6.262009

connecting the internal and external

I’ve been thinking about the importance of connecting the internal organization with external customers. CB034303 All too often it seems companies are either too inwardly focused, getting too caught up in their own capabilities, technologies, and process — or too outwardly focused, trying to be everything to everyone and ending up being nothing to no one.

My thoughts were sparked by a proposal I’ve been working on. It’s for a well-known company with a what most people would agree is a really strong brand.  So imagine my surprise when I learned they were seeking a resource for “brand discovery.”  At first blush, it didn’t seem to me that they needed any help.

But then as I immersed myself into their situation, I realized their issue is connecting the internal to the external.  Their internal culture and passion for their brand is really admirable, but what they seem to missing is an intimacy with the customer.  I believe they need to connect their internal strength with external customer understanding and passion — knowing which segments in the prospect pool are the most fertile for them, knowing how to connect with them, and channeling their energies toward delivering value to them.

At the same time some companies are so focused on the market, they don’t have an internal bedrock to ground their efforts, nor an internal compass to guide decision-making.  You know the companies I’m talking about — the ones who seem to be consistently re-positioning themselves — always trying to tie into the latest fad and never presenting a consistent POV.  In a way, these companies pursue “customer centricity” to a fault.

Peter Drucker believed the need to connect “the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers” is so vital, he advocated for an organization’s CEO to serve as the link.

I would offer an alternative — the brand is the link.  The way I see it, customer centricity only works when you have a strong brand to act as a filter for prioritizing customer segments and a tool for developing and managing customer relationships.  A brand defines what the company stands for, which in turn determines who it’s for and what value it will deliver.

The brand embodies the “Outside” by defining the value the organization delivers to its customers; and it embodies the “Inside” by defining the way the organization does business.

So my conclusion:  the brand connects the internal and the external. What do you think?  Do you agree? or do you see it a different way?  Please let me know.

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