Buyer-centric no more

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by: Jennifer Rice

With his recent comment to my Semantics post, Damon B. resurrected the customer-centric versus buyer-centric debate:

CC, while it does have its short comings, is far superior to being BC. Buyer centricity leaves out some very important customers – most importantly the internal customers. Sure, a CC company can start looking at customers as acquisitions or transactions, but that's a result of the company failing to properly implement the policy. Claiming CC is not correct is like claiming fishing line is inferior b/c it broke when there was too much weight on the line. It's not the fishing lines fault, it was just poorly used.

If a company can not fully grasp how to be CC it will also fail at being BC.

Excellent point, and one we've been exploring in the running "Role of Marketing" dialogue. My most recent definition of marketing's role is to "catalyze communication and relationships between stakeholders." And, of course, that can best happen in a stakeholder-centric organization.

As Damon pointed out, buyer-centricity leaves out the internal customer. But customer-centricity comes with its own problems:
– Is commonly interpreted as the end-user or buyer
– Leaves out other stakeholders such as distribution channels, partners, key influencers, investors and the community in which the company operates.

On the other hand, a stakeholder-centric company is keenly aware of every group that is influenced by its policies and decisions. I'd like to revisit John Moore's definition of marketing as "resolving the conflicting needs and interests of stakeholders" and apply it instead as the definition of the stakeholder-centric organization (SCO). Executives of an SCO must make a comprehensive list of stakeholders along with their respective needs and interests, identify areas of conflict, and actively seek solutions that will resolve those conflicts. This is a great idea-generating exercise for innovative products, services, policies, operational enhancements, etc. that could reside at the intersection of those conflicting interests.

A stakeholder-centric marketer, then, would be involved in identifying core needs of stakeholders (specifically buyers and distribution channels), participating in stakeholder issue-resolution exercises with the executive team, and catalyzing relationships of the various stakeholders according to the resulting objectives, strategies and tactics that emerge from those issue-resolution exercises.

I like where these running blog dialogues are ending up. I'm officially changing my Buyer-Centric category title to Stakeholder-Centric. If anyone has additional thoughts on the subject, fire away!

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