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.
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.
Here are a few examples I have come across recently:
Nestlé 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 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 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!
Pringleshave 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 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 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?
Creative 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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
In 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!
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
This 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.
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Or 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company.
Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business.
Identify the mostimportant trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political).
Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least.
Collide the resultant developed trends to produce the most likely changes.
Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes – this is what is important.
Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
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.
Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.
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.
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?
OK 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?
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.
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!
Again 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?
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?
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.
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!
Product 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.
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.
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 meif 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?
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.
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.
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.
If you or your team can’t answer all 13 questions, I have a solution.
Book a 1-Day Catalyst training session and be amazed at the progress & changes!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
Information-Savvy Customers Now Control the Marketplace. 70% of consumers agree technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
The Culture of Immediacy Drives Mobile-First Expectations. 64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
A recent post by John Ollilaon Loyalty Lobby about customer journey maps and touchpoints in the leisure industry prompted me to share with you, an experience I had recently with the Hilton Group. And more importantly the lessons we can all learn from such disasters!
Each year around Christmas time, my family get together for a weekend of fun somewhere in Britain. This year we met up in Bristol. As a Hilton Honors member for more than twenty years I offered to book rooms for all of us in the local Doubletree. I expected to get a better rate with my membership, and especially cheaper than those offered by the booking sites. After all, why pay a booking site when I know the hotel I want to stay in, right? Well, I booked five rooms for the weekend, as well as a table for ten in their restaurant for dinner on the Saturday evening.
I booked directly by calling the hotel, as I always prefer to do. I expect to be recognised for my loyalty – and if possible rewarded too! On this occasion I was proven seriously wrong!
A couple of weeks after booking and pre-paying for all the rooms, I received Hilton’s weekly email offering me a significant discount for the exact same hotel and dates. Clearly their online pixels had identified me as being interested in this hotel, but they hadn’t connected this interest with my having booked directly. Already there, you can see that they have an incomplete customer journey mapping process.
As Hilton offer a “guaranteed lowest rate” I reached out to their call centre and was told that yes I was entitled not only to the lower rate, but to an additional 25% discount for having made the claim. I was told how to complete the claim form and I hung up ecstatic that I could save my family some money – which we would no doubt anyway spend in the bar before and after our dinner!
Imagine my surprise when the next day I was told that my claim had been refused! I was informed that the guaranteed lowest rate only applied to third-party sites and not to Hilton’s own website!
I immediately responded and was again told that their guarantee didn’t apply to their own rates. In addition, as I had pre-paid I could not get the lower rate even if it was now being offered!
Not being one to take “no” for a final answer, I contacted their corporate customer service group again, as I felt my loyalty was not being recognized. I was once more given the same response, but this time was informed that my request would be forwarded directly to the hotel concerned – no doubt to get me off their (corporate) backs!
The hotel immediately responded saying that although it is corporate policy not to include direct bookings in their lowest rate guarantee, they would in this case give me the special offer. I was very pleased doubt that they at least recognised the benefit of customer satisfaction and restored my faith in the Hilton group – somewhat.
That should have been the end of this story, but it’s not. Hilton have surpassed themselves this time in terms of customer service, or should I say a lack of it?
My brother called me the following week and informed me that the hotel’s website was showing that their restaurant was closed on the day I had booked it. I immediately rang them and spoke to the same person, who remembered me and assured me our table for ten people was booked. She said she would double check again just to be sure, so in the afternoon I called back not wanting any last minute problems with my family.
Surprise, surprise, I was told the restaurant was booked for a private party. What about my reservation made more than a month ago? Shouldn’t someone have contacted me? I demanded to speak to the manger, who apart from profuse apologies, said she would raise the issue in their operations meeting later that day.
She called me back that evening, to say that there was nothing she could do. It was their mistake and they would be happy to book me elsewhere in the city. I explained that my family had booked six rooms for two nights at their hotel so we could eat at their famous restaurant (my married sister had booked separately). No solution offered; an admission of fault but no compensation offered and no alternative other than to book at another restaurant! Their suggestion was their sister hotel down the road, a bland, modern affair, with no atmosphere.
This farcical situation continued during the whole weekend, but I won’t bore you with the details, as I would rather use this incident to demonstrate how Hilton (and you) can be better prepared.
