Denyse Drummond-Dunn, Author at c3centricity | c3centricity

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The Best Ways To Improve Innovation With Better Ideation & Insights

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by my clients is how they can improve their innovation. 

Whether they are large or small, global or local, they all want to their new products and services to be more successful. And the answer I give them to this question every single time is simple; start with the customer!

Many companies create great new products and services – from their perspective at least – but they fail miserably! They then ask me if I can help them to improve their innovations and identify why this happened. Of course, I do help them, but I also suggest that next time it would be better if they called me before they started innovating! In a failure situation, it is almost always due to an outdated innovation process in which the customer has not been involved.

I know it can be difficult to innovate in this new age of technology, but it remains vital for growth. And Switzerland remains one of the most innovative countries in the world. In both the GII (WIPO Global Innovation Index and Bloomberg Index Switzerland appears in the top five. I think this is why I regularly get invited to run workshops on the topic around the world.

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China is an innovation hot-house

China, excluding Hong Kong, joined the top 20 most innovative countries in the WIPO global innovation index for the first time in 2018. This is because they no longer rely on cost-effective manufacturing alone. They also applied for more patents than the next two countries, the United States and Japan, combined! This clearly shows that China is improving ideation as well as their innovation process. But they know they must do even more. To become a truly competitive nation, they have to better understand their target customers, especially their growing middle and higher-income residents, who continue to prefer primarily imported Western brands.

 

Let me share with you a few of the ideas that I spoke about during my recent visit there. They may also deliver more successful innovation for your organisation too.

 

Innovation is essential

Most companies innovate from an internal technical and skills-based foundation. It doesn’t usually work very well, if at all. In fact, according to NielsenIRIFortune and many others, it is estimated that between 85% and 95% of new consumer products in the US fail. In Europe, it’s just as bad, with only 25% of new consumer products being still available on shelf just twelve months after launch! And less than half that number by the end of the second year.

With such disastrous results, you might wonder why companies continue to innovate. Well there are three main reasons why they do:

  1. It keeps brands fresh. Brands which innovate have something new to share with current and potential clientsWe have come to expect it. What excites today, is normal tomorrow and then just boring after that. We have gotten accustomed to regular updates and constant new choices.
  2. It encourages switching. If brands and options remain the same, people would only switch if they became dissatisfied and the cost of switching was low. Since product performances are so similar in many categories today, new variants and offers suggest differentiation. The brand appears more vibrant and people like that.
  3. It revives brands through excitement and buzz. In today’s connected world, this is vital. People learn about brands as much from friends and family as through advertising. And they trust the former more than the latter, even if some of these “friends” are virtual ones they’ve never met. According to Nielsen’s report ” Global Trust in Advertising” more than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) others’ opinions posted online.

 

 

Renovate your innovation process

NPD Funnel copy

It still surprises me that companies continue to use the same innovation process as they've always done, when their failure rate remains so high. Today's digital environment needs a whole new approach.

The old process often looks something like the diagram on the right. Is that what yours looks like? In fact, is your process a funnel? If so, then you're facing at least two problems:

 

1. That it is a funnel. This process is linear, with a beginning and an end. It assumes that there is only one “winner” from all the ideation and brainstorming. And it also supposes that only one concept developed from that “winning” idea will succeed.

But what if all your ideas are great? You would be throwing away all but one of them! Or suppose that they are all “losers” and you launch the least “awful” amongst them? There must be a better way, no?

Even IDEO’s iterative process still assumes “winners”, because they quickly move from brainstorming to prototyping and testing with customers. At least they do suggest co-creating with customers, which is a positive element of their process and it is great fun to do – from my own experiences. But as I said, there is a better way.

 

2. That it doesn’t include the customer. How can you have any chance of innovating for your customers if you don’t include them? You are relying on your own perspective to make choices. Are you the typical consumer for whom you are innovating? Probably not. So why are you taking decisions based on your own opinions and those of your colleagues? They're pretty irrelevant if you think about it!

Virtuous circle of better innovationThe second diagram on the right is the type of NPD process that I encourage my clients to use. It is, of course, always adapted to their own specific needs and based upon their current process to speed adoption and change.

The major difference from most current innovation processes that my clients have shared with me, is that it is a virtuous circle. It starts and ends with opportunity identification, in other words with the customer and insight. This, of course, means that we must know and understand our customers deeply.

 

Know your target audience intimately

We all think we know our customers, don't we? But in most cases this is not strictly true. At least, we don't know them as deeply as we should or could. One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. 

One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. #Marketing #Brand #Innovation Click To Tweet

The first thing I ask my clients to complete, and regular readers will know it well, is the 4W™ Template of the “who”, “what”, where” and most importantly of all, the “why” of their target audience. Often times they struggle with the last “W”. If you want to try it for yourself, check out our detailed post on it “How well do you know your customers?”

Even with this template completed, you still have to go further. Optimal understanding comes from regular connection. Our customers are changing - fast - so we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of the market. Yesterday’s information is not much use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow.

Yesterday’s information is not much use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow. #CustomerUnderstanding #CustomerInformation #CustomerData Click To Tweet

During my talk at Shanghai’s ECUST University, someone asked me how we can be better prepared for the future. I love the question, as it enables me to speak about another of my passions, that of scenario planning.

Change happens, and especially rapidly in fast developing markets such as China. My recommendation to the student was to not rely on trends alone. They are uncompetitive. To gain an advantage over the competition, you need to develop trends into plausible future scenarios. If you are interested in learning more, then do check out our post “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything“.

Knowing why your customers do what they do, buy what they buy and consume what they consume, and then watching and listening to them to understand even better, will put you in the best possible position for improving ideation and innovation. But there’s still more you can do.

Increase your external partnerships

As mentioned above, many companies still rely on their own technology and skills to innovate. However, while technology can certainly help deliver improved benefits, it is usually not sufficient. In many areas, companies need to collaborate with others who are more specialised in certain areas.

Joint ventures and partnerships are also useful for developing new products and services more quickly. You don’t need to build the needed skills internally and you can rely on the immediate support of external experts. Whether you team up with another corporation or a university is up to you, as long as you recognise your need for additional support. If you rely totally on your internal knowledge for improving ideation and innovation, you are unlikely to find those breakthrough ideas most companies are searching for.

There are many examples of large consumer goods companies partnering with external experts. The Laboratoires Innéov was a joint venture in nutritional cosmetics between L’Oréal and Nestléalthough the relationship ended in 2015. Nestle also created  Cereal Partners Worldwide as a joint venture with General Mills and Beverage Partners Worldwide with Coca-Cola.

Procter & Gamble and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced the creation of a joint venture in consumer healthcare in 2011. The newly named PGT Healthcare partnership with president Tom Finn has since negotiated tens of JV’s, partnerships and strategic alliances.

 

Expand your business model

Another external lever from which more and more companies are benefiting today is a change in their business model. Take the food industry. It is moving from basic nutrition into health and wellness, and could become a direct competitor to the pharmaceutical industry as it develops more nutraceuticals.

Pharma, on the other hand, is moving from sickness to wellness, from treatments to prevention.

And what about telecoms? They now make almost as much money selling geo-localisation data as they do from providing communication services.

Or how about Google moving into cars, solar panels and most recently travel with its Trips App? Through the analysis of their customers’ searches, Google can identify those of us who are looking to travel, those interested in buying a new car or in using taxi services. Google knows more about us today than we know ourselves! And that is both exciting and frightening.

 

Harness emotional benefits 

Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones.

Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones. #Emotions #Benefits #Functional #Brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

Apple used to be a great innovator. In the past few years, I feel they have been relying too much on their technical expertise. The launches of their iPhone 7, 8 and X and the new Mac Book laptops were all less successful than their previous launches. While none are real flops, they failed to ignite excitement in their potential customers.

There have been numerous posts on why Apple is failing at innovating today. One article in the HBR by Steve Blank stated that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

“… suggested execution executives as their successors. They confused world-class execution with the passion for product and customers, and market insight. Yet history has shown us that these two talents are not the same. For long-term survival in markets that change rapidly, one is far more important than the other.”

Another article in Business Insider by Julie Bort concludes by saying

Microsoft is now officially more innovative than Apple

based upon Tweets of the events. But Microsoft too failed when Bill Gates handed the company leadership over to Steve Ballmer. For 14 years Ballmer successfully ran the business from a financial perspective. He tripled sales and doubled profits. But he didn’t set the company up for long-term survival. In early 2014, Satya Nadella took over and made some radical changes which focused the company on mobile and the cloud (Azure). This freed Microsoft to become more innovative again and the result is already showing.

You can never go wrong if you start from your customers’ perspective and connect emotionally with them. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Business Click To Tweet

 

Develop insights as a company

Some managers think that insight is just another word for market research. They’re wrong, but perhaps you too see it in this way?

Market research is a great source of information, but for insight, you have to integrate multiple sources of information. It is rare for a single project to provide a deep insight. This comes from truly understanding the customer and that takes time. It takes data and information, turned into knowledge and then understanding to develop real insight.

Knowing your customers is insufficient to develop insight unless you understand what it all means to them. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Insight #MRX Click To Tweet
C3Centricity insight development process
C3Centricity CatSight™ Process for Insight Development

The full development process, such as the example given on the right, takes time and people, ideally with differing perspectives. It takes a detailed understanding of the target audience, their needs and desires so that you can resonate emotionally with them.

Many organisations work with human truths to help in identifying a concept that will resonate emotionally. These are usually based on basic human needs, which cut across cultures. This makes them particularly useful for regional and global brands.

During my different talks, I share many examples and case studies, but one which my audiences usually find particularly fascinating is the insight both Unilever’s Omo and Nestle’s Nido have used. The insight is based on the human truth that “All parents want their children to grow up happy and healthy”. The insight they then developed, which is as equally relevant for washing powder as it is for infant formula is “I want my child to experience everything life has to offer, even if it means getting dirty”. What is particularly interesting in this example is that both companies have been able to use the same human truth and insight but make it relevant for each of their categories.

My recommendation, therefore, if you are struggling to develop insight, is to analyse your competitors or the brands targeting a similar audience. If you can identify on what human truth and insight their message is based, you may be able to use it too.

