Denyse Drummond-Dunn, Author at c3centricity | c3centricity

+41 79 93 39 789 info@c3centricity.com

How Can I Get New Clients? What are the Secrets to Growth?

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. Here is my answer.

If you’re struggling to grow, I can tell you, you’re not alone! I know that this won’t make you feel much better, but business, especially entrepreneurship and freelancing, is for those that are strong of mind and spirit. There are days, weeks and months of highs and lows, but keep remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing. For me, as a longtime entrepreneur, it’s the freedom.

 

Here are a few ideas for you to think about and action:

Whatever ideas, tips, suggestions you read or hear about, it is only in the action that you will make a difference. So when you’ve finished reading this post, stop 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” 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 makes learning fun again. Isn’t that what we all want?

 

Now back to the answers:

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.

 

Get Intimate with your Current and Past Clients

Ask your current clients, 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.

Then Analyse their profile 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.

 

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! )

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 a solution.

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.

 

Offer a Free Analysis of Potential Clients’ Websites

This was in answer to the industry in which the person who asked the question was working. But you can offer potential clients the chance to experience your work for free.

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!)

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 with 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 it still get tremendous value and clear actionable results, 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 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!

 

Frequent Outreach

Perhaps the best tip of all, is this last one – for now; I have many more I can share of course. 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 month or two between each.

Hopefully these five topic areas and tens of ideas will spark some inspiration and more importantly ideas for action in you. Print this off and read it whenever you are in a low spot on your Business curve. And of course, you can reach out to me for a whole lot more. I’m Denysech on Skype. However, if you do reach out there, please say why you are connecting as I get anonymous connection requests every day – and refuse all from people I don’t know! Thanks.

 

The 7-step Formula for Growth used by the Big Brands

Consultants get requests for all sorts of – admittedly sometimes strange – requests for support from their clients. However, when I get several people asking for help in the same area, I know something important is happening in the marketplace. This is exactly what happened to me earlier this month. The topic? Brand building.

Most marketers have returned from their vacations by now and are beginning to realise just how little time they have left to meet their objectives this year. Their brands have not performed as hoped and now they are looking for a solution – fast!

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

 

How to Stop a Declining Brand

OK, let’s go straight to the most painful of situations first, that of a declining brand. A few years ago I wrote a popular post about using brand image metrics to understand what is happening with a brand and how to identify the actions to take. It is called “How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye.” I highly recommend reading it now, for an in-depth understanding of all the information that can be gleaned from a simple brand image study. Almost all brands use their own brand image data in a very basic way, but there is so much more that can be done with the information, even without harnessing AI to do it for you!

In the post I speak about the different kinds of attributes to measure and how to find them. They should cover not only functional benefits alone, but also:

  • the rational, functional benefits
  • the emotional, subjective benefits
  • the relational, cultural benefits

However, what is important it how you analyse the data once you have it. I suggest looking at:

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

Brand image following is just one of the things you should look at when you are trying to understand why your business is flat, or even worse, going down. Let’s now look at some of the others.

 

The Typical MBA Five Steps to Brand Building

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

 

Brand Building

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

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

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

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

So here is my process for brand building, a shortened version of what I use when supporting my clients. It works whether your brand is a product or service, new or established, local or global. Try it out and let me know what you think.

 

My 7-step Process For Simplified Brand Building

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

You already have far more information than you realise! Start by finding as much information as you can and bringing it all together. In addition to brand image and equity measurements, you need trend information on shares, distribution, stock levels, customer penetration and profiles. Look for changes in the trends and identify where and when they happened. This is the equivalent to an autopsy after death – but hopefully you are reacting long before your brand is on life-support!

 

2. Identify the category in which you are playing.

This is the category from the customers’ perspective, not the industry definition your retail audit supplier uses. Talk to customers if you can, or watch and listen to discussions on social media. The exchanges will often mention comparable brands, suggestions for switching et. All this will provide a better indication of the category than your industry knowledge ever will.

 

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

I already mentioned speaking with your customers to understand the category you are in. But I want you to make a habit of speaking to your customers – both current and potential – on a weekly, and ideally daily basis. You should anyway have Google alerts set up for your brand, category and customer groups, so you are following what is happening on the web. If you don’t, stop reading and do that NOW! 

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

 

4. Define your USP and desired image

Now you know the category in which you are competing and what customers want, verify whether your brand has a USP (Unique selling proposition) and an appropriate image and equity. The description of your brand should include functional, emotional and societal benefits. To learn more about identifying these, and how to measure all aspects of your brand image, personality and equity, read “Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know.”