Three Lessons Learned which Every Business Can Apply
So what lessons are to be learnt from this example, even if we work in a completely different industry? I came up with the following points, but would love to hear what other issue of customer journey mapping you would add; just leave me a comment below please.
1. The customer journey needs to integrate all possible contact points.
In Hilton’s case this is clearly not done. I was personally offered a cheaper rate at the hotel at which I had already booked five rooms! Clearly they had identified that I had reviewed prices online and then offered my the cheaper rate.
Unfortunately without their email, I would never had known and would not have checked prices again since I had already booked. And more importantly have become dissatisfied with my booking. Also, hotel prices usually go up not down closer to the day of arrival, at least so I have been led to believe. If this is not true (any longer) then I fr one will only book last minute in future!
Lesson: You must include all customer touchpoints in your journey map, to avoid such disappointment. By using an incomplete model, Hilton opened themselves up to angering a loyal customer rather than appealing to potential new ones.
After calling to book the rooms, the hotel put me through to the restaurant to book a table for the Saturday night. Everything was confirmed and I would not have checked details until arriving at the hotel and checking in.
The excuse that the closure of the restaurant is on their website didn’t go down well with me. After all, they themselves had transferred me and taken the reservation in person, so why would I need to go to their website?
Lesson: An apology for a mistake is not its resolution. Proposing to book another restaurant in their sister hotel was nothing more than I could have done myself. I didn’t feel that Hilton were interested in correcting the situation that they themselves had created. They did not go out of their way to make things right. When your company makes a mistake, find a solution that is acceptable to your customer, not just the quick fix that suits you.
I often speak about delighting the customer but your first aim is to ensure your customer is happy with the solution that you propose. Only after that can you look to see how you can go above and beyond what they expect, so they are both surprised and delighted with how they have been treated.
It takes a strong person to admit when they’re wrong, but a stronger one to want to go beyond just putting it right. Which are you doing?
Lesson: Replacing a faulty product or service is what our customers expect. Offering free samples, a further discount, express delivery or additional attention is not. These are the small touches that surprise and delight. They are also the things that your customers will share with friends and family, if not the world through social media. Suddenly you have gone from being the bad guy to the cool guy.
Customer journey mapping has become much more complex today, as the touchpoints customers use before, during and after purchase have expanded exponentially. However the process of identifying and understanding this journey remains essential to delighting each and every customer.
One further element which I suggest my clients add to their map is the emotional state of the customer at each interaction with a touchpoint. This simple addition will clearly show where a brand needs to improve its customers’ interactions because their emotional experience is sub-optimal.
If you would like to learn more about customer journey mapping and engagement in general, then check out our 1-Day Catalyst training offers and contact us HERE for a free, no obligation advisory session.
One of C3Centricity’s annual traditions is to publish a post which shares the best marketing infographics of the previous twelve months.
Here is this year’s crop, with ideas on how you can get inspired to take action in your own marketing.
Interestingly, many marketing infographics that have been shared in the past year are actually about content marketing. It’s as if “true/traditional” marketing doesn’t exist any more. That in itself says a lot about the focus of marketers these days! Are they right to do so? I don’t think so, but let me know your opinion.
In the same way that new media channels were separated from traditional channels for a while. it seems that content marketing has also been separated from traditional marketing. This is wrong from my perspective, because content marketing has always existed, whether through communications on pack, in advertising or more recently on websites.
Anyway, here is this year’s crop of the best marketing infographics around. If yours is not among them then please add a link to your preference in the comments below.
The Most Shared Marketing Infographics of 2017
It makes sense that I start this post by taking a look at the most shared marketing infographics of last year. What is great about this post is that it is itself an infographic! It explains what makes a shareabale infographic.
Take a look at the six most shared posts and draw inspiration from their ideas, to create your own.
With the rapid expansion in offers online, websites can no longer satisfy their audience by just adding content. They need to regularly update their design too, to stay fresh and appealing to changing preferences. (C3Centricity does this annually; le me know what you think when we relaunch our new design in a couple of weeks)
This infographic summarises beautifully the trends for the coming year. Check your own site against these images and if you find yours lacking in any way then an update should be planned – sooner rather than later!
If you work globally then you already know that while we are all human beings, we are not all the same. This is particularly true in terms of our associations with colour.
