The Role of the Mid-Market CEO in Customer Intimacy

Many mid-market executives believe Marketing owns customer intimacy. Can this be true, considering that Marketing’s main focus is generating demand? Will Marketing have time and talent to get close to customers? To be sure, many functions have significant customer interactions. For example, Sales when selling and Finance when managing receivables; and each function interprets customer data through its own lens, leading to diverging actions.

Only the CEO can bring about a unified view of the customer. Therefore, the CEO must serve as the advocate to ensure ongoing company-wide customer intimacy efforts.

Remember to plan to overcome resistance or other inherent challenges. For example, a company operating in strong silos will need to become somewhat collaborative. Or if your company isn’t very forward leaning, this also will need to be addressed.

Here are 3 recommendations for moving ahead:

  1. The executive team establishes and announces a customer intimacy program and assigns a cross-functional team to manage it. I recommend the CEO be the executive sponsor to ensure full support throughout the organization.
  2. The team develops an org-wide plan including tasks to overcome barriers, roles and responsibilities, communications plan and expected outcomes. Don’t forget to establish ways to share customer inputs with the executive team as well as getting those executives in customer forums.
  3. The CEO publishes a quarterly or bi-monthly update to all employees of recent customer intimacy efforts, successes, and next steps. Such communications signal the critical importance of this initiative and keeps employees engaged.

If you’re in a B2B business and looking for ways to increase customer intimacy, consider implementing a customer advisory board program and funding a senior customer advocacy position.

Getting closer to your customers is more important than ever and should be championed by the CEO. Charter a cross-functional team to run your customer intimacy program and publish frequent updates to all employees to engage everyone. Consider a customer advisory board or senior customer advocate position to create opportunities to hear directly from your customers.