Denyse Drummond-Dunn, Author at c3centricity | c3centricity

+41 79 93 39 789 info@c3centricity.com

The Future of Brand Building is Customer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. But with the advent of digital in the early 80’s, companies began taking a serious look at their marketing strategies.

Many organisations realised that it was time for a major overhaul of their primarily outbound strategies. Consumers no longer appreciated being interrupted in their daily lives, if they ever did!

However, even today, with the creation of inbound marketing strategies, they are still irritating their customers with spammy emails, intrusive popups and over-complicated cookies, that gather far more information than most organisations will ever need or use.

Despite these changes CMOs remain one of the leading c-suite members who struggle to keep their jobs for more than four or five years. The reasons are many, but the post “Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?” explains what you can do to ensure you only leave your position when you want to.

 

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies, such as P&G, Coca-Cola and Nestle, have changed the name of their Marketing departments in the past twenty years, to Brand Building. They hoped that it would revive sales and give new vitality to their communications to better engage their customers in the new social world. But most failed miserably, because they remained very much in a state of business as usual. They continued with the same processes and mind-sets. And with few exceptions, they prioritised thoughts about themselves and their brands, and rarely took their customers’ perspective.

Luckily a few other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to customer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight.

Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

I think we have taught our customers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for the next price offs whenever they can.

They also realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now often have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be.

 

Switching economy harming loyalty and brand building
Source: Accenture

They have also come to expect constant innovation as they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “ Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago!

Customer Centricity

Brand building needs new skills for marketers
Source: Korn Ferry

In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change. In the  2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it confirmed that marketers need new skills and can no longer rely on creativity alone.

 

 

If you’re interested in ups killing your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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Are You Customer Centric?

Companies that place their customers at the heart of their business, are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and engaging games. Their contact pages provide many alternative ways for customers to reach out to them, rather than the less appealing reason menu and message box that disappears into hyperspace!  Their advertising is emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their customers in many aspects of their business.

If you would like to start involving your customers more in your business then the post "The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation" is a popular and highly recommended read.

And if you're not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website and then complete our free quiz C3C Evaluator.

 

Moving Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are some ideas that you can use to help you quickly move forward on your journey to greater customer centricity:

1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.

2. Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself "What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?" If they would disagree, then you should reconsider your options.

This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a "free" trial, in the hope that the customer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.

What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, reconsider your options. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

3. Review the content of your website in detail. If there are more "we's" than "you's" then you know what to do. And while you're online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.

Review the content of your website. If there are more we's than you's then you know what to do. Customer centric companies talk about their customers more than themselves. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona / avatar. When was it last updated? If you don't even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C3Centricity's 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free HERE)

5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.

Review your current advertising campaign. Who is the hero? If it's not your customer, consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers. Click To Tweet

6. If you are lucky enough to have retail outlets, spend time with your front-line staff and your customers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know. Then add the information to your persona description and review your future promotions for any improvements you could make.

7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2 above.

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to a more customer centric approach. They all have your customer at the heart of them. Any others you'd like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can alone, so why not share them below and let your knowledge shine?

If you'd like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, check out my book "Winning Customer Centricity". You'll see it's like no other business book you have ever seen! Then you will understand why numerous major CPG / FMCG companies follow it annually. It's fun, inspiring and a useful roadmap for your customer centric journey. 

How the Best Marketers are getting More Actionable Insights

Are you as busy as I am, as we plan on how we’re going to deliver on all our objectives before year-end? The last quarter of any year is a stressful time indeed, but this post on actionable insights is a must-read if you want to start 2020 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in their organisation.

Insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone. #MRX #Marketing #Insight Click To Tweet

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. Successful companies depend upon deep customer insights to grow their business. They understand the power of engagement built on insight, to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. #MRX #Marketing #Insights Click To Tweet

Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

I was encouraged to see that marketing have finally understood the importance of insights. In some recent research by Gartner CMOs selected market research and insights as just as important as marketing analytics and digital commerce (see graph below). Better late than never I suppose, but it always amazes me that marketing could put anything ahead of insights. After all, every action they decide to take should be based upon deep knowledge and understanding of the customers targeted.

actionable insights supporting marketing strategy

If you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, then I suggest you follow these eight tips that I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams last month.

Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation. This seems to be a trait of all successful companies, that they have a desire to improve and learn more. They never consider that they “know it all,” which is a reason I have often heard from businesses when I ask why they are not doing more to understand their customers!

1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first.

Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude, and you are likely to correctly identify the actions to be taken. When you think customer’ objectives rather than (just) your own, you are far more likely to meet with success.

2. Insight generation should start with customer connection. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers.

They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes. These days you don’t even have to leave your office. Market research interviews can be videos live and care centres are always answering calls from customers, so make a habit of listening in. For hints on how to observe your customers better, check out “Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success.”

Insight generation should start with customer connection. #MRX #Insight #Marketing. Click To Tweet

3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contacts with other groups are limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are seen as the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.

Meet for a coffee, or go to lunch with someone other than your usual group of colleagues. These impromptu meetings will deliver big on understanding and will provide invaluable information from the perspective of other departments.

4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight teams learn a host of new things about the business every day. So why not share them?

Every project and analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question in hand. However, make them a regular part of newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking across the organisation.

Every MR project & analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Make sure to share it. #MRX #Insight #Marketing #Brands Click To Tweet

5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. As already suggested, join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail.

These connections can quickly become addictive, as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.

6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage.

According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will both be better informed and also feel less overwhelmed.

7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.

If you’re interested in learning more, then we can provide fun training on many areas of insight development. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to always be building their relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

So these are the eight tips I shared with my Japanese client during our workshop. Are you doing all of them, or have they given you some ideas on how to improve your own process? I do hope so.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with MRI. Do they involve you in insight development or do they only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation? Add a comment with your suggestions below.

For more information on the training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let's have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts and provide fun training days. We already do this for businesses in many industries all over the world. We love customers, consumers and clients and can help your teams know and understand them better.

Winning Customer Centricity

 

 

This post includes concepts and images from Denyse's book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, on our website HERE. Of course, the book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Today’s Toughest Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction!

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become in recent years. The offers of constant innovation and novelty have made us all more impatient and critical.

Today we want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Companies need to deliver more, a lot more!

I was recently in the US and as seems to be the norm these days, the hotel in which I stayed asked me to rate their performance afterwards. I completed their form, giving only four and five-star ratings, as I had been very satisfied with my stay, the hotel rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following email a day or so after submitting my review:

“Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.”

Shocking mail isn’t it? To think that a Hotel apologises for not exceeding my expectations! But I believe that is exactly why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

Shocking to think that a Hotel would apologise for not exceeding my expectations! #hotel #travel #leisure #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

How do you treat your own customers, consumers and clients? Do you do just enough to satisfy them, or do you consistently look to exceed their expectations?

If you are a regular reader here – and I’d love to know why if you’re not, so I can do better in the future – you will know that I often talk about “surprising” and “delighting” our customers. These are not hollow words; there’s a very real reason why I use them. The reason is that our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long.

Our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long. #CRM #CEX #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

The above personal example I give is one way that the hotel staff ensure they have enough time to correct whatever is not a “superior experience” as they term their own desired service level, and to continue to offer total customer satisfaction.

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Here are a few examples of other companies who go above and beyond in terms of their own customer service. I hope they inspire you to do the same and to aspire to exceed customer satisfaction whenever and wherever you can.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logo
Image source: Amazon.com

I have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want

"to be the Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

Although they don't specifically mention exceeding their customers' expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn't trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

One recent challenge for Amazon is the claimed increase in fake reviews. I myself was once asked to give a five-star rating in return for a total reimbursement of the cost of the product. Needless to say, I immediately returned the item and informed Amazon.

This practice seems to be particularly common for articles coming from China, although I am sure it is becoming a widespread behaviour as companies realise the importance of high customer ratings. In fact, there are now even platforms for checking the validity of reviews, so hopefully things will improve in the near term. If you would like to learn more on the topic, then I suggest you read this great article on cnet.

Zappos

Zappos powered customer satisfaction through service
Image source: Zappos.com

Just like Amazon, Zappos too has made customer centricity the heart of their business. Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their "WOW Philosophy," is "To provide the best customer service possible."

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that

"We believe that customer service shouldn't be just a department; it should be the entire company."

That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is

“To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer's expect today - the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. 

Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Apple

Apple targets customer satisfaction
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being "better." While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook's vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?

"For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year."

How many organisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

Did you make the best product, and did you enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of these, then you are having a good year. #quote @TimCook #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

Brompton Bikes

Brompton bikes offer exception customer satifaction
Image source: Brompton Bikes

The final example I want to share is from the UK and shows how even retail can become an essential part of delighting the customer. The brand is Brompton Bikes, a folding, city bike.

They understand that it is no longer sufficient to provide an excellent product and an easy way to buy them or to order online. Brompton have realised that their retail outlet needs to be an integral part of the brand experience, if they want to not only satisfy, but delight their customers.

Now while that may not in itself be that new, Nike and other trainer brands have been doing this for a while, it is the first time I have seen it done for durable goods.

What Brompton have done particularly well, is to understand their urban buyers' lifestyle. They have been able to become an integral part of it, by not only providing transport, but also an easy way to buy accessories, get repairs done and even to park safely while their customers visit the adjacent shopping mall. In other words they have made their brand a solution for city dwellers.

 

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is becoming ever more difficult to do this these days, it is definitely worth the effort in order to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. Brompton have achieved this by deeply understanding the lifestyle of their customers. As Maya Angelou is famed for saying

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

  • Strive for better in everything you do, Never be satisfied with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee's objectives to ensure your products and services not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.

Coming back to the title of this post, I hope you now agree that satisfaction is no longer sufficient to attract and keep your customers. It is time to step up your game, to aim for surprise and delight. This should be an ongoing objective too, since customers can quickly increase their demands as what once excited them becomes the norm. 

I am sure you have many examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you as their customer expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others would you add to the list?

Which companies excel at not only satisfying their customers, but surprising and delighting them too? #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerDelight #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Please share your suggestions below. Of course, you can also share your horror stories, as they provide useful information - and often amusing anecdotes too! Thanks. 

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The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect your Customers

More than one year after the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, I wondered what has changed. And more importantly, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship whilst also respecting it.

Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. A recent article on Business2Community by Owen Ray said that

The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”

If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.

Companies who are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Too many businesses ask too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes.

I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.

 

1. Ask Permission to Gather Information

This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t subscribe! You too?

Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for. Not only should you ask for consent; if you are not in direct personal contact, but connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.

Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers. It also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.

 

2. There Must be Mutual Benefit

When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them in return immediately. This can be as simple as offering coupons for your products, some valuable information not easily available elsewhere, a free guide or e-book on a relevant topic, or special privileges such as club membership or express shipping. Something that shows them that they were right to agree and that you value their information.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm them by asking everything in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, you can complete the information you require through several contacts with the same customer.

This also has the added advantage of keeping the conversation more frequent than it might otherwise have been. Ask just enough to be able to identify your priority metrics and then refine your understanding of them as you gather more information.

Your objective should be to build a long-term relationship with your customers, so don't gather more information than you can immediately use. #CEX #CRM #CustomerService #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

3. Make them Feel Special

More and more CPG companies and brands now offer a loyalty program, especially to their higher-value consumers. These provide more targeted privileges and even give the opportunity to preview new communications or product concepts. In general customers love to give feedback and it has the benefit of building a closer tie to the brand as they feel ownership of those launched.

This is probably one of the more intimate and bigger win-win relationships that can be developed with your customer. But it does take a dedicated team within the company to manage such a club, as these customers are naturally the most demanding for services and constant information updates. So only set one up when you know you can satisfy their needs, as otherwise they can feel frustrated when they perceive they are not getting the attention they think they deserve.

Over the past couple of years, we have started to see new types of member offers. Sephora launched a members-only social platform, which encourages shoppers to share beauty tips and advice, and to comment about any new products bought, not just those from their stores.

Nike has taken things to the extreme by opening an entire members-only store concept, Nike Live, in Los Angeles.

Both of these provide exceptional recognition to their members, making them feel a part of an exclusive program, which is exactly what they are!

 

4. Keep the Relationship Fresh

Once you start building the relationship with your customers, you must continue to interest them by offering news, information, photos, videos or articles of interest. This can be quite a strain on internal resources, so you may want to (also) consider including user generated content (UGC) on your website.

Not only does this ensure continuously updated content, but also involves the customer in what is shown, so that it remains relevant and of interest to them. People love to post and comment, so include message boards, tip sharing platforms or photo albums, whatever is relevant to your targeted customers.

Beauty, fashion and petcare brands were amongst the first to make use of UGC, as they are in very visual industries. Who doesn’t want to share a photo of themselves when they are looking especially beautiful, or show how cute their cat or dog is?

One great example comes from L’Oreal. Their DermaBlendPro brand encouraged users to share photos or videos of how the brand had transformed their look, by hiding disfiguration or tattoos. They clearly understood that happy customers make the best brand ambassadors, and this was clearly proven by the thousands of entries and immense buzz the brand received on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

 

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5. Ask their Advice - Frequently

For your customers to appreciate how much you value them and their business, involve them in it, by asking for feedback on how you are doing. If you have new ideas or plans, share details with them or enable them to vote for new flavors, concepts or advertising ideas.

You can also enable them to preview the ads or products before everyone else, but do make sure you provide them with some great information about it too, so that they can share it with their friends and family members. This will make them feel like the special and valued customer they are, and also help you spread the word - for free!

 

6. Always Offer a Simple Way Out

Once you have made the connection with your customers, recognize that they might change their minds at any time and want to unsubscribe from your club or mailing list. Make this as quick, simple and pain free as possible. This shows respect for your customer and their time, and also enables them to leave with a positive opinion of you and the brand. You never know, they might change their minds and stay after all, or come back again in the near future.

From making the unsubscribe link in tiny font to pale and almost illegible, to using button colours to mislead, many brands think that this will stop people from unsubscribing. It may, but it is more likely just to irritate them and label your communications as spam.

Even large companies get this wrong. Apple may provide full details of all the different ways to connect on their contact page, but it is laid out in an overwhelming block of text that is so off putting I doubt anyone hunts to find the information they need.

Apple shows how not to respect your customers

Another example used by Swiss airlines and their parent company Lufthansa almost had me agreeing to give all my information, not just the necessary data to make my experience more comfortable. Their coloured button draws the eye and without reading you could end up making the same mistake I almost did.

No way to respect your customers

With so much choice available to customers today, it is our responsibility to build an engaging and respectful relationship with them. If there is no trust, there may soon be no sales!

What other ways do you show respect for your customers? Please share your best examples below. Of course, if you have come across a bad example that frustrated that, then please share it too. Let's name and shame!

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What you need to know about Brand Image, Personality & Archetypes

Your brand is not what you think it is! It is what your customers think it is; its brand image, personality and its value to them.

I was lecturing at Miami University a while back on brand image and personality. These are two vital elements of branding. They need to be clear and consistently represented in all your communications.

If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find the following article both interesting and valuable.

 

Why we Buy Brands

According to Wikipedia, a brand is:

“a set of marketing and communications methods that help to distinguish a company from competition and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.” 

Although this definition in my opinion, is a little sterile for something as exciting as branding, I do like that it mentions customers. However, for me, a brand is created in both the minds and hearts of its customers.

There has been so much said about the importance of emotions and resonating with the customer, that we should no longer forget them. And this is where image and personality play vital roles. They are both more or less created in the heart, rather than in the mind of the customer.

We often buy brands without even knowing ourselves why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy.

We often buy brands without even knowing ourselves why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage… Click To Tweet

Branding Elements

A brand is made up of a number of components, with which people learn to identify and recognise it. These include its logo, colour, pack, shape, taste, aroma, sounds and feel. There may also be other things which are directly associated with the brand, such as a celebrity, an event or a cause it supports.

A brand needs to have a clear image, personality and equity in the minds of its customers. These come as the result of these branding elements as well as the customer’s own personal experience with it.

All these factors must be respected in order to build a strong brand with which customers can identify themselves. If they’re not, then the brand is at risk of not developing correctly, or even worse, of becoming just a commodity.

It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. And then, of course, to follow it over time through regular measurement.

It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity Click To Tweet

 

Brand Image

A brand is associated with many statements or attributes. These are what current and potential customers think or feel about it. They may have resulted from exposure to its communications, as well as from their own personal experiences.

These elements are usually grouped into three types: the rational / functional benefits, the subjective / emotional elements and the cultural / relational factors.