These differences come from a wide variety of sources; from tradition, to history and even from the impact of the most popular brands.
So it is important that if you are responsible for a brand globally, or sometimes even regionally, that you understand the nuances in interpretation of your brand’s pack and communication by the colours used.
This infographic, while it may seem complex at first view, will become your best friend once you understand how to look at it.
This is a small but useful graphic – I don’t think it is “officially” an infographic but I’ve used the term widely as you have seen – that explains the differing uses of content in marketing.
Even if the original was first published more than five years ago – an eternity these days! – I like this updated version because it reminds us that we should have an objective before developing content, which I know most of us still don’t! (I’m guilty as charged too!)
What I find particularly useful about this graphic is that it splits content between emotional and rational, as well as between whether the objective is to build awareness or attract purchase.
All of us should review this and then evaluate our own content, to ensure that we are including all four quadrants. Are you?
It was said that 2017 would be the year of the video. They quickly appeared as GIFs on Twitter, and “Live” sessions, rather than just photos, became the norm for sharing on many other social media channels. Everyone seems to be doing it, including brands, so if you aren’t (yet?) you’re already behind the curve!
This infographic explains clearly and simply everything you need to know about getting started in video marketing. Follow these steps and your brand will soon by in the spotlight.
If you’ve been ignoring AR in your marketing until now then you’ll have to change in 2018.
Still a bit confused as to what it is and how it can help your marketing? Then this infographic will explain what you need to know.
It includes everything from the history of augmented reality, to the market size and how it will impact all areas of our lives. Everything a marketer needs to understand in order to make best use of it is here.
While marketers are well skilled in outbound marketing, the new world of inbound marketing can be frustrating to say the least. You do the best you can and then sit and wait for things to happen – or not!
If you’ve ever been in this situation, then this inbound marketing infographic will be your saviour!
It lays out eactly what you have to do over the next three months to get started or to improve your current situation. You’re welcome!
I couldn’t list the best marketing infographics without including one from C3Centricity!
This infographic details the seven steps to insight development. What is important to notice in this process, is that it includes three steps which most organisations forget to do, which dooms them to failure!
Can you identify them? Free eBook for anyone who correctly identifies them and leaves a comment below.
Adopting this process practically guarantees that you develop an insight every time! Try it out and you’ll see.
If you’d like to learn more about the training we offer to support your insight development, then check out our 1-Day Catalyst Training and download the brochure. All our courses are personalised to your precise needs, so they will integrate seamlessly into your current processes. This is the only way you will bring about lasting change.
Social Media and eCommerce
Few businesses can survive today without an eCommerce site or social media presence. This is why I decided to end this list with a marketing infographic that covers both.
In this very thorough analysis from 16BestNet, the infographic covers everything you need to know from the history of commerce by channel, to demographics, product and brand popularity and even some sales statistics.
It is one of the most comprehensive analyses covered in a marketing infographic that I have found and definitely worth checking out. Of course, you should then take actions based upon what you learn from it – and there will certainly be a lot of “aha” moments as you scroll down it.
So there you have them; my choice of the ten most inspiring and useful marketing infographics of the past twelve months. Is your favourite amongst them? If not add a link to it in the comments below.
If you struggle to know what content, communications or engagement your customers might like and how to integrate infographics into your own marketing efforts, then let’s connect for a free, no-obligations call. Contact me here and I’ll share some of the success stories of my local, regional and global clients.
“There may be customers without brands, but there are NO brands without customers!”
I am often quoted as saying this and yet I still find most companies spend more time thinking about their brands than their customers, which is alarming to say the least! And you?
Last week I spoke about identifying the exact category in which you are competing. If you missed it, then I suggest you read “You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are!” before continuing. You will never be successful if you don’t understand the category people put you in and the competitors they compare you to.
In the post, I explain that we often work with a category definition that is based upon industry norms rather than that of our customers. For instance you might segment by price or demographic groups, whereas your customers group brands by flavour or packaging.
Understand how customers see the category and its sub-segments, can make a huge difference to your success in satisfying your own target customers.
This week I want to continue the theme of taking the customers’ perspective by speaking about our own business objectives. You know, the topics that make up our business and marketing plans with such lofty ambitions as:
Grow our market share to X%
Become the category captain/leader in Retailer Z
Launch three new brand variants
All of these may be valid business objectives, but they are not customer focussed. They start from the business perspective.