 

5. Develop a Big Idea on which to communicate

Once you have your USP it’s time to develop a big idea on which to communicate it. Big Ideas should be based on a relevant insight about your customers. For an improved process of insight development, please check out “Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation).”

 

6. Promote the brand where and when your customers are

This is the step that seems to be difficult for so many brands. They think that by advertising on digital media they will get their message across. But there are (at least) two things wrong with this approach. Firstly, are you customers online and is so, where? Pinterest may be perfect for a fashion or cosmetic brand but not for many other industries.

 

7.

 

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.

 

 

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 storyteller 11 entertainer
2 designer 12 alchemist
3 builder 13 connector
4 magician 14 negotiator
5 stabilizer 15 teacher
6 fighter 16 juggler
7 explorer 17 scientist
8 dreamer 18 futurist
9 mentor 19 mathematician
10 recruiter 20 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?

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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!

 

Never, Never, Never Give Up: How to Succeed When All Around You are Failing

I heard a famous quote this morning from Winston Churchill’s address to Harrow School in the UK in 1941. It was certainly one of his shortest speeches but probably also his most quoted. He said:

“Never give in, never, never, never, never”

You can read his full speech – which is not a lot longer! – here.

Hearing this quote got me thinking about failure. Failure in our lives, our businesses, our jobs, our relationships. How often do we fail merely because we give up too quickly?

Now whereas I don’t feel qualified to advise you on your private life, I do feel sufficiently knowledgeable to speak about business.

Last week I mentioned the 7 reasons most companies fail to adopt a customer first strategy. They were the conclusion to a post on what a customer first strategy is, and what it isn’t. If you missed it, then click the link above to read the full article.

Over the many years of blog posting, I have written many other posts on many different topics, and which include my solutions to failing in countless areas of marketing. I therefore thought it would be useful to share four of the most important ones here in a single post. Let me know what you think.

 

How you React to Failure could Make You a Success

Failure's only a failure when you don't learn from it
Source: Microsoft

For this first summary of a post, I’d like to share not a list of solutions but a selection of inspiring quotes on reacting to failure. I think it sets the stage beautifully for the other articles to come.

In the full post (which you can read by clicking the above link) you can also find suggested actions for each of them. They will make you realise that there is great opportunity in every failure! So don’t be afraid to fail. Just never give up!

1. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” Bill Gates, American Businessman

2. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach

3. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin, American Politician

4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman

4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman #Quote #Success #Failure Click To Tweet

5. “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure” John C. Maxwell, American Clergyman

6. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet” Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman

7. “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success” Sir James Dyson, British Designer

8. “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something” Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman

9. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” Nelson Mandela, South African Statesman

10. “Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure” Jack Lemmon, American Actor

They say that pride comes before a fall; I say success follows failure! I wish you much success in failing fast, learning faster, so you can enjoy more success!

 

How to Innovate Successfully (What You’re Still Getting Wrong!)

This post mentions the ten reasons innovation fails and then shares ideas on finding a solution to each of them. That is what I share below.

The virtuous proces of innovation

#1 The process: Introduce some creativity into the process. Use a virtuous circle (as shown above) rather than the usual linear or funnel approach.  All innovation processes should start with a deep understanding of the potential customer segment and then insight development.

#2 Meeting company quotas: Instead of company quotas on the number or proportion of new product launches, a better target is a percentage of sales. This should eliminate all but the very best ideas, which are expected to increase sales rather than merely replace current products.

#3 Lack of customer understanding: The best way to innovate successfully is to start by looking at the target customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. Watching and listening to your customers with an open mind, rather than with a hypothesis in your head, will enable you to identify pain points the customer may even be unaware of.

#4 Lack of category understanding: Never assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified how your customers are choosing and what they are currently using. You might be surprised to learn that your competitors are not those you thought they were!

#5 Not living up to your promises: In today’s connected world, false or exaggerated promises are quickly identified and shared on social media. Nothing is every hidden for long these days, so if you make a mistake, admit it, own it, correct it and move on. It will be forgotten or forgiven quicker than if it becomes a scandal.

#6 Not being sufficiently differentiated: With such an abundance of information available to everyone, comparisons are easy to make.  Solution based offers will always be able to charge more than product based ones. It’s up to you to decide which you want to be.

#7 Being too different: Identifying a sub-category of users with a precise need and then meeting that need better than anyone else is the more successful way to differentiate.

#8 Pricing yourself out of the market: Understanding how much potential customers value your offer is essential to the success of any product or service.

