June 2012 - c3centricity | c3centricity

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6 Ways to Offset Low Customer Dem and

Last week I spoke about how companies can become more customer centric, but in ways that will differentiate them from their competitors. This week I want to give some more concrete examples of actions, inspired by the latest results of McKinsey’s recent survey on the economic outlook.

As their chart below shows, whilst sovereign-debt defaults, economic volatility and geopolitical instability are considered to potentially be the biggest threats globally, low consumer dem and continues to be seen as the greatest barrier to business growth at a local level.

McKinsey economic threat chartThis has been the case in the last six months of results, so I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts on what organisations can do to offset this (potential) threat to their renewed growth.

# 1 Customers

This should be the starting point for all strategy and plan development, but is so often only an afterthought. Tough times have a nasty habit of showing up an organisation’s incomplete or total lack of underst anding of their target customer. If there are any areas of your customers’ life of which you do not have a deep underst anding, including how they are likely to react in turbulent times, then this must be what you start to investigate, before going to the other five points.

Are your customers pretty resilient to price? Do they often switch br ands, products or outlets? Are they portfolio purchasers or highly loyal? The answers to these questions and more, will help you to be better prepared for tight times and to know how to respond to their specific needs better than anyone else.

# 2 Value

Many companies have reacted to lower sales by reducing price and increasing promotions. In most cases, this has been a waste of time, unless they have always been selling at a price higher than their value. If you don’t know what your customers believe is your true value to them, then you need to run some research urgently to find out, and only then, if your value is below your current price, should you consider either of these actions.

# 3 Offer

In an attempt to maintain pricing, some other organisations have been reducing the size or quality of their products and services, usually without making this clear to their customers. Whilst this might work in the short term, your customers eventually look at the details of the pack content or their service agreement, and realise they are no longer getting what they thought they were. This will both annoy them and make them lose trust in your company; you are at risk of also losing their business too, sometimes forever.

Instead of making reductions in your current product, why not empathise with your customers by offering smaller packs or reduced services for a lower price. In this way, should they decide to switch, it will at least be to another of your products / services, so they can remain loyal and hopefully return to the offering they previously purchased, when times become less difficult. You will also be building their trust and appreciation of your company and br and, by showing them that you underst and their pain and have searched to find a relevant solution.

# 4 Promotion

As previously mentioned, some companies are offering cheaper prices if a customer is willing to buy more of the product, as in a BOGOF or “3 for 2” promotion. Whilst this may make the price per unit less, it is also asking the customer to actually spend more than he / she usually does on the product.

A much better way, especially for companies manufacturing products in multiple categories, is to offer bundled products. In this way you are not necessarily asking your customers to buy more, just differently, whilst also giving some of them a chance of buying a product that they may not as yet have tried. A wonderful win-win for you both.

 # 5 Outlet

As customers become more sensitive to what and at what price they are making purchases, many will have decided to shop around or even change outlets. This means you need to stay connected to them and monitor their place of purchase in order to react should their habits change.

# 6 Communications

Are you one of the marketers who has faced a budget cut in the recent past? Unfortunately, when organisations are looking for money, advertising is often one of the first budgets to be cut. In the short term this often goes unnoticed, but by the time the reduction has an impact on sales, as it will, the slippery slope of share decline is often too difficult to reverse.

A much better reaction to hard times is to maintain or even increase advertising, since it can often be bought at a discount, due to lower dem and. Therefore you can get even more for the same budget and also increase awareness due to less competition and thus also a higher share of voice.

Have you already started thinking about what you can do to offset your own customers’ lower dem and for your products and services? Do your actions include any of the above, or have you decided on a different approach? Either way, we would love to hear about it; why not share your own story below?

For more information on how to better underst and your customers and their needs, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

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Be Customer Centric – differently!

If you are confident that you are doing everything you can to be customer centric, then this post is for you; it provides some further ideas on how to surprise and delight your customers in a different way, to ensure you keep your competitive advantage.

