Denyse Drummond-Dunn, Author at c3centricity | c3centricity

+41 79 93 39 78 info@c3centricity.com

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

 

________________________________________________

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
___________________________________________________

 

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.

Goodbye CMOs, Your Time is Up: From Brand Building to Business Growth

It is more than a year ago that Coca-Cola did away with their CMO in favour of a Chief Growth Officer. Was it a wise move or foolhardy?

In a recent interview with Marketing Week their global vice-president of creative claims that it has “broadened” the company’s approach to marketing. Well something is clearly working for Coke; at the end of last month it reported higher-than-expected financial results for Q3 2018. So what do you think? Will you replace your CMO?

 

HOW MARKETING HAS CHANGED

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’re like me and are fascinated by how change happens, then I’m sure this complete history of marketing Infographic by Hubspot will be of interest.

With the arrival of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Their consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated their consumers with spammy emails, popups and “subtle” cookies for following their every move. No wonder the EU felt inclined to develop its GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

What has changed during 2018 is marketing’s deeper awareness of, if not complete adherence to, what customers like and dislike. The major trends that we have seen this year and their impact on marketing, include:

  1. Chatbots, especially through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to catch consumers on the go with highly personalised messaging.
  2. The use of Voice. With the battle between Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the voice search and commands domain, customers can get answers just by asking. These are a huge challenge for businesses, because being on the first page of search results is no longer enough; you have to be first!
  3. Video is taking over social media, with its rapid rise on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Influencer marketing is giving way to customer journey mapping with the increased detail that IoT can provide. Many organisations have moved their marketing plans to mirror their customers’ path to purchase. Or rather paths, as personalisation continues to trump mass engagement.
  5. Blockchain technology has made marketing results more transparent. This is good for business as customers see how their data is being used, which builds trust.

Have you taken these megatrends on board and adapted your marketing this year? If not, why not? 

 

BRAND BUILDING

In the past decade or so, many large CPG companies such as P&G  and Nestle renamed their Marketing departments as Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. They failed, miserably. I believe the reason they failed is because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With very few exceptions, their communications are still all about them  and their brands  and very little to do with their consumers.

Luckily, some more progressive consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be precise, they started on their journey towards putting the consumer at the heart of their business. Consumer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. Therefore the aim for satisfaction and delight will never end. 

It is interesting to see how Coke’s change to a growth officer pans out. I don’t see other companies following for now, so I suppose they are prefering to just wait and see.

Consumers are constantly changing & their satisfaction never lasts for long, so the aim for satisfaction & delight will never end. #brand #Marketing #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

We have taught our consumers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for their price offs. They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may be different, but their performances are pretty comparable.

That’s why consumers now have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be. They have come to expect constant innovation so they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago.

Consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago. @Accenture #CEX #CRM #Consumers #Marketing Click To Tweet

 

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

Marketing needs new skills
SOURCE: Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report 2015

In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change, to become smarter. In the  2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it is confirmed that marketing needs new skills. The most sought-after skills today are analytical thinking and customer centricity.

 

Marketing is now as much a science as it is an art. We must take full advantage of the enormous quantity of data about our customers that is now available; we can no longer rely on creativity alone to connect.

 

Companies which place the customer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact page provides all possible forms of communication.

Their advertising is clearly customer centric and emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their customers in many aspects of their business. (see  “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic.)

If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, especially the contact page. Or why not complete the C3C Evaluator? It’s free!

 

MOVE BEYOND BRAND BUILDING

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently make to adopt a more customer centric approach:

  1. Place pictures of your customers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, on the lift doors or anywhere employees spend time.
  2. Whenever a decision is taken, ask “What would our customers think about the decision we have just taken?” This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the customers. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the customers will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want. What would our customers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, it is wrong. #CEX #CRM #Customer #Business #Decision Click To Tweet
  3. Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do. While you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above. Look at your website; if there are more 'we's' than 'you's' then you know what to do. You're not thinking customer first. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet
  4. Take a look at your target customer description or persona. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free  here)
  5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.
  6. Spend time with your front-line staff and customers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.
  7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with the whole company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2.

 

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to adopting a customer first strategy. If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a future-oriented marketing approach, download a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. The fun drawings in this post come from the book!

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

How to Take Local Brands to Global Success: The 5 Rules to Fortune

I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a couple of years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer. They weren’t speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and comfortable with data. They were referring to the growing need for marketers to stand up to the challenge of taking local brands global. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.

In this networked world, more and more successful local brands are attempting global roll-outs. What does it take to repeat the success you’ve had at market level, when you launch globally? Here are my five rules to fortune:

 

1. Understand the Market

Future scenarios for global success

This is the basis of any new product launch and applies just as well to global rollouts as it does to local brand developments. Today’s consumers are demanding, so find out as much as possible about them. Understand their rational needs but also their emotional desires, even if they don’t openly articulate them.

For global rollouts, an additional information concerning the comparison of similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets must also be considered. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t developed future scenarios, as I recommend here.

Let’s look at some of the latest trends which are growing across regions today.

  • I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get answers as well as making use of visual search that enables them to buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea Place offers shoppers the possibility to snap and then see an article in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings, before you purchase it.
  • Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.
  • Join the Club! Another use of personalised data is in providing privileged services – at a price. This idea is used for the regular delivery of razor blades and tampons, as well as for personalised exercise routines and menus. Consumers are happy to join a “club” to pass on mundane tasks to a (virtual) assistant to make their lives simpler. Some successful examples of these include Dollar Shave Club, Freda, and Amazon Dash buttons.

 

2. Understand the Customers

What does the product stand for in the eyes and minds of your customers? Do those in the new market have the same sensitivities as the ones in the local market where your product has met with success? Will the consumers in the new target market perceive the same benefits in the same way?

If not, is this really a potential market, or are you just rolling-out there due to geographic proximity? I am still amazed how many organisations base their roll-out strategy on geography rather than the customer! Big error!

