“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”[i] —George Bernard Shaw
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines marketing as an “….activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”[ii] That said, who’s responsible within the organization for marketing activities and processes? If you are thinking the marketing and sales departments, you are partially correct.
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric (1981–2001), once said, “Marketing isn’t somebody’s responsibility, marketing is everyone’s responsibility.”[iii] And what a maxim his statement is. So, how is an organization to get everyone involved in marketing? The organization builds a culture where all employees have a customer-orientation mind-set and a keen awareness of the organization’s competitors.[iv]
Building a customer orientation mind-set may not be easy, however. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart once spoke about the importance of listening to front-line employees who in turn interact with the company’s customers.
The Folks on the front lines—the ones who actually talk to the customer—are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there. You’d better find out what they know. This is what total quality is all about. To push responsibility down in your organization, and force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.[v]
How is an organization supposed to listen to its front-line? The organization constructs a listening culture—“one in which listening to individual experiences and views is identified as a core feature.”[vi] We could all probably agree that listening is an activity in which most of us could become better skilled at, and it is biblical. As James 1:19 harkens us, “Let everyone be quick to hear and slow to speak” (ERV).[vii]
Additionally, a process to gather both customer and employee feedback needs to be established in order to make changes to products and services ahead of the organization’s competitors, all while continuing to provide superior value to customers.
Along with building a customer orientation and listening culture, ethics is critical as well. The organization needs to endorse and build an environment of healthy customer relationships, punctuated by trust, responsibility, and commitment.[viii] In other words, the organization’s employees are to care about customers and build trust though ethical actions.
A checklist to examine your organization:
- Do all of your organization employees have a customer-orientation mind-set?
- How does your organization get everyone involved in its marketing?
- How does your organization listen to its front-line?
- Are your employees building trust with your customers through ethical actions?
[i] BrainyQuote. (2015). George Bernard Shaw quotes. Retrieved from
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgebern113045.html (para. 1)
[ii] American Marketing Association. (n.d.). Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.ama.org/Pages/default.aspx
[iii] Best, R. (2009). Market-based management: Strategies for growing customer value and profitably. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. (p. 3)
[iv] Day, G. (1999). The Market Driven Organization: Understanding, Attracting, and Keeping Valuable Customers. New York: Simon & Schuster.
[v] Hill. C., & Jones, G. (2010). Strategic management: An integrated approach (9th Ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. (p. 121)
[vi] National Children’s Bureau. (2009). Developing a listening culture. Retrieved from
http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/74054/developing_a_listening_culture.pdf (para. 2)
[vii] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
[viii] Kavali, S., Tzokas, N., & Saren, M. (1999). Relationship marketing as an ethical approach: Philosophical and managerial considerations. Management Decision, 37(7), 573-581.