Planning For Customer Engagement: A Proposal
This proposal is based on determining attitudes and perceived
relevancy among key constituencies regarding the desire, capability
and value of a MANNED MARS MISSION. The National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) has such a program in its
plans and this proposal becomes part of the overall business
plan which supports the Mission. The Team assembled
to conduct this effort at the University of Texas at Austin
is drawn from two schools with the University. The College
of Business Administration and the College of Communication
have jointly participated in the development of this document;
their student team is prepared to execute the study in accordance
with the work outlined.
Appropriately, two faculty advisors have agreed to oversee
the student effort. They are Professor Eli Cox and Professor
Neal Burns. Resumes of both advisors are included in the Team
Personnel section. In keeping with the joint nature of our
Team, two co-leaders have been selected from the student participants.
They are Matt Macdonald and Miya Nazzaro. Their resumes
along with the names of the other students may also be found
in the Team Personnel section.
The overall goal of the proposed study is to have the customer
dimension – their attitudes and values – fully understood
so that the possibility of messages directed towards them
being effective is enhanced. This dimension is
of particular importance when missions and major national
programs are considered that require long lead times between
their inception and their anticipated pay-off. The funding
and support needed over a relatively long period of time will
require a program of information and education along with
a substantial sense of experiential involvement. Those
concerns have become the objectives of the proposed program.
The objectives include issues that are not entirely unusual
in current economic and social affairs. First, very
often today “dot coms” enterprises have diverse targets they
need to reach and satisfy. The general situation often
calls for messaging to the venture capital providers (VC or
angels) as well as to the customers of the product or service.
Without the VC being kept on-board, confident and perhaps
prepared for an over-call the enterprise fails. Similarly,
without the support of the primary users the “dot com” loses
marketplace clout and presence.
The second issue that strikes a familiar ring when considered
with the MANNED MARS MISSION are those private and public
projects that need to be initiated now although they will
only truly be manifest some time in the future. Building
new airports, highways and urban infrastructure, support for
new schools and educational programs, cures for dread diseases
all call for present expenditures to achieve downstream impact.
The following objectives encompass these concerns.
a firm benchmark (CIRCA 1ST QTR. CY 2000) for attitudes
towards NASA and about their participation in long range
space exploration and scientific missions.
and employ a segmentation analysis for the various audiences
and stakeholders involved with and impacted by NASA programs.
comparable efforts by other federal and state agencies
-- perhaps include international (e.g., UN activities)
agencies as well in that analysis.
message strategies that are mission and segment specific.
and distribute a marketing plan based upon the research
and analysis that will enhance customer engagement and
increase the likelihood of support.
an implementation and measurement plan that will serve
as clear indicators of the proposed program's success
or as suggestions for change in emphasis.
The methodology of the proposed study incorporates the disciplines
from marketing and advertising and emphasizes in both disciplines
the strategic issues that frame rational behavior and emotional
responses. In particular, the effort draws from the
experience of several major advertising agencies and their
use of so-called account planning techniques. The basis
of this discipline is that the message and the execution and
the media selected all have an impact on the relationship
the brand has with the customer. The best tools to produce
positive customer engagement will be those that involve the
consumer. In our process that involvement actually begins
with the initial insights about our targets and their attitudes
towards NASA and the MANNED MARS MISSION. Our team intends
to use this customer input at every stage of message development
so that the overall strategy and the creative message strategy
incorporate the values.
The design of the proposed study incorporates these issues.
The approach consists of four major phases.
Phase 1. Benchmarking.
This phase is devoted to the systematic assembly of both qualitative
and quantitative data that will serve as a comprehensive description
of the initial operating conditions. Part of the philosophy
of this effort, as a marketing study, is that the work is
measurable and results in outcomes that are meaningful and
easily communicated. Accomplishing this calls for first
establishing a meaningful baseline.
A series of interviews and focus groups will be conducted.
Following those investigations a survey instrument directed
to each of the segments of concern will be prepared and administered.
This will enable the study team to determine the present status
in the “mindspace” of each segment (press, congressional representatives,
key opinion leaders -KOL’s, etc.).
A few comments about the preceding summary statements may
help the reader better understand the thrust of the proposed
work. The process of deliberative polling and interactive
focus groups is a natural for this project, and we are fortunate
in having a consulting member (Jim Fishkin) who has
led the development of this deliberative polling to measure
the impact of interactive communications on attitudes.
The conjoint analysis would be very helpful in identifying
which reason -- or set of reasons -- was most influential
for a particular segment in terms of the public benefit assumed
to result from MANNED MARS MISSION. The statistical
processes used in analyzing web-based survey data will help
identify the sources of variance and the most potent influencers
of attitude. These data will be incorporated into a
comprehensive baseline report.
The use of novel and innovative technology may also help
bring important influences to bear on the opinion and attitude
formation of various publics. Using the speed and bandwidth
of Internet2 (Note: Our intent is to use this new technology
since the University of Texas at Austin is one of the institutions
participating in the international Internet2 project University
Corporation for Advanced Internet Development. http://www.utexas.edu/coc/i2sociotech
) This would enable NASA to bring various constituencies into
contact and dialog with key NASA resources and principal investigators.
The UCAID organization and several university and corporate
participants have indicated an interest in working with us
on this project.