The third group was added by David Armano of Edelman Digital almost ten years ago. I like his additional idea because the relationships a brand builds with its customers have become vitally important in today’s world of social media. I have noticed that he recently started referring to these as societal rather than relational, in line with today’s more usual vocabulary.

  • Rational / Functional benefits include things on which most people would agree and recognise. For example being crunchy, colourful, available everywhere or delivered in a glass bottle.
  • Emotional / Subjective elements are those which vary between customers and their own, personal appreciation of the brand. These might include good value for money, better quality, or gives the best service.
  • Cultural / Relational (Societal) factors are those associated with a brand’s trust and responsibility. Customers today are increasingly interested in how a brand or corporation addresses its use of resources and whether or not they are sustainable and ecological. Brands also depend on recommendations from others, so word of mouth, especially online, has become a vital additional source of reputation. The attributes measured could include trustworthy, a brand I’d recommend or cares about its customers.

 

The Power of a Three-legged Brand

David Armano showed that incorporating all three elements into a brand’s image results in a stronger brand. It is much more likely to have a better performance than those brands which don’t include the societal elements.

He reported that it is in recommendations and sharing brand content that the most positive impact can be found today.

Customers are also more likely to share their personal information with the brand and to buy it more often. Both of these actions demonstrate an increase in trust, a precursor to both loyalty and advocacy.

One further impact of trust is that it results in customers defending the brand. This is a wonderful support to have in a world where everything is known at the click of a button. A brand which has the trust of its customers will be more often forgiven for the occasional mishap.

You can read more about Edelman’s Brandshare Study in the slideshow “How brands and people create a value exchange.”

 

Measuring Brand Image

I am often surprised by the lack of understanding about how to measure brand image when I work on branding issues with clients. Even large companies don’t do a good job of it in general. And some have never even measured it, preferring financial to customer metrics to manage their businesses.

Even large companies don't do a good job of measuring brand image. And some have never even measured it, preferring financial to customer metrics to manage their businesses. Click To Tweet

Others measure too frequently, in the hope that their latest advertising campaign has had the desired impact. This is rarely the case, as images take time to change.

Another problem I find with many clients when I first start working with them, is that the choice of attributes is often sub-optimal, to be polite. The factors included should be selected to cover all the main elements of your desired image as well as that of the competition.

I have often seen clients happy that they are scoring better than their competitors. However, when I examine their metrics I find that they are missing those which would better represent their competitors’ brands. No wonder they are doing well!

A further mistake I encounter is trying to measure advertising slogans. While it is important to understand whether your message is heard and understood, this should not be done in a brand image survey. Advertising slogans should be evaluated through a communications test.

 

Brand Personality & Values

theory of basic human values
Source: Wikipedia, click to enlarge

Brands have personalities, just like people. It was Schwartz who first identified the ten human values which make up our personalities. They are important to understand, especially for regional and global brands, because they cut across cultures.

Our values also determine our behaviour. Plato identified the typical patterns of human behaviour, which he called archetypes. The Swiss psychologist Jung then used this concept in his theory of the human psyche. But it wasn’t until Margaret Mark that they were first correlated with brands in her excellent book “The Hero and the Outlaw.”

Brand Archetypes
Source: Visual.ly

The twelve archetypes are illustrated above, together with some sample adjectives to describe them. It is important to understand how customers see your brand. Do you know? 

The image on the right shows examples of brands with each of the twelve personalities. Where would you place your own brand?

The personality of your brand should resonate with your customers, either because they are similar, or because they provide the dream lifestyle your customers desire.

Either way, it is essential to understand what role your brand is playing. 

It is essential to understand the personality of your brand and what role it is playing. #brand #marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity #Personality Click To Tweet

 

Brand Archetypes

The personality of your brand should resonate with your customers, either because they are similar, or because they provide the image your customers desire. Either way, it is essential to understand what role your brand is playing.

Brands can represent any of the twelve archetypes, which are usually divided into four subgroups, as follows:

  1. Stability, control: Caregiver, Ruler, Creator
  2. Risk, achievement: Hero, Rebel, Magician
  3. Belonging: Lover, Jester, Everyman
  4. Learning, freedom: Innocent, Sage, Explorer

As the diagram above shows, there is no ideal archetype and brands can successfully grow by representing any of them. What is vital is that the archetype is portrayed consistently across all communications and visualisations.

Need help with your own brand building? 

 

Examples of Strong Brand Images & Personalities

During my lecture at the University of Miami, I shared many examples of brand images and personalities. These included showing how some brands have successfully managed to change theirs.

Two of the brands we discussed were Axe and Old Spice because they have gone through some interesting evolutions over the years. Most recently it even appears that they are overtly challenging each other through their advertising. 

Take a look at the ads below and see if you can identify the archetypes before continuing to read the post. 

AXE: This Unilever brand has been portrayed as the Lover, the Hero and most recently as the Everyman. Here are a couple of their ads to show the transition from Hero (Fireman) to Everyman (Find your magic).

In particular, note the shower sequence at the end of the second Axe commercial (a slight - or is it a sly - dig at  Old Spice?) and the heroic fire demonstration in the Old Spice ad!

 

 

 

OLD SPICE: This P&G brand has been portrayed as the Explorer, Everyman (The Man Your Man Could Smell Like) and most recently as the Rebel (Rocket Car) - or is it, Hero? Let me know which you think in the comments below.

As I did for Axe, I've selected an older and a more modern example of their campaigns, so you can compare the change of approach.

 

 

 

I am looking forward to seeing how these two ad campaigns continue to develop. It is clear that Unilever and P&G are closely following and perhaps even being inspired by each other. Those are two of the actions of great marketers.

Finally, I couldn't leave the topic of personalities without mentioning Apple. Often seen as the Creator archetype, Apple went as far as to visualise their persona and personality in their "Get a Mac" campaign. (see example from AdAge below)

The ads featured two men, called Mac and PC, comparing their functionalities. The campaign ran from 2006 to 2009 and was a hilarious success, positively impacting the Mac's image. In the ads, they describe themselves as:

Mac: Cool, trendy, young, friendly, casual, reliable, fast and looking for fun.

PC: Boring, formal, cold, old, unreliable, slow, not inspiring.

Which two archetypes do they suggest? Answers in the comments below, please.

 

Brand Equity

A brand's equity is the value of the brand in the eyes of its customers  It is the power it has derived from the goodwill and recognition that it has earned over time.

A strong brand equity comes from the development of a robust image and personality. Both of these need to be reinforced by every advertisement, message and promotion that the brand produces. Consistency is vital to growing a strong equity.

Consistency is vital to growing a strong brand equity. How consistent are you? #Brand #BrandImage #BrandEquity #BrandBuilding #Marketing Click To Tweet. The

The results of this consistency will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than your competitors.

Steadiness is vital to growing a strong equity. The results of being consistent will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than its competitors.

 

Brand Equity Studies

The importance of a brand's equity is clearly indicated by the many different sources of regional and global brand equity rankings published each year.

The two most well known, Interbrand and Millward Brown's BrandZ, have slightly different algorithms and therefore results, but both include financial as well as consumer metrics.

 

Interbrand

Interbrand's model has three key components:

  • analysis of its financial performance
  • analysis of the role the brand plays in purchase decisions
  • analysis of the brand’s competitive strength.

Together with extensive desk research and an expert panel assessment, Interbrand  also includes data from Reuters, Datamonitor and media platform Twitter.

 

Millward Brown's BrandZ

BrandZ, on the other hand, uses a mixture of financial information and customer surveys. Their proprietary research covers 3mio consumers and 100,000 brands in more than 50 markets. They too measure three things:

  • How “meaningful” the brand is, its appeal & ability to generate “love” and meet the consumer’s expectations and needs.
  • How “different” it is, what unique features it may have and its ability to “set the trends” for consumers.
  • How “salient” the brand is, whether it springs to mind as the consumer’s brand of choice.

BrandZ's 2016 results showed Google overtaking Apple as the most valuable brand in the world. However, in 2019 Amazon has leapfrogged the competition to be crowned the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand for 2019, breaking Apple and Google’s 12 year hold on the top spot.

So there you have it. All the major points a marketer should know about brand image, equity, personalities and archetypes.

A marketer's role is primarily to defend and grow its brand's image and equity through a strong personality and consistent communications. If you are not succeeding in all areas then you are almost certainly challenged by weakening sales.

