance, invite your biggest and best customers to participate in a steering committee. Ask them to share best practices and discuss how the company can incorporate their feedback in product enhancements, communications, and policies/procedures. If you treat this group well, are honest and transparent with their suggestions, they will become evangelists for you.

The best relationships happen organically, but sometimes companies need to put a little “fertilizer” into the mix to stimulate conversation and input. By “fertilizer”, I mean value-add content that augments your core product/service and is consistent with your brand. REI has done a fantastic job keeping their customers connected to the brand by offering information on outdoor activities via their company website, links and mobile phone applications. Their value-added content enriches their customer’s outdoor experience. Not only because they sell the right equipment, but REI helps to make the connection to the right outdoor experience, positively reinforcing the purchase decision.