Magazine article Marketing

Steven Doig

Magazine article Marketing

Steven Doig

Article excerpt

Understanding a customer's business is vital for a company which operates n a crowded marketplace and must calculate profits weekly.

The high degree of promiscuity among customers in the express delivery market did not phase Steve Doig, group marketing director at TNT UK, for a minute. But then, given his high-tech background, why should it?

"I experienced the PC revolution, with its massive growth in accessibility of products and increase in choice for customers." he says. "There a re parallels with the parcels market."

Doig started in retail management with John Lewis Group, moved into computers with Hawker Siddely and became involved in the sales and marketing of computer consumables and peripherals in the early 70s. He joined TNT in 1987 and has held his current post since 1995.

"In the 80s, TNT launched its next-day delivery service, TNT Overnite. Traditionally, delivery had taken two or three days," he says. "We hoped for turnover of less than [pounds]1m that year and made [pounds]11m, so people took notice."

Having broken new ground, TNT wanted to keep its edge and asked customers what else they wanted. Next-day delivery was followed by delivery before noon the next day. at a slightly premium price. Then came delivery before 10.30am, before 9am, and now in-night delivery, which is geared to the automotive industry. In terms of speed, there is little more it can do to retain clients.

The industry, meanwhile, has few entry barriers and is not tightly regulated, which has led to over-capacity. There are three or four big players and an enormous number of small companies, offering adequate service within a region or linking up with others to offer a nationwide one.

Doig's job is not made any easier by the fact the market is very ad hoc. "The figures vary, but more than 30% of the market will switch from one supplier to another," he says.

So, what can he do to ensure that his customers - who may range from a secretary at one end of the scale to a CEO or finance director at the other - stay loyal? It is not likely to be a loyalty scheme in the true sense of the word.

"We ran Advantage, a points-based system, for two or three years," he says. "But if you look at consumer-based schemes, they are really reward-based systems rather than loyalty. …

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