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The Secrets to Growth. How to Get New Customers

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Who were your Past Customers?

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

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

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

2. Get Intimate with your Current and Past Customers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Offer a Free Analysis of Potential Clients’ Websites

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

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

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

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

5. Frequent Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HOW MARKETING HAS CHANGED

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

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

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

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

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

 

BRAND BUILDING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

MOVE BEYOND BRAND BUILDING

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

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

 

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

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

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? I’ll let you be the judge of this in your own situation.

 

The Opportunities

Let’s start at the beginning. Marketers, what opportunities are there, that you can keep your job? Despite the short lifespan of a CMO, you’ll be pleased to hear that 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? That’s why many CMOs hire a supportive advisor or sounding board such as myself to accompany them on this stressful early part of their journey. (If you like, you can book a complimentary 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 skill-set!

 

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.

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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?

 

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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!

 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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. 

 

Why You Struggle To Meet Your Business Objectives (And how to Crush them)

“There may be customers without brands, but there are NO brands without customers!”

I am often quoted as saying this and yet I still find most companies spend more time thinking about their brands than their customers, which is alarming to say the least! And you? 

Last week I spoke about identifying the exact category in which you are competing. If you missed it, then I suggest you read “You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are!” before continuing. You will never be successful if you don’t understand the category people put you in and the competitors they compare you to.

In the post, I explain that we often work with a category definition that is based upon industry norms rather than that of our customers. For instance you might segment by price or demographic groups, whereas your customers group brands by flavour or packaging.

Understand how customers see the category and its sub-segments, can make a huge difference to your success in satisfying your own target customers.

This week I want to continue the theme of taking the customers’ perspective by speaking about our own business objectives. You know, the topics that make up our business and marketing plans with such lofty ambitions as:

  • Grow our market share to X%
  • Become the category captain/leader in Retailer Z
  • Launch three new brand variants

All of these may be valid business objectives, but they are not customer focussed. They start from the business perspective.

Growing market share may be a valid business objective, but it's not customer focussed. Click To Tweet

Adopting a customer-first strategy means turning business objectives into customer aims, by taking what is sometimes referred to as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.

Here are some questions to help you identify your customers’ aim, their attitudes and behaviours that you are trying to influence:

1. Who are you targeting?

Every brand has a target audience. This is a sub-segment of all category users. Yes you do need to segment users and target the most relevant and most profitable group of them for your brand, and then ignore the rest. If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!

“If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!”

2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand?

In order to attract your competitors’ customers you need to understand their motives, why they are preferring the competitive brand to your offer. This information can come from many sources, such as market research, social media, or care centre contacts.

3. What reason might make them consider switching?

If you are to appeal to your competitors’ customers then you must be able to satisfy them at least as well, and ideally better than does their current brand. What do you know about the criticisms customers have of the brand? What benefits do you offer and they don’t, or only partially? Could these be appealing to some of their customers?

4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before?

Do you have benefits that you have never highlighted in the past? Have you improved your product or service to now make it a better option? The reasons for switching must be both obvious and appealing in order to attract new customers to your brand.

Answering these four questions will enable you to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You now have all the information you need in order to be able to attract some, if not all, of your competitors’ customers.

Answer four simple questions to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You will have all the information you need to attract some, if not all, of your competitors' customers. Click To Tweet

Let’s now look at a (necessarily) simple example.

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Business Objective: Grow our market share

This is probably one of the most common business objectives I have come across. Is it yours too?

In order to grow market share, we first need to answer the four questions mentioned above, and turn the business objective into a customer aim:

1. Who are you targeting? Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink. At first, you may think you are selling to all soft drink consumers. However, from your Usage & Awareness data (or observation at retail) you know you are attracting 18-35 year old men, who live in main urban areas of your region. You also know that there are two competitor brands who attract the same consumer group, Brands X and Y. Brand X is the same price as your brand and is sold in similar can packaging. Brand Y however is higher priced and sold in glass bottles.

2. Why are they currently using your competitor's brand? From your brand image study, communications analysis or in-store interviews, you know who the consumers of Brand X and Y are. Hopefully you also know why they are using that brand rather than yours.

Do you have any of the benefits for which they are searching? If so, then you may be able to appeal to them. If not, then they are certainly not the best source of potential new customers for your brand.