Last week I was in the US for a few days and stayed one night in a small lodge on Key Largo. If I hadn’t prepared my trip by checking out possible places to stay on Tripadvisor before I left, I wouldn’t have known about it, as it is hidden by greenery, even though it is on the main US 1 highway. I would highly recommend this lodge (Dove Creek Lodge) if you are in the area; not only does it offer great value for money, but they are very customer centric. They couldn’t do enough for us, even though we were only there for one night on our way down to Key West.

What touched me in particular, was the way they appeared to search for ways to surprise and delight their clients in everything they did, far beyond what you would expect, even from a star-rated hotel. For example, instead of plates of fruit, meats and vegetables for breakfast, they presented the same foods, but as sweet and savoury kebabs. Rather than serving a large bowl of yoghurt for everyone to dip into, they presented delicate glass cups filled with Greek yoghurt, fruit and granola, or graham biscuits with key lime cream. The whole stay was perfect but there is every chance that we will remember it longer than other places in which we have stayed, because we were surprised and delighted by that original breakfast presentation.

So what can you do differently, to surprise and delight your own customers? Think about what you or your category competitors normally do, but then do it in a slightly different way. Customers will be woken from their mindless, habitual behaviour, and made to sit up and take more notice of what you are offering. Here are some examples that I have experienced in the recent past, but I would love to hear about others that you have already seen, used, thought about or had the pleasure of enjoying:

Replacement product:

OK so you think that you have satisfied your customer when sending a replacement for a (perceived) faulty product? How about sending it express delivery, so they get it in record time? This will amplify your already good customer service and your customers will be delighted. Many companies add coupons as an extra, especially in the US, but those don’t delight or surprise any more. You could offer samples of new products as well, but just make sure they are relvant to the customer- I recently received a “normal” version of a “hypo-allergenic” product I had returned due to an allergy!

Bakery:

Instead of the usual fillings of bakery items, how about adding “surprise” additions. For example, how about jam donuts with jam and cream cheese for an added, surprising delight – I actually had this at the Bagel Isl and, Big Pine Key and would love to go back again to try some of their other surprising offers. I have also bought chocolates with very creative flavours, both savoury and sweet, that certainly got my guests talking with their coffeee after a meal!

Car rental:

Alamo and National, and maybe others I am not aware of, offer their customers the full choice of cars to rent  within their reserved price range, rather than the company deciding what car they will give you. This way, you feel that you have far more choice and are in control of your rental agreement, much more so than you do with other companies. I have also received a small attention on leaving the parking of some rental companies – a bottle of water in summer, a CD of seasonal music at Christmas, Halloween c andies in October. It is not so much the small gift as they surprise that delights.

Airlines:

Many airlines are now offering premium economy service, where their clients are treated, at least on the ground, like a business traveler, rather than as an economy passenger. The first time this happens, it comes as a pleasant surprise and I can imagine will likely make their passengers more loyal to the service and perhaps also the airline in the future, in the same way as complementary upgrades do.

Consumer packaged goods:

Extra ingredients or novel packaging ideas that add sensorial experiences to the product, can bring memorable experiences even to commoditized products. For example, Nestlé brought out a cream desert that had a chocolate layer you cracked with your spoon; Herbal Essence shampoos had significant success with special perfumes; Pantene ProV with its unique colours and solid “clunking” lid closure; Bud Light Premium which sells in an unusual rich, blue bottle; or scratch patches on air fresheners and laundry products. There are many ways to add additional surprising sensorial experiences to your offers, you just have to think like your target customer and know what would delight them.

Offering surprising and delighting extras is one way to make your customers remember your product or service, and almost guarantee repurchase and loyalty, since competitive products don’t have them. Surprising your customers makes an emotional bond that intensifies their experience, so they will remember not only your br and, but also the additional pleasure that is relived each time they think about it.