#9 Inappropriate distribution: Appropriate distribution doesn’t mean being in stock everywhere at the lowest price. But it does mean being in the retail outlets that your target customers visit more often.

#10 Being too far ahead of the customer:  If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product or service idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision. Keep the concept in your “back drawer” until customers are ready. You will then be the first to respond to these new needs and beat the competition to market with the correct solution.

The full article goes into more detail on each of these solutions of course. So if any of them resonate with you, it is worth checking out the full post.

You must innovate to stay in the game, but that doesn’t mean launching anything just to meet the company’s innovation targets. Launch bigger, bolder and better, as one of my bosses used to say. And never give up!

 

What Great Leaders Know and You Probably Don't

What great leaders knowThis post summarises my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter the industry in which you work.

1. We should never stop learning. As we age and rise in the corporate world, we seem to forget that we don’t know it all! We even think that we should have all the answers, or worse still, think that we do!

2. We should accept help. Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish, since we cannot be an expert in every area of business. In fact if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should be good at managing people first. 

If we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should be good at managing people first. #Team #Leadership Click To Tweet

3. Practice really does make perfect. It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. We should always strive to be the best we can be. We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. 

We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. #Learnings #Self-respect Click To Tweet

4. That final check is worth itWhen I was learning to fly, my instructor never stopped reminding me that the pre-flight checks were vital to do thoroughly. He reminded me that once you’re in the air, it’s too late! The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, like pilots do, and complete that final check thoroughly and completely.

5. Accept defeat and mistakes. We all make mistakes sometimes and get defeated occasionally. We’re human after all. However, those mistakes and defeats are great teachers. If we learn and grow from them, then the pain involved should be short-lived, as we move on to bigger and better things.

6. Honesty is always the best policy. Somehow honesty is rarely discussed these days and yet we all know that trust is one of the main reasons people do business with companies. Trust built over the long term will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur.

Trust built over the long term will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur. #Trust #Failure #Mistakes Click To Tweet

7. Business isn’t only about millenials. Everyone is speaking about the Millenials these days. While Millenials may be trendy, there are other groups which are arguably just as important to consider for a successful business. For example, there are now more Baby Boomers that Millenials in the US!

Great leaders are aware of these seven points, are you? If not, then read the full article for further details. Leaders don't know it all but they do know how to learn from failure. Never give up on your plans, just adapt them when needed.

 

How the Best Marketers are getting Deeper Insights

Observe and listen for deeper insightsBe honest! Everyone struggles to develop true insights about their customers. Most times we accept summary information or facts about the marketplace and call them insights. But we alll know that insight development is difficult. So hard to get to that "aha" moment when what we have said about our customers is so obvious we can't understand how we - or anyone else for that matter - never realised it before.

If you are struggling to develop insights that truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these 8 tips.

#1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. Identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitudes. This way you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.

#2. Insight generation should start with customer connections. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough!

Insight generation should start with customer connections #Insights #MRX Click To Tweet

#3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations. Make a habit of taking a coffee or lunch with people from other spheres of the company and share your latest ideas and learnings. You will both discover a lot!

#4. Get MRI (Market Research & Insight) to share their nuggets of information regularly. Market research and insight teams learn new things about the business every day, so why not ask them to share more? Don't wait for a formal presentation of the results of the latest piece of research. Get them to share findings and analyses with you on a regular, (at least) monthly basis.

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

#6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. Ask them to integrate more information and you will both be happier.

#7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. It usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight

#8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments.

Following these 8 ideas will make your business one of the most successful in insight development. How would that feel? Read the full article HERE. Insight development may be difficult, but it's not impossible. Never give up!

And if you want to improve even faster in any areas of learning from failure, you can invite us to give a 1-Day training that will catalyse your team in record time. Download the summary brochure of all our current training courses HERE.

These are some ideas and processes for avoiding failure or even more importantly, learning (a lot) from them. Whether it is in business management, innovation or customer understanding, you can learn from the best, so you don't have to make the same mistakes. I hope you appreciate it!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What a Customer First Strategy is not

I have seen a customer first strategy defined as

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

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

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

This may be true for an airline, where the client is primarily basing their opinion on the service on board and the “niceness” of the crew. After all, every airline will get you from A to B. However for many industries, customers are enjoying (or not!) your product or service without your employees being present. They will remain loyal (or not!) to your brand, based upon their own personal experiences, at least in most cases.

