This week's Marketing Smarts podcast marks a special milestone: our 300th episode! To mark the occasion, I brought back our very first guest, Lou Imbriano. Formerly CMO of the New England Patriots, Lou is now a strategist and speaker, and the author of Winning the Customer: Turn Consumers Into Fans and Get Them to Spend More. He's also the managing director of the Imbriano Group—a marketing strategy and business advisory consultancy.

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I invited Lou to Marketing Smarts to share what's changed in marketing since he spoke with former host Matt Grant back in 2011, and to talk about how his approach to "winning the customer" has held up. (spoiler alert: it still works!)

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Focus on existing customers, not just prospects (05:52): "People make a mistake because they spend a lot of time on prospects, right? 85% of their time is [spent] on prospects. You have three targets: you have prospects, you have current clients or customers, and you have a category of what I would call 'friends of' [whom] people don't spend any time on. Current customers you might spend 15-20% of the time on, and then you're focused on prospects, because new business means new money.

"But here's the pitfall: Prospects can only give you one thing: their money. Whereas current customers, can give you three things: their money (which they're already giving you), leads or referrals, and then finally more money. So why would you spend 80% of your time on somebody who can give you one thing as opposed to somebody who can give you three things?"

There's no quantifiable formula for building strong customer relationships (08:22): "[Chief Financial Officers] are...focused on numbers. It's a pure numbers game. And they have more power today than ever. The reality of it is, there is no equation for building a relationship with a customer. If there equation that equaled money, than the CFO should have a role. But marketing is an art, not a science. There are definitely technologies that help that art in a scientific way, and the data is always wonderful, but the reality of it is that building relationships with your customers is not a CFO's job, it's a CMO's job. The CFO's gotta get out of the way."

The economic downturn increased buying times, and they haven't snapped back (18:02): "The length of time it takes to make a deal is far longer than I thought it would ever be. Prior to 2008, you could make decision in 30 seconds. Then 2008 reset everything and people started taking a little bit more time and deliberation to get to a decision. I would have thought, by this time, that would have shrunk a little bit and the deliberation would have been more precise. Instead, it's just been extended. It's not about precision. It's about 'how can I put this off as long as possible because I don't want to make a wrong decision?'"

Technology is abundant, but marketers need to get back to basics (19:58): "There's so many different technologies out there claiming that they're the magic wand of marketing and they're going to make all the difference in the world. At some point in time, people are going to realize that going back to basics (everything's cyclical, right?) is the best way to do business. What makes me crazy about people nowadays is they don't pick up the phone to talk to people or they don't jump on a plane to visit people....

"Face-to-face appointments are definitely a much better way to do business than just emails. I think people...revert to email and texting and [don't] pick up the phone or meet somebody in person. My hope is that people are going to realize that texting and email, while efficient, isn't always effective." 

To learn more, visit or follow Lou on Twitter @LouImbriano, and pick up a copy of Winning the Customer.

Lou and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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