Examples of such disasters include:

  • Kellogg’s Cornflakes launch into India. It failed because they ignored the Indian habit of having a boiled & sweetened milk rather than using cold milk for their cereals, so the flakes went soggy.
  • P&G’s Pampers was launched in Japan with the image of a stork which confused consumers. Whereas a stork is fabled to bring babies to parents in the west, this is not the case in Japan.
  • Mitsubishi (Pajero), Mazda (LaPuta) and Chevrolet (Nova) all had issues when rolling out their cars into Spanish speaking countries. Had they bothered to check the meaning of the model names in the local language, they would have avoided the negative connotations and the need to change their names after launch.

 

3. Position Based on a Human Truth

Local brands need a human truth to go globalOne of the similarities that brings all consumers together is their basic human needs. Think parenting and wanting the best for your children, used by many, many brands, including Nestlé’s Nido and Unilever’s Omo / Persil.

Or what about women and their frustration with not being considered as beautiful as the retouched models in their magazines, which is very successfully used by Unilever’s Dove?

And how about men and their need to charm women, to affirm themselves, that is used by Lynx / Axe from – you’ve guessed it – Unilever, again. (They really do know their consumers better than any other brand builder today!)

Human Truths or Needs are used the world over and form the basis of many very successful roll-out communication strategies. So before you dream of taking your local brand’s success to global stardom, think about what human truth you are using to build it. If you can’t identify it, there is a far lesser chance of your repeating its local success in other markets.

 

4. Can You Use Your Local Heritage?

Many countries and regions have strong, stereotyped images that can play to inherent qualities associated with certain product categories coming from them. Examples of these include French perfume, Swiss watches, Russian Vodka, Italian fashion, German or American cars and Japanese technology.

If your brand has a strong positive association with local tradition or nationality, then make use of it. Even if consumers in the new market may be less aware, authenticity and tradition are strong current sensitivities on which you can build your brand in new markets. (Just make sure you check trend levels of them before choosing the new countries for rollout!)

 

5. Understand the Category

As I mentioned above, many companies get their rollout strategy wrong by looking at geographical proximity, rather than the closeness of the customers’ social sensitivities in them. Just because countries are geographically close, doesn’t mean their populations are similar when it comes to category image and usage.

When planning product roll-outs, also consider how alike the customers are in terms of usage and behaviour, as well as the category trends. By doing this, you are more likely to better prioritize the markets most open to the local brand’s product launch.

 

One Final Idea

I’d like to end with a final comment on global roll-outs. C3Centricity’s partner PhaseOne, wrote a guest post for us on the risks of implementing a global creative strategy. As communication experts, PhaseOne knows what it takes to succeed in engaging customers across the globe. The article makes a great complement to this post and you can read it here: “Why Implementing Global Creative is Risky

 

Many companies have effectively rolled-out local brand successes to other countries in the region, if not the world. But many more have failed. What would you add to the list to increase the odds in favour of a regional or global roll-out? I would love to read your own thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to know more about improving your branding and communications, then please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com

winning customer centricity through customer service excellence

 

 

C3Centricity uses images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity.”

 

 

This post has been adapted and updated from ones which were first publicised on C3Centricity Dimensions in 2012 and 2013.

What Consumer Goods Companies Can Learn From Healthcare. 7 Lessons of Customer Service Excellence

If you work in consumer goods you probably think you have nothing to learn from healthcare, right? After all, you have consumers in your industry name and well healthcare’s reputation is not that great.

But think again. I was recently in a clinic for surgery and was surprised by how customer (patient) centric they are.

I remind my clients that exceptional customer service examples can come from anywhere! So they keep their eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. Do you? If not, then these lessons will come as your wake-up call so you start opening your eyes to new possibilities. Do this every day and your business will only get better.

 

Background

Before I give you the lessons I learned, I think I owe you a little background to what led up to this list.

I had been suffering from a bad back for a while. Unfortunately, not so unusual for those of us who spend too many hours at our desks. However, one morning I tried to get out of bed and fainted as an explosive pain shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!

Now living alone I realised that this was serious as I couldn’t move. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. I ended up spending a night in a local University Hospital for the first time in my adult life.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs because my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.

All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily have never been a patient, at least until now.

As you probably know, actually becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective, is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand them. How often do you do it? Ever?!! You really should, because you’re missing out on a valuable – and free – experience.

Perhaps surprisingly, this incident showed me that many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.

So here are my seven learnings about customer service excellence:

 

1. Introduce yourself

Customer service excellenceEvery time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. Over the course of the days I spent at the hospital and then the clinic, I saw many different doctors, nurses. cleaners, waiters etc. I appreciated that they themselves always started by introducing themselves and stating what their responsibility was in caring for me.

How you can apply this idea: In business, we often forget to introduce people in meetings and when we do, we forget to explain their responsibilities, why they are there.

Perhaps if we did this, there would be far fewer people in meetings, as only those with a real reason to be involved would attend! That already is a time and money-saving idea. But there are even more applications of this idea when it comes to our customers.

Direct contacts with customers, whether by phone, email, chat, social media or in person, deserve the same detailed introduction. This moves the connection from a somewhat cold, professional exchange, to something far more friendly and personal, if not actually personalised.

I often wonder how we so easily forget that customer service is after all just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit. Is that how your own customer care centre exchanges feel? If not, how about making them friendlier?

How do we so easily forget that customer service is just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit? #CEX #CRM #CustomerService Click To Tweet

 

2. Confirm that you know me

Although I myself saw many different specialists in the university hospital, it made no difference to how I was treated. I felt comfortable that my details had been transferred between the staff members, so they didn’t have to ask me to repeatedly explain what had happened. They also always started by checking my name, to make sure they were speaking with the right person.

How you can apply this idea: While I accept that checking names and wearing wristbands are essential in a medical environment, most businesses could benefit from confirming who their customers are too.

Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company needs to immediately recognise a (returning) customer.

Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company must immediately recognise a (returning) customer. #Customer #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

Have you ever been frustrated when calling back a company only to be asked to explain who you are and why you’re calling? I know I have. It always makes me feel that the organisation doesn’t really care about me. And with automation systems easily available today, there is no excuse for this sort of lack of knowledge.

Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. In fact, this is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future.

Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. This is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future. #BigData #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

 

3. Ask if I am happy/comfortable

Whatever the reason was for the medical practitioner to see me, they always asked if I was comfortable. They openly encouraged me to share any negative thoughts, feelings or sensations I was experiencing.

