Breaking News: Marketers Plan To Focus More On Customers

On the 1:1 magazine blog, Mila D’Antonio writes:

“After speaking to several technology vendors at DMA08 last week…it seems as though either marketers plan to focus more on customers, or the vendors are just remaining hopeful. The bottom line is everyone agrees that it’s more important than ever to allocate investments and capital spending on strategies that can be measured in the long term, such as customer relationships.”

My take: OMG!!! Stop the presses!

Please don’t get me wrong — I’m not laughing at Mila, nor am I trying to make fun of her. I don’t doubt for a minute that what she wrote is exactly what she and her colleagues heard at the DMA conference. It’s just that I could told have you the same thing — and I didn’t even attend the show.

How did I know? Can I read minds? Hardly. But I can look back to the past.

I wrote about the “year of the customer” back in January, when NYSE magazine released its CEO survey heralding 2008 as the year of the customer. This came on the heels of e-consultancy forecasting 2007 to be the year of the customer, and SearchCRM suggesting that 2006 could be the year of the customer (after asking in 2004 if that year would be the year of the customer).

Some things don’t ever change, eh?

So here’s my humble request to any journalist writing about the year of the customer or to any organization planning to publish a report proclaiming next year to be the year of the customer: Please ask (and press) marketers to tell you what they plan to do differently. What new investments will they make? What new marketing capabilities will they develop? How will they change their approach to fostering customer relationships? For crying out loud, what will be different?

I can’t wait to hear the answers. There’s nothing more I’d like to do in December 2009 (other than retire) than admit that 2009 really was the year of the customer.

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7 thoughts on “Breaking News: Marketers Plan To Focus More On Customers

  1. Good rant, Ron.

    Given your flair for skewering the newsmakers and breathlessly introduced concepts that richly deserve to be skewered, does that make you a pundit?

  2. THIS year, is really REALLY going to be the year of the customer. I’m also looking forward to proactively leveraging the synergies and momentum of being customer-centric as we authentically grow the monetization of their eyeballs through the utilization of transparent engagement and channel management.

  3. @Morriss: Just a warning to be very careful. The last time I proactively leveraged the synergy and momentum of being customer-centric, I strained something really bad and was sore for a week.

    You might want to open the kimono and think outside the box before you do any of this, so you don’t injure your personal brand.

  4. Its sad that those buzzwords transcend borders, and are quite recognizable.

    Moving forward, I will have total focus on eliminating any buzz dissatisfiers, and pro-actively establishing single point of contact, with total focus, and laser sight on results. Oops, used total focus twice in same mission statement thus eliminating my laser point — double oops, did it again!

  5. Thanks Ron for not making fun of me. And yes, publications like mine and firms like yours are hopeful that every year brings with it more forward-thinking, customer-focused companies. But what we’re currently saying is that now—more than ever—companies must continue to invest in the customer. Do they have any other choice?

    We too wanted to know specifically how marketers will invest their dollars next year. So last week, 1to1 Media Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon surveyed her network of readers and contacts about that very question and posted the results on her blog.
    Sixty people responded with one-third saying their 2009 marketing budget would increase. Most importantly, customer engagement is the number one marketing goal for 2009, with nearly two thirds of respondents citing it as their primary objective.

    Also cited as a high priority for 2009 are lead generation (41 percent of respondents), awareness (39 percent), and branding (35 percent). And those who will increase spending plan to do in social media (69 percent of respondents), email (68 percent), and search (50 percent).

    The edit team and I met this morning with Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, co-founders of Peppers & Rogers Group, and we discussed this very topic of investing in customers over the long term and they agree that now is the most opportune time for businesses tofocus on long-term customer strategies. “Destruction equals short term; creativity equals long term,” Don said.

    And yes, it may seem silly to discuss long term with consumers mostly fixated on getting the best deal, as well as companies not knowing if they’ll even be around after next quarter.

    Martha provided a cogent example of overcoming that. She said theoretically, what if Wal-Mart, which competes on price, could also focus on long-term value? For example, when selling laundry detergent, what if the company could recommend (through marketing efforts) the concentrated version that yields more washes, but in addition explain that washing laundry in cold water saves money and energy. That marketing message makes Wal-Mart not just a price chopper, but turns the company into a trusted advisor.

    We at 1to1 remain hopeful that companies will continue to invest in their customers over the course of 2009. Some of that includes getting back to the customer-service basics and doing them well.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Mila. And again let me stress that I was in no way trying to be critical of you or your blog post.

    It would be great for P&R to take the findings of your poll and tie it to what Martha was talking about. Specifically, tying tactical approaches like “lead gen” and “branding” and putting them in a more strategic context (what Martha was talking about) that aligns “investing in the customer” with all the things a firms invests in.

    I’m putting the finishing touches on a report Aite Group will publish that found while “customer engagement is the #1 marketing goal”, not a single financial services company we spoke is to is defining what this means to them or putting in place any mechanisms or approaches to measuring customer engagement. In addition, while three-quarters of the firms we talked to measure customer profitability, just 10% calculate customer lifetime value. So how will these firms know come 2010 if they’ve succeeded? Answer: They won’t, and we’ll just continue this silly routine of naming every year “the year of the customer.”

    p.s. I would encourage you to check out this blog post which describes my take on how (and why) firms should define and measure customer engagement:

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