Did you ever think that your job as a DVOP and LVER is all about marketing?   If you said, “yes,” great!  Then this first in a series of articles on marketing will help you frame your thoughts.  If you said, “no,” then we’re going to introduce you to some new ideas that you might find helpful.

Let’s start by differentiating between selling and marketing.  While they are related, they are not the same.  According to the online Business Dictionary,
“marketing is about the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. It includes the coordination of four elements called the 4 P’s of marketing:

(1) identification, selection and development of a product,
(2) determination of its price,
(3) selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, and
(4) development and implementation of a promotional strategy.

Marketing is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction.”    
The online Business Dictionary goes on to explain selling:
“Marketing differs from selling because (in the words of Harvard Business School’s retired professor of marketing Theodore C. Levitt) ’Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about. And it does not, as marketing invariable does, view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs.’ In other words, marketing has less to do with getting customers to pay for your product as it does developing a demand for that product and fulfilling the customer’s needs.”

Effective marketing starts with a clear understanding of the customer – who the customer is, where they are, what they need, what they want, what they will pay for the goods or services and any special customer circumstances.   After this “market analysis” is complete, the “4 P’s” are applied.  The outcome of the analysis and the integration of the “4 P’s” is a marketing plan that explains how you are going to market to your customer.

Let’s start by understanding your customer.   You might think that the veteran-client is your customer.  In many ways, that’s true.   For our purposes though, let’s consider that for DVOPs, your customer is the LVER and their counterpart in American Job Center’s Business Development function.   For the LVER, your customers are the businesses that are willing to hire veterans.  And in terms of our marketing approach, the veteran-client is the “product” you are trying to successfully market. 

With the customer in mind, the next step is to segment your market (customer).   For a DVOP this means understanding that each LVER is different.   The question that a DVOP must answer is, “how are LVERs different?”   The answer depends on the LVER.  For example, experience – some LVERs are more experienced than others.   LVER customers might be a differentiator.  For example, if your AJC has more than one LVER, one might be focused on government jobs, the other on for-profit businesses.  Or maybe one LVER has one geographic region and another LVER has a different region.   Other differentiators might be:  is your customer an LVER or a business development specialist; does your customer have experience as a DVOP; does your customer have experience in the business they are trying to recruit to hire veterans; is your customer located near you (e.g. in your immediate area) or geographically separated?   You can brainstorm other criteria for segmenting your market based on your experience and local circumstances.

For LVERs, segmenting your market means understanding the businesses in your community—are they non-profits, are they for-profits, or are they government organizations?   Are they small, medium, or large organizations?   Are they industrial, manufacturing, research, or service (or any other type) organizations?    Are they hiring?  Is the organization closing?  Is the organization losing/gaining market share?  If they are publicly traded organizations, are their share values increasing or decreasing?    Other criteria might be something you brainstorm with your colleagues.

There are several reasons for segmenting your customers and going through this thoughtful process.  First among the reasons – once you have completed this exercise around your customer, you will begin to better understand who they are and what they need for an effective handoff of your veteran-client from DVOP to LVER or from LVER to employer.  Secondly, having a better understanding of your customer will help you better prepare your veteran-client for the handoff.    Here’s an example.   If your LVER is new in the role, has never been a DVOP, and works in a different AJC that’s 60-100 miles away, then what you need to do with your veteran-client might include a slightly different focus on oral communication (because the conversations between the veteran-client and LVER will be by phone), use of video technology (so the veteran-client and LVER can Skype), and ensuring your veteran-client understands that the turnaround time for communication between the veteran-client and the LVER may take longer than if the LVER was co-located in the cubicle next to yours.   

Secretary’s Honor Award

In this article, Part I, we introduced the concept of marketing and explained how it differs from sales.  We began the market analysis by considering who our customer is and what differentiates one customer from another.   In Part II of Marketing for DVOPs and LVERs, we’ll focus on expanding the market analysis around channels of communication and spend some time on the “4 Ps”. 

Customer Communication

By: NVTI Staff Writer

Each of us has countless occasions throughout the day to communicate with our customer, whether that customer is a client, a family member, a co-worker, or a supervisor. We communicate with our customers face-to-face, on the phone, via a text/email exchange, or maybe via sign language. No matter how we communicate or who we are communicating with, it’s valuable to know how to maximize the communication so that we can achieve our goals – and hopefully those of our customer.
Figure 1-Shannon and Weaver Communication Model

The basic communication model was created in 1948 by Claude Elwood Shannon and Warren Weaver of Bell Laboratories. Today this model is taught in classrooms across America including colleges and universities as well as in leadership development programs. The model starts with the sender – the person who initiates communication. The message then goes through a set of filters (the lightning bolts in Figure 1) which represent the Sender’s view of the world. The message is then accepted by the Receiver through the receiver’s filters, or view of the world. After the Receiver processes the message, they provide feedback. This changes the role of the Receiver to a Sender and the original Sender to a Receiver. Sometimes the feedback is verbal, sometimes it’s nonverbal. In this model, the Sender is responsible for ensuring the message is clear, received, and understood.  

Filters for both the Sender and Receiver vary based on the environment of the communication (private office vs. public gathering area), individual biases, and culture.   Potential filters include:  personality, language, culture, time, perception, interest, experience, emotions, internal distractions, message design, and communication channel. 

Language is particularly important for DVOP specialists and LVERs who have customers from all branches of the military who may use Service-specific terms in their communication. Being sure that both parties understand the meaning of acronyms and Service-specific terms can help improve the communication process – when in doubt, ask what a term means. As you work with your customers, keep in mind that you own the communication process, not your customer.

Professor Albert Mehrabian of the University of California-Los Angeles conducted studies of the way people communicate. From his studies, he concluded that verbal communication includes three components: spoken words, voice and tone, and non-verbal communication (body language). Dr. Mehrabian’s studies led him to believe that 55% of our communication is non-verbal, 38% is voice and tone, and only 7% is spoken words. Practically speaking (pun intended), we have the best chance of successful communication when we are face-to-face with our customers. We not only hear what and how they speak, but we can watch their body language. When we can’t see our customers during the communication process, we only receive 45% of the message – that’s a major filter in the communication process. For example, when you are on the phone with a customer, you can only hear their words and you can get a sense of their voice and tone. This means you must work harder to understand the message you are being sent and that the message you are sending is clearly understood. Asking for feedback, summarizing the conversation as you go, asking for confirmation of your understanding, are all good ways to help ensure the message you sent and the one you received are accurate.

Today, the use of text messages (including emails) grows every day. According to Michael Bentz in an Adobe blog from 25 July 2015, “While the dramatic rise of new communication apps has overtaken SMS, an average of 20 billion text messages are being sent daily this year, translating to 7.3 trillion annually! That’s more than 5.5 million per second!” That’s a lot of communication!  Using Dr Mehrabian’s model, I would suggest that a text or email message is equivalent to the spoken word – or only 7% of the message. Using text/email to communicate with your customer may be easy and fast but crafting the communication so that the full message is understood takes a lot more work than a phone call (which has 45% of the message components included) or face-to-face (with 100% of the message components included).

So, what does this all mean? For DVOP specialists and LVERs, communication with the customer is essential. The best chance of successful communication is face-to-face and the worst chance is using email or text. If you must use text/email, take time to review your email and if it’s a really important communication, test it on someone who can help ensure you crafted a clear message. Seek feedback when you are the Sender and give feedback when you are the Receiver. Remember, only 7% of the communication process is what you say, 93% is how you say it and how your body reacts to the communication.