Check out the first part of our conversation here
M. G: I wanted to ask you, although we’ve already got a part of the answer from you, how could a marketer become more responsible, considering the large quantity of data collected and never used, part of it being sensitive information?
Claudiu: I believe a good experiment would be to take a marketer and tell them to gather 10 clients at a panel, make him face the clients and explain to them what kind of data a marketing department needs from them. And afterwards, the marketer should allow the clients to ask all the questions they need to ask. I truly believe any marketing professional would leave the room as a more responsible professional.
M.G: Many times marketers look at the volumes, at the quantities: we have sold this number of products, we have this number of leads, we have made this kind of profit, but it seems to me that many times the qualitative impact of the product is left out. I mean, ok, we may not have sold that much, but the people we have reached, those few people, are extremely happy with our product or our service. And taking this into account, maybe a middle ground should be created, between the desperate desire to grow volumes at any costs, and the ethical way of doing things, which says that ok, you didn’t become rich overnight, but you have created a product that has a good reception, a positive impact, that makes people become healthier, feel better, they like your product. Don’t you believe that a balance between growth and impact is desirable, to say the least?
Claudiu: There is a very interesting experience I have to share on this topic. A year and a half ago, I attended a panel with 7 marketers all over the world, people with a huge amount of experience, who work in medium and big companies and I remember there were two consultants who launched this challenge:
draw a dashboard to communicate the performance of your work but keep out any financial information. Not a single mention whatsoever in terms of money or clients.
The result was incredible, and I think that the kind of middle ground you are talking about is possible: I can brag about selling 1000 bottles of i don’t know, Coca Cola, or I can come and say that 700 people have further recommended Coca Cola. I didn’t say how much I have sold, but it is clear that I couldn’t create the effect I’ve created without selling. And the quality is in focus here. I can say that 1000 people have downloaded my app or I can say that there are 500 people who have invited their families to download it. These are quality metrics I can focus on and indeed, the challenge is real, but I really recommend this type of exercise to everybody, anyone can design or draw a performance dashboard where no financial numbers appear. And then one can ask oneself…how do I realize if I was successful if I don’t report income?
M.G: This can be called a measure of responsibility, eventually.
Claudiu: What this does, is that it makes you shift the reporting and focus it on something other than yourself, your very performance. It is not about how much you have received, but it is rather about how much you gave.
This is where the change begins. You basically report the way you have changed or the way people’s lives have changed after you presented them with your product.Claudiu Murariu
And this takes me to a very personal chapter. I have a technical background, I am a technical person and when I have launched my own business, I was thinking that ok, I will create this wonderful product and I will find some sales people to help sell it, because selling things is horrible, this is something only a certain kind of person would do. This is what I imagined.
And someone has deeply changed my perception at some point, when he faced me with this fact:
If you don’t want to be the sales person, in an alternative scenario your potential client will not have the chance to access the product that can make a difference in his life. If this is how you think, then not selling your product becomes unethical. But what this actually means is that when I go somewhere to sell my product, my main interest is not to deprive you from your money, or take your money. But what I really want is to make you understand that my product can really improve your situation.
I am taking a burden off your shoulders with my product. Money is something you want to give me because I did that for you. This is what happens in marketing as well. I have to communicate knowing that if I don’t pass my message on, there will be people that will not have the chance to see or experience certain benefits.
They won’t know that there is a product that was made to solve a real problem for them. But then again, we go back to the initial premise: the fact that I really know what that real problem is. Because otherwise, the only thing I will do is to spread beautiful messages across the market.
M.G: So you use this qualitative metric, this guarantee that the product really has a positive impact and is really created to solve a problem the potential customer faces.
Claudiu: This is what they teach at absolutely any communication university. The first courses are about this.
M.G: True. But on the other hand, the classes at the Communication schools also talk about Edward Bernays, who popularized tobacco consumption among women a while ago.
Claudiu: But there is an important nuance to that, it doesn’t mean the needs people have always belong to a single spectrum. I used to know someone, a Romanian entrepreneur who owned a highly addictive game and you could simply look at that game and say that nothing good can come out of it. You use that game to become a living zombie.
