New Study Asks: What’s in a Name?

LOS ANGELES Just because they know you doesn’t mean they like you. Or so suggests a CMO Council study to be released this week.

Research focused on business-to-business relationships in the tech sector suggests virtually no intersection between brand awareness and customer affinity. The names IT professionals most recognized—HP, Dell, Microsoft, Google, IBM—did not receive a corollating spot on the study’s customer affinity index. The top positions went instead to NetApp, Juniper, InterSystems, Polycom and Synnex.

More than a big brand, customers said they look for “competence, quality service and support.”

“A fundamentally new measure of marketing effectiveness has to center around the customer experience,” explained Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the San Francisco-based CMO Council.

Among other things, the study found that vendors think they are more customer-centric than their customers do. Fifty-six percent rate themselves as “extremely customer-centric” while only 12 percent of customers agree. What’s more, over half of the customers used words such as “combative” and “adversarial” to describe their relationship with channels and vendors.

The study suggests that marketers reassess their marketing spend to seek out partners with ties to customers and “facilitate engagement and intimacy” through “online communities, interactive programs, face-to-face conferences and dialogs.”

CMO Council member John Petralia, svp of North American marketing for Iron Mountain, a Boston-based information storage, protection and disposal company, said the company has been involved in customer-affinity programs for some time. Theirs starts, he said, by diving deeply into its customers’ organizations and includes risk assessment, Web seminars and the publishing of best practices.

“In an environment of hyper-competitiveness, by focusing on the needs and challenges of customers,” said Petralia, “we find much better correlations between marketing and effectiveness.”