How you can apply this idea: Do you encourage critique of your ideas from your colleagues? It takes a strong and confident person to constantly put themselves up for criticism. Too many people look (only) for positive support when asking for opinions, rather than a truly constructive assessment.

Customer service excellence should involve every employeeMany years ago, one of my first bosses mentioned that when he asked for opinions in a meeting, it was me he listened to the most. Why? Well, not because I knew more than my colleagues. No; it was because I said what I really thought, not what I believed he wanted to hear. Although he didn’t always agree with what I said, he knew that what I said was what I was truly feeling.

Over the years, I came to realise that he was one of a dying breed of true leaders. Many organisations today are political hothouses, where supporting the boss is the only way to keep one’s job!

I hope you are not in this situation because according to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you are in such a situation at the moment, my advice to you is to GET OUT NOW! You will more than likely end up leaving one way or the other, so why waste your time with a boss who lacks this essential leadership skill? You’ll get the support you deserve and more importantly need, to grow, elsewhere.

According to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you're in such a situation today, my advice is to GET OUT NOW! #Leadership #EmployeeSatisfaction Click To Tweet

And what about your customers? Do you encourage them to share complaints and ideas? If not, why not? It’s much better to know what’s wrong and put it right quickly, than to continue in blissful ignorance until your customers leave because of it.

Customer experience is negative

According to“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, you are unlikely to hear from more than just a fraction of dissatisfied customers. And most of those dissatisfied customers will never come back to you. Therefore it makes sense to not only pay attention to complaints but actively search them out – before they damage your business.

 

4. Ask if you can do more

You can always do more to improve customer experience

As anyone who has been to the emergency room of a hospital knows, patience is important. You don’t get seen by order of arrival, but by the importance of your ailment. In other words, if your problem is not life-threatening, you will pass after the road accident, whose victim is more seriously injured. I know this and was happy to actually be left to “float” in a drug-induced relaxation between staff visits.

Whenever they woke me up to “check my vitals” or to inform me of the next tests or treatment planned, they always finished by asking if I had any questions or needed anything else. I was made to feel that nothing was too small or unimportant to them, if it made me feel more relaxed and comfortable.

 

How you can apply this idea: According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs  “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.”

It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Click To Tweet

Business, therefore, can no longer afford to merely satisfy their customers, they need to delight them. Do you ask both yourself and your customers what more you can do for them? If you do, you might just find a new product or service concept that answers their desires and gets you ahead of the competition.

 

5. Don’t stop before the end

When I was admitted for surgery, I was told that the average stay was between 6 and 12 days in hospital. Having thought I was there for just a day or two, this came as quite a shock.

As my progress after the operation was good, I expected to leave the clinic within five days. (I always want to be better than average!) However, with the added complication of the torn ligaments in my ankle, the professor had other ideas. I ended up spending ten days there and was then on a month of complete bed rest before starting physio!

How you can apply this idea: As the well-known Napolean Hill quote goes

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you’re one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming.

Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you're one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming. So get active today! #Innovation #Ideation #Action Click To Tweet

Therefore don’t think your job is done when you’ve come up with an idea or two. You need to follow up to turn the ideas into actions.

Customer service excellence means involving customers everywhere you canEntrepreneurship is very popular today for both individuals and even within large corporations. However so many entrepreneurs try an idea and when it doesn’t immediately work, they give it up for a different one.

Yes, there have been many huge successes recently, but most “overnight” triumphs have come from years of just plain hard work and dedication.

Therefore, as they say “plan the work and work the plan.”  Did you know that the origin of this quote is unsure, although it has been used by many people? These include Vince Lombardi, Margaret Thatcher, and even Victor Hugo. With such illustrious support, perhaps you could work your own plan a little better, no?

Plan the work and work the plan. #Plan #Action #Learning Click To Tweet

But remember, today’s world is one of constant change, so even if you do plan, remember to also stay flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances of the market or your brand. And never totally give up your plan at the first sign of failure either. Just because one part of the plan didn’t work doesn’t warrant throwing out the whole thing.

 

6. Don’t wait until it’s urgent

As I tried to wean myself off the painkillers, I found myself alternating between extreme pain and none whatsoever. The carers told me that while it’s a good objective to reduce drug usage as quickly as possible, it is counter productive to not take painkillers when they’re needed.

By my deciding to “wait and see” if the pain got worse before asking for medication, I found that the drugs became less effective.

Small, slow steps work better than giant leaps in so many areas because they are sustainable. Think New Year’s resolutions, like crash diets, new fitness regimes, or changes in lifestyle habits. It’s the small, almost imperceptible changes that tend to last and lead to success.

How you can apply this idea: So many adjustments in business involve making significant changes, whether cultural or process-wise. As the well-known saying goes:

“The best way to eat an elephant is one slice at a time.” 

Therefore when introducing large changes within your organisation, break them down into more “humanly” manageable steps. Want to make a radical change in one of your processes? It is often more effective to start by modifying the beginning and the end of the process. The middle steps then adapt automatically as new needs are identified.

For example, in updating your innovation process, start with better identifying the target customers and their needs. Then look how the launch will be rolled out and monitored amongst them. You will quickly realise that brainstorming in a vacuum or testing multiple concepts just before launch is no longer effective – if it ever was! These parts of the process will then be adapted to the new demands.

Time to revamp your own processes? Find out more about our I3: Improved Ideation and Innovation and other 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions HERE.

 

7. It all starts and ends with the customer

During my hospital and clinic stays I realised that the staff were there for me, not vice versa. I am extremely independent and had to learn to accept the help of others, even for some of the most intimate actions. It was “normal” for them, but not for me.

They recognised that and did everything they could to make me feel at ease. From being there just when I needed them, to eclipsing to leave me alone when I needed space. The staff knew and demonstrated that it was I who was important.

How you can apply this idea: Take a look at your website, your communications, your plans; do they all start and end with the customer?

Do you publish content your customers want to read, or just what you want to tell them? Does your contact information include every possible way a customer can connect with you or just a static form and drop-down menu?

Are your communications relevant and emotionally validating for your customers?

Do your plans mention the customer as often as the brand? Remember:

“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.”

Do they also show images of customers and include extensive knowledge and understanding about them?