Why would I promote that kind of product? And the guy was asked: how do you manage with hiring marketing people? This product is terrible.
And he had a very good answer: “Without my game, we would have a considerable number of mothers all over the world, who would suffer from depression. I offer them 5-10 minutes of solace, when they can disconnect. I kind of zombify their minds, but this is what they need in that specific moment.”
In these exact terms we can talk about the guy who promoted tobacco consumption among women, at a time when the health hazards of smoking were actually not known. If it worked well, then he managed to cover a very clear and specific need for those women.
M.G: Yes, it all happened at a very particular moment in time. In those times, women were fighting for power and equal rights, In the US, feminist movements were trying hard to make a stand and ratify a set of laws that were promoting gender equality. Most of them were housewives then, they weren’t perceived as equal to men and Bernays gave them a certain kind of power, posture and status. At a national parade, in the front row, with hundreds of people behind them, some beautiful, wonderfully dressed women were smoking tobacco, and this is how smoking became popular among women. Among everybody actually, it was the Mad Men era, everyone was smoking cigarettes. It is true that reasons for the existence of any kind of product can be found, but maybe this is the challenge and the level of responsibility I was trying to mention earlier.
Claudiu: True, but I wouldn’t turn marketers into judgers. If one discovers a behavior that needs to be solved, I would recommend – “you go and approach it”. If you let others do it, their intentions might differ from yours and the results would be different, maybe worse. And each need creates another, in turn. OK, women have taken up smoking back then, but that habit, that behavior has generated other problems, other needs. The world has moved forward and made it possible for other products to reach the market.
M.G: But do you think that an ethical perspective is needed here? Ethics in marketing, leaving those years behind, back then everything was booming – advertising, new products, etc. Now in 2021, when the market is already overcrowded with products and innovations and people find it hard to choose between this or that, do you think it’s important for marketers to develop this ethical way of doing things, as a complementary skill, and feed this way of seeing, acting thing, one way or the other?
Claudiu: It is very nuanced and depends from one person to another.
I would tend to say no.
An ethical person is ethical if they are built that way, but they might not be built that way and that’s that.
You cannot be an unethical person in your daily life but do ethical marketing. But what I strongly believe is that the market dictates ethics. I believe that the market, as competition grows and alternatives appear, regulates itself.Claudiu Murariu
Who is an unethical person? It is someone who lies.
Considering this, one client will buy their product once. And when competition becomes fierce, that client will not return to them. No one makes profit with a single purchase. Most businesses make profits with successive purchases – at retention levels, almost the entire market is focused on retention. It is highly expensive for a business to buy a new client, to close a new lead and then, the ideal scenario is to keep your client close to you as long as possible. And I think that this makes you adopt an ethical conduct. Because lying and cheating is definitely not a solution for retention.
M.G: How do you approach situations at InnerTrends? What are you guys doing there?
Claudiu: We are building a platform dedicated to data analytics, specifically created to boost retention.
This company started with this in mind: there is this immense amount of data on the market and too few decisions made, based on that data. And when we asked ourselves what are the reasons why people lack the capacity of making data-driven decisions, after we have performed that “jobs to be done” study, to understand exactly how is it that they make decisions and how do they use the data, we have discovered that most people lack the necessary skills to interpret data. Ok, I have the data, I look at it, but the information is too complex and complicated, in order for me to understand the entire story behind it.
Then we have developed a solution, a product that offers data science algorithms, in the form of specific questions, and the client can access this library of questions and find the answers there.Claudiu Murariu
For example, what is the difference between people who perform the second purchase and those who don’t? You click on the question, an algorithm will check your data, it knows exactly what to look at and how, and it will offer you an answer.
And yes, we are a solution whose purpose is to help product and marketing people understand retention.
M.G: So people can understand, through your product, how a client can become a loyal client.
M.G: And with this information, they have all the information and prerogatives to improve their product, to make it better or fitter for the client they want to keep.
Claudiu: What most people who use InnerTrends find out is they can’t loyalize a client without changing the product.
What they discover through analyzing the difference between people who come back and the ones who don’t, are the features or product functionalities that make a difference. And then, as marketers, they ask the question: “ how do we communicate these functionalities, to reach more people?” and also, “how do we change the product, to make these features easier to use?”
