Become The Voice of the Customer

The marketing organization inside many of your larger prospects or clients is becoming increasingly fractured and siloed, creating a big opportunity for agencies to exercise leadership and vocally represent the voice of the customer. So argued Larry Light, President and CEO of Arcature yesterday at the 4As Transformations 2010 conference in San Francisco.

Larry is a management consultant credited with helping to turn around McDonalds and Nissan.

He made the case that in a big client’s marketing organization, you might find a CMO and various chiefs of insight, analytics, merchandising, strategy, branding, and maybe more. Each has turf they’re trying to protect and grow, and each is firmly entrenched in their own silo. From his experience, Larry has found that silos only serve to decrease accountability and increase the ability to blame others when there’s a problem.

What’s the opportunity for ad agencies, and new business people in particular? Become the voice of the customer. In many of the companies he’s worked with, Larry said that no one truly represents the customer. That’s a leadership role agencies are perfectly suited to assume.

Agencies shouldn’t just be coordinators of marketing communication – not when the real prize is to be the glue that holds the client’s marketing organization together.

Assuming the mantle of “the voice of the customer” would put your agency in the role of saying to your client,

“What kind of exciting future can we create for your business?”

Here are two important ways that Larry says you can do this:

  1. Come up with a real insight. Before you state that it’s an insight, though, you’d better be surprised by what you learned. If your insight is that “people like food that tastes great”, keep digging.
  2. As a result of your insight, how will behaviors change? If the insight doesn’t cause you and your client to change the way you do things, then you only created an “interesting insight”. You need a business-changing insight.

There are clear opportunities here for new business pros to use insights to crack open prospects’ doors. Likewise, for agency management to think about the roles you play in your clients’ organizations, and how you can better represent the voice of the customer to assume a greater leadership role.

Thought-provoking stuff; hope it generates an idea or two.



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