New Acxiom CEO Seeks To Bring Focus to Firm

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Jul. 21, 2008 12:00 am  

In an exclusive interview with Arkansas Business, John Meyer details his changes at and plans for Acxiom.

For years, one word in particular could be used to describe Acxiom Corp.: "nebulous." That word applied to the corporate titles - like "company leader" - to the organizational structure, to even the function of the business.

(To see what the new organizational structure of Acxiom looks like, click here.)

Chief Executive Officer John Meyer, who took the helm of the global interactive marketing services firm in February, seems to have set his sights on bringing clarity to the Little Rock company.

In fact, the descriptor "global interactive marketing services company" was his first brainchild.

"One of the things that I've found is that it's very difficult to describe what we do," said Meyer, 52. "And some of that I think is because of our reluctance. Some of it is because what we do is not easily understood."

In an exclusive interview with Arkansas Business, Meyer opened up about his changes at and plans for Acxiom.

"When I went around and I talked to customers and I talked to employees, they only could describe what we did based on what they did as opposed to having a vision for the whole company.

"And I saw that as somewhat of a disadvantage because we have all these capabilities; we have all these customers. But, if you looked at it, we sold a customer one thing and only one thing.

"And the hard part in our business, really in any business, is establishing a relationship where the customer likes you, trusts you and is willing to buy more from you. Well, we pretty much never had that because we had guys who were thinking, 'I'm direct marketing,' 'I'm mailing' or 'I'm e-mail' or 'I'm employee background screening' or 'I'm this.'"

So Meyer and the management team's first course of action was to find a way to describe the company as succinctly and memorably as possible. (See A Few Good Words.)

Ironically, viral marketing - an increasingly effective form of marketing - had been virtually useless to Acxiom because even the employees couldn't succinctly describe the business.

None of this is to say former CEO Charles Morgan and other managers in the previous administration neglected the ambiguity. Tunnel vision, however, can be a side effect of 35 years of the same management.



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