 

Conclusions

These are just a few of the many ideas which I shared with enthusiastic audiences wherever I speak about innovation around the world. It is clear that both entrepreneurs and corporate executives in China are particularly keen to improve their innovation. They are also thirsty for support in further improving their ideation. For this reason, I believe they will continue to top the nations in patent applications for many years to come.

Therefore, it is vital that we supposed "developed" nations support our entrepreneurs and creative executives to stay in the race. Unless we do so, we could see China dominate new products and services in the future, as they have dominated manufacturing in the past.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on the race for innovation. 

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What Customer First Strategies Really Are (And what they’re not!)

Everyone is talking about customer first strategies and why they are important. However walking the talk is a different matter!

An interesting article on NewMR by Ray Poynter prompted this post. He spoke about the differences between customer focus and customer centricity and the often times confusion between the two terms. That is why I tend to speak about customer first rather than customer centricity these days.

In its simplest form a customer first strategy is about thinking customer first in everything you do. Yes I know it sounds easy but it really isn’t. And it doesn’t come naturally, at least to start with. I believe that’s because it involves a culture change to move the organisation in this direction. But I can assure you it’s worth it; its value is now well proven.

If you would like to see some exciting statistics about the value of making your customers the heart of your business, then CMO.com has a great article. It’s called “15 Mind-Blowing Stats About Customer Centricity” and many of the research results reported are still valid today, so it’s definitely worth a read.

 

 

What Are Not Customer First Strategies

I have seen a customer first strategy defined as

“a strategy by which businesses create their products, content, and marketing campaigns so that they serve their customers first, and their organization second.”

I don’t agree! If you don’t think about your organisation then it will likely fail! That said, I am also a little sensitive to the comments of Sir Richard Branson, who says

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

This may be true for an airline, where the client is primarily basing their opinion on the service on board and the “niceness” of the crew. After all, every airline will get you from A to B.

However for many industries, customers are enjoying (or not!) your product or service without your employees being present. They will remain loyal (or not!) to your brand, based upon their own personal experiences, at least in most cases.

A customer first strategy is therefore not about only thinking about the customer. It is about understanding how best to serve them in such a way as to delight them, while keeping your employees and shareholders happy. This is relatively easy to do because when the business is going well, all stakeholders are happy.

 

What Customer First Strategies Are

Econsultancy asked what effective leadership in the digital age is. Several key leadership qualities were found, including being ruthlessly customer-centric, data-driven, innovative, collaborative and agile. I am thrilled to see customer centricity coming first by a long margin.

 

Customer-centric organizational culture characteristics

So the leaders have got the message, but what are they doing about it? Not a lot in many cases. And why? From my experience it is because they just don’t know where to start or what to do. (If that’s your situation, try our Customer Centricity Mini C3C Evaluator™ – for free! It will immediately show you your biggest opportunities.)

 

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Executing a customer first strategy doesn’t happen without a clear understanding of what needs to change. This is why I decided to take the four other qualities mentioned and see how they influence the adoption of such a culture within an organisation.

 

 

Being Data Driven

We are all aware that when we visit a website, buy something online, or post on social media, we are being tracked. Information is being gathered about us and our actions which can then be used to follow our behaviours, show relevant advertisements or even communicate directly with us.

But automated data gathering doesn't only happen online. Many organisations store our information when we contact their customer service center, enter a promotion, sign up for a club or gift card, or apply for free samples.

While the GDPR in Europe has increased the security of this data and our permission for companies to use it, data driven marketing is not all bad news.

OK, so I'm not talking about the 2002 Minority Report. I'm not speaking about how the hero is bombarded with advertising messages in the street and in the shopping mall, as the clip below shows.

No. While it is unlikely that we would appreciate such invasive messaging, people rarely complain about the suggestions proposed of further articles to purchase when they visit Amazon and similar online stores. This is because they provide a real service and we therefore happily give our details to these websites.

Data driven marketing and communications will need to carefully balance the support they provide to customers, with respect for their desire for privacy at certain times. The companies that succeed will be those that understand this and connect at the right times. Those that don't, risk being banned from all future contact.

We are now one year on from the introduction of GDPR and we have seen little change other than being asked to approve the privacy terms of the sites we visit that use cookies. There have been a few companies who are being fined for not sufficiently protecting their customer data from hackers. This is serious stuff. Fines can go up to €20,000,000 or 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of an organisation. This would mean that Facebook could end up paying $1.6 billion and British Airways £183 million. But in reality I don't think the fines, at least to start with, will be this high.

An article by Toby McKenna on AdAge spoke of the "Three resolutions for data-driven marketers in 2018." He said they are:

  1. Demand fresher data
  2. Revise your definition of "in-market" consumers
  3. Shift your approach from myopic to broad-based (and forward thinking)

I applaud the emphasis on the importance of data freshness. We are all irritated by ads presented to us that are no longer relevant once we have made a purchase, aren't we?

I also encourage a forward-thinking, longer-term perspective. Change is happening so fast today that we need to prepare for things before they even happen! Difficult maybe, but essential for businesses to survive. For further ideas on how you can do this, read "How to Prepare Business for Anything. Five Actions You Can Take Now."

Change is happening so fast today that we need to prepare for things before they even happen! #marketing #brand #CEO Click To Tweet

But good as the above list is, it needs a fourth resolution in my opinion; that of using the collected data for the benefit of the customer. As the data comes from them I believe all organisations have a duty to use it to return our customers' trust in us when they shared it. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below.

Use the customer data you collect for the good of the customer. Return their trust in us when they shared it. #Data #Customer #CEX #CEO Click To Tweet

 

 

Being Innovative

We all get bored with novelty more quickly these days. What excites us one day, is normal the next and "passé" after that! Innovation is the life-blood of every successful business. Not renovation, innovation. If you don't know the difference, then you should read "How to Innovate Successfully (What You’re Still Getting Wrong!)."

The post includes the ten reasons your innovations are failing:

  1. The process
  2. Meeting company quotas
  3. Lack of customer understanding
  4. Lack of category understanding
  5. Not living up to your promises
  6. Not being sufficiently differentiated
  7. Being too different
  8. Pricing yourself out of the market
  9. Inappropriate distribution
  10. Being too far ahead of the customer:

If you think that any of these reasons applies to your own organisation, then you must read this post. It contains answers to solve each of the issues. Invaluable!

 

 

Being collaborative

Despite moves to flat organisational structures, open-offices and social areas in work today, silos seem to be as strong as ever! And yet silos cost businesses a fortune in wasted effort and investments. Suppliers are unlikely to tell you when you have already bought a report. I found this was the case for one of my clients, that had bought the same report an amazing 26 times! They wasted millions just because their organisation was siloed.

Departments hold onto information they have gathered like treasure and consider it to be for their personal advantage only. This results in multiple projects being run on the same topic, sometimes even in parallel! I found three similar projects being run by an FMCG client, that the department that hired me was unaware of. By working collaboratively, they were able to have more resources, both in terms of budget and personnel! You can imagine what that did to the completion of all the projects. They were finished in record time and well under budget! One more happy customer!

If you're not sure your information resources are being used effectively and efficiently, then we should talk. 

Collaboration is the only way to decrease this waste and hopefully marketing automation and open data storage will help resolve at least a large part of it. However I have found in working with clients that it is the culture change that makes the biggest impact. After all, what is an employee's benefit in working with and helping other departments? The executive board must encourage collaboration and be seen to walk their talk, for the whole company to follow.

Have you ever heard the phrase "it's not in my objectives" when asking for support? If so, then why not suggest that collaboration be included in everyone's objectives? Change will happen - fast!

 

 

Being agile

Following on from the need for innovation, today's businesses must be agile and flexible. With technology changing the way we live our lives, companies must be both ready for change and prepared to benefit when there is something relevant happening.

 

Some of the best examples of agile marketing:

Being agile can take many forms. The examples below show that it can be online, offline, or outdoor. Brands that are agile are where their customers are; that's what matters.

 

Tweets when the lights went out at the SuperBowl in 2013:

 

customer first agile marketing tideThinking customer first with Oreo

 

 

Unofficial ads during the 2012 London Olympics:

Customer first ads London 2012Customer first ad London 2012

 

The ongoing struggles between major brands:

Audi vs BMW

customer first ads audi bmwcustomer first audi vs bmw

 

 

 

Coke vs Pepsi

(Thanks to CAVE House for this great video collection)

Of course these examples could only be developed because the brand owners were ready to take advantage of what was happening in their customers' lives. They therefore had to know them deeply in order for their communications to be relevant and resonate with them.

 

Reasons most companies fail their customer first strategy adoption

In conclusion, I would like to give some of the many reasons why companies fail to adopt a customer first strategy. Last year I wrote a highly popular post explaining why many companies don't succeed, called "7 Reasons Most Companies Fail to Adopt a Customer-First Strategy." The post also appeared on CustomerThink and received many comments that are definitely worth reviewing too.

That is why I am not going to go into detail here, but just summarise the 7 reasons I gave:

1. The CEO has stated it as a company objective but has not detailed what and how the organisation will change

The CEO needs to ask the awkward questions to ensure everyone is embracing a customer-first strategy #CEX #CEO Click To Tweet

2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy

Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself: What would our customers think? #CEX #Customer #CEO Click To Tweet

3. The project is treated just like any other

Customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination. #CEX #Customer #CEO Click To Tweet

4. The initiative does not have a visible leader

5. No-one understands how to move the initiative forward.

Successful businesses work with a business catalyst to help them take the important first few steps of a customer-first strategy #CEX #CustomerFirst #CEO Click To Tweet

6. Everyone in the organisation is not clear about their role in satisfying and delighting the customer.

7. They think it costs too much

Which of these is (are) the main reason(s) for your slow move to a customer-first strategy adoption? Is it something different? Let me know in the comments; I'm sure every reader would love to exchange their own experiences with you.

If you would like to know which area of a customer first strategy offers you the most opportunities for improvement, why not complete our mini C3C Evaluator™ tool? It's FREE! And in just 12 questions you will get a clear indication of what to prioritise. Then let's talk.

 

How Good is your Customer First Strategy?Answer just 12 questions to find out!

 

7 Secrets to Business Growth from Leading Global Brands

Consultants get contacted for all sorts of – admittedly sometimes strange – requests for support from their clients.

However, when I get several people asking for help in the same area, I know something important is happening in the marketplace.

This is exactly what happened to me last month. The topic? Business Growth.