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

 

What a Customer First Strategy is

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

 

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

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

Being data driven

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

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

While the forthcoming GDPR in Europe will increase the security on this data and our permission for companies to use it, data driven marketing is not all bad news.

OK, so I’m not talking about the 2002 Minority Report. I’m not talking about where the hero is bombarded with advertising messages in the street and in the shopping mall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Being Innovative

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

The post includes the ten reasons your innovations may fail:

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

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

 

 

Being collaborative

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

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

Collaboration is the only way to decrease these wasted resources and hopefully marketing automation and open data storage will help resolve at least a large part of them.

However I have found in working with clients that it is the culture change that makes the biggest impact. After all, what is an employee’s benefit in working with other departments? The executive board must encourage collaboration and be seen to walk their talk, for the company to follow.

Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not in my objectives” when asking for support? If so, then suggest that collaboration be included in everyone’s objectives. Change will happen – fast!

 

 

Being agile

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

 

Some of the best examples of agile marketing:

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

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

 

customer first agile marketing tideThinking customer first with Oreo

 

 

Unofficial ads during the 2012 London Olympics:

Customer first ads London 2012Customer first ad London 2012

 

The ongoing struggles between major brands:

Audi vs BMW

customer first ads audi bmwcustomer first audi vs bmw

 

 

 

Coke vs Pepsi

(Thanks to CAVE House for this great video collection)

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

Reasons most companies fail their customer first strategy

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

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

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

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

2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy

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

3. The project is treated just like any other

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

4. The initiative does not have a visible leader

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

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

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

7. They think it costs too much

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

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

 

Is it Time to Do Away with Market Research Departments?

What’s your gut response to the title question about eliminating Market Research Departments? Yes? No? It depends?

I am probably in the third camp. No, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations. Yes, if it is the traditional market research department. Let me explain.

Thanks to social media and websites, the IoT (Internet of Things) and smart products, companies are inundated with information these days. Who better than market research to help in its analysis? But in order to become this new business decision support group, new skills are required.

Insights 2020 by Kantar-Vermeer spoke about the need for researchers to have five critical capabilities:

  • Research & analytics mastery
  • Business acumen
  • Creative solution thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Direction setting

 

This research is now a few years old and the world is changing fast. A more recent study by BCG and GRBN resulted in an Invest in Insights Handbook to help organisations report on the ROI of the insights function. They found that those who measure their ROI have found a seat at the decision table, increased budgets, and more control. Those are the department objectives that the FMCG world in particular desires today, be they in a manufacturing or retail environment.

As the handbook mentions:

“Architecting a world-class Insights organization requires executive, cross-functional commitment/engagement”

To do this, they mention the following six points:

  • Vision & Pace
  • Seat-at-the-table and leadership
  • Functional talent blueprint
  • Ways of working with the Line
  • Self-determination
  • Impact and truth culture

The report concludes that:

“The biggest barriers to experimenting with innovation in CI are resources, both time and money. A lot of times there’ll be [a need for] an innovation project but it can’t find a home.”

Barriers to CI innovation

This seems to suggest, at least to me, a chicken and egg situation. Resources are insufficient because the business doesn’t see the benefit of investing in market research and insight. But the Market Research Department is struggling with insufficient budget and personnel to provide the support that they should – and often could – provide.

In the GRBN report, they mention the largest barriers to the measurement of the ROI of market research and insight. These were found to be:

  • Difficult to do – studies are used in many different ways
  • Difficulty in isolating impact of consumer insights
  • Time lag between insight delivery and business results

The secondary concerns are:

  • Consumer insights distant from business decision-makers
  • Business objectives not clearly defined
  • Insufficient staff to measure
  • Lack of alignment on important metrics

Looking at this list, it is clear that the market research profession is in need of a significant overhaul. Most local MR associations, as well as the global ESOMAR team are all very aware of this and have set up various groups to look into it. If you want to learn more about what they are doing, check out the discussions on the topic in last year’s ESOMAR conference in Amsterdam. You can also read a short commentary from System 1. Hopefully we will see changes coming out of all those debates in the coming years.

In the meantime, I decided to propose a few ideas to get your market research and insight departments moving in the right direction, no matter where you are today.



Hopefully the following ten proposed steps will move your market research department forward, wherever it is today. If you want to talk to someone about your own particular situation, then book a free advisory session with me to get you started. 