Brand image usually declines before sales do, so it is an invaluable measure of your brand's health. If you would like to learn more about measuring and analysing brand image, there are several chapters dedicated to the topic in my book "Winning Customer Centricity"

Don't forget to add your answers to the couple of questions I asked in the article in the comments below. Let me know what you think about defending brand image and growing equity. And I'd love to hear about your own brand's archetype and whether you had trouble in defining it.

This post uses images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity". You can download the first three chapters for free HERE.

Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

We all expect most things that we use to be intuitive these days. We assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions. How intuitive is your brand? Click To Tweet

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they  they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.

 

Order our Pack AuditCheck your packs are connecting effectively with your customers

 

 

Here are a few examples I have come across recently:

Nestle compass on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionNestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.

What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.

 

 

Juvena message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionJuvena of Switzerland: The short message to "Enjoy the smoothness" on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.

Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.

 

 

Yucatan message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionYucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.

The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.

While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that's what I call impact!

 

 

Pringles message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionPringles have done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.

They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.

 

Heinz message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionHeinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.

Heinz ketchup packaging message is both product and promotionHeinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing - and reading.

A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change - of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?

 

 

These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.

If you're not confident that your packs are optimised to connect with your customers, why not get us to run a pack audit? We will review all your packs and discuss how you can make them more customer centric. Why not communicate with your customers when they are ready to listen, as they use your product?

Order our Pack AuditCheck your packs are connecting effectively with your customers

 

 

People are willing to help you

Geneva airport customer feedbackCreative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.

What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it's fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.

Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.

Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them. Click To Tweet

We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.

Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn't you agree?

For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/training

This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.

Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success

One of the best ways to a deeper understanding of your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately too often an under-utilised tool of marketers.

It is, therefore, understandable that so many companies run to conduct market research, usually a qualitative study, as a first step to improved customer understanding. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to watch the interviews or group discussions. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? You are then irritated that you “wasted” money on the project aren’t you? Well, this may actually be as a result of your very own selective listening and interpretation. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. There was so much more you could have understood if only you knew how to listen.

True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an infrequent observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this more effectively.

 

Make customer observation everyone’s job

There are many, many opportunities for every employee in a company to come into contact with the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by listening to calls at the care centre, reading blogs and message boards, or participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling or market research.

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, this needs to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as explained below.

If you’d like to run more successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help.  Please contact me for more on our 1-Day training sessions.

 

Customer observation is not as easy as it looks!

There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the  Awareness Test  and try it for yourself.

In the exercise, people are asked to count the number of passes made by the team in white, so that is what the observer will concentrate on. In the background a man dressed as a bear, moon-walks his way across the screen, but most people are oblivious to the fact. They are so busy looking for the answer to the question, that they miss this significant event in the short video.

Exactly the same can happen when people watch customers. They are so concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs, that they miss a lot of what is actually going on.

Marketers observing customers all too often miss a lot of what is happening because they are concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs. #Marketing #Observation Click To Tweet

If they were to actually listen objectively, they might hear something new. And this might lead them to a significant breakthrough in customer understanding.

For this reason, it is essential to run a careful briefing session before every observation exercise. This way people go into it with their eyes and brains fully open. Your Insight team can manage this in most cases, but to summarise what needs to be covered, I have listed below the five rules of observation.

 

The five rules of customer observation

1. ORDINARY: Look for the ordinary not the extraordinary, but do note the things that surprise. These can challenge our preconceptions and help us to keep an open mind. Identify also the details of the ordinary event, things that were never noticed or thought about before.

You may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer opportunities to increase satisfaction, either by resolving them or by developing a new product or service.

When observing your customers, you may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer new opportunities to increase satisfaction. #marketing #brand #Observation Click To Tweet

2. ATTENTIVE: Be careful to record only what you see and hear. Don’t start analysing what you think is going on or you will certainly miss something.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every company participant.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every colleague who is participating. #brand #Marketing #observation Click To Tweet

One person should lead the session, one could take notes and one can actively observe and perhaps take pictures. With these different roles covered, the discussion after the event will be much richer and more complete.

3. ACCURATE & OBJECTIVE: This is the reason why you need to remain attentive, so you get an accurate record of what is happening. Keep notes of what your see, when, where, and how people behave.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on. #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

It is also important not to react openly to what you see or hear. Pay particular attention to your body language. Keep asking yourself (at least at first) why? Even if something appears obvious, the reason may not be what you think it is. So keep asking this vital question.

This form of iterative investigating is often referred to as the Five Whys“. The technique involves asking the question a minimum of five times to ensure you cover every angle.

4. TIMING: Observe and understand what is going on before and after the event, as well as during the event you are observing itself. The event needs to be put into the context of time and place within a person’s lifestyle and habits. This is the only way to understand its relevance.

Also, be patient as people often change behaviour when being watched, at least to start with. Give them a chance to relax and feel comfortable with being observed. Insight colleagues will certainly have mentioned at some point that in qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up!

In qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up! A gold mine! #CEX #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

5. DEBRIEF & ANALYSIS: Observation is most valuable if it is completed by an immediate debriefing session. Observers can together share, ask questions and start to analyse what they have seen and heard.

This is important if several groups have been following similar events such as shopping, leisure-time activities or food preparation, but with different respondents.

Of course, the immediate debrief does not preclude a more in-depth exchange and analysis the next day. It is amazing what additional understanding comes from “sleeping on it.”

These five points should ensure that everyone enjoys participating in these customer connection sessions. Both you and your customers will benefit from the experience and a maximum number of ideas and learnings will be gathered.

One last point for International organisations; be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture (>>Tweet this<<) where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. What is appropriate in one culture may be offensive or irrelevant in another.

In international work, be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. #CEX #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Checking things out with the locals before going into the field can save a lot of embarrassment – or worse! It is also useful to have local members help in the analysis of what was seen and heard, so that the correct interpretation is made.

If you have run observation or connection sessions and have learned something additional, please share your experiences. I answer all notes and questions personally, usually within a few hours. 

For more ideas on getting closer to your customer, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/. If you would like support in setting up connection sessions with your own customers I would love to help you get the most out of them. Just contact me contact me here.

This post uses images from Denyse’s book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Business – One Day at a Time.

This post has been regularly updated and expanded since it was first published on C3Centricity. It remains one of our most popular posts years later.

Three Clever Ways to Know the Competition Better

What is the secret to success in business? That’s easy! It’s how well you know the competition.

Alright, maybe this is a slightly over-simplified perspective, but it always surprises me how many companies work with a primarily internal focus.

I have written many posts about knowing your customers, such as “Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions).” Watching and listening to them in order to fully understand their rational needs and emotional desires is a great – and free! – way to start.

But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.

Here’s a simple three-step process to do so. 

 

Encourage employees to use competitive products & services

Know the competition better by trying their products and services.In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?

However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.

To challenge & beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against through regularly experiencing their product and service offers. #marketing #competition #brand Click To Tweet

This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.

Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.

Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.

 

Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material

KNow your competition better by sharing what you knowIn one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.

Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy.

However, it was managed by the marketing services team and was hidden away in the lower ground floor where people rarely passed by. Additionally, the packs were emptied of their contents, to avoid infestations of vermin and insects, so people never got to try the products.

It would have been even better had the products been displayed in a location that was easily accessible to everyone. In addition, the products should have ideally been sampled before the packages were emptied of their contents. That said, they still remain one of the few companies I know that have been observing and following their competitors in such a consistent way for decades. As you can imagine, they were always ahead of the market and up-to-date with their competitive intelligence!

Stay ahead of the market & up-to-date with what you competitors are doing with a competitive library of products and communications material. #brand #marketing #communications Click To Tweet

Another client of mine has made a library of communications material. Their advertising agency is of course the major source of the samples, but employees who travel are also encouraged to take photos of ads and promotional materials which are then added to the library. You would be amazed how inspiring it is to review this work whenever a group is discussing their own advertising and promotions. They avoid duplication, get great ideas from countries to which they don’t normally have access, and can again take their customers’ perspective when comparing the samples with their own work.

What could you do to make your competitors’ products and communications more easily accessible to your employees? If you’re serious about wanting to know the competition better than you do today, you have to stay on top of what they are doing at all times.

 

Understand your Competitors’ Customers too

Observe to know the competition betterThis same curiosity to know your competitors’ products can also be used to know and better understand your competition’s customers as well.

When your employees go out to observe your own customers, they should also pay attention to those people who are not using your products or services. In this way they can gather additional information that can then be compared with your knowledge of your own customers.