Most marketers will soon be leaving on their vacation and are realising just how little time they will have left to meet their annual objectives when they return. Their brands have not performed as well as they had hoped this year and they are looking for a solution – fast!

No less than two of my current clients and four new companies have asked me for support in growing their businesses in just the past month! In particular, they have all said that one or more of their brands is stable – to be polite – and that they want to reverse the trend. Is this your situation too? If so, then I have a useful 7-step process that will bring rapid, if not instant change.

 

How to Stop a Declining Brand

OK, let’s get straight to the point with the most painful of situations first, that of a declining brand. A few years ago I wrote a popular post about using brand image metrics to understand what is happening with a brand and how to identify the best actions to take.

It is called “How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye.” I highly recommend reading it now, for a short but in-depth understanding of all the information that can be gleaned from a simple brand image study.

Almost all brands use their own brand image data in a very basic way, but there is so much more that can be done with the information, even without harnessing AI to do it for you!

In the above post I speak about the different kinds of attributes that should be measured and how to find them. They must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely:

  • Rational, functional benefits
  • Emotional, subjective benefits
  • Relational, cultural benefits

Business growth from brand image measurement

Brand image attributes must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely Rational, functional benefits; Emotional, subjective benefits; and Relational, cultural benefits. Do yours? #Insight #MRX #Marketing #Brand Click To Tweet

However, what is even more important is how you analyse the data once you have it. I suggest looking at, as a minimum:

  • Total and splits by demographics – gender, age, location etc
  • Segments as you have defined them – attitudes, values, motivations etc
  • Steps of the customer journey – aware, consider, try etc

There are many other analyses I use when working with my clients. Let me know if you need some help in getting more value from your own brand image metrics, I’d love to help.

 

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Changes in your Brand image are just one of the things that you should look at when you are trying to understand why your business is flat, or even worse, declining. It's one of the best kept secrets to brand growth!

Let's now look at some of the others.

 

The Typical MBA Five Steps to Brand Building

Most MBA students are taught a five-step process for brand building, at least in theory anyway. They are:

 

Brand Building

  1. Describe: This is done through a product's logo as well as its description on packs and other communications' material. A successful brand will describe what it is through a consistent look, feel, tone, colours, symbols and messaging. This then builds to its brand equity which forms in the minds of customers both current and potential.
  2. Position: A brand needs to differentiate itself from its competition with some unique value. This can be done through its packaging, colour, aroma, distribution or another element that can set it apart. Using them to position the brand will provide customers with a reason to believe and to buy.
  3. Promote: Promotion can take numerous forms and channels, such as video, social media, TVCs (Television & Cinema), print ads or online advertising. It can include straightforward advertising and promotions, but also customer reviews, retail offers, websites etc. All of these will increase the brand's awareness, hopefully spontaneous recall, as well as improved perception.
  4. Personalise: Several books have been written about people "loving" brands. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, building strong loyalty and a solid fan base is important. With so much choice available today, personalisation and individualisation have become essential characteristics in many categories. They make people feel closer to the brand through increased resonance and a perception of importance. These are two of the essential ingredients that build fans / followers.
  5. Evaluate: This is in fact both the last and first step to successful brand building. It is important that a company keeps on monitoring and reviewing the performance of its products, services and brands. Hence evaluation & review of a brand is an essential element of brand building.

While these five steps aren't wrong, I believe that we can all do a whole lot better. As I said above, this is the theory, but I imagine that you are an expert or at least a professional, who already understands just how much effort goes into brand building. There are far more than these five simple steps!

Click To Tweet

When I realised that there is a lot missing from this standard list, I decided to expand it, but not too much so it remains manageable. However, my clients get a far more detailed process, as I am sure you can imagine. (Contact me to learn more)

 

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Did you notice that the MBA list is all about the product or service, and that there is nothing mentioned about the customer or consumer? Big mistake!

So here is my process for brand building, a shortened version of the one I use when working with my clients. It succeeds whether your brand is a product or service, new or established, local or global. Take a look and let me know what you think. Is there something important I have forgotten that you do? Let me know in the comments and I'll send you a free copy of my book "Secrets to Brand Building."

 

My 7 Secrets to Business Growth

1. Gather as much information as you can about the brand

You already have far more information than you realise! Start by gathering as much information as you can find and bring it all together.

In addition to brand image and equity measurements, you need trend information on shares, distribution, stock levels, customer penetration and profiles. Look for changes in the trends and identify where and when they happened. The why will come later.

This first analysis is the equivalent to an autopsy after death - but hopefully you are reacting long before your brand is on life-support!

 

2. Identify the category in which you are playing.

This is the category from the customers' perspective, not the industry definition your business association or retail audit supplier uses. Talk to customers if you can, or watch and listen to discussions on social media.

These exchanges will often mention comparable brands, suggestions for switching etc. All this will provide a better indication of the category than your industry knowledge sources ever will.

 

3. Understand your customers and talk to them - a lot!

I already mentioned speaking with your customers to understand the category you are in. But I want you to make a habit of speaking to your customers - both current and potential - on a weekly, and ideally daily basis.

For a simple start, set up Google alerts for your brand, category and customer groups, so you are following what is happening on the web. If you haven't already done this, stop reading and do that NOW! It's that important.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, then you will know that we promote - and our clients heavily use - C3Centricity's 4W™ Template to store everything we know about our customers. You can download a free workbook including the template HERE.

 

DOWNLOAD FREE TEMPLATE

 

 

4. Define your USP and desired image

Now you know the category in which you are competing and what customers want, verify whether your brand has a USP (Unique selling proposition) and an appropriate image and equity.

The description of your brand should include functional, emotional and societal benefits as mentioned above. To learn more about identifying these, and how to measure all aspects of your brand image, personality and equity, read "Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know."

 

5. Develop a Big Idea on which to communicate

Once you have your USP it's time to develop a big idea on which to communicate it. Big Ideas should be based on a relevant insight about your customers. (You do have one don't you?)

For an improved process that delivers truly actionable insights, please check out"Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation)." This post details the exact process my clients use to develop insights they can easily and quickly harness to develop their own Big Idea with their advertising agency.

Here are a few examples; the first two are interesting in that two brands in different categories have used the exact same insight to come up with their own Big Ideas :

  • Persil. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Dirt is Good.

 

  • Nido. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Let them grow, let them go.

 

  • Mastercard. Insight - “Life isn’t about what I buy, but about the relationships I have with the people I care about, and the special moments that I can share with them.” Big Idea - Mastercard helps you deliver priceless experiences.

 

  • Jillz. Insight - "I want to drink alcohol on a night out, but I don’t like beer, and wine is too variable in quality." Big Idea - A fresh drink from the tap for elegant women.

Jillz secret to brand growth

 

  • Philadelphia soft cheese. Insight - "Food is delicious, but I don’t want to get fat (Butter vs Cream Cheese) Big Idea: Indulge your desire with less calories.

Philadelphia secrets of business growth

Hopefully these examples have inspired you to review the insight and big idea for your own brand. If you think you have a great example why not share it below?

 

6. Promote the brand where and when your customers are

This is the step that seems to be difficult for so many brands. They think that by advertising on digital media they will get their message across. But there are (at least) two things wrong with this approach.

Firstly, are your target customers actually online and if so, where? Pinterest may be perfect for a fashion or cosmetic brand but not for many other industries. The graph below show the usage by demographics for the US market. Perhaps you should take a look at your own statistics to check that social media and particularly the current channels you are using, are optimal for your brand?

social media stats are a secret to business growth

 

7. Measure your success

Peter Drucker was so right when he said:

“What gets measured gets managed.”

So you clearly have to measure what you have been doing, so you understand what is working and what is not. But what metrics should you choose?

The data you should be following will help you to assess whether or not you are meeting the objectives for your brands. Therefore start by looking at what you were planning to improve and then choose the appropriate metrics to follow the changes you made.

I would also recommend this short read: "How to choose your KPIs."

 

Next Steps

So you've gone through all seven steps and your brand is showing signs of stabilising if not actually declining. Great! So what's next? Well you start by prioritising the actions you need to take to correct the weaknesses you have found. Define the tactics and strategies you will need and put your action plan into effect.

Then? Well, you start at step 1 and go through the process again! You see brand building is a never ending virtuous circle.

If you have specific questions relating to any of the seven steps, or if some other area of brand building is challenging you at the moment, then why not book a complementary advisory session? I love to help and that one call could solve your issue immediately, so why wait in torment? Be confident that we can quickly move your business forward together!

BOOK YOUR COMPLEMENTARY ADVISORY SESSION

 

Fundamentals of a Customer First Strategy For Every Industry

Every industry strives to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore in many company objectives. Unfortunately it rarely goes beyond the theory in many organisations, so I decided to help out with these six suggestions.

Hospitality is perhaps one of the most visible industries where customer satisfaction, or lack of, is quickly shared with the world.  It is true that without satisfaction, customers will not return to a hotel or restaurant. And they will almost certainly share their (bad) experiences with anyone who will listen.

Hospitality is also one of the industries that receives the most comments online, thanks to TripAdvisor and other booking sites. There is no hiding from their clients for hospitality! While I empathise, it’s not all bad news. This is because it also means that great service will also be more quickly seen online. Therefore you can make changes and see the results almost immediately, or at least far quicker than in most other businesses.

However, despite this, I believe that the hospitality industry has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG). In fact most other industries could benefit from taking a look at some of CPG’s best-in-class processes.

Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart. They are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer. However, as the world changes, customer demands do too and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these requirements in order to ensure continued growth.

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationships. Whilst I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Be honest, other than the popular book that started talking about brand love, who wants to have a relationship with a brand?!

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. They become involved and interested in the brand, the product, their website, even their communications. Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this. You should also check out another post entitles Increasing Impact & Engagement through Advertising Testing.”

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. #CEX #CRM #Engagement @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#2. Build relationships with strangers

Whilst the hospitality industry has been based on serving and satisfying its guests, in today’s connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but who could potentially become clients. These might be the friends of current guests, which for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract.

This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to share them with their friends on Facebook. This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging these potential clients, since they probably have similar lifestyles to their current guests.

User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. Research from Forbes shows that 81% of consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts.

For some great examples of successful UGC campaigns, I highly recommend checking out this article on Wedevs. You may also want to readThe Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation.”