M.G: Could one say that InnerTrends pleads for a market dedicated to products and services that is maybe, more flexible?
Claudiu: We plead for a market, considering this global context we are in, dedicated to products that don’t waste resources.
An ideal world is a world where the product works exactly the way you need it. And a product can work how it needs to work and how you need it, only if the individual behind the product understands exactly what your need is.Claudiu Murariu
And then, we plead for this world where products are flexible based on the idea that a product expert manipulates the item so that it manages to solve your problem.
And this is a very important part, I feel the need to add some weight to it, there is a quote that is very famous, which says that when you ask a man what he needs in order to reach more velocity, he would add more horses to the carriage, but you will build him a bicycle or a car for a change.
The clients oftentimes don’t know how to define their needs. Their data, for a change, will reveal it more clearly. Data does a great job in communicating what the clients need and then the purpose is not about building flexible products that can be used differently by different people, but to build or develop products that aim at covering that specific need, and to provide a great deal of diversity of products to cover all the needs we have: specificity, specialization i believe is the right word.
M.G: And what kind of data do you look at?
Claudiu: Behavioral data. We basically analyze digital products – mobile applications, web applications, solutions dedicated to companies, and we look at how those products are being used and at the ways in which we can modify them to generate a greater level of customer retention.
M.G: And the last question, that somehow summarizes our entire talk and pieces of the talk and of the answers I’ve got by now are part of the answer for my last question: how do you see a better, more constructive way to market, to marketing, both locally and globally? From a local perspective, we are a rather small market but this is where an opportunity lies, we can do things differently, we have more freedom.
Claudiu: At a local level, we compete with global products. I believe a marketer becomes more responsible when he achieves a greater understanding of the needs of his clients. At a functional level, not an emotional one.
The emotional one is important too, but always after the functional one is acknowledged and understood. I am talking about a market where we can collect high quality data about the way a product is being used, but not more than needed, and it is a market that is highly focused on innovation. And innovation is possible anywhere. We all know about those pastries, those small neighborhood businesses that work incredibly well, although they are in the shade of the big giants. And people crowd in front of the stores to buy their products, because these guys are innovators – both in terms of communication, but most importantly, in terms of the product they offer. If the supermarkets would better communicate their products, you would go to the supermarkets to buy those products, it would be much easier.
M.G: I would dare to say that these products and brands are closer to the people. They are closer, as you said, to the real needs of the people.
Claudiu: And they work amazingly because they start with their own needs. Many of these small businesses have themselves a need that is uncovered and they hope to meet as many people with the same need. Some find it easy to survive and thrive, while others don’t. And that’s ok. But when you want to launch something on a global market, you cannot afford to experiment that much. You go and do what others have done, but as a study first.
M.G: Maybe this is another way of talking about that balance, between quality and quantity. We have one one hand the mass market products that are made to cover a need but they aren’t necessarily that close to it, they are most of the times far from being as delightful as an artisanal bread – tasty, good looking, comforting. The supermarket doesn’t provide the kind of small business interactions either, the humane, warm ones.
A mass market product is purely functional and the reason behind that is this need to sell massively, to cover a very large spectrum of consumers. I am thinking that one challenge in the future would be in finding a way to build this middle ground, between large scale – supermarkets, hypermarkets – , and small scale, artisanal products, this niche that is growing but it’s still there, in a small bubble.
Claudiu: And this will happen when, from my point of view, at least this is my personal bet, and the one bet we, at InnerTrends are making, when these small businesses that started with a niche, in a small group of friends, start to access some tools the giants already use. The moment when a small business has the same capacity to analyze data the way a supermarket does, that is the moment when they can grow nice and easy towards a middle area.
M.G: Well, there are some risks to be taken into account. Production capacity maybe, but these are other details.
Claudiu: Capacities that grow naturally. A very dear consultant to me used to say one single thing: We need to build products that are so good, that they don’t need a price. The clients will want to pay for them by themselves. If you, as a marketer, need to use words such as buy this, do that, if you need to tell the people what to do, compared to telling them what you have to offer… Well, this is what makes the difference
M.G: This seems like a great moment to wrap it up. Thank you!