Adopting a customer-first strategy means turning business objectives into customer aims, by taking what is sometimes referred to as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.
Here are some questions to help you identify your customers’ aim, their attitudes and behaviours that you are trying to influence:
1. Who are you targeting?
Every brand has a target audience. This is a sub-segment of all category users. Yes you do need to segment users and target the most relevant and most profitable group of them for your brand, and then ignore the rest. If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!
“If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!”
2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand?
In order to attract your competitors’ customers you need to understand their motives, why they are preferring the competitive brand to your offer. This information can come from many sources, such as market research, social media, or care centre contacts.
3. What reason might make them consider switching?
If you are to appeal to your competitors’ customers then you must be able to satisfy them at least as well, and ideally better than does their current brand. What do you know about the criticisms customers have of the brand? What benefits do you offer and they don’t, or only partially? Could these be appealing to some of their customers?
4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before?
Do you have benefits that you have never highlighted in the past? Have you improved your product or service to now make it a better option? The reasons for switching must be both obvious and appealing in order to attract new customers to your brand.
Answering these four questions will enable you to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You now have all the information you need in order to be able to attract some, if not all, of your competitors’ customers.
This is probably one of the most common business objectives I have come across. Is it yours too?
In order to grow market share, we first need to answer the four questions mentioned above, and turn the business objective into a customer aim:
1. Who are you targeting? Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink. At first, you may think you are selling to all soft drink consumers. However, from your Usage & Awareness data (or observation at retail) you know you are attracting 18-35 year old men, who live in main urban areas of your region. You also know that there are two competitor brands who attract the same consumer group, Brands X and Y. Brand X is the same price as your brand and is sold in similar can packaging. Brand Y however is higher priced and sold in glass bottles.
2. Why are they currently using your competitor's brand? From your brand image study, communications analysis or in-store interviews, you know who the consumers of Brand X and Y are. Hopefully you also know why they are using that brand rather than yours.
Do you have any of the benefits for which they are searching? If so, then you may be able to appeal to them. If not, then they are certainly not the best source of potential new customers for your brand.
For this example we will assume that consumers like Brand X because it is sweet and has small bubbles, whereas Brand Y is less sweet and is very fizzy.
3. What reason might make them consider switching? Consumers of Brand X are sensitive to fashion and the latest trends. Brand Y is a traditional brand that has been around for decades. Brand X was launched in the last five years and its can is bright, modern and trendy looking.
4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn't before? You launched a new campaign that went viral on social media. Everyone if talking about it and it has positively impacted your brand's image. Whereas you used to be seen as a cheaper version of Brand Y, you have revitalised your brand's image and are now perceived as much trendier.
Customer Aim: Attract consumers from Brand X who are looking for a trendy, carbonated soft drink that comes in a can and is affordably priced.
As you can see from this objective, it is far more focused and is now based upon your potential customers' aim. This makes it both more actionable and easier to implement.
I hope you found this exercise useful and will try it yourself in your next marketing or business plans. If you do, then do let me know how it goes. You can email me or simply add a comment below and share your experiences.
Your plan may say that you want to grow your business, but in reality this objective is ongoing. Every year you are usually looking to grow your brand - unless of course you are "milking" an older brand as you allow it to die off.
In order to grow, you need to both maintain your current customer base, as well as attract new ones. It is well documented that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one.
And yet most organisations continue to spend more on acquisition than retention. To see the latest numbers on this, I suggest you check out this awesome infographic by Invesp that was recently shared by Neil Davey on MyCustomer.
The explanation could be that they always have growing market share as a company objective and think that they therefore need to invest more. Or perhaps it's because they take the time to attract new customers, but then don't invest to follow them over time, in order to identify their changing needs and desires.
While I agree both are important, with loyalty levels decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think?
Growing market share can only come from attracting more customers, getting your current customers to buy more, or getting your customers to spend more. It's time you considered investing (equally?) in all three areas.
Of course, you can also grow market share by maintaining your customers in a declining category, but that needs a totally different approach and more pertinent questions. If you're interested, then I'll happily cover this in a future post. Just let me know.