User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. #CEX #CRM #Trust @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#3. Value is more important than price

Having additional control in their lives today means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their peers influence their decisions more than does traditional marketing.

The internet enables them to compare offers, so they are less interested in bundled propositions, preferring to decide what is best value for them personally for each element. Several brands have understood this and now offer the customer the possibility to define their own, personal bundle of options. Liberty Mutual is one such example of this.

According to research by Walker, 86% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a better experience. So don’t get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you.

To learn more about pricing and value check out “Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay.”

Don't get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you. #CEX #CRM #Trust @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#4. Renovation is more than for buildings

Most CPG companies have targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner by building on their individual talents and enable them to develop better products and services.

For hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; the Art Series Hotels are another. Check out the latter’s recent ad to understand better how they excel at understanding their guests: Art Series Overstay Checkout, or why not review the picture posted on MayaKoba’s Facebook page?

If you want more ideas on innovating, then read “A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation.”

 

#5. Loyalty is never really won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer demands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. #Customer #CEX #CRM #Satisfaction @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#6. Dialogue, don’t just communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want a say in what they buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints. According to a recent Edison Research, 20% expect a company to answer to their social media posts within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means 24/7 monitoring for all organisations if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers.

We must have 24/7 monitoring if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers. #CEX #CRM #Customer #Engagement @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during a presentation I gave to the faculty of a world- renowned hospitality school. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, I am happy to share it. Just email me with your details and what your biggest business challenge is currently in adopting a customer first strategy.

Are you too struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information about our services and training courses, or contact us here.

How Marketers Can Benefit From More Than Technology: Modern Marketing

Just like most entrepreneurs and business people, I go to my fair share of conferences. One that stays in my memory for many reasons, was an event I attended in San Jose, California.

Some say California is the centre of internet marketing; the San Francisco area for technology and San Diego for marketing. I tend to agree after having recently attended events in both cities.

The conference that changed many of my views on modern marketing was one about how business people, not just marketers, can break through our self-limiting behaviours. It is this idea which prompted today’s post. How we marketers can relinquish our well-established thoughts and actions to make our businesses grow more profitably. If this is of interest to you too, then read on.

 

HEART-CENTERED VERSUS CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

The conference I attended in San Jose was a great opportunity for me to meet many other people from around the world. People who want to make their businesses more heart-centered. You know that I am a champion of customer centricity. I love to support companies that want to put their customers at the heart of their businesses.

So you might be wondering what the difference is between a customer-centric and a heart-centered business. After the conference, I would say that in my opinion, not much. I believe it is difficult to think customer first without it also involving the heart; at least, it should.

As we try to put our customers at the centre of our organisations, it is through a concern to satisfy and delight them. A heart-centred business would probably go even further to ensure that what they do also benefits non-customers, or, at least, doesn’t harm them.

Creating shared value has become a strong commitment of many of the leading global players in the consumer goods market. Reliance Jio, Merck and Bank of America lead the way according to the Fortune “Change the World” List.

If the topic inspires you then you might also be interested in reading an article on “Innovation and Creating Shared Value”, which I was invited to contribute to one of the first issues of the Journal of Creating Value. I will also be speaking at the 2nd Global Conference on Creating Value in New York later this year. So let me know if you too will be attending and we can meet up.

 

CUSTOMER FIRST EXAMPLES

But back to defining the types of business. Which is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric? Or are you not even there yet?

Which type of business is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric? Or are you not even there yet? #CRM #CEX #CustomerCentric #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

Do you think customer first but forget about those who are not yet your customers? That’s a dangerous thing to do as you may be limiting your brand’s potential. Here are a few current habits that some companies have, which show how customer centric they are – or not:

  • Asking credit card details for a “free” offer. This information would only be of use to charge the client. It is a “trick” often employed by companies that are not customer centric. Those that are would only ask for such information once the customer is committed to purchasing the offer.
  • Requiring full details on a contact form when the customer just wants to ask a question or download something. This information rarely provides value to the customer and is a real turn-off for many. Customer-centric businesses avoid asking more information than they need for immediate action. For them, building a strong relationship with their customer is more important; the additional details can be gathered as the relationship develops.
  • Offering helpful suggestions of other products or services that may be of interest when a customer buys something. Yes, this does benefit the company too if the customer buys additional offers, but a win-win service offer can be customer-centric too. These recommendations use a technique called affinity analysis (sometimes called basket analysis) and although Amazon wasn’t the first to use it, they are by far the most well-known marketers to do so.
  • Providing positive experiences the customer hasn’t paid for and doesn’t expect. This can be upgraded products or shipping, samples or complementary products or services included with their purchase. This benefits the customer by adding an element of positive emotional connection to the business. It also benefits the business as it can lead to a better company image, increased sales and greater loyalty.

 

FUTURE SCENARIOS

During my US trip, I caught up with a few of C3Centricity’s major partners in California. One of them,  SciFutures, in Burbank, gave me my own experience of the future in a hands-on way, which was awesome!

During my last visit a few years earlier, they let my try out the Oculus Rift VR glasses. While it was interesting, the stilted imagery did not enable me to fully embrace the new world I was watching. It was of a roller coaster they had warned would make me sick – which of course it didn’t! Not only did I not fully engage with the scenes shown, I was underwhelmed by the potential of using the experience for marketers.

Fast forward to just a few years later and I was blown away by the HTC Vive  and Amazon Echo / Alexa experiences they gave me. (I am speaking about several years ago now) The HTC glasses enabled me to integrate into a world of endless possibilities. They invited me to become an artist. And although I am not very creative, this tool enabled me to create incredible 3D images which I could view from every angle.

The Amazon Echo / Alexa unit, which is the first step towards a smarter home that I would certainly like to make, sat quietly on the shelf until an order was issued. “She” was an always-on assistant that I couldn’t wait to own. (I still don’t have one and yet me less “techie” brother does!)

She could estimate the drive time to my next appointment – which is vital when battling the impossibly heavy traffic in Los Angeles –  or play a specific song or add an item to my shopping list. This promised a vocal, hands-off experience I wanted.

But my visit wasn’t just to try out the latest gadgets, although I admit they were fun experiences. We also discussed SciFutures’ work with major multinationals. They were developing  and more importantly, showing, the possible future developments of the home, the financial sector and multiple other industries. Their unique demonstration of the future remain ahead of all the other trend-following, scenario planning agencies, even today!

I am always living in / dreaming about the future, so you can imagine how exciting my discussions with them were. (If you are in need of some new perspectives on your own industry, in order to be better prepared in this fast-changing world, then let me know. We can start creating an inspiring and exciting future scenario for your business)

 

SELF-LIMITING THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIOURS

At the beginning of this article, I said that I had been inspired by an event to review the self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that slow our progress and that of our businesses. I therefore, want to end with a list of them, which I developed during the conference and in the days following it. I would love it if you would add your own ideas in the comments below.

Beliefs are created out of our own, personal experiences and we rarely realise that some of them are not truths. Tony Robbins said that “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.”  While reviewing the following list, I suggest we dwell on our own thoughts and behaviours and make 2019 the year we make changes that will empower us. Both we and our businesses will flourish if we do.

Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives. Tony Robbins… Click To Tweet
  • The word “can’t” is far too often used these days, when in fact we most likely mean “won’t make the time” or “aren’t interested“. We should be more honest with both ourselves and our co-workers. Explaining our reasons for our behaviour or lack of enthusiasm is valuable information for future exchanges and learning. “Honesty is the best policy,” said Benjamin Franklin more than three hundred years ago and yet we have still not learned the lesson!
Honesty is the best policy. #Quote by Benjamin Franklin that applies as much to our personal as our professional lives. #Honesty #Business #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet
  • The word “should” often precedes the use of the word “can’t”. For example “I should do that but I can’t find the energy”. Again we need to be honest in admitting the real reasons behind both why we “should” do something and why we won’t. This will also lead to a better self-awareness and understanding.
  • We love to give rather than to receive. We love to provide support and help others, but hate asking for it ourselves. This is a crazy situation that most of us find ourselves in more often than we would like to admit. We like others to be indebted to us, as it gives us a (false) feeling of power. Keep this in mind and endeavour to make your life one of balance; to give and receive.
  • Shakespeare said it best in his play “As you like it”, Act II, Scene VII:  “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”  What are you playing at? Relationships are built on trust and authenticity, both in the personal and professional circles. Are you or your brand pretending to be someone (thing) you are not, or to know something you don’t? If so, the stress of being “found out” will take its toll eventually, one way or the other. Being our authentic selves is the only way to exp and, grow and flourish. The same is true for brands.
Relationships are built on trust and authenticity, both in the personal and professional circles. Are you or your brand pretending to be something you're not? #Brand #Relationships #CEX #CRM #Marketing Click To Tweet
  • “Procrastination is the thief of time”  is a mid-18th century proverb which means that if you delay doing something, it will almost certainly take longer to complete later on. The best solutions to procrastination include making lists, breaking down large or unattractive tasks into smaller, more achievable steps, and making the work time-limited. Making progress, however small, is better than none at all. 
Making progress, however small, is better than none at all. #Progress #Action Click To Tweet
  • Often one of the reasons for procrastination is perfectionism. We set such impossibly high standards that we know we’ll not meet, even before trying – so we don’t try. Life is for learning and as I said previously, any progress is better than no progress. Imperfection is human; embrace your humanness and learn from your failures. Edison is quoted as saying “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”.  So ask yourself: “Are you learning to fail or failing to learn?” Hopefully, it’s the former! 
Are you learning to fail or failing to learn? #Quote @DenyseDrummond-Dunn #failure #Winning Click To Tweet

These are just a few of the many self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that many of us, including myself, have. They make our lives more difficult than they need to be. I was motivated by the conference I attended. I hope that my sharing these ideas has inspired you too to change. But without the need for the travel and resource investments I myself made!

My final comment on self-limiting thoughts and behaviours is a quote from that conference; “Fear is the only thing that gets smaller as we run towards it.” Marketers, are you ready to run towards your own fears and succeed in this awesomely changing world of possibilities?

Fear is the only thing that gets smaller as we run towards it. #Quote #Fear #Fearless Click To Tweet

If you’d like to read more on this topic then I would highly recommend you follow Steve Aitchison, as well as read a wonderful guest post there by Kathryn Sandford called “ 3 Strategies to master the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back in life.” Enjoy!

