Inspiration from Ritz-Carlton: Create & Activate Your Extended Marketing Team for Customer Success

“Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.”  So wrote Al Ries and Jack Trout in their famous 1981 book, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind.

It’s well-accepted that the right positioning is a key criterion for marketplace success.  However, positioning only to the customer is not enough.  There’s an important corollary, which is positioning to internal, cross-functional teams so that they are prepared to successfully interact with customers.  Today’s CMO should create, engage and activate a powerful extended marketing team, that together with superb positioning, can produce a compelling, differentiating customer experience.

Learning from The Ritz Carlton

Photo: Ritz Carlton

Michael Bush, in an Advertising Age article, provided insights into how Ritz-Carlton leaders prepare and engage employee teams so that each hotel can bring the brand to life for the benefit of their guests.In its own words, the hotel chain “sets the gold standard in luxury hospitality worldwide.”  That’s a very clear and easy-to-understand mission.

But there’s more.  Ritz-Carlton has a written philosophy, a detailed playbook to drive its day-to-day operations, which is published on the company’s corporate Web site.  It’s called The Gold Standards, and contains six components.  Talk about a brand positioning and personality statement!  Here are a few nuggets:

  • The Credo:  “We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.”
  • The Motto:  “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
  • Service Values:  “I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests,” and “I own and immediately resolve guest problems.”

What helps bring all this to life in each hotel every day is something called the Daily Lineup, during which management and staff refer to The Gold Standards (employees carry their own personal copies), and other related material to set the stage for delivering great customer experiences that day.  For example, Simon Cooper, President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, in a Forbes interview, revealed that “part of the lineup everywhere around the world is a “wow story,” which means talking about great things that our ladies and gentlemen have done.”

Extended Marketing Team Examples

The Ritz-Carlton approach is a good springboard for CMOs to think about connecting positioning inside and outside the organization.  Many functions can and should be part of the extended marketing team, beyond just the obvious, sales.  (To read previous posts about the importance of the marketing and sales relationship click one and two).  Here are two examples.

Lipton Tea – Make the Plant Part of the Team

When I was a rising Lipton Tea marketer for Unilever, I visited the company’s biggest tea manufacturing facility in Suffolk, VA.  Even though we made an effort to send marketing information to the plant, it was more meaningful to make a personal visit, present highlights and have a Q&A session.  I learned that many plant team members felt disconnected from headquarters, and wanted to be part of the extended marketing and sales team.

Their passion and commitment was contagious and needed to be fed back into the business, which we worked to do.  With the plethora of Internet-based communication and collaboration tools, think how easy it is to actively engage your extended, off-site teams.  Lesson:  Manufacturing directly impacts the end-user, and marketing should embrace their manufacturing colleagues.

Tate & Lyle – R&D Can Market and Sell Too

As Director of Marketing, Americas at B2B ingredients manufacturer Tate & Lyle, I actively embraced two R&D groups to be part of the extended marketing team.  The Technical Service team operated as a supplement to the sales force to solve customer problems.  The Applications team figured out how to bring the company’s ingredients to life in terms of customer usage in food and beverage products.  Both groups worked frequently with customers onsite and/or in the customers’ own labs.

I believed these two groups could play an even greater marketing and sales role with customers.  One action to make this happen was to brief R&D whenever we completed a new end-user, consumer research study and were ready to present the material to customers.  This sharing fueled an already strong engagement with the business.  Just as important, it created an additional marketing and sales touch-point opportunity with the customer.  During the research briefings, I asked my R&D colleagues to keep a few key points in their mental back pockets; encouraged them to look for a good opportunity to share a research nugget; and instilled action by telling them I was confident they could do this successfully.  Lesson:  Marketing should identify ways for their R&D colleagues to help make a difference with customers.

Think about how Ritz-Carlton has developed and inculcated a mindset that positions all its team members for success with customers.  For instance, the number one item of the 12-point Ritz-Carlton Service Values is:  “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.”

  1. Believe in the Power of an Extended Marketing Team.  Bring mission, strategy, brand and annual marketing plans to life for decisive, winning action.  The key is that the entire team is positioned and equipped to deliver the desired customer experience.  Each employee who interacts with a customer has the ability to turn that customer into a net-promoter or something worse.  Step one is to understand and acknowledge that the output from these colleagues is critical to generating an outstanding customer experience.
  2. Tap into Expertise Beyond the Marketing Team.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to cross-functional colleagues.  It shows strength, not weakness.  Prior to a major end-user, consumer research study at Tate & Lyle, I asked the sales, product management and R&D teams for specific input on what information we needed in order to sell new dietary fiber ingredients.  This was fed into the research design.  The result was superior learning, which became a differentiating, go-to-market tool for our marketing and selling success.
  3. Create your version of the Daily Lineup.  Reinvent the marketing staff meeting and cross-functional briefing so that it becomes more than just simple one-way updates.  Make them mini workshops that pave the way to ensure that everyone achieves the most important things.  For example:  Right now, is each person working on the correct, agreed-to tasks to achieve the annual operating plan?  How’s the work going?  Is it all integrated?  Who needs what kind of help?  What best practices and key learning can be shared with other team members and across the organization?

Headline For Marketers

Today’s CMO should create, engage and activate a powerful extended marketing team that, together with superb positioning, can produce a compelling, differentiating customer experience.  Marketers who successfully embrace this mindset for integrated positioning will greatly enhance their company’s ability to drive sustained growth and profitable sales.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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