For this example we will assume that consumers like Brand X because it is sweet and has small bubbles, whereas Brand Y is less sweet and is very fizzy.

3. What reason might make them consider switching? Consumers of Brand X are sensitive to fashion and the latest trends. Brand Y is a traditional brand that has been around for decades. Brand X was launched in the last five years and its can is bright, modern and trendy looking.

4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn't before? You launched a new campaign that went viral on social media. Everyone if talking about it and it has positively impacted your brand's image. Whereas you used to be seen as a cheaper version of Brand Y, you have revitalised your brand's image and are now perceived as much trendier.

Customer Aim: Attract consumers from Brand X who are looking for a trendy, carbonated soft drink that comes in a can and is affordably priced.

As you can see from this objective, it is far more focused and is now based upon your potential customers' aim. This makes it both more actionable and easier to implement.

I hope you found this exercise useful and will try it yourself in your next marketing or business plans. If you do, then do let me know how it goes. You can email me or simply add a comment below and share your experiences.

Final Thoughts

Your plan may say that you want to grow your business, but in reality this objective is ongoing. Every year you are usually looking to grow your brand - unless of course you are "milking" an older brand as you allow it to die off.

In order to grow, you need to both maintain your current customer base, as well as attract new ones. It is well documented that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one.

And yet most organisations continue to spend more on acquisition than retention. To see the latest numbers on this, I suggest you check out this awesome infographic by Invesp that was recently shared by Neil Davey on MyCustomer.

According to Gartner's latest CMO Survey US CMOs continue to find more success with customer acquisition than they do with retention. They reported a 3.1% year-over-year increase in customer acquisition performance versus a 1.9% increase in customer retention performance.

The explanation could be that they always have growing market share as a company objective and think that they therefore need to invest more. Or perhaps it's because they take the time to attract new customers, but then don't invest to follow them over time, in order to identify their changing needs and desires.

While I agree both are important, with loyalty levels decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think?

While loyalty levels are decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think? Click To Tweet

Growing market share can only come from attracting more customers, getting your current customers to buy more, or getting your customers to spend more. It's time you considered investing (equally?) in all three areas.

Of course, you can also grow market share by maintaining your customers in a declining category, but that needs a totally different approach and more pertinent questions. If you're interested, then I'll happily cover this in a future post. Just let me know.

You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are! (How to Find Out)

Last week I wrote about my 7-step CatSight™ Process for Insight Development. The first step is to identify the Category in which you are competing. I got so many comments about this step that I decided to dedicate a whole post to this important topic.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to read last week’s post (“Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor, Insights its Foundation”) I suggest you do this first, as background to this post. In it, I summarised the very first step of Insight development like this:

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. This may seem obvious to you, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might think.

Category identification by zooming inFor instance, suppose you are looking to launch a new juice flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink!

The reason was that these are seen as being for lively, energetic, fun-loving people who needed a boost. Whether this comes from the caffeine of an energy drink, or from the added vitamins and minerals which was my client’s offer, didn’t seem to matter.
If we’d only looked at other fruit flavoured soft drinks we would have missed a whole – and large – section of category consumers.
By starting our comparison in all beverages and then slowly zooming in as we learnt more, we were quickly able to discover this perhaps surprising positioning for the new drink.

This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment.

The above example is a great start. But many readers have since asked me to help them with their own category definition, so here are the suggested steps to doing it for yourself:

 

Step 1. What is the category definition you are currently using? 

In any process we need to start by identifying where we are today. In this case, it should be the category you think you are competing in. Depending on whether you are offering a product or service, you might define it as:

– All hot beverage consumers ….. or ….. users of an insurance service.

– Consumers of coffee ….. or ….. people who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

– All consumers of instant coffee powder ….. or ….. house owners in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

– Consumers of instant coffee powder costing less than US$ 2.50 per 100 gms ….. or ….. owners of houses over US$2 million in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

As you can see from these few examples, the bottom definitions are far more precise and focused than the top ones.

In any process we need to start by identifying where we are today. #Process #Business Click To Tweet
The one you use, will depend upon whether you are looking to grow your brand through your marketing activities or looking to develop a new product or service offer. I call this zooming in and zooming out. In general understanding the category by zooming in is best for growth, zooming out for innovation.