Please share your own ideas and inspiring quotes below. Let’s support each other to be more authentic in 2019. If you haven’t already done so, please join the Winning4Marketers on Facebook, where we share ideas and support each other in becoming more heart-centered and customer centric.  

Winning customer centricity for marketersThis post includes some concepts from my book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes or in any good bookstore.

This post is an updated version of an article which first appeared on C3Centricity in April 2016. See the original post here.

How To Write A Winning Marketing Plan: 8 Questions Every Marketer Should Be Prepared To Answer

How hard is it to write a marketing plan? After all, every marketer writes one every year, so how difficult can it be, right?

Well, writing a marketing plan isn’t hard at all, but writing a winning plan is very difficult. And time consuming. And getting it approved by your executive board is perhaps the most challenging part of all.

Management are renowned in most organisations for “innocently” posing questions when passing marketers in the corridor or while socialising at a company event. Answer the CEO’s questions to their satisfaction and you will stand out from the crowd. Provide an incomplete or worse still no answer, and they might wonder if it isn’t time to restructure the marketing group.

So here are 8 actionable tips on how to write a winning marketing plan, so you can answer any question your CEO or boss asks you. The simple rule is to NEVER say you don’t know, but also to never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither will win you brownie points. Make sure you have an answer like those proposed below and your name might just be on the next list of promotions.

 

1. WHO ARE OUR BRAND’S CUSTOMERS?

There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona or avatar) of a typical user, in the same way as you would describe a friend. See “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers” for further details on what you should already know about your customer.

Once you’ve checked out the above article, why not also download our 4W™ template? It will help you put everything in one place so it is always handy.

GOOD ANSWER: Our customers are middle-aged women, whose children are in their late teens or early twenties. She shops in local supermarkets and gets advice from friends on Facebook, about the best brands to buy and what’s on offer. She’s been buying our brand for over two years because it satisfies her children’s hunger when they get in from playing sports. That makes them happy and she then feels proud of being a good Mum.

 

2. HOW MUCH ARE OUR CUSTOMERS WORTH TO US?

Besides having an average lifetime value in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your brand. This information will come from certain attributes in your brand image study, such as “worth the price”, “more valuable than other brands” or “is worth paying more for.” The summary results of your brand image study should always be included in your winning marketing plan.

Just make sure that when you quote such statistics, that you compare them to the competition. Rather than saying “56% of category users think we offer great value for money”, say “more than a half of category users think we provide better value than the competition.” Your boss will always ask for more detailed information if needed.

GOOD ANSWERS: On average each customer spends about XXX (Dollars, Euros, Renminbi, Rupee, Real …) each year on our brand, which is about YYY over ten years (lifetime value is rarely calculated further out than this). Our current average price in-store is ZZZ, but 70% of our customers thinks we’re actually worth more than that.

 

3. WHAT RETURN ON OUR MARKETING BUDGET ARE WE GETTING?

Whilst ROI is not the best measure of marketing’s impact (see this Forbes article for more on that), you still need to answer the question. Your response to this could get very complex if you go into too much detail, so keep it simple.

Say what your total budget is, how much you spend on advertising and promotions and what impact that has had on sales, in total. I know it takes a lot more than these two actions to impact sales, but as I said, keep it simple.

GOOD ANSWER: Our total budget is AAA of which BBB goes on communications and promotions. With our current sales growth of SSS, that works out at approximately TT%.

 

4. HOW MUCH WILL WE SELL; WHAT MARKET SHARE ARE WE EXPECTING THIS YEAR?

Your boss will almost certainly remember your brand’s market share from your marketing plan. So when he asks this question he is probably looking for more than just a number.

You could of course just give him that number, but why not use the attention you’ve got by adding something impressive to the story? Comments about how your brand is growing compared to category growth or your main competitors, puts the numbers immediately into perspective. It also helps the boss to better understand the numbers.

GOOD ANSWER: We’re expecting a RR% growth this year to UUU unit sales. This will be the highest rate in the category, so our share will increase by PP points to MM% market share. These will be the best results we have achieved in over ten years – or some such comment to add value to the numbers.

 

5. WHAT ARE OUR INNOVATION PLANS FOR THE BRAND?

You could answer this with a long list of all the new SKUs you will launch, but again use your time wisely by adding some understanding too. Speak about the objectives behind the launches and any new theme or direction the brand is taking.

For instance, are you moving to more low fat, organic, natural, or sustainable sources? Sharing the objectives behind your plans for the brand will show the solid foundation you have for your launches and the decisions you have made.

GOOD ANSWER: We will be launching CC new variants in our new organic range, which we expect to add MM% points to our total market share. We will also be eliminating FF units that are not delivering on expectations and contain too much sugar for today’s customer preferences.

 

6. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT?

Questions around sustainability and sourcing tend to be raised in corporations which already have targets. If this is the case in your own company, then measurements are almost certainly already being taken and shown in your marketing plan. Therefore you just need to reply with the latest numbers.

But you can again use this exchange with top management to add how your customers feel about the question and all the efforts being made by the company – you do have that information too don’t you?

However if this is a new initiative for your business, then you will want to take the opportunity to show how you and your brand are playing their part in supporting this important company initiative.

 

7. HOW’S THE COMPETITION DOING?

The answer to this question could cover a lot of topics: sales, market share, new launches, advertising, promotions or pricing. After all, when you write your marketing plan you will add a lot of information about your brand and also its main competitors – or at least I hope so!

Therefore respond with a simple summary of a few current metrics of your brand in comparison to two or three of your major competitors. The manager will then clarify if he was thinking of a specific topic and you can then answer with a little more precision.

Make use of this question to share any particularly tough market conditions you are facing of which your boss / CEO may not be intimately aware. This is a great opportunity to pre warn them should your brand be struggling to meet the objectives laid out in the agreed marketing plan.

 

8. HOW’S OUR DISTRIBUTION DOING THESE DAYS?

A simple summary of outlets in which we have gained or lost distribution is enough here, but why not add some detail about successful placement improvements too? That latest shelf redesign that has increased sales, or the fact that you have just been named category captain in a retail chain, is definitely news worth sharing.

If on the other hand, you are having difficult discussions with an important chain or outlet group, then that too deserves a mention. Perhaps your boss has some useful contacts or ideas to help. Marketers are nervous about sharing their challenges, but pre warning them of market situations that are negatively impacting your brand are definitely worth mentioning before the situation become serious.

 

So there you have them. Eight of the most common questions top management asks of marketers. As you can see, the answers I’ve suggested are short and simple.

Especially when the question is posed outside the formal marketing plan presentation, the executive is probably looking not only for the information requested, but also to check that you have an excellent understanding of your brand. He wants to be assured that his business is in good hands. Prove it to him and also show your respect of his time, by giving short, precise answers whenever possible.

 

Do you frequently get asked other questions not mentioned here? Then add them in the comments below. Also, if you have a better way of responding to any of the above questions, I’d love to read those too.

 

If you’d like your team to be better prepared for “awkward” questions from management, why not ask for one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? 

 

This post is adapted from an article which first appeared on C3Centricity in 2014. See the original.

Even the Police Can Get it Right! Adopting a Customer First Strategy

In most countries, the Police have a love / hate relationship with their population. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be adopting a customer first strategy in Switzerland!

Let me explain. They have recently introduced many new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town in Switzerland. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why they are so effective. They are customer centric. They have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share this story here.

 

Image: Pixabay

One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many countries, is because of their speed radars.

Whether they are permanent fixtures as on the right, or temporary ones, we all dislike the flash that tells us it’s too late, that we’ve been “caught.”

We then wait a few days, to weeks or even months, naively hoping that it wasn’t our car that was flashed. But eventually the letter arrives asking us to pay a fine.

 

I think the worst of them all are the laser guns that the Police have been using for many years now. We don’t even know we’ve been flashed until the communication arrives at our home, or we are pulled up a few hundred meters down the road.

Example of a customer first strategy in action with a smiley traffic radar
Image: Alibaba

The relatively new types of radar that are being introduced in my home area don’t flash either. But that’s because we never get “caught” as such.

You see they measure our speed and give us immediate feedback. Take a look at the photo on the right; I’m sure you’ve seen such installations before.

Now if we make the assumption that all four types of equipment are to get road users to decrease their speed in critical areas – and not just to gather money as I’ve heard suggested – then the results must vary widely.

 

 

So let me share my thoughts from the perspective of a customer first strategy champion.

 

Permanent radars

Everyone quickly knows where these are located. In fact, in some countries there are warning signs and they are actually highlighted on the GPS mapping system you may have in your car.

In some places the permanent radars are not always functioning, as the cameras inside them are rotated between installations. It is therefore not possible to know which radars are active and which aren’t. The Police then get a multiple deterrent effect, beyond the number of cameras they have purchased.

speed radar warning
Image: Pixabay

What I have observed with these radars is the following behaviour. The traffic is rolling along “normally” and then everyone brakes hard just in time to pass the radar below the speed limit. They then speed up again to continue along the road.

This phenomenon is in fact well known by the Police. They sometimes add a second, mobile radar a few hundred meters down from the permanent one, to catch those who are once again speeding!

Even the warning signs, as on the right, don’t have much impact on drivers and the speed limitation is quickly forgotten.

Whether they get caught with the first or second radar, the impact on the end customer, the driver, will be the same.

They feel angry and frustrated, which makes them less attentive, and may result in them driving more erratically. They may even speed up feeling that now they have been caught, there is nothing more to lose!

Not good for the driver nor the Police’s objective of maintaining a slower, safer speed in the vicinity. Clearly not a part of a customer first strategy!

 

Temporary radars

Temporary radars are similar to the permanent ones, but it usually takes a day or two for people to become aware of them. Their reactions will then be similar to the permanent radars, with the slowing down and speeding up of their driving behaviour.

This is not good for traffic fluidity, nor for slowing it down. And the drivers’ reactions if flashed will be just the same. Again not good for anyone and clearly not a demonstration of a customer first strategy.

 

Laser speed guns

Police laser gun
Source: Wikipedia

These are probably the most hated by drivers. They have no knowledge of where they are, nor even that they have been flashed. It could be argued that they are therefore not a deterrent to speeding, but a pure money-making exercise for the Police.

