Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Overcoming the Real Roadblock to Customer-Centric Management

A marketer who understands the need for customer-based management told me yesterday that the biggest obstacle to adoption is the intense product orientation of her business. That sounded familiar: I heard exactly the same thing last December at the National Center for Database Marketing in December (see my December 13 post).

Her comments were a useful dose of reality. It’s easy to forget that lack of customer-centric technology and skills are not the main obstacles to customer-based marketing. And, even though I can give you a detailed explanation of why product-centric structures are doomed to collapse, that doesn’t necessarily convince people to adopt a customer-centric approach as the alternative. So I do have to try harder to explain how companies will benefit from the transition.

One positive bit of news is that online marketing operations seem generally more open customer-centric than traditional channels. Maybe this is because the technology itself is so often based on customer profiles. Maybe it’s that initial online ventures often resided outside of the traditional product organization. Maybe it’s that the “free” nature of incremental online messages removes the cost constraints of other media, and thus exposes the need for someone to control the number of messages sent to customers. Whatever the reason, online marketers are more likely to function as gatekeepers of customer access. This puts them in a position to coordinate offers so they meet the needs of customers, not product managers. Maybe the resulting successes will lead other channels to adopt the same approach.

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