The future of marketing: customer-centric

Too many firms still operate as if they were stuck in the 1960s, “an era of mass markets, mass media and impersonal transactions,” says a recent article, “Rethinking Marketing,”  in the Harvard Business Review. To compete in today’s “aggressively interactive” environments, companies will have to reorganize to make products and brands subservient to customer relationships, the article says. Put more bluntly: Restructure to cultivate customers rather than market products. It will require reinventing the marketing department altogether. The culture must put customer relationships — not products or brands — first.

The re-imagined “customer department” (vs. marketing department) has the following characteristics: Continue reading “The future of marketing: customer-centric”

Improving the customer experience

Bruce Temkin, an analyst and blogger at “Customer Experience Matters,” provides a thoughtful set of definitions, below:

  • customer experience: the perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization
  • the perfect customer experience: a set of interactions that consistently exceeds the needs and expectations of a customer
  • customer experience management (CEM): the discipline of increasing loyalty by exceeding customers’ needs and expectations

There are three key elements of CEM:

  • discipline (ongoing activities, not slogans)
  • increasing loyalty (for profitability, not altruism)
  • customers’ needs and expectations “CEM is not about technology deployments or internal milestones. It needs to be calibrated from the perspective of target customers.”

The last phrase is worth repeating: “…from the perspective of target customers.” I’ve long maintained that good customer service occurs when the organization sees things from the customer’s perspective — OK, from my perspective!

Temkin warns that improving the customer experience is hard work. “CEM is easier to define than to do,” he says. You can download his (free) 11-page PDF booklet titled: “The Six Laws of Customer Experience.”

What CEOs worry about

The greatest concerns of U.S. CEOs
(% citing challenge as of “greatest concern”)

  1. Sustained & steady top-line growth (41.3%)
  2. Excellence in execution (39.6%)
  3. Consistent execution of strategy by top management (38.5%)
  4. Profit growth (29.9%)
  5. Customer loyalty/retention (25.6%)
  6. Finding managerial talent (20.9%)
  7. Top management succession (20.1%)
  8. Corporate reputation (19.7%)
  9. Stimulating innovation/creativity (19.2%)
  10. Speed, flexibility, adaptability to change (18.2%)

Base: Survey of 409 U.S. CEOs
Source: The Conference Board “CEO Challenge 2007” (4 October 2007)

Continue reading “What CEOs worry about”

Five tips for better trend-watching

The folks at have a great primer on trend-spotting and -tracking, especially for consumer trends. Here’s my condensed, paraphrased version (be sure to read the whole, entertaining essay if you’re interested in this).

1. Know why you’re tracking trends. It’s probably to help you dream up profitable new goods and services, i.e., “profitable innovation.” Successful innovations often satisfy existing, dormant consumer needs in new and attractive ways. Trend-watching isn’t futurism; it’s about observing and understanding what’s already happening, the major and the minor, the mainstream and the fringe.

2. Have a point of view. Be a generalist, looking for context. Develop a view of the future of consumerism. Look across industries for insights. Ask why something is appealing to consumers, instead of being judgmental.

3. Weave your Web of resources. “[C]elebrate the incredible wealth of trend resources at your fingertips, many of them free or dirt cheap!” Examples of info sources: Web sites, blogs, books, news, newsletters, Google Alerts, trade shows, customers, “eavesdropping, chat rooms, conversations…”

4. Fine-tune your trend framework. Three levels:

  • Macro trends. Categorize them using the STEEP approach: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political
  • Consumer trends
  • Industry trends

The three levels of trends affect each other. “Just remember that industry trends, which firms are so keen on understanding, are at the mercy of macro and consumer trends, not the other way ’round.” Look for connections among the trends you’re tracking — the matrix. Come up with creative names for the trends, which makes them memorable and interesting.

5. Embed and apply. Create your own, in-house trend group, with executive support. Tap a network of colleagues as trend-spotters. Have weekly or monthly discussions and distribute the results. Ultimately, the goal is to turn the trends into innovations for your company:

  • Influence or shape your company’s vision
  • Come up with a new business concept, venture or brand
  • Add something new for a certain customer segment
  • Speak the language of those consumers already ‘living’ the trend: show them you get it (via marketing, advertising, PR)