I admit that the Police do tend to stand in certain places where speeding is a common occurrence. Knowledgeable, local drivers look out for them when approaching the areas and adapt their speed accordingly. But overall they are not really a device to deter speeding and therefore the associated sentiments are very negative. Once again this type of radar would not be used if the Police have adopted a customer first strategy.

 

Speed Information

The speed radar that prompted this post measures your speed but then immediately gives you feedback. You are rewarded with a happy green smiley if you are within the speed limit. Or a red frown with a message to slow down if you are speeding.

I have witnessed people approaching these devices and slowing down whether or not they are speeding. And they don’t speed up after they have passed them either. How’s that for positive influence?

Also, if the drivers are like me, they also get a feel-good feeling for being congratulated for not speeding. I find these by far the most efficient at controlling traffic speed and fluidity, but of course the Police don’t get any money.

 

What about your business?

So what does this example have to do with your own customer first strategy? Everything. Because my question to you, as it is to the Police, is what do you really want for your business?

In their case, I am assuming they want to reduce the speed of drivers in certain areas. In this case, the customer-centric approach, which has by far the most success at slowing drivers down to within the speed limit, is the information panel. If that is their objective, then the Police in every country should adopt these new style radars.

But I think that if those who consider speed checks to be a mere money-making operation are right, then the Police will continue to use one of their other options. But they must then accept the negative consequences on so many levels.

So what do you yourself want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices that you know your customers wouldn’t approve.

What do you want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices that you know your customers wouldn’t approve. Click To Tweet

Half filled packaging – gone. False claims and promises – deleted. Getting credit card details for free trials in the hope customers will forget to cancel and you can automatically charge them for a service that haven’t specifically requested. Not any longer! These all might get you that first sale but you won’t get a loyal customer.

 

And you? What do you want your customers to think and feel about your brand? What are the objectives you have for your business and customers? These questions are only a small part of the second step of our highly successful 7-step insight development process called CatSight™. If you’d like to know more about it, or get trained in insight-development, or adopting a customer first strategy, just let me know – I’m only a call away.

AI and ML are Taking Digital Marketing to the Next Level

I presented last week at an exciting, forward-looking conference in Fort Lauderdale, USA. It was ITEXPO, a successful conference celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year! The huge turnout of thousands clearly shows the value that both attendees and exhibitors get from it.

This year the programme included a new stream, the Future of Work and that was the one in which I was invited to speak. Before summarising what I presented, I’d like to share some of the ideas and takeaways that I discovered about digital marketing and the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning).

 

Generations in the USAFrom text to voice: 

Most of us have grown up with text communication, but Gen Z, those born after 1996, are more comfortable with voice. They are less formal but far more impatient than previous generations.

They expect Alexa, Siri, Cortana and similar voice-activated personal assistants to be available whenever they have a question. With this type of search expansion into daily life, being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough. You have to be the number one answer to their questions!

Being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough; you have to be the number one answer in this voice-activated, personal assistant supported world we live in. Click To Tweet

 

AI is not one technology:

Despite what digital marketers may have hoped, AI is not the solution to all our problems. It is simply a series of technologies addressing various current and future customer needs.

Unlike normal analytical processes, using AI needs developers and users to start with the end in sight. Knowing what we are looking for, rather than waiting to see what the analysis brings us, needs a very different thought process. The questions asked become as important as the answers received, if not even more so. Therefore it is advisable to make them the best you can possibly ask. Your digital marketing has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

 

AI is far from 100% accurate:

AI is still in its infancy, despite great leaps forward in some areas in the past year or so. For example, language translation is still far from accurate today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Anything that moves us toward increased customer satisfaction from our digital marketing efforts is great. However, we must understand their limitations and not be fixated on perfection.

One of the biggest challenges is siloed data – still! It is easy to see that the more information sources we integrate, the more accurate our platforms are likely to be. But until we finally break down our internal silos AI will not be able to deliver to its full potential.

 

Taking the robots out of humans:

Robots are not new. Henry Ford was one of the first to realise the advantage of taking robots out of humans. In other words, gatting machines to do the boring, repetitive tasks done until then by people.

Today we need to consider the digital workforce as also an HR challenge and not (just) a technical one. Humans are not upskilling and progressing as fast as robots are. This is the real cause of any work losses that may happen as automation rolls out.

 

The future of work

Now that I’ve touched on the elephant in the closet, that everyone is secretly scared about, that of job losses, let’s talk about employment. The future is not so much about replacing workers, as in expanding and amplifying their work through the use of AI.

The future will be a world of work plus AI, not work minus AI. When, not if, robots take on many of our current tasks, humans will need to supplement their knowledge with soft skills, ones that AI can’t replicate, at least for now. This is why I, like many others, refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence.

AI should refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence. We are not replacing people but increasing their capacities in many areas. #AI #Digital #Intelligence Click To Tweet

One area that will certainly need a tremendous amount of human input is in speech analytics. You probably don’t realise it, unless you’ve learnt another language or two, but speech has an enormous diversity in the ways to say the same thing. Just ask any owner of Alexa, Siri or Cortana! Sometimes their responses are hilarious, at least at first, but these quickly become irritating and frustrating, when you can’t make yourself understood.

If robots are to understand humans, then these alternative expressions need to be programmed in, before being understood. Although machine learning may speed our progress, the foundations must be identified and created by humans.

 

AI and care centers

Most businesses have customer service departments and many are jumping on the bandwagon of requesting AI. However most don’t really know why they need it! The case for AI has to be put into terms of its business impact and relevance in order to be valued beyond mere “modernisation.” Just ask anyone who has chatted with a bot or gone round in circles on self-service phone lines! So many corporations today have increased their technology but have not improved their customers’ satisfaction.

AI is already proving to be of great value in following and analysing customer service connections. A supervisor can’t listen in or read every exchange, but AI can. However, as previously mentioned, understanding speech is still in its infancy, especially when it comes to sentiment. An agent will quickly sense when something is wrong or an answer is unsatisfactory, even when the customer is saying everything is alright.

 

The customer journey that led to the connection, is just as important as the call itself. This is where total integration of all touchpoints is vital. The customer already sees them as such, but most companies do not. This leads to irritation when a customer must repeat their details and experiences with each new customer service agent.

It could be so easily eliminated, by simply integrating multiple data sources and then assessing the customer’s “effort” in getting the answers they are looking for. The greater the effort has been, the quicker a solution should be found.

I believe that not taking the customer’s perspective here is the root cause of this less than satisfactory situation today. Once again, adopting a customer first strategy is the answer. If you would like help with this or don’t know how customer centric you are today, why not contact C3Centricity and complete our complementary C3C Evaluator™?

I believe that not taking the customer's perspective is the root cause of many less than satisfactory situations. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

 

Developing Chatbots

Customers in developed markets already have far more interaction with AI than they probably realise. However, when developing chatbots it is important to allow for far more variation than we are aware of. The challenge is not only understanding the variations in vocabulary mentioned previously, but also colloquialisms, spelling mistakes, acronyms and alternative expressions.

Therefore, instead of aiming for perfection, by brainstorming all possible variants, our time is better spent in identifying the 20% of variations that cover 80% of the cases. Ideally we should first collect information and then analyse what the company is likely to receive most of the time. Perfection is once again the enemy in progressing the use of chatbots.

We also need to be transparent about when chatbots are being used. It may be a good idea to make them respond in a friendly way, but pretending to actually be a human is not a good idea. Customers will eventually understand that they are exchanging with a chatbot when the responses they are getting do not meet their expectations.

 

AI and taking digital marketing to the next level

After all these intriguing sessions, it was my turn to speak. Luckily I was taking a far more practical approach to digital marketing, AI and ML, which I am happy to say was met with enthusiasm. The audience were fascinated with my hands-on perspective and had loads of questions and comments at the end of my talk.

I would be delighted to share my slides with any reader who would be interested in seeing them, but to summarise my main points:

  • Digital marketing has made our communications’ media choice even more challenging. There are far more channels than ever, many being used concurrently, especially by the under 35’s (for example TV and the internet).
  • There are more brands vying for space online. The relative cheapness of advertising on the internet means that those that didn’t have access to traditional media because of their high costs can now communicate.
  • Customers are more demanding and expect real-time responses to their questions, and ever shorter delivery times for purchased goods.
  • AI and ML can improve digital marketing through predictive intelligence, content curation / creation, dynamic pricing, and especially by improving the customers’ overall experiences.
  • Digital is best used as an amplifier of traditional media, and when connections need to be more individualised, relevant and timely. This is not always the case, so choose wisely.

It is exciting times for marketing with all the opportunities that technology, AI and ML offer us. However, we are still faced with many of the same challenges we always have been. Essentials such as knowing and understanding our customers more deeply, and removing the siloed information hubs within organisation, remain critical.

Without finding solutions to these, digital marketing will perhaps be cheaper in terms of investment, but could become a more costly exercise and no more effective. What do you think?

 

 

 

Ten Reasons Why You Should NOT Conduct Market Research

If you commission or conduct market research, then this post is a must-read. It shares ten important reasons I have learned over the years for NOT doing research, but which are unfortunately still prevalent today. Which, if any, are you guilty of? Leave your comments below – I dare you!

 

#1. WHEN THE ISSUE / OPPORTUNITY IS NOT CLEAR AND THE OBJECTIVES ARE NOT WELL DEFINED

Most organisations will have a briefing of some sort, written or oral, for each piece of research that is required. It usually includes the background to and the objectives of the project. These should be specified in terms of the opportunity or issue identified, as well as the relevant information and data already gathered and analysed.

If the briefing doesn’t include these basic elements, it might mean that someone wants to know or understand something and just thought research could quickly provide them with the answers. Wrong! The best studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge and past research findings.

The best MR studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge & past research findings. #MRX #CustomerUnderstanding Click To Tweet

 

#2. WHEN THE COST WOULD EXCEED THE VALUE OF DOING THE RESEARCH

Following on from the above point, when requesting a study, if the objectives are well defined, then the decisions and actions resulting from the findings should be clear. If they are, then the expected benefit of the information to be gathered will be evident.

Thinking about how you will use the data and information gathered is one of the best ways to estimate the true value of a piece of research. If the decisions and actions to be taken cannot be clearly expressed, then the research results will be just “nice to know” and not “need to know”. It also suggests that the objectives have not been well defined and I would suggest you revise them before continuing.