As you saw from the above examples, it doesn’t need to cost a lot to be unexpected, it just needs to be in some way related to your product so the link remains in the customer’s mind next time they go shopping. These extras make a huge difference to the more commoditized products where br ands offer little differentiation beyond the br and and manufacturer’s name.

What other ways have you found to surprise and delight your customers? Have you, yourself been delighted by a special touch you have found in a product or service? Please share your ideas below.

Don’t miss future posts; sign up for our monthly newsletter:  https://www.c3centricity.com/

For more tips about delighting your customers, especially in innovation, please see our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

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Br anding Essentials

Forbes recently issued its top 100 list of the world’s most reputable companies, so I thought it was a good time to review the importance of br anding and br and equity. Many corporations, including Unilever and Nestlé, are today linking their corporate names more strongly with their br ands, in an effort to build consumer trust.

However, unless you know what each is bringing to the overall image, this can sometimes be a risky thing to do, which is why it is essential to measure both the corporate and br and images on a regular basis. 

Br ands are an integral part of the customer experience; even private labels, “white” products and generic services have names and thus associations in their customers’ minds.

However, a br and is more than just the name given to it; it is also all the other elements that customers associate with it, which may include design, descriptions, colours, packaging elements, perfume, price, personality or images.

In considering the br and element of your product or service and making it more customer centric, there are three main areas to consider:

Perception:

  • Although you certainly have a clear idea of what you are offering, underst anding your customers’ perception of it is even more important, since it is what they actually believe about your offer that really counts. It is therefore essential to follow the progression of your br and’s image on a regular basis, since everything that happens in the market, whether due to you or your competitors’ actions, will have an influence on how customers perceive your own br and.
  • The image of your major competitors should also be followed; comparative ratings are more useful and actionable than just your own ratings, as they can highlight strengths and development areas. The other advantage of taking competitive measurements as well, is that you can keep abreast of changes in the perception and appreciation of their offers, which you might not always perceive otherwise.

Communication:

  • The image of your br and develops over time, based upon your activities, as well as your customers own experiences or those shared by the people they trust. Today this can include information they read on web pages, blogs and social media, in addition to friends and family or the more traditional channels. This adds further complexity to the measurement of an overall appreciation of your image, since it is vital to keep all channels under constant surveillance in order to react in a timely manner. Today’s world is fast-paced and customers will react negatively if you don’t respond rapidly to them, whether by mail, email, telephone or over the internet.
  • Communications and activities which influence br and image include any or all of the following: advertising, packaging, pricing, frontline personnel, websites, sponsoring or promotions. The performance of each channel, both alone and integrated, as well as the satisfaction they offer to your customers, also has an impact on the image that is created for your br and. Whatever communication and activities you undertake, the most important thing to remember is to be consistent in the tone and personality you use. Each customer experience should build towards the same, coherent message, to create a strong and differentiated image.

Image and Equity:

  • Many organisations under-estimate the importance of image and equity, the perceptions that your customers have about your product or service offering. As previously mentioned, what people think about your br and, is at least as important, if not more so, than what you planned it to be. It is vital that you know both the perceptions and the reality, as well as the similarities and differences between the two, if you are to optimise your communications.
  • Measuring br and image should be done at least every two to three years, but can be done annually if there is a lot of change happening in the marketplace. Images don’t move as fast as marketers would like, nor as often as they believe they do, so more frequent measurement is likely to show very few if any significant changes from previous ratings. Ideally before, or at least immediately after launch, the image of your br and should be evaluated and then reviewed regularly to ensure constant optimization, through small course corrections. If you wait until your image is too far from what you want it to be, it will be extremely difficult to correct and will take considerable resources of both time and money to do so.
  • Once the image and value perceptions have been evaluated, it is important to plan communications to either support a desired positioning or to make corrections when necessary. Since perception often starts to weaken before any decline in sales is recorded, image and equity can be used to forewarn of negative performance and thus provide time to develop appropriate corrective actions before any impact on the business is observed.

