June 2014 - c3centricity | c3centricity

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Is there a Future for Information & Insight? Yes, if we learn these new skills

Last week I had the privilege of presenting at the European Pharmaceutical Market Research (EphMRA) Annual Conference in Brussels. My talk was on the important topic of the future of the Market Research profession.

My invitation came as the result of one of the committee members seeing a question I had posted at the end of last year on several LinkedIn groups: Does your organisation need a market research department? And in the future?” Whether you are a researcher or a user of research data, the following summary of that presentation should help you underst and the need for us all to change the way we work with information and data, in order to increase their value to the business. Recent studies by both IBM  and Business Intelligence about the information needs of top management in general and marketing in particular give us some great clues about what they dislike and what we need to change.

Management don’t get what they need

Executives complain that their information currently comes from numerous, disparate sources, is rarely available in real-time, cannot be easily accessed without the help of IT, and anyway takes too long to customise it to their needs. The good news is that they don’t seem to get too much; in fact it looks as if they actually want more, but more of what they need.

Executives don’t get it in the format they need

Management currently get their information primarily via emails and spreadsheets, which I find shocking.  Why do we expect them to take the time to sift through all the information to draw their own conclusions? Are we still too scared to voice our own opinions, or to make recommendations? Only one in eight receive dashboards and yet this is their preferred medium. They want someone to have thought about their needs and then to provide a simple form that is easy to scan, interpret and take action on.

Marketing needs their data in real-time

It’s a hard time to be a CMO or head of marketing these days. They are being challenged more than ever before, to prove the ROI of their spending. They want more real-time information so they can take better informed decisions. They also need consistency so they can compare across channels and link sales back to individual campaigns and lead-generation efforts.

Marketing don’t feel ready to manage even more information

More than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. They also feel that they aren’t keeping up with all the rapid market changes, even when they have the money to do so.

The solution is as easy as ABC

Taking into account what management have said about their current information sources, providing what they need is as easy as ABC:

  • Accessibility to the information they need, where and when they need it.
  • Business impact so that what they receive enables them to identify and take the actions needed.
  • Consistency so they can compare across br ands, categories, countries or regions.

In addition to these three essential elements, it is important for us to ask the right questions of the data. As with good market research, getting the right answers depends upon asking the right questions (>>Tweet this<<). And we can only do this if we have a good underst anding of what the business needs. In order for us to increase the value of market research and planning in organisations, analysts need regular interaction across all departments and divisions.

For some companies, this has meant placing the experts in each business unit, but I personally feel that whilst it does increase their interaction with the business itself, they lose independence as well as integration across divisions. From my experience, the most valued market research departments are centralised  and individuals or teams have identified responsibilities by business or region. This frees them to give honest, unbiased feedback without the pressure of over-keen bosses to influence the analysis and results. Additionally, in order for market researchers to maintain the interaction needed to underst and the whole business, they will need to learn some new skills:

  • Socialising with both internal clients and external customers will provide analysts with a better feel for the business and how to support their needs. They must also accept to work more with social media data. Some claim it is not representative, but I beg to differ. From what one can read online, it is probably the closest an organisation will ever get to the true feelings of their customers.
  • Synthesising of both integrated data and the sharing of the knowledge and underst anding resulting from its analysis. Storytelling is such a hugely popular topic that I don’t think I need to go further on it, but the integration and synthesis of information from multiple sources will become essential. As the “internet of things” increases the flow of information into companies, someone will have to manage and make sense of it all and I believe that market research is the best equipped for this role.
  • Surprising management with exciting new ways to gather a better underst anding of customers. Technology is providing more and more ways to do this without even asking questions of our customers. Whether it is virtual reality, facial imaging and emotional coding, neuroscience and biometrics, market research now has a wealth of new tools available, so they need to reconsider how they gather their information. Whilst it means that they will have to get out of their comfort zone of st andard methodologies, the benefits in terms of surprise and delight of their management will more than compensate.

I concluded my presentation by saying that market researchers will have to become “Bionic” to encompass the three new areas of expertise that are necessary to meet management’s needs. These are:

  1. Methodological expertise, as well as project management and analytical skills
  2. Intellectual curiosity to synthesise information from all sources and generate actionable insights
  3. Improved communication skills to tell stories that influence business decision-making

Whether suppliers will take the first role alone or help with the second and third as well, will depend upon the client-side teams treating them as true partners and not mere information gatherers. Do you think this is possible in your own organisation? I would love to hear your thoughts either way. C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.