Last week I wrote about my 7-step CatSight™ Process for Insight Development. The first step is to identify the Category in which you are competing. I got so many comments about this step that I decided to dedicate a whole post to this important topic.
Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. This may seem obvious to you, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might think.
For instance, suppose you are looking to launch a new juice flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks.
In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink!
The reason was that these are seen as being for lively, energetic, fun-loving people who needed a boost. Whether this comes from the caffeine of an energy drink, or from the added vitamins and minerals which was my client’s offer, didn’t seem to matter.
If we’d only looked at other fruit flavoured soft drinks we would have missed a whole – and large – section of category consumers.
By starting our comparison in all beverages and then slowly zooming in as we learnt more, we were quickly able to discover this perhaps surprising positioning for the new drink.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment.
The above example is a great start. But many readers have since asked me to help them with their own category definition, so here are the suggested steps to doing it for yourself:
Step 1. What is the category definition you are currently using?
In any process we need to start by identifying where we are today. In this case, it should be the category you think you are competing in. Depending on whether you are offering a product or service, you might define it as:
– All hot beverage consumers ….. or ….. users of an insurance service.
– Consumers of coffee ….. or ….. people who have bought insurance for natural disasters.
– All consumers of instant coffee powder ….. or ….. house owners in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.
– Consumers of instant coffee powder costing less than US$ 2.50 per 100 gms ….. or ….. owners of houses over US$2 million in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.
As you can see from these few examples, the bottom definitions are far more precise and focused than the top ones.
The one you use, will depend upon whether you are looking to grow your brand through your marketing activities or looking to develop a new product or service offer. I call this zooming in and zooming out. In general understanding the category by zooming in is best for growth, zooming out for innovation.
Now take a look at your own current category definition. I bet it’s too broad for general use isn’t it? This is the mistake that most businesses make, big and small. They want to attract all consumers or users of a category, but as is often quoted:
“If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one”
The more precise you are in the group of customers you are trying to attract, the more focused will be your actions and communications. In addition, they will also resonate more strongly with your target audience.
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Once you have identified the precise category in which you are playing, you need to consider what is currently happening to it. Is it growing or declining? Why?
Understanding how the category is changing and more importantly why, will help you to understand it better. For instance:
- Is the category growing? If so is it the leading brands which are increasing, or are there new brands that were recently launched which are making the difference? Identfying which brands are growing and the reasons for this growth will enable you to take corrective action.
- Is the category stable? Are category shares stable, or are some brands gaining and others losing? Again, why? What do the brands which are gaining have in common? What are the losing brands lacking? Are the changes making a difference to the category definition?
- Is the category declining? Are all major brands in the category losing or are some gaining at the expense of others, but not maintaining overall category size? If so, What are the declining brands lacking? Where are customers who are leaving the category going to? Is there a new category which is better meeting their needs?
Your answers to these questions, will help you to understand whether the category in which you are currently competing is going to remain as attractive as it is today.
Step 3. How will this category change in the future?
In addition to current category trends, you also need to assess what is likely to happen in the marketplace in the coming years and how this may impact it.
Things are changing nd changing fast these days. There is no more "business as usual." Expecting the unexpected has become the norm, which is why I am such a big fan of scenario planning.
Industries are being disrupted. A study from the John M. Olin School of Business (Washington University) estimates that 40% of today's Fortune 500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years time!
Understanding who and what will impact your category, is the first step to preparing for the changes which could come. Preparing for likely future opportunities and risks is the second step, and the reason scenario planning is so vital to ongoing busines success.
Step 4. Which of the category users are you attracting?
This question surprises some people. They expect that once they have identified the category in which they are competing that they can just start trying to attract everyone in it. However "You can't please all the people all of the time" as the infamous quote from John Lydgate mentions.
You therefore need to identify which of the category users would be most interested in what you have to offer. The best way is by running a segmentation study and then plotting the groups on the Boston Matrix I mentioned in last week's post. Or you can read "How to Sell Less to More People: The Essentials of Segmentation." for a more detailed explanation on how to divide all category users into relevant sub-groups.
Understanding which sub-group of all the category users you are most likely to appeal to with your offer, is one further step in focusing on the very best target audience for your brand.
Step 5. How are your customers changing?