10 Steps to Reinventing Your Market Research Department

Here are the steps that I would suggest you take, should you wish to create or optimise your market research and insights function:

Step 1: If you already have a market research or insights department, then the GRBN / BCG self-assessment tool is a great place to start – and it’s FREE! The link is: http://insightsassessment.bcg.com/ . This will clearly indicate both what stage of development you are in, and what you can do to improve. Invaluable! Then all you have to do is to prioritise the changes needed!

Step 2:  Another assessment tool than can help you to better understand your customer understanding in its wider sense, is our  C3C Evaluator™. Again it is FREE; the link is: https://c3centricity.com/customer-centricity-mini-quiz-2. Unlike the insight assessment tool from BCG, this evaluator tool looks at insights as the motor or foundation to adopting a customer-first strategy. As such, it considers best-practice market research and insight development as a management decision support tool. Again, after your evaluation, you get a summary of what you need to change so you can prioritise your actions.

Step 3: Review the management’s needs in terms of information – besides the financial data they are certainly already receiving. Prioritise these and choose only the major KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to follow your business vision and strategy. For a truly customer-centric organisation these may include:

  • Market and category shares
  • Customer profiles
  • Brand image and brand equity metrics
  • Pricing, value perceptions and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)
  • Distribution and OOS (Out-Of-Stock)
  • Awareness of communications
  • Understanding and appreciation of messages
  • Website and social media traffic, and conversion rates
  • Customer retention and churn rates
  • Sales funnel’s level distribution

Besides measuring your chosen metrics, trends often mean more than the numbers themselves – in many markets the numbers will be going up anyway. Although I have mentioned many examples above, remember that KPIs mean the metrics you choose must be KEY to your business. Choose wisely so you don’t drown people in data and information.

Step 4: Identify which of the metrics you already gather and which you need to start collecting perhaps on a more regular basis. Then review methodologies and suppliers for providing all the information. If you already conduct regular tracking studies, they should be opened for pitch every few years, to avoid both sides becoming complacent and stale.

Step 5: Once the metrics are agreed upon, turn them into a one-page summary or dashboard. Most executives don’t have time for more than a rapid scan of information, so find ways to help them to read it. Using traffic-light colours, graphs and one-number indices all help them to quickly understand the current situation and identify any needed actions.

Step 6: In addition to data, management will also require information about the market, its customers, competitors and retailers. This can be gathered through observation and listening, whether in person or through market research qualitative studies. Read “Five rules of observation and why it’s hard to do effectively.” for more on the topic.

Step 7: Improving your data and information collection coming from market research will depend upon a solid briefing document. The brief should be developed in collaboration between the internal client and the market research department. It must include at a minimum why the information is needed, by when and why. For more on better briefing, read “Why Marketing doesn’t Always Get the Research it Needs, But Usually What it Deserves.”

Step 8: Identify how to measure the ROI of your service. The importance of a detailed brief cannot be overemphasized. It will not only allow good work to be done so the business gets the answers it needs. It also allows the measurement of its ROI. Knowing how the information will be used and the value of the decisions made from it, will go a long way towards proving its value. If this is only considered in retrospect, it is unlikely to meet with agreement from all concerned parties. Therefore these need to be discussed and included in your briefing document.

Step 9: The next step is to build a team of supporters within the organisation with whom you regularly share all the nuggets you learn from your different analyses. Beyond answering the questions for which any research was conducted, there are always additional learnings which can be invaluable to share. Unfortunately most Market Research Departments are so stretched that they spend most of their time behind their desks.

Even if it is just in the corridor, or during a coffee or lunch break, always have something interesting to share with your internal clients. This will quickly build respect and the MR team will be seen as an invaluable source of business understanding. Of course, this does mean that the department should be involved in business meetings, but this tends to naturally come when you start sharing more than market research presentations and reports.

Step 10: The final step in optimising your market research department is to start developing insights. Although I mention this last, the 7-step insight development process I suggest to my clients involves data and information gathering only at step 6. And yet this is the one thing most MR departments are seen to do.

The reason why I mention insight development last here, is because an organisation must believe in the need for a deep understanding of their customers before it can start to develop insights about them. Otherwise its market research department will remain simply a data-gathering group. For more details about the C3Centricity insight development process, read “Customer centricity is today’s business disruptor, Insights are its foundation.”

Et voila! The first ten steps that I believe will help all organisations upgrade their market research department. If nothing else, please complete the two assessment tools. They will give you a terrific start to understanding just how good – or bad – you are today!

Also do check out our insights training offers. You can download the brochure HERE

Hopefully these ten proposed steps will move your market research department forward, wherever it is today. If you have experience in creating or upgrading a market research and insight team I would love to hear what challenges you faced. 

 

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