How the Seinfeld Auto Reservation “Framework” is Key to Successful B2B Marketing

Allison Berey, M:CALIBRATE

Models and frameworks can help marketers and client teams organize their thinking by creating a common vocabulary and implementation longevity. The right framework can serve to vet new ideas, ensure that resources and investments remain aligned to an organization’s strategic priorities, and generally keep everyone rowing in the same direction.

In Marketing Model #1 on Growth CMOs vs Brand CMOs here, we talked about how the Marketing function is broadly shifting from a tactical to a strategic focus. New titles like Chief Growth Officer and Chief Revenue Officer are indicative of how strategically-driven organizations are elevating their expectations of the Marketing function. In Marketing Model #2 here, our focus was on how the Design Thinking model can ensure upstream strategic rigor to reduce marketing failures.

Model #3, Seinfeld and B2B Marketing, is the simplest, yet possibly most important. Seinfeld’s frustration that a rental car agency doesn’t have the type of car he had reserved is the perfect framework for illustrating the importance of Strategic Marketing. Here’s a quick read:

  • Seinfeld: I made a reservation for a mid-size....

  • Agent: I’m sorry, we have no mid-size available at this moment.

  • Seinfeld: I don’t understand. I made a reservation. Do you have my reservation?

  • Agent: Yes, we do. Unfortunately, we ran out of cars.

  • Seinfeld: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.

  • Agent: I know why we have reservations.

  • Seinfeld: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation. The holding. Anybody can just take them!

”Taking” versus “Holding” the Reservation, and the Strategic Marketing Bridge

Think of “taking” the auto reservation as setting growth goals and ”holding” the reservation as determining how you will actually get there. The “hold” fills what is often a big gap between your growth intent as defined in a Strategic Plan and your Tactical Marketing, as executed via social media, public relations, advertising, etc. A strong strategic marketing program serves to bridge between the two ends of the spectrum. We’ll get back to how to assess the strength of your organization’s Strategic Marketing Bridge.

There are a plethora of insightful articles on Strategic Planning, such as as HBR’s “Your Strategic Plans Probably Aren’t Strategic”1, and “Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies.” 2 Similarly, there are many on the tactical end of the spectrum such as McKinsey’s “How digital is powering the next wave of growth in key account management.” 3 These articles provide important lessons learned on comprehensive strategy development and execution pitfalls.

Less well-traversed is the bridge between the two ends of the spectrum. Before you think about how much to spend on LinkedIn ads and long prior to sending your salesforce into cold-calling vertigo, assess your Strategic Marketing Bridge, the most important part of your growth plan.

”Taking” versus “Holding” the Reservation, and Brand Strategy Development

A second parallel for the Seinfeld scene is in how a company’s Brand Strategy or Value Proposition is defined and delivered upon. A marketing communications plan and the actual words you use to describe why your target customers should choose your products or services over competitors is certainly strategically important.

But the Brand Promise you’ve articulated to customers and prospects is like “taking” the reservation. Marketing communications is just the start. Even more critical is demonstrating the value proposition, aka the “holding”. Customer Experience is the opportunity to deliver against your brand promise in every aspect of what happens after they become a customer. Consistent delivery drives customer retention. Deliberate alignment at every touchpoint drives customer relationship retention growth. Employees who understand clearly how culture and brand are tied together will know how their role impacts the customer. They then feel empowered to collaborate cross-functionally to enable Customer Experience that syncs with your brand promise. So, calibrating your whole organization to deliver consistently is the most important part of your Value Proposition!

How do you go about building a Strategic Marketing Bridge for your growth plans and ensuring that the end- to-end customer journey is aligned to what you’ve promised in your marketing?

Strategic Marketing Bridge Quiz

Is growth not happening at pace for any of the following reasons?

  • Rate of new customer acquisition has slowed

  • Existing customers are not adding services

  • Customers are leaving for reasons unclear

Would your Leadership team would answer differently to the questions...?

  • “What is the primary reason customers choose you vs. your competitors?”

  • “What are the top 3 initiatives that our C-suite should be driving that cross

    functional boundaries?”

  • “How does your strategic plan actively focus your Marketing and Sales teams’ priorities?”

Is your Marketing team mainly (or only) focused tactically on social media, creative, public relations and events?
Are your Marketing metrics and Marketing budget...?

  • Not directly tied to the goals in your strategic plan

  • Measuring activity not ROI, eg. customer acquisition vs relationship health

Are any of these true of your Salesforce...?

  • Mainly pursue leads reactively or via cold-calling, versus building more proactive client development plans

  • Compensated based on new customer acquisition vs. customer lifetime value

Do Employees say things like...?

  • “We know what our customers think so we don’t want to bother them with surveys or interviews.”

  • ”I’m not in Marketing or Sales, so I don’t really impact the customer.”

  • “We are good at a lot of things, so we don’t want to narrow our options by talking about a single customer benefit.”

How many of these resonate?

  • If you didn’t answer “yes” to any questions, carry on, your Strategic Marketing Bridge is solid!

  • If you answered “yes” to 2- 3 of these, you have gaps, but they may not be of highest priority compared to other business issues.

  • If you answered “yes” to 4 or more, tackle this ASAP. You’re likely missing growth opportunities, and/or losing frustrated employees due lack of strategic prioritization.

Allison Berey is a Kansas City native, but an amalgam of professional and academic experiences gained in the U.S. and globally, and across a wide range of industries. A highly accomplished and results-oriented leader with over 25-years of experience in growth strategy and marketing, Allison has divided her career between working as a consultant and in corporate leadership roles, achieving measurable success in professional services, financial services, and many business-to-business verticals. This balanced background enables her to fuse an understanding of both how management thinks and how consultant recommendations can be most effectively implemented. In previous work with Fortune 500 consumer and B2B companies in the US and globally, Allison led a broad range of corporate-wide new market entry and strategic marketing initiatives.  Most recently, as the Chief Marketing Officer for a top national professional services firm, she built a national Marketing and Business Development platform during its period of rapid expansion, and was pleased to see the firm achieve significant industry accolades and measurable ROI improvements in all Marketing and Business Development metrics over her tenure. Industry rankings achieved include a 50-spot leap in brand strength and major rise in client service and client relationship strength rankings to levels significantly disproportionate to the firm’s size.

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