All I want for Christmas - my customer view

Way back when my brother and I had different wish lists for Santa Claus

Two brothers: same hat, different wish lists for Santa Claus.

As my followers can attest, my normal viewpoint in this blog is as a marketer focused on marketers. And I try to stay true to the tagline of this blog: Evolving relationships for business growth.

I chose those words very carefully so that evolving could with be interpreted either passively (as if describing what’s happening with marketing and customers), or actively (as in the deliberate process of changing how marketers engage with their customers). I think both equally are valid reasons for a blog, but I happen to find it more interesting to talk about the active approach.

So today, I intend to share my viewpoint as a customer as a way to highlight some of the main themes we’ve explored on this blog. And since it’s Christmas Eve (very soon Christmas morning on the eastern Pacific Rim), it made sense to make it a Christmas list (like the kind Eartha Kitt warbles in “Santa Baby”). If I could ask Santa Claus for what I want from my vendors and service providers, this is my list.

  1. Be respectful

I am busy, and I try to be my best whenever I am wearing the many hats I wear – as a marketer, father, husband, son, Scout leader, community member. If you and your product / service can help me meet my goals in one of those roles – great! If not, please leave me alone. I’ll call on you when I need you. If you pester me, I’ll get annoyed and just might look elsewhere when I need it.

For marketers, this means respecting do not call lists and email opt-outs. Ideally, it means using opt-ins instead of relying on opt-outs. And when I opt-out, please don’t keep spamming me or only offer opt-outs from the current tightly-defined email list that you define. And please stop calling me at home. There is never a good time to call me at home – because I am *never* sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Ever. You will always be interrupting something and I won't be happy about it.

  1. Be responsive

The corollary to respectfulness is responsiveness. If I am trying to give you my business or need some help, please don’t make it difficult for me. This can either be in your contact center as outlined by my colleague, Rachel Alt-Simmons’ last post, Customer service, don’t #FAIL me now, or having a social media monitoring and response strategy as outlined by my other colleague, Antionen Scott. In the case of social media, I can guarantee I am not the only one sharing my pains (or singing your praises).

  1. Be responsible

This is a biggie – and particularly as it pertains to the role of customer data and how using it affects your customers. To illustrate how this matters, my wife and I just got our credit card re-issued for the 4th time this year. And this is on an account we’ve had since 1992, with this year being the first time this happened because of fraudulent use. And each time our card is re-issued, we have to change 21 auto-pay arrangements that takes up time we just don’t have to spare. It also affects our payment history with key vendors and it interrupts the cash flow of charitable donations that depend on donations. So far it’s rippled out like that four times this year.

My colleague Tamara Dull published a phenomenal blog series here this year on Monetization, Ownership, Privacy and Security of big data called The Big Data MOPS Series that highlights these issues. Make no mistake:

Marketing is the steward of the customer relationship and
big data is driven mostly by customer data,
so big data is a big issue for marketing.

  1. Be authentic

This request is related to the idea that marketing is the steward of the customer relationship. And all organizations have a mission of some sort – a reason for being and guiding principle that makes the organizations’ activities meaningful. In most cases, the corporate mission is stated in terms of benefitting customers (or society in general) - whether the customer is defined as clients, members, patients, constituents, subscribers, rate payers audiences, etc.
* If that is not the case, you may need to rethink your mission.

I think it follows that marketing should support the corporate mission – your brand should have a promise and your products/services should deliver on that promise. This should apply to public statements made by your executives – even those should support your corporate mission.
* If that is not the case, you need to rethink your marketing.

Authenticity has always been important, but what’s different is that the stakes are higher. In our always-on, always-connected socially active digital world, news travels fast and bad news travels faster. And bad news online seems to have the half-life of uranium, so it’s very important to have internal alignment that drives consistency in words and actions across the organization.

In a previous post, I’ve said that Digital marketing is really about people and by that I meant that it’s about how your organization serves, relates to and interacts with people.

  1. Be transparent

Transparency is related to all four of my previous wishes because the organization that operates transparently has nothing to hide. We all know that businesses are around to make money, so you don’t have to make excuses for wanting to do it. But if making money requires trickery, unduly influencing regulation, or changing a value proposition with your customers that is either stated outright or implied, then you need to rethink your process.

And if you make a mistake – own up to it as soon as you learn about it and make amends quickly. This is something we all learned from mom and dad and there’s no reason it shouldn’t apply to organizations. It’s common courtesy.

So that’s all I want for Christmas. These are my viewpoints as a customer both as an end consumer and as a B2B client. Marketers can be better – and we should be. Is that too much to ask?

What’s on your list?


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


  1. Hi John,
    This is a great article.
    I just recently switched careers and started a new job as a marketing manager for a local restaurant. This short piece makes more sense to me than anything I've read about marketing so far. It strikes me as the "Golden Rules" of marketing. If a person follows this, he can't go wrong.
    Thank you,
    JoJo Campbell

    • John Balla

      Hi JoJo,
      Thank you for your kind words and best of luck to you in your new career direction. Restaurants are interesting places where both products and services form the customer experience, so everyone in the organization really has to be on point and focused on the guests. Have a great day!

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