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You know, people think marketing is all about choosing colours, writing articles and organising events. In part, they are right; these activities do form a large part of the day to day job. But, actually, effective strategic marketing starts way earlier in the business planning than this.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as:

“The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Nowhere does it mention writing great blog posts, or killing it on Facebook Lives. These tactical activities are simply the window dressing designed to bring new customers in, or engage existing ones.

If you are spending a good proportion of your marketing time thinking about your customers’ needs, desires and requirements, and putting them at the very centre of everything you do, you can’t go far wrong.

This became patently obvious to me over the weekend. With our husbands on a golf trip, my sister and I decided to meet, with our children, to stay at the Chessington Hotel in one of the uber-thrilling themed bedrooms.

We have never done this before, and it was a bit of a stretch outside the usual household budget, so expectations from us and the children were very high. The kids were super-excited about the idea of sleeping in a giraffe-themed bedroom, complete with human-sized cuddly giraffe (easily pleased). My sister and I were looking forward to the wine we would drink while someone else did all the cooking and the washing up.

Unfortunately, the reality was a crashing disappointment.

We encountered many problems during our stay. For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep most of the reasons for this disappointment between me and Ben, the hotel manager. But, one particular issue caused us a huge problem, and clearly indicated to me that The Safari Hotel at Chessington does not have their customer’s requirements at the heart of their business. And, for that reason, their marketing has failed.

It has failed because they simply haven’t taken the time to understand the needs of their dream customers i.e. us. Or, more specifically, families with young children.

On arriving at the hotel at 3pm we tried to book a table for dinner, only to find that 7.45pm was the earliest we would be able to eat. Not only had they failed to inform us in the badly-written confirmation emails that we needed to book dinner in advance, one of the restaurants (the one with the biggest capacity and the most child-friendly food) wasn’t even due to open that evening until 7pm. This is a peculiar decision, given that families with young children tend to eat around 5pm, and that almost 100% of those staying in the hotel are accompanied by young children!

The sight of us dragging a bedraggled, starving, irritable bunch of kids around the hotel waiting for dinner three hours later than they are used to, and well past their normal bedtimes, should have been enough for the staff to urgently find us something to eat. But, were this ridiculous opening time not bad enough, they also don’t offer room service at the weekends!

Now, I’m sure there was a perfectly good business decision behind the idea of opening the restaurant at 7pm, such as staff availability or turnaround time from lunch. To be fair, this would be a perfectly normal time for most adult humans. But, I feel very sure it had nothing to do with ‘identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements’.

If they had really thought through exactly how it feels to be a parent at Chessington, with small, over-excited kids in tow, I feel sure the Chessington management would have seen fit to offer an all-day buffet, with LOTS of cake and coffee, and, ideally, a prosecco fountain. If these things had been in place for our visit, I have no doubt that my sister and I could have had a BIG impact on their profit margins as we attempted to recoup vital energy lost refereeing a heated exchange on whether to prioritise the vampire ride or The Scorpion Express for our final hour in the theme park.

So, if you are trying to make business decisions this week, consider how your decisions will affect your ideal customer and what they would prefer. Make your decisions about how, where and what you offer to your customer base with this as your filter, rather than based on what best suits you.

If you aren’t sure of who your customer base is, or what they might need for you to best serve them, read this next.

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