Are Marketing Vendors Really Customer-Centric?


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My reading pile grows with every day. On it currently are books by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff entitled ‘The Groundswell’, from Charles Leadbetter entitled ‘We Think’ and from Clay Shirky entitled ‘Here Comes Everybody’. They are all about how social marketing is revolutionising the principles and practice of marketing. About how social customer-centric marketing, by customers, for customers, is tomorrow’s marketing.

It is with this explosion in interest in social marketing as a backdrop that I have just noticed the sad demise of Unica’s ‘The Marketing Consortium’ blog. I used to visit it all the time when it was new, but my interest has tailed-off over the last year. Why did my interest wane after such a promising start, and what does it mean for Unica and for the state of the marketing software industry in general?

Well firstly, my interest waned because there are plenty of better developed sources of new ideas about marketing out there. CustomerThink for one. Just featuring a few marketing talking-heads with occasional posts, no matter how influential they are, is no longer enough in today’s socially-powered marketing. Information is everywhere and it is practically free.

Secondly, it waned because the blog was mostly about Unica having a one-way monologue with the market, rather than having a real two-way conversation with customers and using the insights generated to drive discussion inside Unica. The blog just sat their all by itself, not really connected to the rest of Unica. Indeed, when I rhetorically asked Unica – from the vantage point of the speakers’ podium at a Unica Regional Users Group Conference – who had heard of the blog, not one member of Unica’s staff raised their hand!

Thirdly, because it wasn’t available through any of the blog aggregators that I use to keep track of almost 100 blogs daily. In the busy life of the modern marketer, if it isn’t easy to follow new blog content through a blog aggregator, unless the blog is really an absolute must read it is quickly forgotten.

And finally – and this is the killer for me – to be blunt, because I don’t think that Unica walks its own talk about Customer Centric Marketing. Certainly not in these social marketing times.

If Unica really walked the talk, it would have used the blog to create an active community of practice, with which to engage leading-edge marketers in a proper conversation around social customer-centric marketing. Marketing software sales is a tough business and vendors need all the insider knowledge they can get their hands on. Indeed, it would have used the blog to bring those very same people inside Unica; to drive its own social customer-centric marketing agenda forward. Alas, it was not to be. Unica has missed another golden opportunity to learn from those who struggling to make marketing software deliver value. To learn from its customers and from its potential customers. To learn from the very people its customer-centric rhetoric should be all about.

And what goes for Unica goes for many of the other marketing software vendors out there too. Do they really think they know how social customer-centric marketing is changing marketing from the inside-out? Maybe they do. But judging by their behaviour, I somehow doubt it. As the old saw says, “Doctor heal thyself”. It’s never too late to become customer-centric, to harness the power of the social customer. Not even for the marketing software industry.

What do you think? Are marketing vendors out of touch with today’s social customer-centric marketing? Or am I being unfair to Unica in making them an example?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Further Reading:

Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff’s ‘The Groundswell’

Charles Leadbetter’s ‘We Think’

Clay Shirky’s ‘Here Comes Everybody’

Unica’s ‘The Marketing Consortium’ Blog

Unica’s Customer Centric Marketing Whitepaper

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Graham,

    I agree that social media marketing is associated with a revolution in marketing practices. However, I believe the underlying principles are very customer-centric, the tools are different that traditional marketing.

    I have been taking an informal survey of late doing my speaking on social media marketing. I ask the audience how many have used magazines, newspapers, radio, advertising etc (traditional marketing) to do research on an issue, service or product. About 20% answer positively. When I ask how many have used a search engine or tapped in to an online social network, 80% say yes.

    When I point out that this is the trend for their customers as well, there is a genuine peak in interest. When I point out that companies without a visible and credible social media presence have lost influence with their customers, there is fear in their eyes.

    Now to people who sell marketing services. Recently, I have spent time with a number of marketing people in unconference formats. The overwhelming proportion don’t know how to implement social media marketing programs. Furthermore, many who claim they are with it are actually doing advertising campaign in the virtual world. This is consistent with a CMO Council survey that indicated that a large number of companies were switching agencies because the ones they were with didn’t understand the revolution.

    It is going to get very interesting over the next stretch as the former powers in marketing and advertising either play defense or scrabble embrace the new rules and the new tools.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.

  2. John

    A recent example from my own work.

    I talked with a mobile telco about customer churn a few months back. They were quite perplexed by growing churn and how to tackle it. Customers perceived competitor offerings to be better value for money. A quick analysis showed that this was true, but only marginally, probably not enough to drive the level of churn they were experiencing. Further research identified that customer Word of Mouth was the key driver of churn. Customers who thought competitor offerings were cheaper were defecting and telling others what a great deal they had got who then defected themselves. An almost classic social marketing problem. When I asked them what their social marketing strategy was to deal with the problem directly, I was met with blank stares! I won’t bore you with details of the size of their acquisition marketing budget. Suffice it to say we are talking seven or eight figures.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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