At Forrester's recent Marketing Forum one question resounded: It's critical to be customer-centric, but how are marketers doing it?
Mike Fasulo, CMO of Sony, said that the most successful brands of the 21st century are the brands that can execute a
customer-centric model. "Customer centricity is what I lose sleep about," he said. He explained that until recently Sony
went to market with a siloed approach.
Now the company is working on driving passion and emotion across its brand to better connect with customers and using
consistent messaging across TV, print, billboards, the Web site, emails, and retail point of sale. The company even
launched 50 Sony style stores not with the intention of increasing sales, but to provide more opportunities to engage
with customers. "The cost of fragmentation is much higher than rallying around the brand," he said.
Sylvia Reynolds, CMO of Wells Fargo, also discussed the importance of brand consistency. To reach that goal, she
said companies have to "manage sideways" and drive a deep understanding of customers to employees. "Understanding your
customer is a lot more than the Golden Rule," she said. "We believe the brand is the most important connection to
She's pushed a strong focus on delivering a consistent brand in the retail banks and has developed 11 ways to wow the
customer. One way is a focus on experiential marketing in the stores -- a program called Kids Financial Literacy, which allows children to visit the banks, take a "ride" on the stagecoach, and set up savings accounts.
At HP, the strategy to build customer loyalty is to create close relationships between business results, operational
excellence, and employee engagement. To achieve this goal the company first worked on inspiring employees through customer experience training, according to Eric Kintz, vice president of global marketing strategy at HP. Next the company built a voice-of-the-customer process where any customer complaints across the enterprise are logged into a shared database and followed up on within hours. In addition, HP created a Customer Heroes and Rewards program where it awards employees for customer-focused successes. Finally, HP launched a program where groups of two to five employees visit customers to discuss their challenges.
The small company perspective
Despite these CMO success stories, some attendees at the Forum representing small to midsize companies said the
customer-centric examples didn't apply to their businesses because of a lack of resources and capital at their
organizations. Many seemed frustrated not knowing how to begin on a customer-focused journey.
These remarks surprised Forrester senior analyst Peter Kim. "I think that small companies would have an easier path to
connect with customers because they don't have the layers of bureaucracies," he said. "They wear more hats and don't have
a staff of dozens."
If companies can't afford to launch a customized and integrated advertising and marketing campaign like Sony, Kim
said there are things to get started with that don't cost a ton of money. Companies can start small with strategies like
properly training the employees to help them understand how the company makes money, or finding ways to gather feedback
from the customer. For example, a manufacturer can visit a retailer and ask how it's selling and stocking the product.
"You have to think about how to do things differently with the process and structure...," Kim said. "If you spend the
money and don't change your mental state, you will end up at square one sooner or later."