As organizations move from product-centric to customer-centric, they often discover a missing core competency. They don’t have an executive with clout who acts as the advocate for each target customer audience (customer segment+role). Most companies have product marketing managers who represent the product line and ensure that the brand message, competitive positioning, and customer experience wrapped around that product are appropriate and consistent. But many organizations don’t realize that they also need a “brand manager for customer experience” for each key customer segment they serve.
Retail financial institutions are one exception to this rule. They often have VPs in charge of High Net Worth customers and/or for customers in different life stages and demographics (young adults, middle-class Hispanics, about-to-retire, parents with young children, etc.). Automotive brand managers are a hybrid of a product marketing manager and a customer segment/audience brand manager. Every car brand is designed to appeal to a particular audience. But these are the happy exceptions. Companies in other industries are beginning to realize they need “customer brand managers.”
In our client work, we’ve found that the companies that take customer-centricity seriously have de facto high-level customer champions for each key customer segment. These executives ensure that the end-to-end customer experience is well thought out and that it connects their brand to the customer’s self-image. In a B2B setting, your target audience may be chief information officers or design engineers or architects. In a consumer setting, it may be trendy 18-to-25 year olds or retirees or single parents. Whichever target audiences are important to your business strategy, that audience deserves an influential advocate who can ensure that they can easily find what they need on your Web site, that the information they encounter speaks their language, that their key scenarios are well-understood and streamlined, and that your firm’s policies don’t get in their way.
Do you have customer segment advocates or customer brand managers? Look around. You may not have a customer brand manager title or role, but if your firm is successful, the chances are that someone with influence is actually playing that role for each of your major target audiences. If not, make that a priority for 2008!