If not, then perhaps you found inspiration for change in the above examples. Take one small step and make one of the changes mentioned; the benefits will be quick to appear.

For more ideas about improving your customer understanding, why not watch the FREE Customer Centricity Champions Webinar? It shares many tips, tools and templates to catalyse your business and improve your customer understanding immediately.

How Can You Provide Better Service For Your Clients?

How Can You Provide Better Services For Your Client? This is a great question isn’t it? It was asked recently on Quora and I answered it, as I do many that are posed on topics such as brand building and customer understanding.

But this question is I believe very different from most of those asked on Quora. That’s because it is one that every company, product, service and brand should be asking!

The answer is actually in the question itself if you look closely.

 

Provide Better Service

Firstly what is better service? Is your clients’ perspective the same as yours? And better than what or whom? Whenever a comparison is made it is vital to understand with what it is being compared.

To answer that, we need to understand what is important for customers. What is essential and can’t be forgotten, and what else would delight them and make them not just satisfied, but delighted and maybe even surprised. That’s a lot to ask I know, but even that is not enough!

We also need to ensure that we are better than our competitors, assuming that they are to what we are being compared. You’d be amazed how many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they are. We need to understand the exact category in which we are competing so that we can also identify the major competitors. Let me give you some examples.

Are dried packet soups competing with other dried packet soups? Or also with canned soups, or boxed soups, or homemade soups, or even sauce mixes? Depending upon the answer to each of those questions, the competitive set is going to be vastly different.

Depending upon the category you identify as being the one in which you are competing, your competitive set is going to be vastly different. Are you sure about yours? #Brand #Marketing #Competition Click To Tweet

Once you know with which other brands you are competing, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. You should be able to identify one thing at which you excel in order to have a reason for customers to buy your offer rather than a competitors.

Now it is obviously difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than every other competitor in the category in at least one area. That should be our USP or unique selling point. It should be what we are known for and hopefully also the reason people buy what we have to offer.

It is difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than our competitors in at least one area; that's our USP or unique selling point. #Brand #Marketing #USP Click To Tweet

To identify this, we need to know our competitors very well and understand why their customers buy them rather than us. Is there anything about these customers that we could satisfy better than they are? Is there anything about our competitors that their customers are still dissatisfied about? Is there something we can offer that our competitors can’t? Then when we have found it (them), all we have to do is to make sure our current and potential customers know.

Here are some great examples:

TOMS: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One®

Target: Expect More. Pay Less.

Avis: (We’re number two.) We try harder.

Southwest Airlines: We are the low-fare airline.

FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

M&Ms: The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

Domino’s Pizza: You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.

In most of these cases the USP has also become the brand and communication slogan. What others can you think of? Add them in the comments please.

 

Deep Customer Understanding

The second part of the question is answered by not just knowing but also deeply understanding our customers. By that I mean not just knowing their demographics – they are men 18 to 24, or housewives with young children at home, but a much deeper intimacy with them. I use what I call the 4Ws when learning about Group of customers. WHO they are;WHAT they buy, consumer, read, watch, surf etc,; WHERE they buy, consume, read, watch, surf etc; and most importantly of all WHY? Why do they choose the category, the brand, the  pack size, the shop, the time, the location, their hobbies, etc?

Once you know who your customer is (and potential customers too) and why they are buying your brand, you will know exactly what better service means for the. Then all you have to do is deliver – beyond their expectations. That is what makes better service great service.

Hopefully this short yet still detailed answer inspires you to now go out and do it for your brand. Enjoy the journey!

What Customers Want Today. (And How to Give It To Them!)

As a customer centricity champion, just like you I hope, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want.

I’m always trying to understand exactly what their preferences are today, and where these may be going. My regular searches online include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable isn’t it?  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to online resource for understanding terms is  businessdictionary.com, which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say:

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition somewhat limited since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric for any and every business:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs ten times – if not even more – to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they can’t. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”  HERE.
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you differentiate your brand? By your customer care, that’s how. And knowing exactly what your customers want. It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. Yes MORE for exactly the same product or service, so why are you waiting? You can read a summary of the American Express research that reported this finding HERE.

I would also add that to summarise what customers want today, it is a seamless experience from pre to post purchase, both on and offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction, build loyalty and create raving fans.

 

The Importance of Customer Satisfaction & Understanding 

There is no denying that customer centricity is important, no vital to growth and profitability. However some companies are (too?) hesitant to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

  • Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. And this is why so many start-ups are stealing significant share from the major brands. It’s no longer (just) about product and service performance any more. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands have understood this better than anyone.
It’s no longer about product and service performance any more. It's about how the customers FEELS about your brand. #Marketing #Brand #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet
  • Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today and your complainers may even turn into advocates if delighted with the outcome. Complaints are also a wonderful (free) sources of innovation and renovation ideas. Find out what your customers are unhappy about and then propose a solution. You may even be able to charge more since the new offer will better meet their needs.
  • Customer service is still being confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but that is no longer enough. All businesses should be looking to surprise and delight their customers! Find more inspiration on this in “The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction.”

As mentioned above, the research that prompted this post was a Google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest to those searching online.

I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Well apparently not, at least for most people!

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. Do you agree? Whether you do or don’t, please comment below.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days aren’t they? So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

According to the latest report from  The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries. This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised!

However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, and are now leading the pack. But most other industries continue to ignore what their customers want. You can see the full Infographic overview below; click on it to see the full-sized original.

 

 wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found almost 100 million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. While this is certainly a significant increase on the measly two million I found just a few years ago, it is still extremely worrying.

The increased interest in customer satisfaction is confirmed by the latest results of the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) report. It shows customer satisfaction is stable after showing steady growth since the beginning of last year. That was the latest turnaround after more than two years of disastrous declines.

Customer satisfaction shows what customers want
National ACSI Q1 2018 USA

It has been proven that changes in customer satisfaction are a predictor of future consumer spending. So although we can rejoice at the return to higher levels, the latest stagnation suggests average future spending growth at best.

David VanAmburg, who is Managing Director at ACSI said recently:

“Customer satisfaction will need to increase for the economy to grow at a faster pace. It’s tough to pinpoint one cause of the stagnation, but unless it budges, the national ACSI score paints a dire picture for consumer spending growth.”