A short note on Internet2 may be in order. Internet2
is an experimental network of network investigating technologies
for an always-on multi-megabit network, capable of supporting
voice and video streams in addition to data all the way to
the end-user. Technologies being explored in the Internet2
project use the new Ipv6 protocols. These protocols
permit encryption, quality of service assurance, privacy,
and multi-casting capabilities that will not only deliver
more bandwidth to the user – at work or at home – but will
also assure dependability in high performance and mission
critical applications. Bandwidth is being added
constantly at the core of the network, and projects such as
Internet2 are building high-speed IP networks for research
and academic uses. This new Net and the discussions that it
in turn stimulates are expected to be of inestimable value
to the MANNED MARS MISSION support program.
Customer and constituent satisfaction, confidence, attitude
and priorities will be described and techniques for measuring
attitudinal change in the future will be established as a
result of the work in Phase 1.
Phase 2. Process for Increasing
the Chance of Winning
The first part
of this phase involves building a strategy set which consists
of a comprehensive set of alternative solutions. The second
part of the activity in this phase is evaluation of the alternatives.
Techniques for predicting the likelihood of success and of
ranking alternative strategies will be employed. At
this time in the study effort the more alternatives, generally
speaking, the better -- the team is looking for new solutions.
Deliverables in this phase include;
of multiple segments (targets).
current perceptions of each segment.
change process required for each segment.
Who must we
a comprehensive set of alternatives.
of success of each alternative.
alternative strategies based on cost to achieve, probability
of success, etc.
Phase 3. Positioning NASA
and MANNED MARS MISSION
To help both the overall marketing plan and the sequence
of messages to be written and delivered, clarity and precision
on what it is that NASA stands for needs to be established
(re-established?). We call that process Position --
What we want to say -- and Attitude -- How we want to
say it. Together they establish brand character. Brand
Character is critically important for issues of customer engagement.
Carefully managed it ensures the fact that all "public
appearances" of the NASA brand always represents what
NASA stands for -- it is perhaps as close to brand equity
as an organization like the NASA can get! The secret
to increasing the chances of winning is that we must change
both perceptions and behavior! And, we need to provide
evidence that this has occurred.
Another key aspect of the investigation will be the identification
of a significant common element that unifies the somewhat
varying positioning emphasis of the various segments.
Finding and articulating that unifying aspect that cuts across
all segments -- a kind of skewer as it were -- becomes an
important part of the NASA brand equity .
4. Implementation and Measurement of Enhanced
This final phase
serves as the measure of our abilities. The fact that
the MANNED MARS MISSION study team is willing to be measured
and that the instruments of measurement will be specified
at the outset and require agreement from our "customer"
speaks to the maturity of the proposed effort. In short,
there is a fiduciary responsibility to demonstrate that the
work undertaken has had positive results or that clear direction
for improvement is accessible from the data.
Selecting a range
of tools for implementation immediately suggests that an integrated
marketing approach will be employed as the basis for developing
and maintaining customer engagement. The messaging activities
may include advertising, public relations, special events,
contests, presentations, strategic alliances with new partners
and other techniques and distribution methods. The project
team is fortunate in having the support and consulting services
of Professor Deborah Morrison who has developed the creative
sequence in the Advertising Department. Her guidance
will be particularly important in message development.
Each of the marketing
communication tools will be expected to perform a special
function. The study team will look to advertising and
PR to build the desired perceptual framework and brand equity
and, if needed, to help change perceptions.
Similarly, the study
team will look to the use of the Internet and selected direct
programs to build relationships and change behavior.
The diverse and complex nature of an integrated marketing
system calls for the team to be prepared to be accountable.
The statistical processes for measuring attitudinal and perceptual
changes are in place and the study team is capable of using
them to good advantage. The measurements and evaluation
will tie into initial objectives. The main task will
be for the study team to determine how NASA wants to be perceived
by each key segment. Related to this determination is
an assessment of what each segment will let NASA become; position
and attitude are not only in the hands of the message makers
-- a historical and political context is often associated
with a brand and impacts the way it is perceived.
The importance of the proposed study can perhaps best be
seen in its relevance to other related public policy issues.
One of the guiding principles of the proposed effort is that
the examination of a MANNED MARS MISSION include a review
of other long range programs that are initiated in one period
of time and pay-off much later. Sustaining interest
and participation during the interval between conception and
pay-off is, at best, dicey. This is particularly the
case in democratic constitutional societies where new priorities
and elections may reverse early intent.
The concerns relating to NASA and a MANNED MARS MISSION involve:
perception, on a segment by segment basis , that the mission
is genuinely part of the charter and purpose of the agency;
such, that the NASA embodies the hopes and aspirations
of the various publics it represents and has their support;
the agency is capable -- i.e., has the competency to execute
the missions it chooses to undertake;
science and technology exist so that the MANNED MARS MISSION
can, in fact, be accomplished with an acceptable level
of risk -- i.e., it is doable;
the cost/benefit relationships implicit in the execution
of the mission are reasonable and understood;
comparison of other major social and political problems
and some judgments concerning national priorities results
in the MANNED MARS MISSION being highly regarded; and
likelihood that public perceptions may be positively influenced
towards supporting the MANNED MARS MISSION by a well-managed
customer engagement effort.