Marketers Across Multiple Industries Identify Need for Customer-Engaged Organizations

Feb. 1, 2003
Proliferation of communication and distribution channels and intensified domestic and international competition are two of the growing challenges facing

Proliferation of communication and distribution channels and intensified domestic and international competition are two of the growing challenges facing marketers. Even with the best analysis, planning, management and performance tracking systems, many marketing plans fall short of their goals. According to a recent survey of leading marketers, the cause is often a lack of organizational alignment, or an internal "action gap."

Braun Consulting, a professional services firm focused on customer-driven business performance, released findings from a recent survey conducted with the American Management Association (AMA) and Deep Customer Connections, Inc. More than 50 senior marketing professionals, including AMA executive members and participants at AMA's Corporate Branding Conference, were surveyed during October and November 2002.

Results indicate that the most formidable challenges for marketers actually lie within their own organizations: developing inter-unit cooperation, effecting change, and leading integrated corporate-wide initiatives. However, marketers indicated that they realize one of their most important roles is to provide the leadership to foster the organizational alignment that is required for implementing customer-centric strategies across the enterprise.

"We found that marketers are being held back not by budgets or poor planning or bad campaigns, but by a lack of internal alignment of the various functions within their companies," said William A. Band, head of the Marketing Solutions Group at Braun Consulting. "Companies and functional areas are not consistently focused on the best way to meet customers' needs. We refer to this trend as the `action gap', and we're working to help marketers overcome this challenge by helping them find ways to bridge that gap."

Other Survey Key Findings

• Customer Understanding Top Priority -- Marketing executives surveyed indicated that understanding their customer is their most important priority, with 82% giving "customer understanding" an overall 8.6 score on a 10-point scale, higher even than building a positive brand image, which is also a top priority, scoring 8.0 out of 10.

• Companies Need To Move at a Faster Pace -- Overall, marketing executives are consistent in rating their companies as "not very capable in adopting new processes, technologies, skills and behaviors to address changing marketplace conditions and deliver marketing strategies." Respondents rate their company's ability in this category only a 5 to 6 out of 10 points.

• Priority Misalignment and Poor Collaboration -- More than half of the marketing executives surveyed identify misalignment of priorities and poor collaboration between marketing and other units as the most significant barriers to achieving higher returns on marketing investments.

• Marketers Responsible for Internal Leadership -- Despite the barriers they face to implement customer-centric strategies, marketing executives strongly believe that they have a clear responsibility to provide internal leadership to foster organizational alignment. When asked the importance of "providing leadership," respondents rated it 8.94 points out of 10.

Five-Step Customer-Engagement Process

Building on the survey findings, Braun conducted additional research among industry-leading marketers who have been successful in overcoming the challenges reported in the survey and have closed the "action gap." According to Band, insights gained from successful marketers who have achieved cross-functional behavioral change in their organizations reveal their companies to be more customer-focused than their competitors. These companies are consistently able to boost the levels of customer focus throughout the entire company, not just the marketing function.

"To create customer engagement first requires re-framing on your part -- thinking differently about what you, as the chief marketing officer, see as a critical part of your job," says John Guaspari, principal with Deep Customer Connections who co-sponsored the study. "It requires a shift in your mindset from creating a marketing program to creating an organization in which everyone is focused on and energized about the mainstay of the business -- delivering value to customers."

Braun Consulting and Deep Customer Connections have published a white paper that builds upon the survey findings and offers strategies for overcoming the challenges, including how companies can implement a process for creating a customer-centric enterprise. To obtain a copy of the paper, contact Bill Band at [email protected] or John Guaspari at [email protected].

Braun and Deep Customer Connections have identified five key steps for creating a Customer-Engaged Organization:

1. Mobilize the Leadership Team The first step is getting the leadership team to recognize the kind of leverage that comes from achieving deeper levels of customer engagement. Have the leadership team charter a functionally and hierarchically diverse team -- a diagonal slice of the organization whose task is to conduct face-to-face value conversations with your customers. Team members should be "key influencers" in the organization.

2. Engage in Value Conversations "Conversations" is exactly the right word here. These face-to-face meetings at customers' sites differ fundamentally from the typical customer satisfaction approach in that they are about your customers, rather than about you.

3. Create a Customer Value Guide The Customer Value Guide (CVG) is a synthesis of all of the Value Conversations. Its purpose is to provide a "North Star" by which everyone -- individually, departmentally, and enterprise-wide -- can navigate through the maze of decisions that are a part of work.

4. Conduct Customer Engagement Workshops with All Employees These workshops, often designed and delivered by the Value Conversation Team, serve as the link that connects everyone in the organization with customers.

5. Integrate Customer Value Insights into the Organization Working customer engagement into the very fabric of the organization strengthens and reinforces the focus on getting customers to choose you by delivering more value to them. This work needs to be done in several ways and at all levels: the enterprise level, the department level, and all the way to the individual level.

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