After identifying which category users are the most attracted to your offer, you also need to consider how this sub-group is changing. Is it increasing or decreasing in size, and how and why is it changing.
As with category changes mentioned above, it is important that you target a viable group. This can either be a growing segment or you should have plans to attract those who switch out with a separate offer.
There are many reasons why a segment may decline:
The introduction of a new category segment that is taking customers away from yours.
Natural decline because of aging.
Behavioural changes that make the category less relevant than in the past.
Having identified how your customers are changing today, you then need to consider societal trends and their impact on your customers. That is the ultimate test to choosing the right group of category users to target.
Going through these five steps will give you the very best understanding of the categroy in which you are competing, as well as the customers who make up the sub-segment you target.
Have you successfully mastered every suggested step? What have you forgotten?
Is there something I myself have forgotten or that you would add? If so, then please share your ideas in the comments below. Thanks
I’ve just returned from a speaking invitation in Las Vegas. It was an incredible Symposium run by Sitecore and I was blown away by the importance placed on customer centricity during the whole event!
From the opening keynote by Sitecore’s new CEO Mark Frost, to the second-day keynote by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp from Gartner, everyone in this tech and data heavy conference understood that data is only as good as the use you put to it. Do you?
We are all excited by the wealth of information available to us about our customers, from the IoT as well as people’s behaviour on the internet. In fact, data gathering is no longer an issue; it is its management, analysis and above all understanding to turn it into actionable insights that is today’s challenge.
I believe that the reason most organisations today are drowning in data and thirsting for insights as I am often quoted as saying, is because they are more excited by data than people.
“Organisations are drowning in data and thirsting for insights”
And yet data usually comes from people and their acts, is analysed by people, so that businesses can have more impact on their customers’ attitude and behaviours. It is therefore vital to turn that wealth of information into actionable insights. That’s why I want to share my 7-step process for doing just that with you.
I call it CatSight™
and the acronym always causes a few giggles as I’m sure you can imagine. After all, business is a serious topic, which is why I try to find ways for us all to find reasons to laugh in all this seriousness.
I choose the name CatSight™ because I thought it is not only memorable but also has a serious relevance to what insight developers do.
Cats have an acute vision, particularly in the dark. They are good at listening because their ears turn 180 degrees. They are highly sensitive – just ask an owner how their cat reacts when they are sad or ill.
Seeing in the dark, listening skills, sensitivity and empathy for the customer are essential skills for all insight developers.
So here are my 7-steps to insight development – and note that information gathering is only step #6!
If you react to business questions by immediately running a market research project, then please read on. It could save you a lot of money and time!
Using my method, you only start spending money on running a survey in step six – and then, only if you have identified a gap in your knowledge of the situation. Many organisations don’t know what they already know and what is already available within the company that they are unaware of.
This 7-step process will save you money because you will run less research AND make better use of all the information already available within the organisation. That’s an immediate improvement in the ROI of your information gathering.
Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. At first sight, this may seem obvious, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might at first think.
For instance, suppose you are looking to launch a new juice flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks.
In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink! The reason was that they were both seen as being for lively, fun people who needed a kick – whether from caffeine or healthy fresh ingredients with added vitamins and minerals.
If we’d only looked at other fruit flavoured soft drinks we would have missed a whole – and large – section of category consumers.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment.
A = Aim
Once you know which category you should be trying to understand better, you must consider what the aim or objective of your initiative is towards the customer. Are you looking to change their attitude or behaviour? Yes, of course, these are linked, but there will be one you are trying to influence more than the other.
Then you need to translate your objective into the words of the customer, or at least a description of your objective in how it impacts the.
How can we grow the market share of Brand “A”?
This could be written as: How can we attract consumers from competitor Brand “X” who are looking for a low sugar CSD?
You will notice that the second is far more focused and will deliver more relevant results than the first.
This could be written as: Which of my customers would be most interested in my new service offer and why?
This example came from work with one of my clients in the service industry. He wanted to offer something new and was trying to identify which of his clients would be most interested in it.
When we worked together, we first ran a detailed segmentation of all potential customers for this new service. By understanding each segment in detail, we actually found that he had two and not one group to whom he should be selling his basic service to. One of these groups could also be exactly interested in this new offer. Talk about leaving money on the table – he almost doubled his business overnight!
