Monday, July 23, 2007


Many people talk about marketing as if it were a strictly one-way communication - from a business organization to its customers.

True marketing is a two-way communication - a conversation between a business organization and its customers. True marketing means not just telling customers what wonderful products and services you have, but listening to customers and finding out what they really want, finding opportunities to deliver greater value, aligning your products and services to customers' real needs.

From a systems perspective, we should always be suspicious of any communication that appears to go in one direction only. All communication generates a response: the response is an essential part of the communication. A good communicator generally picks up the response and deals with it intelligently, but many organizations are very poor communicators in this sense.

It is true that many administrative systems (whether computerized or just bureaucratic) provide for a token response called an acknowledgement or handshake. But this merely confirms that a message has been received; it is difficult to see much meaning in it. (There is no body language in a computer handshake - nothing to convey how pleased the recipient might be.)

So it's not enough to say that communication needs to be a closed loop. It is not enough to have a rich and interesting communication in one direction, and just a paper-thin bureaucratic response in the other direction. Surely a rich and interesting message deserves a rich and interesting response?

Effective marketing departments don't just transmit, they receive and analyse and learn. We can observe this by studying real organizations, we can explain it using systems thinking, and by enacting this explanation in our own organizations we can experience it directly for ourselves. Theoretical understanding of organizations always requires both observation and explanation; practical understanding requires experience as well. As for experience without understanding ... well if that's all you want from life, you shouldn't be reading this blog.

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