Relationship revolution

By Published on .

Most Popular
The story of the next Net revolution does not lie in the dot-com carnage of the past several months. It lies in the change required of established companies, which are faced with a dramatically altered business world that demands new connections between companies and their customers.

The new demands of the wired customer-whether a business or consumer-will wreak havoc on companies that have not transformed themselves to meet that challenge. The revolution is not about the Internet but about the internetworking of everything and everyone. It is not about technology, but about the change in human behavior in society, on a global basis, that is facilitated by this internetworking.

In the new economy, the product will not matter as much as the relationship between company and customer.

Because the new links between a company and its stakeholders will be critical, companies also will need to create links between brand perception-the traditional realm of advertising-and brand experience, the sum of all customer contact with the brand.

Customer expectations in this future are going to drive organizations to new extremes in terms of how they will need to operate. In a survey of 3,300 business executives in 59 countries conducted by the Net Future Institute, 91% said the No. 1 item that will be important to their customers two years from now was "quick response to inquiries and complaints." No. 2 was "ease of interaction with their company," followed by "quick turnaround for orders."

Dead last was "the ability to compare products and services, including those of competitors," followed by "extensive information about your company's offerings" then "wide range of products and services."

That increased importance of process over product means companies must transform their efforts at marketing innovation. There are seven imperatives that companies should heed to implement that transformation:

* Use what you know to drive what you do-make everything you do add to what you know. One of the most significant assets of an organization is the information about its customers, though often there is more internal focus on information about products rather than information about customers. The shift to customer information focus is critical.

* Erase the line between product and service-blend services with products to create "offerings." A good product will have to be enhanced with services, such as great customer support and paired offerings after initial sale.

* Make each relationship as different as each customer-add relationship equity to brand equity. The interaction of customer knowledge and customer interaction can produce a special experience for each individual. The integration of sales, service and customer-care applications from the e-business world must be integrated with the traditional CRM processes to make each customer relationship as different as each person.

* Do as little as possible yourself-others in the new economy can do it better. Business partners, suppliers, distributors and users can be enlisted to do the work while a company can focus on its core competencies. Companies need to ask who is best suited to deliver each piece of the value proposition.

* Make your interactive process become the product. Now is the time for the process is the message. Marketing's new dependence on customer-care software requires a rethinking of what's most important in a selling proposition.

* Factor future value into every move-make the brand experience exceed the brand perception. As direct interaction with the end consumer increasingly becomes the prevailing way of doing business, today's brand experience more and more will determine tomorrow's business ranking. What a company does to, for and with the customer that exceeds the brand perception will build brand equity and the future value of the relationship.

* Make business responsible for marketing and marketing responsible for business-form a new partnership between "IT" and "Marketing." Everything inside a company has to be lined up to service customers outside the company. This is the time to look at the changing role of marketing and how to move fast enough to keep up with escalating customer demands. While information technology has traditionally been inwardly focused and marketing has been outwardly focused, neither alone will be enough for successful end-to-end business.

Every company will find itself in two industries: its own and information technology. Information is the strategic competitive weapon of the new economy but some companies will find themselves organized around the wrong information: the information about its products and services. In addition, they may find the information flow itself within their organization is going in the wrong direction

In the new economy, the information that will matter most is information about a company's customers. And the flow of information will have to be from the customer to the company. It is this change in information content and direction that will allow companies to realize the promise of true one- to-one marketing, and ultimately, one-to-one business.

Mr. Martin is chairman-CEO of Net Future Institute, and author of "The Digital Estate" and "Net Future," and co-author with Stan Rapp, chairman-CEO of McCann Relationship Marketing, of the new book "Max-e-Marketing in the Net Future" (McGraw-Hill). He can be reached at

In this article: