The past deeade taught business firms everywhere a humbling lesson. Domestic companies learned that they can no longer ignore global markets and competitors. Successful firms in mature industries learned that they cannot overlook emerging markets, technologies and management approaches. Companies of every sort learned that they cannot remain inwardly focused, ignoring the needs of their customers.
Prominent western multinationals of the 1970s which floundered at marketing, including Philips, Volvo, General Motors and RCA, are all struggling to revive their fortunes today. They failed to understand their changing marketplace, their customers and the need to provide value. Today, General Motors is still trying to figure out why so many consumers around the world have switched to Japanese and European cars. In the consumer electronics industry, Philips has lost its way, losing share to Japanese competitors that have been more successful in turning expensive technologies into mass consumer products. Volvo, which has long capitalized on its safety positioning, has, of late, lost this unique selling point to other car manufacturers, which have turned the safety benefit into a universal feature: many large European and Japanese ear producers now offer, as standard features, driver and passenger airbags, anti-lock braking system and other safety devices. RCA. inventor of so many new products, never quite mastered the art of marketing and now puts its name on products largely imported from Asia.
As we move into the twenty-first century, companies must become customer-oriented and market driven in all that they do. It is not enough to be product or technology driven - too many companies still design their products without customer input, only to find them rejected in the marketplace. It is not enough to be good at winning" new customers - too many companies forget about customers after the sale, only to lose their future business. Not surprisingly, we are now seeing a flood of books with titles such as The Customer Driven Company, Customers for Life, Turning Lost Customers Into Gold, Customer Bonding, Sustaining Knock Your Socks Off Service and The Loyalty Effect.21 These books emphasize that the key to success on the rapidly changing marketing landscape will be a strong focus on the marketplace and a total marketing commitment to providing value to customers.
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