The be great at marketing, you must learn to think like a customer. Great companies excel at this skill. One of the examples I have used in my books and papers is the Proctor and Gamble of old. Proctor and Gamble themselves were great marketers and innovators because they could and would think like a customer. Unfortunately, some of their more recent successors either never learned the importance of the skill or felt they could short-circuit the process with enough “market data.”
I am thrilled to see that in A.G. Lafley’s (the CEO of P&G) new book, Game Changer, he cites as one of his principles the need to “keep the customer at the center of all our decisions.” You may remember that A.G.’s promotion to CEO of P&G was met with skepticism … to say the least. (The stock price plummeted on the announcement that he was going be CEO). You may also note that his tenure as CEO has seen a turn-around in P&G’s fortunes and an increase in their stock price.
To insure that his people re-learned to think like a customer he has instituted several programs that require R&D and marketing people to spend time out with customers rather than conducting focus groups or other artificial research environments.
Isn’t amazing what the simple act of great marketing can do for a company. If you can remember to think like the customer rather than hope the customer thinks like you, your company, product line or division will go far.