At Amazon they call it Customer Obsession. Mark Schaefer introduces the Marketing Rebellion and Seth Godin claims that marketing is not about selling, but about helping people get to...
Jeff Bezos and Amazon, is probably the most obvious example of how marketing has transformed. Like it or not, but Amazon has since it’s birth in 1995 become the world’s most valuable company, and Bezos is now the richest man on Earth. In addition, Amazon has more than any other company become the most desired workplace and brand in both the US and UK. Bezos writes an annual letter to his Shareholders, and every year he also includes his first letter – to remind them of the company’s long term focus and what he has ‘branded’ the Customer Obsession.
I worked at DNB (Norway’s largest bank / financial institution) for many years. In 2008 we transformed how we worked with marketing. After a thorough analysis of our customer base, we found a lack of young adults. Bold leaders decided to replace campaigns with working on positions. All business areas gathered around one goal – to become the best bank for young adults. Most people know how financially challenging it can be to start a family, buy your first home, learn how to spend your income wisely.
It took us around four years to reach our goal. It was not an easy task, but my colleagues and I found it important to play a role in reaching the young. To ask questions enabled us to understand what this target group really needed from our bank. To feed the right areas within the bank with knowledge and understanding, so that we could develop the right products, communicate in the right channels, offer our correctly priced products and so on.
Looking back at these four years in retrospective I see clearly that this was the beginning of our journey towards customer obsession in DNB. Giving employees meaningful work, and empowering them so each and every one of them can make a difference in our customers’ lives. That’s powerful.
Since then more goals closely related to the company’s strategy has been reached by working this way. My last task before leaving the company (to start my own business and become part of Innovation Lab), was working on becoming the preferred bank for Startups. That meant playing a role in creating more new and lasting workplaces in Norway. Challenging – yes, but very meaningful.
The CEO of DNB, Rune Bjerke, actually has a lot in common with leaders like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.
It takes a lot for large corporates to start working in new ways. Unlearn old routines and change familiar processes. Like Bezos and Zuckerberg, Bjerke owns the challenges that need to be addressed and solved. The new tech companies have founded and made their organizations grow by recruiting employees with common goals and mindsets. Employees at Amazon want to be part of giving the world easy and instant access to cheap books or building the best global brand and company. Zuckerberg has attracted like-minded people who want to bring the world closer together – and making it possible through developing an awesome communication platform.
But in businesses like DNB the task is different, and in so many ways more challenging. In old and established companies, maybe thousands of employees must unlearn old knowledge and habits, and start working on new ones – and for most people unknown – new principles. For this to even be possible, the CEO needs to lead on necessary tasks like changing complex hierarchical structures to give leaders and their team members necessary authority, autonomy and trust. And vital for companies who want to stay relevant is to continually develop all employees, and build a strong company culture based on curiosity, innovation, and growth mindsets.
We are about to leave behind a time when brands with the best exposure and visibility attracted most customers.
Possibly too simply put, but my point is that we are already part of a new era where brands which want to become a preferred choice, must earn that position by earning customers’ trust by acting credible, personal and human.
The brands who ties strong relations to their customers, through repeatedly proving that they are obsessed by creating amazing customer experiences, will succeed.
We are not talking about short term likes on facebook due to a cool marketing campaign. We are talking about real trust, which can only be earned through long term dedication and hard work, where each and every employee plays a crucial part.
It is no longer possible for solely top level and senior management to see the complete picture when it comes to tasks that need to be solved or the road ahead. The entire organization must be involved and engaged. This takes authentic and service-oriented leaders who are obsessed with their team members, and by empowering them the best way they can so that they can do their job. They need to trust their employees by giving them the necessary authority and autonomy. The culture must be based on radical transparency and openness, and all processes must be simple and effective. Organizations need to leave old hierarchies to seek and build dynamic and agile team structures.
It’s no longer enough to invest in the latest technology, optimized production lines or awesome marketing campaigns. When the customers own (and lead) 2/3 of a company’s reputation – it’s first and foremost about building an organizational culture where each and every employee work as Marketing Managers driven by Customer Obsession.
However – I need to make a final and important point. It has never before been more fun and rewarding to work with marketing, and with businesses who want to play a role in their customers’ lives. I agree with Seth Godin – marketing is about helping people, (or businesses), to get where they want, and it’s about building Future Organizations.
I wish you all the best of luck in entering this new and exciting era! Please reach out and let us know if there is anything anyone of us at Innovation Lab can do to help and guide you along the way!