Which of these 10 Customer Centricity Steps are you Missing?

Last Saturday was the start of Summer in the Northern hemisphere and the weather certainly confirms this, at least for now! Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our journey to Customer Centricity.

Organisations need to take a step back occasionally and review how their plans are going. What changes do they need to make to ensure they meet their objectives over the remaining six months of the year? So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can take to get further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Underst and your primary target

Knowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Boston Matrix for improved customer centricity  and segmentation evaluationAction: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their “4Ws”. In other words the Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so. If you would like to learn more about targeting, check out this post.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer. This can be by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shop and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage. It’s time you started turning them into future scenarios or use future prototyping. (Contact us here to learn more about this)

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges. Alternatively, why not try Sci-Fi Future Prototyping? (Contact us here for more information)

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Most organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services. Check last week’s post for more details about innovation.

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

As the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says:

“What gets measured gets managed” (>>Tweet this<<)

Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait for them to start declining. Once they are, it will be much more difficult to reverse.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers”  (>>Tweet this<<)

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C³C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

This post is based on one that was first published on C³Centricity in July 2013

How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer underst anding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better underst anding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben  and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another br and which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?

Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognise good ideas when they see them (>>Tweet this<<)

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too (>>Tweet this<<)

Exp and your Thinking

Innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coca Cola takes br and innovation seriouslyLast year, Coke used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

This year they took this winning idea a step further and launched the bottle that could only be opened by another Coke bottle – another way of sharing.

Starting from a different innovation lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative NPD concepts (>>Tweet this<<)

Go Beyond Trend Following

Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities.

The innovative ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during that conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have inspired you too to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us today.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Ben &Jerry’s and Coke in this post.

This post has been adapted from one first published on C³Centricity in June 2013

Deliver a Great Experience to All Prospects, Including Those that Don’t Buy

This week I am happy to share a guest post by Bob Thompson from CustomerThink. His post is inspired by his latest book “Hooked on Customers”, which I’ve just read and highly recommend to everyone looking to be more customer centric. 

For sure, increasing sales productivity is a good thing. Marketing organizations are putting in place systems and tools to generate and score leads, so that reps can focus on more qualified prospects.

However, even in the best case scenario reps will not close every opportunity. Some customers may not have a need to buy now. Others may have a need, but they may select another alternative. A CSO Insights study found average win rates of about 45% in 2011, a five point drop from 2006.

So the key question is: What kind of sales experience are you delivering to all of your prospects—including those that weren’t qualified or didn’t buy?

This is important because, whether a prospect buys or not, their experience interacting with your company will create a lasting impression. A good experience means they may return another day, when they have needs that match your solutions. Or, they’ll recommend your company to a colleague. Either way, that helps increase revenue productivity. For example, last year I was looking for software to support my online community CustomerThink.com. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I searched for solutions, interacted with vendor web sites and engaged with several sales reps by email and phone. To most of the vendors I was just another not-very-valuable small business buyer. And I was treated accordingly, no doubt thanks to some nifty lead scoring algorithms that have become de rigueur for B2B marketers.

Unfortunately, these vendors probably didn’t factor into their scoring that my posts on CustomerThink reach an audience of 80,000 visitors per month. Or, that I have colleagues in the publishing business that are also potential buyers. And what do you know, shortly after my buying experiences, an industry colleague asked me for advice on similar tools, and I was only too happy to share my recommendations. Privately.

Bottom line: While I may not have been scored or treated as a valuable prospect, I was valuable in other ways—as an influencer. And many of your prospects are, too. The point of lead scoring is to assess the value of the prospect to you—the seller—so you can make the best use of your resources. Let’s flip this idea around. What I’m advocating is that you spend time to really underst and how your prospects—all of them—perceive their experience with your br and. From the initial web search to interacting with your web site to engaging with inside or field sales reps, all of these touchpoints form an impression and influence their likelihood to buy or recommend.

Start by assessing your current customer and prospect experiences. Look for opportunities to get prospect feedback using web analytics and feedback solutions. You could even hire “mystery prospects” to take on different personas representing buyers, influencers, researchers, etc. The prospect experience used to be mainly face-to-face interactions. Then it moved to the phone, and now it’s going digital in a big way.