In the UK, which leads Europe in terms of customer satisfaction, levels also rose for the first time in four years, reflecting a more positive economy. However, that was before the Brexit vote and before the exit! I am looking forward to seeing whether the Brits’ optimism continues this coming year.

 

Key Takeaways

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to not only satisfy, but ideally delight their customers.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation, by adopting a customer first strategy. Read “What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)” for more on this.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer for every single business, whatever the industry.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most companies, especially when customers are becoming ever more demanding and verbose when disatisfied.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience always increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, or even just for information, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver surprise and delight, will see their reputations improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want immediate, if not instantaneous, answers to their questions and criticisms.

They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, the country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below. 

You know you can no longer wait; you’re getting left behind by those organisations – and competitors – who are taking action today! Take the C3C Evaluator™ quiz and find out exactly where your greatest opportunities lie. 

For more ideas on how you can understand what your customers want even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of customer understanding and service, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures.

If you would rather talk through your specific needs first, so we can personalise the course just for you and your team, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. The featured image at the top is from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.”

Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?

What does a Head of Marketing (CMO) do in their average four-year tenure to ensure that they keep their job for longer?

Did you know that CMOs have the shortest average term of office of any chief in the C-suite, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry? And even more shocking is the fact that in the consumer goods industry it is even lower at just 3.6 years! So just how long have you been in your position?

A 2012 global survey by the Fournaise Marketing Group provides one possible explanation. It highlights the ongoing tensions between CEOs and CMOs. A huge 80% of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed with their CMOs, compared to just 10% for their CFOs and CIOs. Why is this? Perhaps it’s because CEOs don’t understand the role of a CMO or is there still an issue with the ROI of the marketing budget?

 

The Opportunities

Let’s start at the beginning; marketers, what opportunities are there so that you can keep your job? Despite the short lifespan of a CMO, it’s not all bad news. While the position is plagued by high turnover, this could also be because CMOs are highly visible for promotions or a steal by the competition. Nice to feel wanted, isn’t it?

CMOs are highly visible which is great for promotions or a steal by the competition. #CMO #Marketing Click To Tweet

It is therefore important that a new CMO quickly makes an impact. More so than any other c-suite function, bar the CEO of course, who sometimes faces almost immediate criticism by shareholders and the financial world upon being named.

Another piece of good news for the head of the marketing function is that being on the executive board they have access to resources. The bad news is that as the CMO is a member of the EB, management expects them to make (profitable) changes fast. And even more so if they have just been hired! The board trusts the new CMO to analyse the situation, identify what needs to be done, develop the plan to do it and then take actions. And all of this in their first 3 months or so!

Are you or have you yourself been in exactly this situation? Tough isn’t it? Thats why many CMOs hire a supportive advisor or sounding board such as myself to accompany them on this stressful journey. (If you like, you can book a complementary session with me here)

In the meantime, here is what I would do if I were in the position of a new CMO, or one who is reaching their four-year breakpoint and is not ready to leave quite yet.

 

The Challenges

The latest Forbes research into the CMO function highlights three major areas where the head of marketing’s remit now goes far beyond the previous traditional, more creative areas. In the report they mention three changes that CMOs are grappling with in an effort to impact both inside and outside their organisation:

  1. How the relationships between brands and customers have changed.  The most influential CMOs lead digital transformation with a customer-first mindset.
  2. How brands can offer the very best customer experience. Top CMOs are championing the voice of their customers and aligning their organizations around better customer experiences.
  3. How brands can become more human and approachable. CMOs are no longer afraid to raise their voice or take a stand on political and social issues – because that’s how they connect and build trust with their customers. Take a look at the Forbes list of The World’s Most Influential CMOs of 2018 to see inspiring examples of this.

The report concludes:

The world’s most influential CMOs recognize that customer experience is the new brand, and inspire marketers everywhere to ask: How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people?

How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people? @Forbes #CMO #Marketing Click To Tweet

However, the most influential CMOs also recognize that their ultimate job is driving business growth. And to do that, effective CMOs play a larger role, taking on additional responsibilities in areas as diverse as internal culture, talent, IT purchasing, and customer engagement. Talk about broadening their skills!

 

So how should CMOs, old and new, tackle their businesses from a fresh perspective? I suggest looking at the following five areas:

1. Mission and Vision

These are the very foundation of a company and are the starting point for any employee who wants to understand their role in an organisation, not just the CMO.

For the head of marketing however, it is perhaps even more important, since it is their actions that will bring them to life for consumers. And don’t forget that this also includes developing the corporate brand as well!

The mission should be played out in every product, service and communication that is launched. If it doesn’t, then those planned actions should almost certainly be reconsidered.

Or perhaps it’s the brands in the current portfolio that are not a good fit for the company’s aspirations. If this is your case, then a brave and determined effort is needed to admit which ones are not supporting current values and make plans for moving them out. This can be done either through discontinuing them or by selling them to other organisations which have less lofty ambitions.

One example of this that was recently in the news comes from Nestle USA. Nestle has for many years had the ambition to become a nutrition, health and wellness company, not “just” a food and beverage company. This past month we saw them (finally) selling their U.S. confectionery business to Ferrero. CEO Mark Schneider said of the sale:

“This move allows Nestlé to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals and infant nutrition”.

Companies that ignore making hard portfolio decisions, risk diluting their impact, their image and more importantly their equity. The various top 100 most valuable brand tables only highlight this issue. Brands appear on the leaderboard but sometimes fail to remain there.

In the Brand Finance list Amazon took over the top spot from Google this year. And Apple then pushed them into third place. What makes Amazon more valuable than Google? Customer understanding and building a relationship based on solutions. Beyond being an online retailer, Amazon includes a cloud infrastructure, electronics, music and video streaming. Compare this to Google’s search and cloud technology; pretty limiting if you ask me.Companies that ignore making hard portfolio decisions, risk diluting their impact, their image and more importantly their equity. #marketing #brand #Business Click To Tweet

Now it is true that Google’s parent company Alphabet does dabble in other sectors such as smart-home technology, self-driving cars, aging research and more, but almost all these new developments are losing money. Identifying and responding to customers’ needs is clearly one of Amazon’s real strengths and has allowed them to expand into distant industries far from their origins of the simple online bookstore they were just 25 years ago.