Now take a look at your own current category definition. I bet it’s too broad for general use isn’t it? This is the mistake that most businesses make, big and small. They want to attract all consumers or users of a category, but as is often quoted:

“If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one”

The more precise you are in the group of customers you are trying to attract, the more focused will be your actions and communications. In addition, they will also resonate more strongly with your target audience.

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Step 2. How is this category changing?

Once you have identified the precise category in which you are playing, you need to consider what is currently happening to it. Is it growing or declining? Why?

Understanding how the category is changing and more importantly why, will help you to understand it better. For instance:

- Is the category growing? If so is it the leading brands which are increasing, or are there new brands that were recently launched which are making the difference? Identfying which brands are growing and the reasons for this growth will enable you to take corrective action.

- Is the category stable? Are category shares stable, or are some brands gaining and others losing? Again, why? What do the brands which are gaining have in common? What are the losing brands lacking? Are the changes making a difference to the category definition?

- Is the category declining? Are all major brands in the category losing or are some gaining at the expense of others, but not maintaining overall category size? If so, What are the declining brands lacking? Where are customers who are leaving the category going to? Is there a new category which is better meeting their needs?

Your answers to these questions, will help you to understand whether the category in which you are currently competing is going to remain as attractive as it is today.

 

Step 3. How will this category change in the future?

In addition to current category trends, you also need to assess what is likely to happen in the marketplace in the coming years and how this may impact it.

Things are changing nd changing fast these days. There is no more "business as usual." Expecting the unexpected has become the norm, which is why I am such a big fan of scenario planning.

There is no more business as usual. Click To Tweet

Industries are being disrupted. A study from the John M. Olin School of Business (Washington University) estimates that 40% of today's Fortune 500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years time!

40% of today's Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist in 10 years time! #Business #Trends #Future Click To Tweet

Understanding who and what will impact your category, is the first step to preparing for the changes which could come. Preparing for likely future opportunities and risks is the second step, and the reason scenario planning is so vital to ongoing busines success.

 

Step 4. Which of the category users are you attracting?

This question surprises some people. They expect that once they have identified the category in which they are competing that they can just start trying to attract everyone in it. However "You can't please all the people all of the time" as the infamous quote from John Lydgate mentions.

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. John Lydgate Click To Tweet

You therefore need to identify which of the category users would be most interested in what you have to offer. The best way is by running a segmentation study and then plotting the groups on the Boston Matrix I mentioned in last week's post. Or you can read "How to Sell Less to More People: The Essentials of Segmentation." for a more detailed explanation on how to divide all category users into relevant sub-groups.

Understanding which sub-group of all the category users you are most likely to appeal to with your offer, is one further step in focusing on the very best target audience for your brand.

Step 5. How are your customers changing?

After identifying which category users are the most attracted to your offer, you also need to consider how this sub-group is changing. Is it increasing or decreasing in size, and how and why is it changing.
 
As with category changes mentioned above, it is important that you target a viable group. This can either be a growing segment or you should have plans to attract those who switch out with a separate offer
There are many reasons why a segment may decline:
  • The introduction of a new category segment that is taking customers away from yours.
  • Natural decline because of aging.
  • Behavioural changes that make the category less relevant than in the past.
Having identified how your customers are changing today, you then need to consider societal trends and their impact on your customers. That is the ultimate test to choosing the right group of category users to target.
 

Conclusion

Going through these five steps will give you the very best understanding of the categroy in which you are competing, as well as the customers who make up the sub-segment you target.

Have you successfully mastered every suggested step? What have you forgotten?

Is there something I myself have forgotten or that you would add? If so, then please share your ideas in the comments below. Thanks

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7 Essential Steps to Successful Business Projects (A Useful Roadmap)

Although there is no magic bullet to transform your business into a successful powerhouse, I have witnessed similarities amongst those that grow more profitably. And what they have in common is the process steps of their business projects. Why not compare your own to the elements below and see how good yours really are?

Here are my 7 secrets to managing a successful business project. At first view, you might think that they are rather basic, but can you confirm that you have them for every project you run? If not, then they are well worth checking out. And they will be useful to you, whether you are just starting out or are looking to take your business to the next level.

 

1. A Support Team

As is often said to motivate us into exercising more:

“Change is more fun when there’s more than one.”