One final word on the importance of following the images of both your br ands  and your corporation, which is what all customer centric organisations do. A lack of awareness of current perceptions can have a negative impact on the trust and image of the company itself, as for example with repeated new product or service failures; and this is as true with your customers, as it is with your retailers and distributors.

Would you add a fourth essential to the list? What would it be?

For more information on creating the best product or service for your customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post is an adaptation of one that appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on January 4th 2012

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The 7 Secrets to Strategic Marketing Success on the Social Web

This week’s guest post is from Felix Relationship Marketing founder Juan Felix. In it Juan shares some great tips on getting people talking about your business; isn’t that what we all want? 

Ever wonder how to get people talking about your business? Start by offering them incredible products and services that solve their problems and fulfill their needs. Make your customers happy and give them something to talk about. Read this article to access 7 key elements that will get people talking about you!

Every strategy comes with its own set of rules, and so does word of mouth marketing. Yes, this means that you can actually create a strategy to generate positive word of mouth support for your business.

But first: why does Word of Mouth matter?

Learn about cognitive dissonance: “this is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.”

In other words: people are always searching for ways to reduce this cognitive dissonance (to reduce risk and hence fear!).

Receiving positive reviews by word of mouth from friends or family on products or services will reduce the dissonance, as it confirms people in their beliefs that this is a good product or service. You could also define this as the effect of social proof. “If X amount of people share a positive experience, it has to be great!”

So, given that consumers need input to reduce the risk they take, and hence the fear that goes along with buying stuff, here are 7 key elements that will generate positive word of mouth promotion for your business:

 

#1 Make Customers Happy

strategy objectivesIf you value your customers, offer them more than they expect! And do it all the time. It’s not only the great product or service that generates loyalty, but the implicit message that states “you matter to us!”. That’s what every customer wants to hear! Solid relationships thrive on rewarding your customers with a creative surprise. Watch the smile on their faces!

 

 

#2 Focus on Br and Commitment

In Spreading the Word, Tom Brown defined Br and commitment as: “An enduring desire to maintain a relationship with a specific entity.” (Brown e.a., 2005, p. 126)

strategy missionYour Facebook br and page may offer you a unique opportunity to build and nurture a relationship with your fans. But, it takes more than just generating a Like for your Fan page to get people to talk about you! Just watch how many Facebook pages have almost zero engagement.

So, ask yourself these 2 questions every day: “do your customers have an enduring desire to maintain a relationship with your br and?” and “what do you do to earn your fans’ trust each day?”.

If you focus on the enduring desire of fans to maintain the relationship with your br and, this sets the conditions for successful viral word of mouth marketing.

Br ands with a strong and engaging fan base on Facebook can count on daily likes, shares and comments. This engagement will increase your visibility and accelerate your Reach. This social proof will increase your br ands’ attraction and generate more fans. If you want to learn more on this, check out Social Midas.

 

#3 Offer Distinctive Products and Services

strategy 3When it comes to distinctive products, for most people one word is enough: Apple. Steve Jobs has succeeded in building a strong br and that people associate with innovative products that rock! Every time Steve introduced a new product, like the iPod, iPhone or iPad, people just had to talk about it and still do!

When you think about distinctive service, I’m sure Zappos.com resonates with you. Not only does Zappos offer shoes online, they value their customer’s trust more than anything!

If you offer new distinctive products or services, people just want to talk about that. It’s up to you to generate virality by offering them great content about your products or services, so they can share it with friends and family. Think about blog posts, videos, podcasts, badges or other promotion material.

 

#4 Nurture Involvement

strategy 4Offer solutions that connect to the mental relevancy of your customers. Think about how to trigger a big desire or confront huge pains or frustrations. Get into the middle section of your customer’s brain (limbic) to create somatic markers. These markers connect a personal experience with your br and. Just like a can of Coca-Cola will generate happiness and warm feelings for a lot of people. Continue to nurture these feelings and watch how your customers want to share their experience with their family and friends.