T = Target
There are many different pieces of information that make up a complete knowledge of your customers. This takes time to complete, but there are hree main areaas which I suggest to at least get basic information on:
1. First thing you need to segment all category users and then choose the most attractive one.
For this one of the simplest tools to work with is the BCG matrix. I say that because it works just as well with observed facts as it does with complex measured and weighted data.
2. Next you need to develop a customer image or persona.
We use the 4W™ Template as you know, because it reminds users to find out the who, what where and why. That way no area if forgotten.
3. The third tool we use to better understand our customers deeply, is their journey map.
This can be as simple or as complex as you like too. However I would suggest adding the emotional state of the customer at each stage, as this provides valuable information concerning pain points. These steps are obviously the ones you want to solve for your customer as a priority.
These three tools will provide you with a great foundation on which you can build both your understanding and insight development. Do you have others which you regularly use? If so, then please suggest them in the comments below.
Ready to go deeper into these first three steps that most organisations forget? Book an online training or an in-house 1-Day Catalyst Session for your whole team in November and get a 20% discount.
S = Supporters
No-one is an island and this goes whether you are an executive, solopreneur or corporate slave. If you work in a business, then I advise you to get out from behind your desk and talk to people in other departments. We can sometimes get so tied up in our work that we never take time to understand the wider corporation in which we work. We live on our floor, take coffee and lunch with fellow employees and never learn much news that we didn’t know already.
by making a habit to speak with your colleagues from other departments and floors, will open you to a deeper understanding of your organisation. It will give you an advantage over your colleagues in knowing what’s going on in other groups and will enable you to gather information you would be unlikely to get otherwise.
If you are a solopreneur, meetings others on a regular basis becomes even more vital. It provides you with some fresh thinking and perspectives, a friendly ear to discuss business with and a change of air for an hour or two. I try to meet up with someone for coffee or lunch at least three or four times a week when i`’m not traveling.
Getting supporters is vital to the success of both projects and business in general, so make a habit of widening your professional circle anyway you can/
I = Intimacy
Even if you have a detailed persona of your target customers – you do don’t you? – nothing beats getting intimate with them. Not only does this bring your data and information to life, but you may also learn new things about your customers.
You can do this by simply listening into your care centre calls or by serving in your retail outlets if you have them.
But you can also accompany a researcher while interviewing or organise customer connection sessions. If you are interested in organising these events designed specifically for getting closer to your customers then I suggest you read “Why customers are the answer to all your problems”
G = Gap Filling
As I’ve already mentioned, when a business wants to know their customers better they immediately think of running a market research project. Don’t do this!
Save yourself time and money by first reviewing everything your organisation already knows. Identify any gaps and only then run a survey. You will be amazed how this simple habit can save you tens of thousands every year.
HT = Human Truth
A human truth is a
“Fact of human attitudes & behaviour, based on fundamental human values & beliefs.”
It is vital to insight development since it is needs based and emotional resonant. It is a powerful and compelling statement that is rooted in basic human values, which is why it is valid for all your customers, wherever in the world they live.
Some simple examples are:
Parents want to protect their children so they grow up happy and healthy.
Men and women want to find love.
People want to feel good about their choices. (be better than their peers?)
These human truths are the basis of many of the well-known brands such as Omo / Persil, Nido, Axe / Lynx, Dulux, Heineken. When you are next watching an ad break on television, it is fun to try and identify the human truths on which they are based. The more clearly identifiable they are the better the ad will resonate with its customers.
I also suggest using this as a fun exercise in a brainstorming or other meeting of marketers in particular.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse!
So there you have it, the 7-step process I call CatSight™ which practically guarantees an insight every time you use it.
Why not try it yourself next time you are trying to work through a marketing challenge?
If you like this process and would like to learn even more details about it, then we offer two solutions:
An online course of videos and workbooks to take you through every step in detail.
An in-person training in your own office. This is particularly cost-effective when you are upgrading the skills of your entire team.
For either one, we are offering a 20% discount during November, to help you assign any remaining budget before you lose it at year-end! (I’ve been there too so I understand your situation very well) Just contact us and book your session; you can even plan it early in the New Year if you prefer. As long as you pay this year, we will accord the 20% discount. How’s that for an early Christmas present?
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