Whether it is getting a better understanding of your competitors’ products and services or the people that use them, the information accumulated must be stored and shared internally to be of any benefit. Some companies organise weekly or monthly sessions where people from different departments can share their latest knowledge and observations. For more ideas on how to share effectively read “Knowledge sharing and how to WOW!” 

Other companies organise customer connection sessions where teams of employees from different departments – with differing perspectives – go out together with a task to complete or a question to answer. These could be for example:

  • How, where and when do people use our product or service?
  • What is their biggest frustration in shopping for the category?
  • If they could make one change to our major competitor’s product, what would it be?
  • What differences are there in the way the category’s brands are displayed?
  • Which social media channels are most popular with category users?

Employees gather ideas and information by first observing and only afterwards asking questions for clarification purposes. Upon their return, the teams can meet up to share their ideas and learnings, as well as to discuss the impact of their findings and agree on what actions if any need to be taken. For more details on how to observe customers, whether your own or those of your major competitors, read “Five Rules of Customer Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

I have witnessed these customer connection sessions being run in countless organisations. Every single time I see just how excited and energised employees get about improving the way the company makes, packs, sells or communicates its products and services.

Isn’t it time your organisation got closer to your customers and those of the competition? 

 

These are three ways you can easily and quickly know the competition better than you do today. Do you have other ideas that you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments below. 

Have you run any such customer connection exercises, or built a competitive library of products in your own organisation? If so please share your experiences too.

For more ideas on how you can know the competition even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of brand building, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures here. If you would rather talk through your needs first, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. All images in this article are from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.” 

How to Update Your Marketing with a Customer First Strategy

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All marketers know their marketing 5Ps, but how do you update your marketing when you adopt a customer first strategy? Here are some tips and ideas for you to adopt – or adapt.

 

People

This is the easiest of the marketing 5Ps for a customer centric organisation to adapt because a customer first strategy is all about your customers. However, in recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of employees, some even suggesting that they are more important than customers!

I discussed this in detail in a post a couple of months ago, called ” Customers Care About Products & Value, Not Employees.” Click the title link to read my perspective on this topic.

The 4W template is useful for the new marketing 5Ps.

Personally, I believe that customers are your biggest asset, as they are the ones who pay your wages and make your business thrive. It, therefore, makes sense to know them intimately. If you have a different perspective I’d love to hear it; just add a comment below.

In C3Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to record and describe the customer personas of our clients’ brands.

If you still haven’t downloaded our FREE persona template, CLICK HERE to get your free copy and instructions.

In addition to knowing and describing your target customers in detail, the other tip I give when you want to update your marketing when you adopt a customer first strategy. is to start and end every meeting by asking the “magic question.” What is it? It is this: “what would your customers think about the decision you have just taken?”

This one simple idea is incredibly powerful in identifying actions which are not customer centric. I will give examples of these in the remaining 4Ps below.

So a customer-centric approach to your customers is both thinking about them in every action you take, as well as knowing them as deeply as you can and keeping this knowledge constantly updated.   

 

Product

This is often seen as the most important to address when you decide to update your marketing. After all it is what you are selling. It is also the one thing you think about day in and day out. But it’s not the most important in a customer centric organisation. Surprised?

Think about it for a second. Without knowing the P for people in great detail, you won’t be able to optimise your offer in terms of the other four Ps. That’s why it’s a customer first strategy that works better than any other.

Without knowing the customer in great detail, you won't be able to optimise your offer of the other Marketing 5Ps #Marketing #Brand #CMO Click To Tweet

Here are some examples of how companies realised they get their product wrong when adopting a customer first strategy and a couple of right actions for inspiration: 

  • WRONG! Any business that reduces pack content without informing its customers of it and the effective price increase. Read JD Roth’s “Hidden price increases at the grocery store” for more on this.
  • WRONG! Exaggerated claims or twisting the numbers of contained calories by having unnatural serving sizes – seven potato chips anyone? Or saying a product is 95% fat-free, but it refers to the weight, not the calories! I once heard that everything written on the front of a pack is a lie!
Everything written on the front of a pack is a lie! #brand #marketing #packaging Click To Tweet

Check this out with any pack and you’ll see what I mean; there’s sure to be something not strictly correct on it. Please share any funny or annoying examples you find in the comments below.

  • WRONG! Making variant identification difficult for customers. Have you ever bought the wrong product because packs were the same colour and just the names changed? I know I have. Or tried to understand the differences between variants that have five or seven descriptors?
  • WRONG! Running frequent product tests only comparing to the latest version. Although this is standard procedure, if you make regular tests for small changes which go unnoticed in the short term, they can amount to a big, noticeable change over the long term. Better to compare results also to past best ones than only using the current benchmark.
  • WRONG! Any company that makes it difficult for its customers to use their product. Think large bags of pet food or kitchen rolls without easy-carry handles; salad sauce or shampoo bottles which are impossible to open with damp hands; sealed bags which split when opened and need to be stored in a different container.Tropican pack change
  • WRONG! Making pack or logo changes without finding what your customers like or dislike in the current one. Think about the much-publicised Tropicana disaster back in 2009, or the Gap logo change.

Coke holiday edition white canOr more recently the Coke holiday edition white can that consumers confused with the diet version, and were understandably disappointed when they realised they had bought the wrong variant.

 

 

 

  • RIGHT! Taking the customers’ perspective when designing your packaging. Think deeply about how your customers will purchase, open and use your product. Don’t make them struggle in any way, whether to carry, open, close or store it.
  • RIGHT! Working with your customers to perfect current and develop new products. This is by far the best way to guarantee that you stay connected to changing preferences.
  • RIGHT! Be transparent, in your operations, your actions and your plans. If you aren’t, whatever you try to hide will eventually be uncovered and then made public on social media, probably with an accusation of unethical behaviour. United have discovered this many times.
Working with your customers to perfect current & develop new products is by far the best way to guarantee that you stay connected to changing preferences. #NPD #Customer #Marketing Click To Tweet

A customer-centric approach to the product when you want to update your marketing is therefore once again thinking about your customers when developing it. And ideally actually involving them in your decision-making whenever possible.

 

Price

Pricing in my opinion is the most difficult of the marketing 5Ps to get right, especially when updating your marketing when adopting a customer first strategy. You may think that a customer-first price is the lowest possible. It’s actually not! People estimate the value of products and services they purchase, based only in part upon its price.

For example, how many “cheap” products have you bought, perhaps on sale, only to wonder why you ever bought it when you were home? You’d bought on price alone, excited by what appeared to be a “good deal” and then realised your purchase didn’t meet your needs or desires when you contemplated it more rationally at home.

Research shows that customers value a better experience above price and it is expected to surpass both price and product by 2020.

Customers value a better experience above price and it is expected to surpass both price and product by 2020 Click To Tweet

Retailers like Aldi and Lidl have used their pricing strategies to position themselves against more traditional competitors. In these new super-discounters, consumers accept limited choice for the sake of rock bottom prices. However, as they expand their offering to include more well-known brands, they have positioned themselves to appeal to a growing target of purchasers.

However, many manufacturers lose out as their margins are stripped to almost zero. This is why we are now seeing a slow realisation that there is a better way to do business than mere price cutting. Both retailers and manufacturers are adapting to new consumer demands of value and not just low prices.

Consumer goods companies, in particular, have for too long relied primarily on price promotions to meet their sales targets. Amazon has forced pricing down in most other categories because people now check online before buying in many categories. However, as Amazon starts trialling their Fresh online groceries and their bricks and mortar stores the whole world of retail is about to change forever.

As if lowered prices is not challenging enough, people expect to receive something for free in exchange for their personal information online. Data has become the trading currency between consumers and product or service providers. This has resulted in many companies even changing their business models. Just one example of this is telecom that has become geolocalization data providers to many other industries.

Data has become the trading currency between consumers and product or service providers. #Data #Marketing #SMX #CEX Click To Tweet

A customer centric pricing strategy will enable businesses to continue to grow, by understanding how to fix pricing levels more carefully. Knowing the value of what you offer and the importance of brand or service will enable retailers and manufacturers alike to continue to thrive.

 

Place

This is a major difficulty for every brand, especially if they have a lot of variants. The answer to improving your distribution is your customers – of course!

The more variants you have the more difficult it usually is to gain a wide distribution. If you know your customers as deeply as you should, then you will be able to identify their differences by region. You can then use these to make decisions about what to sell where.