 

#3. WHEN THE BUDGET IS TOO SMALL TO DO AN ADEQUATE JOB

Most agencies would agree that clients often want a top-class work, but at a lower price than it would cost. Some clients even make a point of negotiating all prices downwards on principle. But this is a bad and futile habit. Their reputation soon goes before them. Agencies will then start adding an amount that they will remove in answering the client’s request for a cost reduction. If an agency is to become a true partner then transparency is one of the foundations, in both directions.

A second example of this aspect of cost is when a client wants to do research but doesn’t have an adequate budget to cover it. They may be tempted to request something “quick and dirty”. My recommendation to any agency who received such a request would always be to refuse to get involved. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well, and a good agency will always work with the client to accommodate their needs as best they can within the budget available.

You have heard, I am sure, that any project has three parameters: price, speed and quality. You can have two but never all three – yes even in today’s digital age where some agencies may claim that you can have all three!

Reasons not to conduct market research

 

#4. WHEN TIME IS AN ENEMY

How many times have you been asked to run a research project, but in fact the requestor is actually in need of the results – now?! As already mentioned in #3 if a study is worth organising, it is worth executing to the best of our abilities.

If the person requesting the project is unable to give you the time you need to run it, then simply refuse! However, today there are many ways to reduce the time needed to run a study. We can use panels, the web, or reduce the sample size or number of groups / regions covered. The best projects are developed as a win/win, with client and agency working together to deliver the highest quality results within the available resources of both time and money.

One of the biggest frustrations I remember having when I worked in market research, was a delay in the delivery of materials to be tested. Even when they turned up days or even weeks late, we were still expected to deliver results and recommendations on the originally agreed date! I know it is hard to refuse, but the briefing document should shield market researchers from exactly these situations. Timings should be shown from delivery of materials and not the date the brief is sent. Make sure yours do and you should avoid most such problems.

 

#5. WHEN CONDUCTING THE STUDY WOULD “TIP OFF” THE COMPETITION

This is a difficult situation to be in, as it is often a real worry of management, especially when conducting market research on innovation projects. Whilst it is a very valid concern, a lot can be done to limit the risk, although it cannot honestly be completely eliminated.

There is an interesting perception in many industries, that most major companies are working on very similar developments within a similar time scale. Therefore, competition is not likely to be surprised if they learn about your own efforts. The most important thing to do to reduce the risk of tipping off the competition, is to ensure that people who work, or have friends or family members working in relevant professions and positions, are eliminated at the start of the research. However, I myself know what is behind this question, so will often “lie” in order to learn something new, so be warned!

If it is vital that your development remains secret, then either run research amongst your own employees, which may bias the results, or just don’t conduct market research.

 

#6. WHEN FINDINGS WOULD NOT BE ACTIONABLE

If the information will be “nice to know” but will not be actioned, (and I have seen many of those in my career!) then you shouldn’t be running the project. This can happen when the objectives are not well defined, or when action needs to be taken for a brand, but no one knows what to do.

Running a research project will certainly get people active, but not necessarily moving forward in a relevant way. It will also delay the required situation analysis that would be far more beneficial.

 

#7. WHEN MARKET RESEARCH IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

This situation can arise when a researcher is relatively young in his or her career and doesn’t feel confident enough to refuse a project. It can also be linked to a half-hidden requirement from management concerning the outcome as well. This puts the researcher in the difficult situation of working on a project that will be ignored if it doesn’t confirm the boss’s opinion.

In these situations it is vital to agree upfront what actions will be taken based on the outcome. In fact this is a good idea for all projects; review possible outcomes before the market research is conducted and evaluate the consequent actions that should be taken. They might not be firmly agreed, but at least everyone will have had the chance to review possible outcomes and think about their consequences, before the results are presented. It will hopefully open peoples’ minds and if this is not the case, well the project should not be run.

As mentioned before, your briefing document is your best ally, this time in preventing political market research projects.

Your Market Research briefing document is your best ally. #MRX #MarketResearch Click To Tweet

 

#8. WHEN WHAT IS TO BE MEASURED CHANGES ONLY SLOWLY – OR TOO FAST

Everyone today understands the importance of measuring brand image, to understand what their customers’ perceptions are of their offer and how it differs from the desired image. In most industries, images change slowly, much more slowly than marketers would like to see. Unless there is a significant change in the market such as a powerful new competitor or communications drive, bi-annual or at most annual metrics are sufficient.

The same would apply to usage and habits in a market where very little is happening and customers rarely switch brands or segments. In most of these cases, market research run in the last few months can often be sufficient for most assessments of issues and opportunities.

However, there are also situations where habits are changing almost daily, such as in a heavily discounted or promoted category. In these cases, it is best to run a continuous measurement and present rolling averages. Or another solution would be to measure at the same time each year, accepting that the metrics will be just a “snapshot” of the market at the time of the fieldwork and will have already changed by the time the results are delivered. In such situations, following the trends and any changes from one period to the next becomes more important than the actual level at the time of measurement.

 

#9. WHEN THE INFORMATION PROVIDER / INSTITUTE IS NOT “OK”

Many market research agencies have been around a long time and have built up solid reputations for high class, accurate data and information gathering. Newer agencies can be faced with a hard struggle to gain market share and a few are tempted to “cut corners” in order to offer cheaper prices or shorter timings.

I remember once discovering that an agency had in fact only run half the agreed number of interviews for which we had paid, and had then “weighted” every answer in the database during its analysis to show a larger base size. Unfortunately for the agency, we asked for the weighted and unweighted base sizes. This is always recommended to ensure there are not skews in the sub-samples or oversized weightings made.

It is obvious that when budgets are tight or timings are too short, neither MR agencies not MR departments should be tempted to meet the demands of management by resorting to such practices.

 

#10. WHEN THE INFORMATION ALREADY EXISTS

This is linked to #1; all projects should start with a detailed situation analysis. While conducting it, review all current knowledge, information and understanding about the category and market. In some cases it can just be due to laziness that a new study is asked, rather than taking the time to review the results of all previous surveys and analyses.

Unfortunately not all MR suppliers will advise clients that the project has already been recently conducted. I remember once getting very angry when I learned that one agency was conducting three almost identical research projects for different departments of the company for which I worked. Needless to stay I stopped all three projects and asked them to come up with one study that covered all three objectives. This they did quite easily, but they found it hard to accept that I had just slashed their budget in half!

This completes my list of the ten reasons NOT to conduct market research. If you check them before commissioning any work, it will ensure that resources are used correctly. Both client and agency will be happy with the outcome and everyone wins.

Do you have another point you think should be on the list? Then please share it below.

Be a Star! Please forward this post to all your colleagues and followers online who you think could benefit.

If you are struggling with your own market research (department) then we should talk. Check out our relevant 1-Day Catalyst Training Courses or book time directly in my calendar so we can discuss your opportunities for improvement: https://calendly.com/denysedd

Top 10 Posts on Brand Building Strategies of 2018

A New Year tradition we started here at C3Centricity back in 2011, is to share our most popular brand building strategies and posts of the year. This gives everyone a chance to catch up on our best posts that they may have missed.

This year has been a particularly successful year for C3Centricity, with many of our newest post getting the top scores globally. This is quite tough for a blog that has been running for almost eight years and highlights the quality of the content we share with you! So have a look at our list and see if your own favourites are there. If not, then please let us know in the comments. Thanks.  

market research departments should deliver insights1. Is it Time to Do Away with Market Research Departments? 

This post shares the highlights of recent research into how market research departments can become true business partners, rather than being viewed as a mere cost center. It also shares ten steps to reinventing and upgrading your market research department. If you believe that you could be getting better support on your customer understanding and insight development, then these ten ideas will take you a long way to doing this in 2019.

 

 

CMO & Head of marketing keep your job2. Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs? 

Many CMOs are frustrated by their lack of recognition by their fellow c-suite colleagues. If this is your case, or you are new to the position and want to make an impact quickly, then this is a must-read post. It shares the most collon opportunities and challenges you may face and suggests five areas to (re)visit which will provide a new and fresh perspective on their business.

 

 

Top 2018 Infographics3. Top 10 Marketing Infographics to Smash 2018 (Inspiration for the Visual World)

These are the most shared marketing infographics of 2017. As usual, for each one we have added an action for you to take based upon the topic covered.

What was new for last year is that many marketing infographics that were shared were 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.

 

 

Customer first strategy4. What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)

In its simplest form a customer first strategy is about thinking customer first in everything you do. Yes I know it sounds easy but it really isn’t. It doesn’t come naturally, at least to start with. And it involves a culture change to move the organisation in this direction. But I can assure you it’s worth it; its value is now well proven.

This post lays out the importance of being data driven, innovative, collaborative and agile to succeed a customer first strategy. It also shares the seven reasons most companies fail.

 

Customer journey map5. Do You Know Your Customer Journey Map & the Emotions Overlay?

This post shares the three lessons learnt from a personal (bad) experience with a hotel chain and its “guaranteed lowest price” promise. These are: 1. The customer journey needs to integrate all possible contact points. If it doesn’t you could alienate your customers before they make a purchase. 2. If you mess up admit it and correct the situation. People understand that mistakes get made. While they may forgive you if you quickly put it right, they will never trust you again if you pretend nothing is wrong. 3. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy. In the heat of the moment a customer may feel satisfied that something was done. However in the cold light of the next day, week or month they might feel that what you did was not enough.

 

Data helps you resonate with customers6. You’ve Got Data? Well Don’t Start There!

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.

If this is your situation, just follow the detailed steps of this post and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not 10x the ROI of your data!

 

brand image and equity7. Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know

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

If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find this article both interesting and valuable. It covers why we buy brands, the different elements of a brand, the three types of attributes you should be measuring for your brand. It then goes on to review brand personality and the main archetypes with some great examples.

 

insight development8. Five Ideas to Improve your Insight Development

This article has been amongst the top twenty posts every year ever since it was first published back in 2013, a staggering five years ago! If you haven’t read it yet, then you really have been missing out on some surprising facts about insight development. Perhaps one of them is the reason that you are still struggling to develop valid and actionable insights? Check it out and see what you have missed all these years.

 

Provide better service and customers will love you9. The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become. Constant innovation and novelty has made us all more impatient and critical. We want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Marketing must deliver more!

This article shares three examples that provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction.

