Is your marketing product- or customer-centric?

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Today's consumers are fractured, fickle and harder to sway. More and more consumers have a mind of their own, turning to the Internet to achieve what they want, when, where and how they want.

Simply stated, the balance of power has shifted to the consumer, and loyalty to a specific brand, store or a dealer is far from assured. Technology makes consumers stronger and more empowered, with infinite choices available to them.

So how do marketers make an impact in this increasingly splintered marketplace? Marketers need to deliver customer experiences that satisfy the customer while meeting the company's revenue and profitability goals. The customer is the focal point here, not just the product or the brand or the distribution channel.

That's where customer optimization comes in. Customer optimization is a customer- centric business strategy that integrates customer information into the business decision-making process to achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction and business profitability.

This approach helps companies optimize the opportunity and value of every interaction with every prospect and customer across the entire advertising, sales and service continuum.

There are three steps necessary to make customer optimization work. In road-mapping the company's current capabilities, people, processes, tools and data, need to be assessed in order to understand their specific requirements and unique considerations.

In the implementation phase, the necessary technology and data tools, as well as the analytical models and marketing programs to deliver greater customer value, are designed and put into place.

Customer optimization requires consistent, expert care in order to continuously deliver maximum value. This involves ongoing people and process management work, as well as measurement, refinement and maintenance across all delivery vehicles, focusing on enhancing each customer interaction for maximum value.

In the case of the member benefits division of a large professional employee organization, customer optimization became critical to maintaining and growing financial stability, long-term contracts and positive member impressions.

By following the three steps to customer optimization, the company was able to redefine the way it markets - to place people where they could be most effective, break down the information silos, and target marketing resources in the most strategic manner possible.

As a result, the company experienced improvements in its knowledge of members by segment, its ability to develop new products and adapt existing ones to customer specification and to lower acquisition costs.

Ultimately the question each organization needs to ask itself is "Are we meeting the needs of our customers by providing products and services they want, and, do our customers value what we are doing?" In order for the answer to that question to be yes, customer optimization is a necessity.

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