Since most retailers provide limited shelf space to each manufacturer, it is best used by showcasing your top selling variants in that area, plus eventual new offers to test their acceptance.

Another “place” that it is important to understand today is social media. The Pew Research Center provides a 2016  US analysis of the major channels by demographics which is a great starting point. Ideally, you should know both where your customers are and when. That way you can be present when they are open to messaging. But more about that in the next topic.

This P is relatively easy for a brand to be customer centric. You just have to offer what your customers need, where and when they need it.

To have customer-centric distribution, you just have to offer what your customers need, where & when they need it Click To Tweet

I know it’s easier said than done when you don’t have full control over your distribution. This is one reason why many manufacturers are now offering their products directly to their customers through online shops.

The change will certainly have a significant impact on retailers and it is only a question of time before they increase the prices of making goods available in physical stores. In so many categories today, outlets are mere showrooms for people to see before they buy – online.

 

Promotion

As with place, knowing what messages your customers are interested in receiving from you and even more importantly where and when are one of the keys to successful communications.

Whether it is advertising, price promotions, social media sharing or other advertising activities, understanding your customers deeply is the other foundation of success.

An organisation which makes it difficult for customers to connect using their preferred channel is not customer-centric.

An organisation which makes it difficult for customers to connect using their preferred channel is not customer-centric Click To Tweet

Take a look at your own website contact page. Does it include email, postal and street addresses? Does it have a telephone number or live chat option? It should.

But if not, then I bet it has a contact form with possibly a drop-down menu from which a customer chooses their reason for reaching out. You probably also ask them for all their details, while not providing them with yours. Definitely not fair play is it?

Another related area of promoting your brands is PR. Quickly owning up when you’ve made a mistake, rather than trying to hide it. This builds trust and customers will even forgive companies that do this. Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to your customers.

A customer-centric organisation provides their customers with valuable information where and when they need it. They also communicate in ways which enhance their relationship and shows they value their business. If things go wrong they own up quickly, inform the public, say how and why it happened and what they are doing to put things right. They then go on to do just that by taking the appropriate actions, all the while informing their customers of their progress. 


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Interested in updating your own Marketing 5Ps? 

Check out our 1-Day Training courses and download the brochure for more details on each of them.


 

What Do You Think About Adopting a Customer First Strategy?

Did you notice that the new way of thinking about each of the Marketing 5Ps that I am suggesting involves the customer? Thinking and above all following a customer first strategy is the new marketing objective that gets results.

Thinking and above all following a customer first strategy is the new marketing objective Click To Tweet

I believe that both manufacturers and customers will benefit from a customer-first strategy. In fact, research from both Forrester and Gartner has now proven this; customer-centric organisations grow seven times faster and are 60% more profitable. Makes you wonder why companies are not rushing to change, doesn’t it?

Marketers have been working with the marketing 5Ps (and 7Ps) for decades, so perhaps it’s time for an update. What do you think? Should they be translated into a more customer centric approach? What do you see are the major challenges in doing this? Why are some businesses still hesitating about moving to a customer-first strategy? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

 

Your Customer First Challenges Sorted!Complementary half-hour Solutions Call with Denyse - Click to Reserve

 

5 Business Success Factors (So You’re Ready for Anything!)

We are sweltering in the Northern Hemisphere with record temperatures, so here’s a “cool” idea on how businesses can get ready for anything by applying these success factors.

Every winter, the media is full of stories of record snowfalls somewhere in the world, whether in the US, Europe or in the Far East. Despite all the sophisticated technologies at our disposition, we just never seem to be prepared. So what are the success factors of readiness?

Remember winter storm Juno in the USA in 2015? It dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Eastern coastline of North America. According to the Weather Channel its snowfall broke records in Worcester, MA, although in most other places it fell far below that of other storms from 2013 all the way back to 1978.

In the same year, in the North of the UK, the region was battered with a rare blast of thundersnow – an unnerving combination of thunderstorms and downpours of snow. As if that wasn’t enough, they were soon preparing to do battle with the elements with yet another storm shortly afterwards.

Now what do all these storms have to do with business you might wonder? Well for me they are a great illustration of the problems that many companies can face from time to time. Governments and city maintenance teams prepare for winter by organising vast stocks of grit and salt, as well as heavy snow-clearing machinery. But despite all this preparation, they still seem to be caught off-guard when they need to use them.

The same goes for businesses. Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they’re not!

Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they're not! #trends #scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

The reason is that there are two serious problems with that way of thinking:

Firstly they are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar trend reports.

And secondly, they think that knowing the trends will somehow protect them from future risks and catastrophes. However, having the right material still doesn’t stop bad things happening, as we’ve seen this winter. 

So let’s take a look at what you can do to be better prepared and not get regularly “snowed-in” as many countries are this winter.

The Problem with Trend following alone

As I already mentioned, trend following suppliers are providing almost identical information to all their clients. This results in their clients then working on the same ideas & concepts and eventually launching very similar, non-competitive products and services. Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their advertising? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. 

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their ads? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

As an example, think about how many companies have used the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising in the past couple of years. These include:

  • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – sorry only in French & German but still easy to understand
  • BMW 320i YES, YOU, CAN
  • Orange telecom mobile exchange

Clearly the current trends of independence and freedom have been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above, and probably many others as well. Perhaps they are working with the same trend following company or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports? Whatever the reason, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising “Big Idea”.

Companies which develop concepts based upon theses types of external resources alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them. Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working for the consumers.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To TweetScenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs. Then, the new product and service Big Ideas, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions are unlikely to be the same as those developed by the competition.

 

How to turn Trends into Future Scenarios

Businesses working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below. In just ten simple steps you can turn your trend following into a powerful competitive advantage that will surprise competition and delight your customers.

  1. Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company.
  2. Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business.
  3. Identify the most important trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political).
  4. Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least.
  5. Collide the resultant developed trends to produce the most likely changes.
  6. Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes – this is what is important.
  7. Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
  8. Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
  9. Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
  10. Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.

 

This ten-step process can be followed over a minimum of a two or three-day workshop, or over a longer period of development lasting several months. For a more detailed 10-step process, you might like to also check out a previous post on the same topic: “The Great Trends Hoax: The don’t give business a competitive advantage”.

 

Success factors

Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.

However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional success factors that need to be met in order to guarantee the most actionable scenario planning exercises. These include:

  • A diverse internal team who are both enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area.
  • An excellent creative to lead the process, ideally from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone.
  • Executive management support of the exercise as well as of  its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios.
  • Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation.
  • Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis.

Following the process as summarised above and including all five success factors mentioned, will give you the best chance of building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise before, it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.

These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning. Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. 

Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. Gain the advantage of future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #Business Click To Tweet

 


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If you and your team are ready to turn your trend following into an actionable tool that delivers true competitive advantage, then we should talk. Book a complementary advisory session in my agenda

Reserve a 1-Day Catalyst training session and be amazed at the progress & changes!

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This post is based upon one which first appeared on C³Centricity in October 2015 under the title “Turning Trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-Step Process you Need

How Well Do you Know Your Customers? 13 Questions your Boss Expects you to Answer

Be a true leader; share this post with the members of your team who need the inspiration and support.


Your boss expects you to be able to answer all his questions and especially to know your customers. Here are the 13 things your boss is likely to ask you and a handy Checklist to prove to him that you know your customers better than he realises.

Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really? The following is a checklist of 13 facts you need to be able to answer in order to know your customers as well as you should.

As you read the post, keep tabs on your answers and share your final score below. I’m offering a personal 50% discount code to spend in store for everyone who publishes their score here in July 2018. And if you’re the boss, I’d love to hear how well you think your team would do – 100% of course, no?!

 

 

#1. Who is your customer?

C3Centricity how well do you know your customerOK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you really know about them?

Their age, gender and location are the basics, but there’s a lot more you need to know about them. Check out12 things you need to know about your target customers for more on what you need to know to be able to describe them in the depth your boss expects.

The C3Centricity 4W™ Template is a great resource for storing all the information you have on your customer. Download a free copy and watch the related videos HERE.

 

 

#2. What business are you in?

Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customers. Many organisations are working with industry definitions rather than customer ones. What about you? If you want to know your customers, you need to understand what category they think they are buying.

