Procter & Gamble's Jim Stengel described a major cultural shift that is turning the world's largest marketer into a starter of conversations and a solver of consumers' problems rather than a one-way communicator. "It's not about telling and selling," said the chief marketing officer of the company that once lived by that simple mantra. "It's about bringing a relationship mindset to everything we do."
This shift has probably been underway for about 2 years. But as this transformation gains momentum, what does it really mean?
- New unfiltered conversations with customers. If they are going to establish a new level of trust with people, P&G employees will need to get out of the office and talk with customers with new eyes and ears. This new conversation is about understanding customer needs, problems and aspirations at a much deeper level.
- New conversations with its marketing partners. Traditional media outlets, who served as the "tell it and sell it" channel, must find a new way to drive value for P&G. Television, magazine and print outlets will have to find and prove new relevance to P&G? Don't expect P&G to abandon these channels completely. In fact, P&G might even take the agencies and other partners into their discovery process.
- New retail strategies. While P&G already has tight, collaborative supply chain and joint business planning relationships with any retailer it chooses to, the role of the store in the P&G-consumer relationship will likely change. "Creating a conversation" is often seen these days as a "Web 2.0" domain, but the purchase experience still plays a significant role. The store is a playground for both retailer and manufacturer to create and reinforce trust with the consumer. The consumer can expect new experiences at point of sale.
- Blue Ocean Opportunities. Watch for P&G to create unique conversations with specific segments. Expect P&G's new conversations to yield fresh insights. Here is an opportunity to engage with previously under-addressed segments that are not getting attention from other manufacturers. Which products, segments or markets have the least trust associated with them? Unsolved problems?
- Difficult Conversations - and new stars. P&G employees and partners who have been successful in the "tell and sell" world may find it difficult to embrace this new approach. The resilient ones will ask, "How can I help P&G and its customers succeed?" - and then get to work!
- New metrics? How do you measure the success of a relationship? Stengel says, ""Market share is trust materialized." That is a wonderful statement that could be the subject of an entire seminar. But measuring the steps that lead from interaction - to trust - to purchase loyalty - to market share is not easy.
Charles Green wrote about the challenge of creating metrics around trust. He writes:
"Very simply, the only way to be trusted is to actually be trustworthy. The only way to be trustworthy is to have your customers' best interests at heart. If you are trustworthy, you will come to be seen as trustworthy. If you are seen as trustworthy, you will become very profitable."
If P&G follows Green's guidance, look for some significant cultural reinforcement across P&G's ecosystem. P&G already has a 64-page Worldwide Business Conduct Manual. I expect it will be read by employees, suppliers and partners with fresh eyes. More importantly, watch and listen for P&G's Marketing, Sales, IT, Supply Chain and Product Development - and all of P&G's leadership - to shape new conversations with new questions.
What do you think:
- What other changes do you see resulting from P&G CMO Jim Stengel's statements?
- How do you measure customer trust?
- What aspects of your business relationships rely most on your customer's trust and confidence? What's their view of your trustworthiness? What matters most to them?