Today’s corporations must grow or they will die, claims marketing maven Laura Patterson in Fast-Track Your Business. She counsels management to target organic growth, meaning growth through a company’s own activities, rather than through mergers and acquisitions. Becoming “customer-centric,” believes Patterson, is the way to organic growth.
Patterson distinguishes a product-centric from a customer-centric company. The former creates a product, then goes out and markets it. A customer-centric company focuses first, foremost, and always on customers: the customers’ headaches and how to cure them. It begins not by creating a better mousetrap, but by finding out about the mousetrap customers, their problems, needs and desires.
Customer and competitor research then directs the product development process to deliver the right offering to market to ensure long-term, sustainable growth. Such an approach, the author notes, pays off grandly: typically garnering “total shareholder returns” of 20-28%, versus 13-15% for firms achieving growth through mergers and acquisitions.
Patterson discusses many traditional themes of the business literature, such as culture, strategy, organizations, operations, and metrics, in each case with a laser focus on customers. For example, rather than thinking in terms of a portfolio of products, she advises company management to think in terms of a portfolio of customers. She recommends many established business practices, such as Robert Cooper’s Stage-Gate methodology for product development and Robert Kaplan’s Balanced Scorecard approach to performance measurement, but places them in the context of the customer-centric organization.
As in many business books, Fast-Track Your Business contains its fair share of jargon but no more than its competitors. Additionally, the author sometimes tends to state the obvious; for example, when discussing process mapping, she writes, “Detail every step of the individual processes.” Of course.
Nonetheless, Patterson has produced a short work packed with a great deal of valuable advice and information. Students of marketing and marketing professionals would do well to lend an ear.