In Forbes’ Worlds Most Valuable Brands list, Apple leads ahead of Google and Microsoft, with Google in fifth position. The Forbes list is dominated by tech companies because I believe they are more in line with consumers needs today. These companies are also relatively new and thus have missions and values which are closely aligned with our new-age world. However even this list highlights the struggle Google is having to increase its value in the same way as Amazon or Apple. I wonder how their CMOs are planning to correct this. (and if they’d like my help!)

The vision and mission of an organisation can sometimes be difficult to live up to, but isn’t that the case for anything of value? This is why I see it as the first thing for a new CMO to get their head around and fully embrace – updating comes later when the EB trusts them enough to allow them to suggest changes.

The vision and mission of an organisation can sometimes be difficult to live up to, but isn't that the case for anything of value? #Business #Vision #Mission Click To Tweet

 

2. Talking to (more) People

Once the (new) CMO understands the company’s mission and vision, it is important for them to evaluate how well these are integrated into the daily working of all employees.

This means gathering qualitative information from key players from the board on downwards, at global, regional and market level. Including market heads, business unit heads, marketing heads, brand managers, sales heads, operations, innovation, R&D, market research and insight provides a good overview. The more diversity in perspectives gathered the better, so the head of marketing should aim to talk to people from different departments, categories, levels and geographies (where relevant).

Have you noticed how most consultants that start working within a company will usually commence their audits by speaking with many people internally? They then come back and share a multitude of findings and information that we should probably already have known! Frustrating perhaps, but a useful pointer at what all CMOs should be doing – regularly – in order to be up-to-date with the organisation and ensuring they add value everywhere.

Have you noticed how most consultants start their audits by speaking with many people internally? Copy them for increased understanding and impact! #business #impact #CXO Click To Tweet

I don’t know how many times I have heard a new client say to me “If only we knew what we know.” That’s why we external consultants have it relatively “easy.” We can ask the naive questions that perhaps a new CMO is too shy to pose and a longer-serving CMO is afraid to admit they don’t know.

Well, why not change this by taking the decision to ask the naive questions you have about your business – even if you are not new to your job? You can make your fact-finding less formal by doing it over a simple coffee or lunch. This way your colleague is unlikely to see that you are actually drilling them for information! A definite win-win as you will be building your reputation and internal relationships at the same time.

“Dare to ask the naive questions you have about your business. You have everything to gain.”

 

3. Analysing (more) Information

After the qualitative information gathering, and having identified any possible issues and opportunities the business has, based on the interviews and their own analysis of the situation, it’s time to put some metrics against them.

Some organisations are very rich in terms of data and know it. But many more are rich and don’t know it, as previously mentioned.

Some organisations are very rich in terms of data and know it. But many more are rich and don’t know it. #information #Data Click To Tweet

The information you need will depend upon the business you’re in, but there are some basics that all companies have or should have, ideally with the trends of them too:

  • Market size, in total and by geography.
  • Category size, shares.
  • Consumer (customer, client) profiles.
  • Brand image and equity.
  • Segmentation results.
  • Customer lifetime value.
  • Communications’ awareness and performance
  • Website / SEO performance

The analysis of these metrics and especially their trends will help identify the facts from the feelings. Not to say the latter are unimportant, but they will need addressing separately. With this analysis done, the CMO can start defining strategies and prioritising actions.

One exciting improvement to information analysis that is now available to any business is the use of AI and machine learning. A recent article from Bain & Co explores the opportunities that it brings to marketing mix optimisation in particular. They call it MMO 3.0. The article makes a great read, but their conclusion suffices for here. They end by summarising the major elements of analysis that CMOs should keep in mind:

“Stay practical and in control of your data. Use balanced analytic approaches. Don’t let analysis get too far beyond action. Cultivate analytic marketers. And focus on incrementally better insights and predictions that you understand, rather than big-bang black boxes you don’t.”

I believe that that these points are valid and valuable for all marketers to remember. As AI and machine learning distance us all from the data sources, we are at risk of losing the means to make sense of it all. And we are all so overwhelmed by the data tsunami, that we often forget to keep it simple – so KISS your analytics and look for small, steady advances in your information learnings.

Secrets of Brand Building - eBook50% Discount in July with code Summer50

 

 

4. Evaluating New Team Skills

Most CMOs will join an existing team, so I will not speak about how to create a dream marketing team. (However I would be happy to jump on a Skype if that is your situation) It will therefore be necessary to review and evaluate the members of your inherited team.

Hold off the temptation to immediately start hiring colleagues from your previous company for at least six months and ideally a year or more. Give yourself and your team the necessary time to get comfortable working together. This will also enable you to correctly identify any missing skills; sometimes good people are just in the wrong jobs.

As a recent article in The Marketing Journal mentions:

"The war for marketing talent is escalating as companies demand people skilled both in the art and the science of marketing, and who understand the emerging realities of empowered customers in a social media universe."

Despite what the people who attended the Cannes Lions in the South of France last week may think, creativity alone is no longer enough. Marketers need a whole list of other skills.

The war for marketing talent is escalating as companies demand people skilled both in the art and the science of marketing. #Marketing #CMO #Brand Click To Tweet

I came across an interesting list (thanks to @ValaAfshar from Salesforce) of the 20 talents that the ideal team should have. I think it pretty much covers the needs of the modern marketing department but you be the judge:

1 storyteller11 entertainer
2 designer12 alchemist
3 builder13 connector
4 magician14 negotiator
5 stabilizer15 teacher
6 fighter16 juggler
7 explorer17 scientist
8 dreamer18 futurist
9 mentor19 mathematician
10 recruiter20 journalist

Now clearly many of you reading this article don't have such a large team that you can include all these positions in addition to brand and communications staff. Nor do you have the possibility to hire more members to a smaller one, so you will have to think creatively. However as everyone has far more talents than the one for which they were hired, I am sure you will find people in your current group who can fulfil all or most of these positions. (How about a storytelling scientist?)

 

5. Improving Processes

All organisations have ways of working and hopefully many of them have been developed into processes. I believe these processes are what make a company more or less successful. This is because the methods used and any information collected is consistent, which makes product and service management that much easier. It also makes results comparable and the process repeatable over time.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”Will Durant - not Aristotle!

