Knowledge is Power

As the famous proverb says, ‘knowledge is power’.  To be more accurate, Collating verified information so you have correct and accurate knowledge is power.

The business which owns the most accurate information about its market, customers and environment, tends to be the most successful business in that market.

Information and its assessment is therefore a critical stage in the marketing planning process and the development of sustainable marketing strategies.

It is really important that you know you are operating on correct information. Your business must know it is operating within the truth and not relying on fallacy.

In the realm of intellectual property protection generating false information is a common tactic.  It is not unknown for sportswear manufacturers to leak false football strip designs in the far east, so as to put counterfeiters off the right track.  In entertainment, film-makers deliberately leak rumours of false character arcs and storylines to divert the attention of showbiz journalists keen to publicise ‘spoilers’.

Some definitions:

  • Data:  Facts and statistics used for reference and analysis.
  • Information:  Facts or knowledge provided or learned.
  • Knowledge:  Information and skills acquired through experience and education.


  • Data:  The plural of datum. A statement accepted at face value: a given.
  • Information:  A collection of facts (data) which, when analysed, can be used to draw conclusions.
  • Knowledge:  Information of which a person or organisation is aware.

Increasingly in organisations, the management of knowledge is seen as a critical factor in the development of sustainable competitive advantage.

The information to be managed is that which is focused on the organisations identity and focus. it is what the organisation needs to know about itself, its customers and the environment in which it is to operate.

Remember, knowledge is different to information in that it is used as an essential ingredient in your customer offer and business purpose.

So what is knowledge management?

  • Knowledge:  “A fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextualised information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and encorporating new experiences and information.  It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers.  In organisations it is often embedded in documents, processes, policies and norms.
  • Knowledge Management:  “The explicit and systematic management if vital knowledge and its associated processes for creating, gathering, organising and exploitation.  Knowledge management is turning personal knowledgeinto corporate knowledge that can be widely shared throughout an organisation and thus appropriately applied.”

Increasingly organisations will differentiate themselves through the way they retain and manage knowledge.

Knowledge management is a concept simple in definition but desperately difficult in implementation. However, it provides real marketing advantages which offset the cost of developing knowledge management processes.

Competitive advantage is created through knowledge management by:

  1. Collecting relevant data
  2. Analysing that data – turning data into information and information into knowledge
  3. Distributing that knowledge to staff so that it can be applied in the market.
  4. Using that knowledge to enhance the customer experience.

This knowledge management process is central to the balanced scorecard method developed by Kaplan and Norton.  In that process organisational learning and knowledge management is applied to create better and more efficient corporate processes.  These new processes lead to better customer results, e.g. new customer acquisition and customer retention. These better customer results lead to better financial returns which can be re-invested in further organisational learning.

Knowledge is power and managing knowledge is increasingly seen as a key factor in any organisation’s future. It is closely linked to new technology, new market channels, market disruption and the creation of new organisational networks.  It allows the development of new ways to grab the attention of prospective customers.


Customer Service – Why it Matters

I have spent the vast majority of my career working in the field of consumer protection and trading standards.  As a result I have dealt with literally thousands of consumer complaints relating to poor customer service.

Marketing is about developing a customer-focused organisation.  Therefore developing strong customer service capabilities is crucial to commercial success.

Customer service is critical to the development of successful strategic marketing processes.  The development of strong customer service policies and procedures are critical to the development of a strong brand image.

We live in a world where the core of a product offering is becoming increasingly commoditised.  If you are seeking to add value to your core products and you wish to differentiate your products from those of your competitors, product halo elements such as the development of differentiated and strong service elements is a prominent option.

Previously in this blog I have discussed the work of Treacy and Wiersema.  In particular, the three potential strategies for excellence, Product focus, Managerial Excellence and Customer Intimacy.  Managerial excellence is an inward looking strategy and developing excellence in product focus can be expensive and risky.  Therefore for many firms, particularly SMEs, the development of customer intimacy through the development of excellent customer service provision is critical to success and growth.  Developing excellence in customer service is critical to the creation of customer intimacy.

In his book, Marketing Plans, Professor Malcolm Macdonald describes the service profits chain; how the development of strong customer service strategies can be central to the growth of a firm’s profitability:

  1.  Employee Satisfaction:  Satisfied employees provide better service quality. If you have satisfied employees, you have less staff turnover.  This means your staff are better trained and more knowledgeable about your products and services.  Satisfied employees are more productive.  Satisfied employees have a greater commitment to the company and they present themselves better.
  2. Improved Service Quality:  Satisfied employees provide better quality service which leads to greater customer loyalty.
  3. Service Quality:  If you have satisfied employees you have better service quality.  Customers exhibit greater satisfaction with your brand.  They buy more.  They buy more often.  They are retained for longer.  The exhibit greater loyalty.
  4. Customer Retention:  Increased customer loyalty leads to greater customer retention.  This creates an opportunity to increase profitability.  Loyal customers are less likely to switch to your competitors simply because of a change in price.  They are willing to spend more as they have familiarity with your products and processes.  Loyal customers cost less to serve.  They can offer opportunities to lower marketing costs through lower promotional budgets than those required to gain new customers.  The longer a customer stays with your firm, the greater their lifetime value.  Customer retention also creates greater shareholder value through improved revenues and reduction in risk.
  5. Positive Feedback Loop:  Satisfied customers treat staff better.  They develop a positive relationship with your employees and with your brand.  There is a positive correlation between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.

I see a parallel between the positive feedback loop of the service profit chain and the feedback loop of the balanced scorecard developed by Kaplan and Norton. The theory of the balanced scorecard is that improved organisational learning leads to better internal processes; better internal processes leads to better customer service; better customer service leads to improved financial performance and in turn, better financial performance means that you can invest more in improving your organisational learning and development.

Macdonald outlines five dimensions of service quality:

  1. Tangibility:  This is closely linked to the physical evidence elements of your marketing mix.  Good service quality is linked to the physical equipment used by customers and to the appearance of your staff.
  2. Reliability:  Quality service provision must be performed dependably and accurately.  It must be accurately repeated.
  3. Responsiveness:  You must show willingness to help your customers and you must serve their service needs promptly.
  4. Assurance:  Your staff must be knowledgeable and courteous.  They must have the ability to inspire confidence amongst your customers.
  5. Empathy:  Your employees must care about customers concerns and offer them individual attention.  They must show that customers concerns are important to them.

These five dimensions of service quality are critical if you are following the principles of SERVQUAL.

Today, it is often said that consumers, in particular the incorrectly defined market segment ‘millennials’, buy experiences not goods or services.  Consumers now want products which are engaging, robust, compelling and memorable.  Customer experience goes beyond the development of service.  To develop quality experiences, you need to go beyond exceptional service quality.  You need to recognise:

  1.  Usage Processes:  This is how customers access  and use your goods and services. Usage processes influence how your customers think about your firm.  Their concept of product value develops through their use of your goods and services not at the factory gate.
  2. Peer to Peer Interactions:  The interactions between your customers are important.  They are an important part of developing robust experiences.
  3. Relationships:  Too many satisfaction/service quality services erroneously focus on individual customer transactions and encounters.  they do not examine longer term relationships over time and across multiple transactions.
  4. Brand Image/Communication:  People don’t own an iPhone or a BMW because of their functionality.  They own them because those products make a statement about the owner.
  5. Emotions:  Customers are not entirely rational.  Emotions have a big effect on their relationship with a firm and their rating of the experience you offer.

When developing a marketing plan, you need to be cognisant of customer service needs and concerns in each of the above areas.