Marketing Artillery – A Soldier’s Perspective

The “freedom” aspect of Operation Iraqi Freedom officially started after theUS invasion of Iraq and we found out there weren’t any Weapons of Mass Destruction.The mission turned from a matter of finding WMDs to rebuilding a broken society andinfrastructure. We turned from a fighting force to one that suddenly had be reflective ofhow we appeared, how we acted, and to get the message across that our actions were forthe benefit of the local Iraqi people. In a way, we had to market ourselves to the Iraqisand succeed, if a goal of long term sustainable peace and development we started wouldtake root. The lessons I learned in trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis is directlyapplicable to the modern day marketing, where you’re winning the hearts and minds ofyour customer populous.

Gaining Their Trust

It’s hard to gain the trust of a population when you and your tanks and Humveeshave been airlifted from halfway across the world and an unseen enemy is always aroundyou. But we had to gain their trust. We started by offering small things at first, acts ofkindness or helping repair or build old wells, bridges and roads, without asking anythingin return. In very much the same way you have to entice and bring in new customers bypromoting heavily without expecting much in return. Have a sale, have freebies, givefree shipping. This is part of a campaign in a starting business where investment is heavy,but short term returns can be low. You need to think of the long term because if you’vesuccessfully implemented your plan, you’ve caught your customer’s attention, and canmove onto more meaningful interactions.

I’m Your Partner

In any interaction you show that you’re working with your customer, that youunderstand them. On duty, we didn’t start building and repairing and implementinginfrastructure based on how we thought it should be, all of our actions were localizedand based on the information gathered from tribal leaders, from the source. In that samevein, never assume what you think is best, send out a survey, get a focus group. A smallamount of real consumer data is worth more than a ton of marketing theoryOur long term interests might have been different. In Iraq it was long termnational US security, for the Iraqis it was a chance to improve their living conditions andgovernment. In a retail setting we want profits, while the customer wants a good dealand a smooth transaction. Just as long as you show you’re willing to meet their needs,you create that bridge. The way to a lasting relationship is repeating that cycle of trustbuilding and following through. As a marketer, you do this through offers, interactions,customized email notifications. You need to make them feel that you are a friend, notonly a salesman.

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