As for the CMO, their process is their whole job. It involves reviewing the information mentioned earlier and then taking the following steps:

  1. Prioritize: Every position will uncover more tasks to do than can be handled in the average working day. That's why priority setting is so important. For the CMO this will mean identifying the tasks that will support the company's objectives as well as its mission and vision.
  2. Strategise: Next they will build strategies to meet these objectives in the most resourceful way. With such emphasis on ROI for marketing, this will include paying attention to the budget split and people allocation. I would highly recommend reading this article by Smart Insights' cofounder Dave Chaffey on the differences between strategy and tactics - with some useful examples included.
  3. Structure: As already mentioned having a range of skills in any team is important, as is talent development. CMOs must ensure they are surrounded by a capable team able to implement their strategies with appropriate tactics and actions.
  4. Motivate: Every job has its set of challenges and with marketing being challenged to prove its ROI, motivation can take a hit. The CMO's task is to motivate both their team and internal peers to the opportunities provided by marketing to impact and grow the business. No man is an island and the CMO needs the support of the c-suite, and especially the CIO and CFO to support their plans.
  5. Excite: Marketing excites me, but I know not everyone feels the same. The function can be seen as having too much fun and not being that serious, especially at the Cannes Lions time of the year. However since marketing will impact most other functions within an organisation, it is essential for the CMO to excite other departments to support their carefully laid-out plans.
  6. Lead: This is often one of the most difficult things for a CMO to do - really! Since they are usually the most experienced professional in the marketing group, it can be tempting to end up doing a lot of the work that should be handled by the team. Yes it can always be done better, but if the CMO manages all the above steps then they will not need to get personally involved in the day-to-day tactics and actions. If you are still doing everything from planning to sweeping the office floor (ladies, you know what I mean don't you?) then it's time to check which of the above steps you need to improve - and yes I'm actually referring to all female c-suite members and managers in general here!
If you're doing everything in your department from strategy to switching off the lights as the last one out, then you're probably a woman! #marketing #CXO Click To Tweet

Of course, the CMO also has a lot of other processes that they lead, such as for communications development, innovation and scenario planning. However, for this post I wanted to concentrate on the role of a new CMO and how they can quickly make their mark. If they get through their first 90 days and then 3+ years, they will have plenty of time to address these other very specific processes. Other C3Centricity posts on these topics will certainly help them.

So marketers, have I answered your question about how to keep your job? Are these five steps sufficient to make a difference? Personally I think so - but only if they are followed with real actions and change. After all making an impact is the name of the game in any profession but especially for one that previously relied on creative juices alone. Do you agree? What changes are you making or would you like to see made in your own organisations?

 

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

 

 

 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Companies that Cheat are Losers: How to Ensure That You Shine!

 

Why do companies still try to cheat their customers?

There have been a lot of articles recently exposing the behaviors of organisations who clearly haven’t adopted a customer first strategy. Companies who still think it’s OK to try to attract customers and entice them to purchase with less than honest promises and behaviour. 

I know that this has always been the case in some businesses; trying to convince the customer that what you have to offer is exactly what they need – even when it isn’t. However, in today’s socially connected world, it surprises me that some organisations still believe that they can “get away with it” whatever “it” might be! Perhaps they are not aware of what they are doing. Perhaps they think no-one else will notice. Whatever the reason, I thought it is time to call out such practices with some of the more common behaviours. It also makes a fun read!

 

Dishonest packaging

In many cases, packaging is the first personal contact a customer has with a brand. Whether in advertising or on shelf, based upon what they see, they will quickly decide whether or not your brand is worth investigating further. If so, they will read on, or if in store they will pick it up and read the label, perhaps comparing it to competitive brands. Why then do businesses still believe that they can pretend to be what they clearly are not? I learnt many years ago to never believe what is written on front of pack. Unfortunately, what is shown is in the majority of cases exaggerated if not completely false claims.

Here are some examples of the different tricks some play in the hope of attracting that first purchase. But which are unlikely to lead to a second one when the customer realises that they have not bought what they thought they had.

Iberia cheats their customers through hidden labelling
Source: down-to-mars-girl

 

 

 

 

This bottle of oil looks fine, at least when viewed on-shelf. However if you take the time to read the (front of!) label, you will see that it is not extra virgin olive oil, but a mix of oils.

 

 

 

 

Cheating customers through exaggerated claims
Source: FinanceHeart

As with the previous example, a quick read on shelf of this cereal box and you would believe that the contents are high in protein. Its from Natures Path too, so you would probably think that it is all natural and therefore trustworthy (well I for one trust nature at least!).

 

Look again. The protein is primarily coming from the milk you add! Remember, never believe what is printed on the front of pack!

 

 

Cheating the customer with packaging
Source: piercingpotato

 

 

The final packaging examples come from the beauty industry, where misleading packaging seems to be the norm.

 

Cheating the customer with beauty products
Source: Basilandjail

From tiny bottles packed in plastic holders and huge boxes, to bottles that contain minuscule amounts of product manufacturers seem to think it’s OK.

 

If everyone is doing it, the customer knows, right? Wrong! We may see the quantity mentioned on the box but most of us can’t assess how much that really is.

 

 

Dishonest promotions

We all love promotions and price-offs, don’t we? Well it looks like we should be paying a little more attention to the shelf edge labels judging from the below examples.

Dishonest on-shelf offer
Source: C3Centricity

I find this one on the left laughable because it is so clear!

I took the photo in a 99p store in the UK, where everything is 99p – dah!

Dishonest on-shelf discount
Source: timbersfan2015

So why bother to pretend this is a discount from the regular price of – 99p?

 

 

On the other hand, the Nike shoe “promotion” shown on the right is just plain cheating by the store.

A “NOW” price suggests that it was more expensive before. Well, it should at least in my opinion. In this case it was cheaper, by exactly one cent!

Not sure that qualifies for a “NOW” shout-out on the shelf edge label, unless you are trying to make buyers believe they’re getting a good deal.

 

Dishonest ratings

These have been in the news so much recently, especially for online. From restaurants and hotel ratings on TripAdvisor, to product and delivery stars on Amazon, we all know to pay attention to just how many people voted to get the scores.

