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Defining a Better Strategy from Improved Customer Centricity

Hindsight, Eyesight or Foresight

Every company today has a vision and mission statement that it proudly shares both internally and externally, to explain who they are and what they want to achieve.

Surprisingly – or should I say sadly – few B2C (Business to Customer) companies include the customer in these and yet it would not exist without them. A famous, albeit anonymous, quotation says:

“There are customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers” Anon

If you are in a people-facing industry, it is vital to start your vision and mission with clear statements that indicate to all that your customer is at the heart of your business.

Past, present, future:

In many companies the vision and plans are based upon past performance, and forecasts for the future are then calculated based on current sales trends. In today’s fast changing world, the future is less and less like the past, so it is unwise to rely on backward looking measures alone. A better way to prepare your vision and plans, is to start by reviewing your mission statement, which states clearly what the company is aiming to be, and then to see how this fits with the target audiences. If changes are necessary, societal trends can help to identify what they are.

 

Foresight:

Foresight is an essential part of the planning process, as it will enable a company to assess its vision with the future rather than the past in mind. Society is constantly changing; it is said that a generation today is as little as 5 or 10 years, whereas in the near past it was considered to be 20 years or more. What this means for a company, is that its strategy and plans will need almost constant adaptation, since what worked just a few years ago is no longer relevant for today’s customers.

One of the biggest challenges for an organisation wanting to introduce trend following, and I see no reason for any company NOT to be doing this, is that there is too much choice. There are agencies that are specialised in trend following, such as Mintel, TrendWatching, Yankelovich (now part of the Futures Company), McKinsey’s Global Institute, TrendHunter, Global Trends, to name just a few. In addition, many communications agencies also propose their own trend following services, McCann Pulse being one of the better.

When you are ready to introduce trend following into your organisation, it is vital that everyone agrees on ONE trend following tool for the whole company and then selects the most relevant trends for each business or service. This will avoid duplication of efforts, facilitates exchanges within the business and ensures everyone both speaks the same language and underst ands the trends and their implications for the company in the same way.

Some of the most talked about trends for business to follow at the moment include:

  • Aging Baby Boomers
  • Authenticity
  • Heritage, nostalgia, tradition
  • Community, crowdsourcing, innovative co-creation
  • Making the world a better place
  • Urbanization
  • Health and Wellbeing

 

Scenario building:

Once you have an agreed list of trends you are following in the company, you might think your work is done, but that is not the end, it is just the beginning. Every company is – or should be – watching societal trends, so there is NO competitive advantage to doing so. However, you can get the edge over your competitors by developing them into plausible future scenarios and then identifying their drivers and trigger points. Scenario planning can often be done with the same organisations you are using to follow your trends, but is of course a proprietary exercise and thus will probably cost you the same, if not even more, than your trend following investments. As it is this second step that delivers true competitive advantage it is definitely worth the money.

Scenario planning, is a strategic planning method that enables you to make flexible long-term plans and also be better prepared for the most likely future events. Most scenario work is done by extending the trends into the future and then combining them, to see how they impact one another and also your business. Two to three axes are then identified on which the most extreme changes will occur and the corresponding “new worlds” are developed and described.

The last part of the exercise is to then position your categories and markets on the trends and to identify the drivers and  trigger points, which will enable you to be forewarned of possible market changes.

What changes are you following today and how are you working with scenarios to better prepare your organisation? Please share your most creative ideas.

For more on trends and scenario planning please visit our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

This post first appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on November 24th 2011

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

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