 

Golden nugget of segmentation10. Essentials of Segmentation and some Simple Alternatives

All brands and services need to choose a group of customers that they are going to satisfy, since it is impossible to satisfy everyone most of the time. This means that you need to make a choice and agree to ignore some of the category users you could appeal to, in order to totally satisfy your target customer.

Although this may sound counter-intuitive, segmentation is the only way to ensure you have the best possible chance to satisfy the needs of your targeted customers.

 

When I look back at these top ten posts I am proud that most of them are from 2018. After almost eight years, it seems that what I am writing today is more in line with marketers’ needs than previous posts which have been around for much longer.

There are a few exceptions to this, my evergreen content on topics that will always appeal to marketers young and old. This year, as in the past, they are on the topics of Brand image, equity and personality, Insight development and Principles of segmentation. I think this makes a lot of sense as they are fundamental skills that every marketer needs, even in this digital age. 

Now my question to you dear reader, is what topics you want me to cover in 2019? If you have reached the end of this post then you must be a keen supporter, so I will offer a free e-book to everyone who completes our short survey in January 2019. Just click on the button and you will be taken directly to the survey. Once completed you will receive an email with a link to download the ebook “Secrets to Brand Building” for free – it’s normally US$ 4.95!

Thanks for your help

To Survey

 

The Secrets to Growth. How to Get New Customers

This shorter than usual post was inspired by a great question on Quora about how to get new clients. Although my original answer was for a web design company, most of my ideas are relevant whatever industry or profession you are in. I therefore wanted to share my answers to the question in the hope of being of help to businesses large or small.

First let me say that if you’re struggling to grow, then you’re not alone! I imagine that this won’t make you feel much better. But please remember that business, especially entrepreneurship and freelancing, is for those who are strong of mind and spirit. There are going to be days, weeks or maybe even months of highs and lows. However, these shouldn’t make you question why you do what you do. For me, as a longtime entrepreneur, it’s the freedom that more than makes up for a day or two without a new client signing me up. And if you work in the corporate world, then it is the chance to impact the lives of thousands or millions of people for the better.

Wherever you work, one thing we all have in common is the need and desire to grow the business and get new customers and clients.

A few ideas for you to think about and above all to action!

Whatever ideas, tips, suggestions you may read or hear about, it is only in the action that you will make a difference. This article is no different. So when you’ve finished reading the post, stop reviewing your emails or surfing the web, and start planning your actions. We all go looking for answers, but only a few of us act on them when we find something useful. Be the exception and beat the competition!

As an aside, this is why my book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time” (includes link to download some sample chapters) is in a radically different format from every other business book out there. It has 50 chapters, but each one is only two pages long! Two pages of objectives, actions, examples and ideas, as well as an inspiring quote and a fun cartoon. It finally makes learning enjoyable again. Isn’t that what we all want? Now back to the answers.

1. Who were your Past Customers?

Let’s start with where you are today, or were yesterday. What were your past customers’ similarities? Go out and find more like them, using the same method they used to find you.

Was it word of mouth? Then ask for recommendations from them and your closest network. Was it through LinkedIn? Then make some new connections that are similar to them. Reach out to a segment of those who are most like your past customers and you think may have similar needs.

Any of these ideas will bring you more new potential customers than most advertising spend ever will. This is because you are speaking directly to the type of people who are most interested in what you have to offer. Obvious really, but we too often jump on the bandwagon of what big brands and “gurus” are using. You’ll have time for advertising when you are one of them. Until then, spend your money more wisely, when you want to get new clients.

2. Get Intimate with your Current and Past Customers

Ask your current customers, or those for whom you have just finished a project, if they need anything else? Ask them if they know anyone else who may need your services. They have just seen you in action and assuming they are happy with the result, they are probably happy to share their experiences with others. If they don’t have any ideas, then at least get a quote from them that you can share on your website. Social proof remains one of the best ideas to influence people who are unsure about hiring you, so you can get new clients.

Then analyse the profiles and develop a persona of your ideal client, if you don’t already have one. You can use my 4W™ template to help you with this task. Remember that the 4Ws stand for WHO, WHAT, WHERE and most importantly of all WHY. Often it is in the WHY that you will get ideas about who and where else you can go looking for work. Chase the problem and offer a solution. Most entrepreneurs and businesses make the mistake of chasing customers and fail to connect with them.

Chase the problem and offer a solution. This is the most efficient way to find potential new customers. #CustomerFirst #CEX #Customer Click To Tweet

3. Go Online and Find People Talking about your Category or the Type of Work you do

Quora is a good place to start. Answer questions so you get noticed and appreciated for your wisdom. (Hope I’m impressing you with my ideas here! If not then please leave a comment and tell me what I could do better)

Next check the usual social media platforms and again find discussions about what you offer. Reach out to anyone who says they’re frustrated, angry, unhappy etc. Understand why they are saying this and then offer them a solution.

That’s a surefire way to get new clients, because we all love people who come to us with solutions rather than problems, don’t we? And we forget that many executives haven’t got someone else to turn to. Be that person.

We all love people who come to us with solutions rather than problems, don't we? Be that person. #CustomerFirst #CustomerSatisfaction #CEX Click To Tweet We forget that many executives haven't got someone else to turn to when they have problems. Be that person. #Executive #CEO #CMO #ProblemSolution Click To Tweet

4. Offer a Free Analysis of Potential Clients’ Websites

This was in answer to the industry in which the person who asked the question on Quora was working. I do this a lot, as reviewing a potential customer’s website is a great way to see just how customer centric they are – or not! (If you would like a free analysis, just add your name and website URL below and I’ll send you my thoughts) But you can offer potential clients the chance to experience your work for free in many other ways.

Free is one of the most popular words on the internet, so why not make use of it? But don’t overload your response by providing too much detail. Give too much and they won’t need to hire you, they will be able to follow your suggestions and do it themselves. (And I stand guilty of this, I know! I always like to over-deliver.)

Provide a few ideas about things that need changing, but don’t give the solution too. End with a comment like “There’s a lot more I could help you with to make your website shine, but it would be too long to write here in detail. Let me know if you’d like to chat.” Then pitch them your solution when you have the person on the line.

I use this myself. I offer the mini C3C Evaluator™ tool for free and charge for the full quiz. People who try the mini version still get tremendous value and clear actionable results from it, but of course the full tool would provide much more depth – plus a free advisory session with me to discuss next steps. All this for $99 when my hourly rates are more than five times that! I’m sure you can see that they are getting a bargain, and me a very happy potential new client!

5. Frequent Outreach

Perhaps the best tip of all, is this last one – for now; I have many more I can share of course. (See what I just did?!) Go back to everyone who responded to your outreach but said no. Perhaps it was no then, but could be a yes now. However, don’t pester them with daily or even weekly emails. Wait a month or more before reaching out again. Also, go back to everyone who didn’t respond. These days, we receive so many messages that we sometimes delete without reading, or they end up in our spam folder. Send a second and third follow-up email, again waiting a few weeks or even a month or two between each.

So there you have a few ideas on how you too can grow and get more clients. Hopefully these five suggestions and tens of ideas will spark some ideas for action in you for your business. PRINT THIS OFF AND READ IT whenever you are in a low spot on your business curve. It will inspire you to take action in those moments where we feel frozen in panic and lacking in ideas.

And of course, you can always reach out to me for a whole lot more. I’m Denysech on Skype. However, if you do connect there, please explain why you are connecting. I get anonymous connection requests every day – and refuse all those from people I don’t know! Thanks.

How Your Business Can Quickly Adopt a Customer First Strategy

Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and goes viral on social media. These usually happen when an organisation does not adopt a customer first strategy.

Almost every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why?

A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think one reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. Or perhaps it’s because they have hesitated starting and now feel left behind; they just don’t know where to begin. What do you think? If your in one of those situations, then help is at hand. Read on for some of the most useful tips I’ve seen on the topic of adopting a customer first strategy.

A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

 

REASONS TO ADOPT A CUSTOMER FIRST STRATEGY

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the most noteworthy numbers I found during my research online; if you are still not sure it’s worth it this data will convince you:

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. (Source: CEI Survey)
  • 74% of consumers have spent more due to good customer service (Source: Entechus.com)
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.  (Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. (Source: Customers 2020 Report)
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. (Source: Bain & Co)

Those are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding yours back from investing in your customers rather than (just) in the products and services you offer?

I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started to adopt a customer first strategy. NO more excuses! This has to be (one of) your organisation’s top priorities!

It’s time every CEO started to adopt a customer first strategy. NO more excuses! This has to be (one of) your organisations top priorities! #CustomerFirst #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

 

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If you’re ready to put your customers first, sign up to watch my Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement, to Grow your Business Faster. You will immediately make noticeable progress.

Watch the webinar
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MARKETING IS TOO BUSY BUILDING BRANDS

With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.

However, an analysis by IBM on some research carried out in the UK by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers are feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that “only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.” 

According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)

Top 3 critical factors to marketing program success

 

It surprises me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:

“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they (also) used it to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, no?

Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 1.0% in 2017, down from a 2.2% growth the previous year, the first “significant” increase recorded in the previous five years!

SOURCE: ESOMAR Global MR Report 2018

 

Compare this to the more than 4% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.

 

Trends in ad spend

 

 

But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. (OnBrand Magazine study) In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.

However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart Survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than a half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!

 

CMOs need more analytical skills

Marketing team skills needed

So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?

 

MARKET RESEARCH IS SEEN AS A COST, NOT AN INVESTMENT

Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.

I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.

This was confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, most researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.

It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer first strategy in many organisations.

 

CUSTOMER SERVICES ARE SEEN AS COMPLAINT HANDLERS

When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!

I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this negative image at that time. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make changes.

You only have to take a look at companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first: Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.

An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten customer service and customer experience trends for 2017” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that “According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”

The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. Although it is a couple of years old now, the conclusions are still just as valid. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:

  • In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
  • CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
  • The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
  • Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
  • This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%

Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer-first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

IN CONCLUSION

So to answer the title of this article, a customer first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind this company-wide objective. It can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights. And it will mean every employee having the chance to get close up and personal with customers on a regular basis. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.

 

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then it’s time to identify the priority changes needed through our proprietary C3C Evaluator tool. Complete it now and then book a free half-hour strategy session so we can go through the results together.

 

This post is based upon and is an updated version of one first published on C3Centricity in 2016.

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