It also is a good idea to review the top and bottom scorers for similarity of comments and believability. They could have been placed by the sellers or their competitors, so never base your purchase decision on just the overall rating; check the details.

Another area that has come under scrutiny in recent years for false ratings is the car industry. Many (most?) of them have been called out for false consumption claims and as a consequence decreasing their real pollution.

It started withVolkswagen AG admitting to engineering its diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. Then Ford joined the list, with drivers in a U.S. lawsuit claiming that 500,000 Super Duty pickup trucks were rigged to beat emissions tests. And Europe is no better. German car manufacturers  have been accused of operating a 20-year “cartel” to impose a premium on consumers while stifling innovation, including pollution controls. Bloomberg had a good article explaining the topic if you want to learn more.

Dishonest products

I believe that this is rampant in the food industry in particular, although I am not sure the outlandish promises (and packaging as shown above) of the beauty industry don’t warrant a mention here too!

Cheating the customer with pizza
Source: RogerDat143

From enticing images on (front of!) pack, to the disappointing contents, we are regularly shocked by just how far from reality the product photos are. Here are a few of the funniest ones I’ve come across.

 

The first example is from the Morrisons supermarket chain in the UK. I think by triple pepperoni they meant three slices! At least that is what you get on your pizza (no sorry there are four!). What did you expect for one pound fifty?

Cheating customers with the description
Source: CorrectGrammarPls

 

 

The next one on the left is more subtle. It does say it’s solid chocolate and that’s true. It’s just that you only get half a cup, not the whole one I bet purchasers were expecting.

 

 

Cheating the customer with product
Source: arbuzer

The third food example is also from a chocolate manufacturer, who takes cheating to a whole new level.

See the photo on the right; it must have been a manufacturing nightmare to position the cranberries precisely so they are seen through the transparent section of the packaging.

Oh, I just saw, it says it is “handmade” so the six cranberries were carefully placed on the tablet!

Dishonest pricing

cheating the customer
Source: jazzcat16

 

The “promotion” for cheap parking on the right only becomes less of a bargain as you are probably driving into the carpark and see the “for 10 minutes” in tiny font at the bottom of the panel.

They will only get your business once, if at all and I bet you’d warn your friends and family not to park there.

The dishonest promotions mentioned above also qualify as dishonest pricing, but a regular practic perici ngon pricing is to use the “up to” words, usually in small font compared to the discount being offered. We come across this and the BOGO (buy one get one) that used to refer to BOGOF, (for free, a 50% discount) all the time now. so I think buyers beware is the norm.

Dishonesty online

I couldn’t finish this review of companies that cheat the customer without mentioning some of the dishonest online practices.

Cheating the customer with hidden charges
Source: fanzipantz

These include offering something for free and then charging “only for shipping and handling” which is usually more than the item is worth!

 

And asking to provide credit credit card details at the time of a free trial in the hope that people will forget to cancel before their trial runs out.

Cheating the customer by advertising in lists
Source: C3Centricity

 

 

 

 

 

Another habit that is becoming prevalent, even on Google, is the blurring between search results or newsletter topics, and advertising.

The example on the right comes from an email I received this morning from StumbleUpon. I have been such a fan of theirs for years, as they have always suggested interesting articles I might not have otherwise found.

This new attempt of theirs to “hide” advertising amongst their list of suggestions irritated me immensely, because they made it an integral part of the list.

At least Google add lines, albeit very light grey ones, in their search results.

 

 

 

Cheating the customer through button colour
Source: tiltdiens

 

 

One more example of cheating online is the usage of the colour green to entice surfers to click a button, when it is not the option they would have chosen if they had bothered to read the text (which we don’t do any more, we just skim read).

 

 

 

 

 

Cheating the customer through false images
Source: Mail Online

 

Cheating the customer with rip-off copies
Source: Mail online

 

 

Finally, and probably the most rampant of all, are the online clothing scandals. Many articles have been written which compare the article ordered and the rip-off Asian copy received. Here is just one example, but you can see many more at MailOnline.

Definitely worth a laugh, but I do feel sorry for the girls, although as they posted their photos on Facbook, I  think they saw the funny side too.

Definitley not the way to build loyal customers, but perhaps in China the population is so huge they believe that they can keep this going a few years until they can improve their copies!

 

Secrets to Brand Building eBook50% discount with code Summer50 in July

The solution(s)

None of the above examples would happen if organisations adopted the use of my “Magic” question. What is it? It is simply to ask yourself every time you take a decision:

“What would our customers think of the decision we’ve just taken?”

If the answer is that they wouldn't like it, then the decision needs to be reconsidered.

I hear some people (Jeanne Bliss's new book for example) asking "would be mother, sister, girlfriend like it?" If you prefer that way of thinking, fine by me - just as long as you reconsider your decisions in light of these questions. If you wouldn't do it to your friends and family, why do it to your customers? They are members of someone else's family after all.

What's the solution to cheating companies? Just be more honest and ask the magic question #CEX #Customer #CRM Click To Tweet

 

The other solution, of course, is just to be more honest.

So to end on a (relative) high, here are a few examples of businesses who "tell it like it is."

Source: Velocitypartners
Source: Avis

One company who has benefited from telling the truth - and there aren't that many! - is Avis.

Their "We try harder" campaign launched in 1962, turned into a strategy for the whole business – and took Avis from an 18% market share to 34% in a very short time.

More than fifty years on, it’s still their slogan. (That in itself is amazing: how many brand ideas last fifty years?)

 

Hyposwiss is not cheating the customer
Source: Velocity

 

 

 

 

 

Another example of an honest company, is, perhaps surprisingly, from a Swiss financial institution Hyposwiss. In their "honest campaign" they take a refreshing view of money - yours in particular.

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this post, but also got some useful "ah-ha" moments when you realised one of your brands did, or is doing something similar. In today's digital age there is no longer the opportunity for companies that cheat to not to be discovered and called out on social media. If not today, then tomorrow. Be warned!

Your Customer First Challenges Sorted!Complementary half-hour Solutions Call with Denyse - Click to Reserve
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Join Global Customer First Strategists!

Get our latest posts before everyone else, and exclusive content just for you.

* indicates required