If you do a buyer “journey map” you’ll probably find that more and more buyers start their journey online and are rapidly adopting mobile technologies such as smart phones and tablets. In the US, Nielson reports that in 2012 about half of all mobile subscribers are using smartphones. Ultimately, a great prospect experience is about interacting on their terms–giving them the information they want, in the form they want, where they want, at the time they want it, on the device they want. Whether prospects buy immediately or not, a positive experience will become the “gift that keeps on giving” in the future.

Realize that as you’re scoring prospects on their value to you, they are also scoring their experience with your company. Delivering a great prospect experience can help you differentiate and become a B2B br and that business people talk about like consumers rave about Zappos!

This post was originally published on February 22, 2013 at www.hookedoncustomers.com

How you React to Failure could Make you a Success

These past few weeks I have been speaking about very basic, rational and tangible subjects like br and planning, innovation and portfolio management. Therefore I’d like to take a step back and look at a more philosophical and emotional approach to marketing this week. After all we’re all creatives, even if these days we must manage br and data almost as often as we create communications.

Life is a journey made up of highs and lows, wins and losses, and the same applies to business. This week I have been working on a new product idea based upon the most popular Blog posts on my website. These are the ones that suggest actions coming from some of the most inspiring marketing quotes I’ve found over the years. In my search for new ones, I was reminded of one of my all-time favourites:

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed. I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself”

Georges Clemenceau, French Statesman

I love this quote for two reasons. Firstly because it reminds us that we all – without exception – fail sometimes. And secondly, that it is these failures that are the signposts of our moving forward. If we never try anything new then we are unlikely to fail.

Why is it then, that at least in Western culture, we are taught to avoid failure and celebrate success? Shouldn’t it in fact be the other way around? A similar proverb shows how Eastern culture has, at least in my opinion, a better perception of failure:

“Fall seven times, st and up eight”

Japanese proverb

In other words, it is not the failure that matters as much as what we do afterwards. If we learn from it and get back up, then success will follow. In fact it was the prolific inventor Thomas Alva Edison who it is claimed “failed” thous ands of times before he succeeded in inventing such things as the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. As far as he was concerned:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

We have all known and will continue to experience failure, but it is what we do after it that differentiates winners from losers, the successful from the less so. However, failure in itself doesn’t mean that you have failed, only that you haven’t as yet found the right way to succeed.

So with a few more inspiring quotes on failure, let’s all think about the future, st and back up and take action; success might just come from our very next idea.

1. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” Bill Gates, American Businessman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Do you only celebrate success? If so, your business is giving out the wrong message. In fact we learn much more from our failures than from our successes.

2. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Learn from every failure and celebrate those who share theirs with everyone, because it takes courage to do so, but also gives free learning.

3. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin, American Politician (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Lack of success can come from a lack of preparation, as much as from a lack of, or incorrect action. Thinking before acting increases the chance of success.

4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Every failure teaches us something new. Use that knowledge to change the future and get closer to success.

5. “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure” John C. Maxwell, American Clergyman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: As already mentioned everyone fails at times, but successful people don’t stop, they just try again, but differently.

success comes from failure

6. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet” Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: I love this one, as it gives hope for the future. Never take failure – or success for that matter – personally. We are all just on a road of growing and learning.

7. “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success” Sir James Dyson, British Designer (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: This quote from James Dyson is particularly poignant. As Edison before him, Dyson made thous ands of “tries” before getting his inventions right (5,127 and 14 years of “failures” to get his vacuum cleaner prototype to be precise). Success is never easy and it is never fast – except when viewed from the outside.

8. “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something” Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: We should never fear failure when we can learn from it. Success should be feared, as we might then stop trying and learning.

9. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” Nelson M andela, South African Statesman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: This reflects the Japanese quote mentioned above. Appreciate failure as a chance to prove your strength to st and again.

10. “Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure” Jack Lemmon, American Actor (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Never give in to fear. Prepare as best you can and then if you fail, learn from it and move quickly forward.

I hope you enjoyed reading these quotes and the thoughts they prompted in my head. They say that pride comes before a fall; I say success follows failure. I wish you much success in failing fast and often, so you can enjoy more successes!

If you have a favourite quote on failure, please share it below. I’d love to add it to the collection on our website, with attribution to you of course.

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