This is one of the essential elements you need to understand in order to know your customers deeply. It is something that many organisations don’t take the time to clearly identify, which results in an incorrect appreciation of their market and competitors. By not correctly identifying the category you are in, or plan to enter, your innovations will also lack the success you are hoping for.

Many organisations are working with industry definitions for their category rather than customer ones. They are losing sales! And you? #CEX #Customer #Category Click To Tweet

For instance, are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? One of my clients wanted to launch a fruit flavoured soft drink and thought they were competing with other soft drinks. When we worked together we discovered that they were actually competing in the energy drink business!

How many of your brands are not competing where you thought they were? See How to Innovate better than Apple for more on this topic.

 

#3.Who are your major competitors?

KNow your customer checklist on competitionAgain another slow starter to show you know your customers. Here you want to make sure that you have correctly identified what market you are actually competing in and who are your competitors. It just might not be the one you think!

Also, do you know as much about your competitors’ customers as you do about your own? Complete a SWOT to know exactly where you stand with them – although it’s probably best to wait until you have read the next eleven points before actually doing this.

Once you know who your competitors are, use the 4W™ Template again for each of the major ones and add information to it every time you learn something new about them.

 

 

#4. What do they buy?

What and where your customers buy your product should have been covered in point #1. (If it’s wasn’t, make a note to gather that information and add it to your 4W™ template.)

Now you should look at how much your customer spends on your product or service and how much they have available. How does what they spend compare with the amount they spend on your competitors? Is your share of category and wallet growing? If not, why not?

Other information you need to gather to know your customers in this area is how they react to promotions. Do they only buy on promotion? Do they buy in bulk? Do they have size or packaging preferences? All this information will help you to get into the head of your customers and really know them.

Understanding the shopper, who is not always the person who uses or consumes your product, is also essential information you need to have at your fingertips for this section. If they are different people (mothers, housekeepers, single mums) then I would suggest you also develop a 4W™ Persona Template for the shopper too. In this way you can compare and understand the similarities and differences between the buyer and the consumer. I’m sure that having personas for both will also impress the boss and show him/her that you really know your customers!

 

#5. What does your customer need?

I’m not speaking about what he says he needs, but what he really needs and perhaps doesn’t even know yet. What would surprise and delight him? What does he need that he only knows he does when he sees it?

Sometimes customers will compensate without even realising it. By watching and listening to them you will know your customers well enough to be able to offer them even more (satisfaction). Read “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively” to become an expert at customer connections.

Apple is one company that seems to be very good at getting at peoples’ unarticulated needs. Be inspired by them to know your customers as deeply as they do.

Apple have people queuing up to buy one of their new products even when they already have a perfectly functioning older model. Do they really need this new version? No. Do they want it? Perhaps! But, what their real emotion is, is a desire, a craving for the latest version, whatever the price! Wouldn’t you like customers to feel the same about what you have to offer?

 

#6. What do they think of your price?

To know your customers you need to understand cost versus value to them.
Source: Dreamstime

Here consider not just the price they pay, but also the cost to them of their actual purchase. Do they buy online with packing and shipping costs extra? Do they have to drive out-of-town or even further to be able to purchase? All of these add to the perceived cost of your brand.

In order to know your customers, you have to calcualte the total cost to them of buying what you have to offer? And how that price compares to the total value they place on it?

Value will automatically include comparison to competitive offers, so ensure you include an evaluation of their brands’ values too.

Review the elements of your offer which your customers value and which they value less. Is there room for renovation to include more of what they like or to remove what does not bring value – and usually involves cost for you. Spend your manufacturing and development budget on things your customers value most.

Spend your manufacturing and development budget on things your customers value most. #CEX #Renovation #CustomerValue Click To Tweet

 

 

#7. What do they think of your packaging?

Packaging today goes far beyond protecting the product inside and making its on-shelf presence more impactful.

It is a further medium for communications and also for showcasing your value and USP (unique selling point). However, many organisations have still not realised this. You can therefore get ahead of the competition when you know your customers deeply and their packaging preferences. Read “Is your packaging product or promotion?” for more on this topic.

Packaging is also an important part of your manufacturing costs so its value to the customer should be critically assessed. Even if you reduce your carton strength or pack content because you can, it certainly doesn’t mean you always should. Perhaps your customers don’t immediately notice the changes, but one day they will wake up and re-evaluate the value they are getting. Your packaging which is now made of flimsy carton, will appear to them as being of lower quality and this perception mat get transferred to its contents. Upon evaluation of your total offer, they then might decide to switch away!

Just because you can reduce your carton strength or pack, doesn't mean you should. Your customers may not notice in the short term but they will in the longer term when you have taken things too far. #Pack #marketing Click To Tweet

 

 

#8. What do they think of your product?

Know your customers product preferencesProduct testing is an often overlooked essential of concept development. Even if a product is tested before launch, and supposingly does well (or it wouldn’t have been launched, I hope) competition is constantly changing, as are your customers’ tastes.

Therefore it is important to keep an eye on your performance over time. Annual measurement at the very least and preferably also of your major competitors is the minimum, to keep your finger on the pulse.

Another important aspect of product testing is to keep track of the metrics over time. It is not sufficient to test versus your previous offer or that of your major competitor. Incremental changes may not be immediately noticed, but can become significant over time. And this applies to product just as much as to its packaging mentioned above.

If you don’t have the budget for regular testing – and I would question why you don’t for such a critical element of you mix – there are other things you can do. Follow social media comments from your customers for one. These provide invaluable input not only on your product’s performance and that of your competitors, but online comments can also supply ideas for renovation and innovation.

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#9. What do they think about your advertising?

As with product testing, this is another of the on-going performance metrics, to ensure you know your customers. In addition, the earlier you start testing within the communications development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts. I am continually appalled at just how many companies waste large portions of their marketing budget by producing multiple ads, sometimes to practically air-readiness before choosing the final direction.

The earlier you start testing within the communications development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts. #ads #brand #marketing Click To Tweet

Of course, your ad agency will never complain about you working in this way, but couldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? I highly recommend you check out PhaseOne’s unique tool for early stage, confidential global communications evaluation.

Their clients rarely develop more than two ads and often by testing early-stage concepts, they develop only one. Think about how much money you could save by doing this! Contact me if you’d like to hear how businesses globally are benefiting from this approach and saving tens of thousands in ad testing..

 

 

#10. What do they think about your online presence?

It’s not so much what they think here, but more about do they even notice? Unless you know your customers’ habits online, you are unlikely to be where and when they are ready to receive your messages.

Instead of choosing and using just the most popular online websites – like everyone else – your work completing point #1 will indicate which are the most visited by your customers. For some brands an online presence is of minimal importance, whereas for others it actually replaces more traditional forms of advertising. Think of RedBull as just one powerful example of this. Although they now advertise both on and offline, they started building awareness through social media and word of mouth alone.

 

#11. What do they think of your social media personality?

You can’t hide your personality on social media, nor delete what you have shared. The words you choose for a Tweet, the ideas you share on FaceBook, the images you post on Pinterest, all build to a picture in the minds of your customer. What image do you think was created in the minds of people who read the following Tweet exchange from Nestle?

Know your customer to prevent such disasters
Click to see full conversation

 

 

Treat your online discussions in the same way you would any other form of communications and use the same tone and spirit. Just because it’s new media doesn’t mean it is less important or serious.

As the above example shows, mismanagement of customer connections on such platforms cannot be removed – even if as Nestlé did, you take it off your own website – it will always be online for others to find and haunt you with!

 

#12. Why do they buy?

There are many “why” questions I could have added here, but this is fundamentally the most important. If you know why people buy and how you are satisfying their needs, the more likely you are to satisfy them.

In addition, if you frequently monitor their changing needs and desires through trend following, the more likely you are to continue to enjoy increasing customer satisfaction.

But please don’t stop at trend following alone. Develop the trends into plausible future scenarios and you’ll be years ahead of possible changes in customer desires – now that’s a true competitive advantage! Read Turning trends into future scenarios and the 10-step process you need to do it for more on this topic.

 

 

#13. Why do you sell?

I’ve saved the best for last. Why are you in the business you are in? Are you looking to grow a products’ sales, increase distribution for your other products, make a different product more attractive (or a competitors’ less attractive), or are you just milking profits? All of these are valid reasons, but you need to be very clear on why, in order to know how to answer all the other questions.

 

The BCG Growth Share Matrix is a well-known tool you can use to check that you really understand what you are trying to do. This verification will enable you to eliminate the actions that don’t align with your objectives and mission for your brand.