 

#5 Connect with Market Mavens

strategy 5Market mavens are individuals who have up-to-date information about many kinds of products, places to shop and other facets of the market. These market mavens are the ones who are most likely to respond to information requests from friends or family. They love to educate others, and it also increases their status. Connect with these market mavens and make them your br and advocates.

 

 

#6 Identify your br and advocates

strategy 6When it comes to word of mouth marketing, referrals by br and advocates are your most effective type of marketing. If you want to include these influencers in your strategy, you need to identify them first.

Fortunately, Satmetrix, Brain & Company and Fred Reichheld developed “The Ultimate Question”.  Ask your customers: “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend?” and calculate the Net Promoter Score. People that indicate this likelihood with a 9 or 10 are “loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth”.

 

#7 Invite Social Media Stars

If you want to increase your word of mouth marketing effectiveness on the social web, you need social media stars. These are social media users who reach a great number of people and have much influence. The Klout Score is certainly a great measure to identify these social media stars.

The Klout Score uses data from various social networks -like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr and Flickr in order to measure your True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact.

As more social media management tools -like HootSuite or SproutSocial- include Klout Score as the main indicator of social influence, I think it’s worth paying attention to the Klout Score of your online connections.

Take Away: although no one can predict virality of customer experiences on the social web, word of mouth marketing matters more than ever. Underst and these 7 key elements and create your own strategy to stimulate positive word of mouth.

My recommendation on word of mouth marketing: “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies get People Talking”.

We love to hear from you! Please share your reaction in the comments box below. Thanks 🙂

To learn more about connecting with your customers, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post was first published on Felix Relationship Marketing on March 13th 2012 

Build Better Insights in just 4 steps

We are lucky to be living in an information rich environment, where numerous data sources are readily available to us.

However, this can also be a challenge since we are usually:

“Drowning in data and starving for insight”

as I have often been quoted.

If you too are drowning in data, take a look at these four easy steps you can take to meet the challenge of better insight development. We call them the four “I’s” of Insight development to impact business:

Step 1 – IDENTIFY: first identify the most relevant pieces of information for the issue or opportunity you have selected to address, as well as for the business or industry you are in. How do you decide what is relevant?

Look at who your target audience is; what do they like to do in their spare time; what are their hobbies; what are their needs, desires and dreams; what motivates them; what are their basic values? What are they tweeting and blogging about? Do they speak about problems they have with the products and categories you are reviewing? All of these will help you to really underst and them and what issues or opportunities there are for your product or service and br and.

Step 2 – INTEGRATE: once you have gathered and prioritized the most valuable sources of information, it is necessary to integrate them in order to reap their full benefits. Customer information and facts that are integrated help to build deeper knowledge. It also enables the extraction of essential underst anding on which the business can grow.

Data integration can be done manually or using technology, which is advisable when managing large amounts of information. Integration of underst anding can be done by looking for themes and key topics that get repeated across the different sources.

Step 3 – INSIGHTS: after integration of the information, you need to develop the insights. If you haven’t already done so, get a mixed team of experts from different relevant departments together to review all the information, and have the project led by one of your Market Research or Insight group. They will love both the recognition and the challenge of running an insight development session, using everything that has been gathered and integrated.

Step 4 – INSPIRE: as the team begins to hypothesize insights coming out of the information, find someone who can then synthesize their findings into a compelling story. Storytelling will fire enthusiasm into both the team and the company at large, and everyone will be more ready and willing to take the required action. Storytelling helps the findings and insights to be transmitted to all interested parties within the organisation. In some cases, a presentation using storytelling is sufficient for decisions to be made.

How do you develop insights in your own organisation. Do you have other ways to integrate information and knowledge? Please share your ideas with everyone.

For more on Insight development, please see our website https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

This post first appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on December 29th 2011

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