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
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
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
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
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
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.).
The deliverables of this phase include:
° Collection and
analysis of new data as well as secondary data.
° Baseline descriptions that incorporate perceptual mapping and
conjoint analysis techniques in the interpretation of the data.
° Identification of problems and opportunities.
° Author a situation summary and structure a compelling
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
identification of multiple segments (targets).
perceptions of each segment.
change process required for each segment.
Who must we impact
comprehensive set of alternatives.
of success of each alternative.
alternative strategies based on cost to achieve, probability of
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
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 Customer
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
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 finally
likelihood that public perceptions may be positively influenced
towards supporting the MANNED MARS MISSION by a well-managed
customer engagement effort.