 

Know your customer by using the BCG share-growth matrix
Source: Shazeeye.com

 

 

So there’s my 13-point “Know your Customer” checklist to enable you to know your customers well enough to answer any question your boss may ask of you. I suggest you go back to the top and revisit each point and answer them truthfully. By reviewing all 13 I am sure that your thoughts will have changed or at least been modified as a result of this new perspective.

These are the essential questions your boss may (should?) be posing and you should be prepared to answer whenever you are asked. And if you yourself happen to be the boss, why not ask your team how many they can answer? Let my know your score below; be the first to confirm that you can answer all 13!

This post is based upon an article first published on C3Centricity in 2013.

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You’ve Got Data? Well Don’t Start There!

Did the title about data make you curious? Great!

Of course, in today’s data-rich environment I’m not really suggesting that you actually ignore it! However, in working with clients around the world and in numerous industries, I have found that many are lost by the wealth of information that is available to them. In fact it seems to drown out their reasoning of what to do and they remain frozen in indecision. Is this your case? If so, then just follow the steps I detail below and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not 10x the ROI of your data.

 

The Current Situation with Data

Data is everywhere and most organisations are drowning in it! Technology is being blamed for disrupting businesses, but most have simply not adapted to this new data-rich world.

I admit, a lot has changed. Consumers are adapting their behaviours to the trading of their personal information. Companies are changing business models as their value shifts from products to services, or even to the sale of the information they gather.

Some organisations are reinventing themselves to take advantage of these changes. Others are ignoring them – at their peril, since they are risking to become the next Kodak, Borders or Blockbusters. If you’re interested in reading more about the US Retail Apocalypse and the 23 big retailers closing stores then I highly recommend this post on Fox Business.

So what should you do, whether you are in manufacturing or retail? Well, I believe that you should start by renovating your business model to take advantage of the countless new opportunities open to you. And in my opinion, you had better do it sooner rather than later, because your competition almost certainly will!

 

The Opportunity

Yes you have data and information, but if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will know that you have to turn these into knowledge and understanding, and then into actionable insights. And this can only be done by asking the right questions of your data and information.

If you are struggling to take needed action despite a wealth of information, then this is certainly where you should start making changes – fast!

A 2015 Capgemini and EMC study called “Big & Fast Data: The rise of Insight-Driven Business” showed that:

  • 56% of the 1,000 senior decision makers surveyed claim that their investment in big data over the next three years will exceed past investment in information management.
  • 65% admit they risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive if they do not leverage data. This is especially true given that non-traditional providers, like startups thriving on big data processing, are moving into their industries.
  • Although companies realize they desperately need to dig into data analytics to maintain their business position, 45% surveyed think their current internal IT development cycles are not sufficient for new analytics and don’t fulfill their business requirements.
  • Making matters worse, over half (52%) of those surveyed see the speed of their organization’s insight generation from data analytics as constrained by its existing IT infrastructure.

So what has happened in the past couple of years? Not a lot in terms of usage, but a lot in terms of data gathering; just check out the graph below from Kleiner Perkins for current and estimated growth of data volume.

 

Big data trends Kleiner Perkins 2017

Of course big data has been big news for years, thanks to its 5Vs (volume, velocity, variety, variability, value). These were the driving forces behind the need and finally the computing upgrades which made it possible to adopt a new way of analysing it all.

This article by Olivia Ryan sums up the “6 ways big data expansion can significantly damage our privacy.” These are the major points which the GDPR is hoping to address, and about time too in my opinion.

Today it’s the EU’s GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation, with its stricter rules coming into play later this year, which has everyone concerned. It is definitely worth checking out the details here if you are not sure what you need to change by when.

Interestingly, there is no equivalent federal law in the US (for now), but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it if your business is based there. Find out more in this excellent article on Forbes.

It’s true that companies do recognise all the threats detailed in the earlier mentioned study, and while startups flourish in every industry, the mastodons of commerce are slow to change, hence the need for GDPR. (see below for an alternative approach to individualised data utilisation)

 

An Alternative Approach

Data comes into its own when used for personalised engagements. However, there is an alternative or complementary approach that some organisations are now using. This is to address global issues such as resource management, water usage or pollution, which certain customers feel passionately about.

One example is Nestle whose relatively new CEO Mark Schneider is finally bringing some fresh air to the dark and dusty halls of their Vevey offices. However, cutting costs, selling less attractive business units (such as US candy to Ferrero) to upgrade their image will not bring sufficient change that consumers demand of large corporations today.

Compare this to the efforts Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman, who has made his organisation one to be admired by consumers and shareholders alike. As they say in their website

“We aim to use our scale and influence to help bring about transformational change in four key areas where we believe we can make the biggest difference:

  • Taking action on climate change and halting deforestation
  • Improving livelihoods and creating more opportunities for women
  • Improving health and well-being
  • Championing sustainable agriculture and food security.”
Bold words indeed! And they can only do it with the help of data and metrics to measure and follow their progress. Given these very different approaches to preparing for the future, I know which one I am betting on – and you? Let me know in the comments.
The appeal of this alternative approach is confirmed by the results of SalesForce’s recent research findings reported in the “State of the Connected Consumer.” To summarise their six conclusions:

  1. Information-Savvy Customers Now Control the Marketplace. 70% of consumers agree technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
  2. The Culture of Immediacy Drives Mobile-First Expectations. 64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time.
  3. Customers Still Value Human Connections in a Tech-Driven World. Two-thirds of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if they’re treated like a number instead of an individual.
  4. New Data-Sharing Attitudes Spark Next Era of Marketing Personalization. 63% of millennial consumers agree they’re
    willing to share data with companies that send personalized offers and discounts.
  5. Smarter Use of Customer Information Expands Opportunities for Sales.More than three-quarters of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to work with a salesperson who is focused on achieving customer needs instead of making a quick sale.
  6. Fast, Personal Service Is Directly Linked to Customer Loyalty. 71% of consumers say that customer service provided on any day at any time has an influence on loyalty, and almost as many (69%) say the same about personalized customer care. 

Looking at these findings, it gives me hope for a more human approach to customer connections by manufacturers and retailers alike. I believe that those which fail to take this informed customer into account is unlikely to survive the next decade.

 

Making Data Analysis the Beginning and Not the End

I mentioned above and also dedicated a whole post to the topic of technology being an enabler not a disruptor of businesses. (Check out “Technology is the Enabler not the Disruptor (So Stop Using it as an Excuse)” for more on this) Many organisations think that their problems with data will end when they get the latest technology platform installed or start using the newest system for analysing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Technology enables improved analysis perhaps, but as previously mentioned, data is only as good as the questions you ask of it. That’s why data is the beginning of your business solution, not the end.

Data is only as good as the questions you ask of it. #BigData #Analysis #Information #CEX Click To Tweet

In addition, in “The Impact Of Changing Consumer Expectations On Manufacturers” Steve Smith spells out the situation very clearly for manufacturers:

“With new consumer expectations being set by companies that disrupted their respective markets — Uber, Amazon, Netflix — the previously accepted levels of customer service are no longer good enough.”

What these three companies demonstrate perfectly is that technology has merely enabled the consumer to get more of what they want, whether that is travel, retail or entertainment. Although these are three very different industries, they have attracted a growing number of customers because what they offer is a trustworthy service. No, rather they offer few surprises, and when there is disillusion, they sort it out quickly, and usually far above and beyond the customers’ expectations. Surprise and delight are the table stakes of today’s world of customer service.

Surprise and delight are the table stakes of today's world of customer service. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

In Conclusion

Coming back to the title of this post, as you can see there is a lot to do before analysing all the data you have. And probably it’s a lot more than you even know about at present, at least from my experience!

You can’t go wrong if you start with the customer and identify what you need to know and understand in order to go beyond their expectations.

You can't go wrong if you start with the customer & identify what you need to know & understand. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

Make a list of all the things you want to know and then see if you have the information to answer them. In many cases you do, it just hasn’t been analysed in a way that makes the solution obvious. That’s when you should review and eventually update your platform and systems.

Doing this any earlier will be like buying a fancy new hammer to crack a nut! What you need to understand is the best way to crack the nut; often times the hammer is fine for cracking if you use it correctly.

If you’re drowning in data and thirsting for insights then we should talk. Book a free advisory session and I’ll give you some ideas on how to crack your own nut!

 

 

 

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