Business Project ProcessBut this is relevant in business too. No-one ever changed a company, let alone its culture, by working alone.

Therefore start by gathering together a group of like-minded people as your support team.

If you are a solopreneur, like myself, then this is even more important, if not vital to your success. If you are a solopreneur, getting support is vital to your success. #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

You must have a sounding board to share ideas and get differing perspectives. People you can meet for a coffee or lunch so you don’t spend your days in your (home) office, behind your desk and in front of your computer.

Social media and Facebook groups are great for daily connections, but nothing beats the more intimate face-to-face discussions a personal meeting provides. So make sure you include two or three of them in your weekly agenda.

If you work in a corporation, no matter its size, choosing the right group of team members will ensure that you have support to bring about the required improvements. Internal change is more a cultural than a process challenge so a team made up of members across the different departments will provide you with the necessary support.

And what I said about face-to-face meetings applies to you corporate slaves too. Don’t always take a coffee or go to lunch with your team or the same group of people. Take the opportunity to discuss with people you don’t normally come into contact with. They are likely to be in different departments and have new ideas and perspectives to share.

Don't always take coffee or lunch with the same people. Get new #ideas & #perspectives. #business Click To Tweet

 

2. A Plan

I know, most of us don’t like planning, we like action! I’m with you there! But it is a necessary evil, even vital, for success. As Alan Lakein, the writer of several self-help books on time management, is famously quoted as saying:

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”

The content of a plan will obviously depend upon the objectives, but at a minimum, it should include details about:

  • The problem
  • The objectives and desired outcome / changes
  • Team members and their needed experience
  • Others who need to be involved and / or informed
  • The suggested approach
  • The information needed in order to make the change
  • External support needed, if any, and why
  • Time and budget resources available
  • Any barriers or risks that could impact or restrict implementation

If any of these components are lacking or incomplete, then the project should not be started, nor any changes implemented. Insufficient execution and support is one of the main reasons why projects fail.

 

3. Management Support

Management supportProject success is always dependent upon gaining buy-in in one way or another, whether from management, key stakeholders or even the whole organisation.

This will only be possible if the project is seen as a company rather than a departmental or individual initiative. That is why all the components of the plan, as detailed above, are so important.

Any change is likely to meet with some resistance, that’s only human. We are creatures of habit who prefer to stay in our comfort zones. In fact, the brain actively avoids anything, which could destabilise our current position, whether good or bad. The #brain actively avoids anything which could destabilise our current position, whether good or bad. Click To Tweet

We will only change when we are either forced to – not good – or agree to – good – because we see the outcome as positive, ideally for ourselves. Therefore management must explain what benefits are in the project for each employee, not just for themselves, the team or even worse, the shareholders!

 

4. A Project Management System

In line with creating a plan, you must have a way to identify milestones and follow project progression. Therefore you need some sort of system to record and share progress with everyone concerned.

The platform you use can be as simple or as complex as you like, but should be appropriate for the complexity of the project itself. No point in buying a sophisticated project management system if it could be summarised in a simple spread sheet, Gantt chart or with a free online tool. (Microsoft Project, Zoho Projects, GanttProject, Asana) “Horses for courses” is what is important. In other words match the system to the project and not the other way around. Match the system to the project and not the other way around. #business #planning Click To Tweet

Whatever you choose, it should be easily accessible, visual, informative, user friendly and as intuitive as possible. If it isn’t, it won’t get used, it’s as simple as that!

 

5. Launch Following

Launch followingSince most projects will have an end or launch date when it goes live, it is a good idea to make everyone aware of it. A celebration of some sort is useful for gaining both awareness and excitement around the project launch.

If you have not been very successful at getting company-wide support for your project, then this becomes even more important. The event will give you the opportunity to improve understanding and encourage everyone to get behind the launch.

Hopefully you will have already developed a logo and catchy phrase for the project and can now use them under your email signature or on posters and newsletters to announce the launch.

And don’t think that a single go-live event is sufficient. To gain maximum awareness and support it needs to be followed up with further occasions to celebrate additional milestones such as meeting different targets for adoption, distribution etc.

One added benefit of such follow-up events is that they remind all employees that this project is on-goingand warrants their attention, if only to ensure they understand what it is about should anyone ask. It also enables people to use their own language and vocabulary to integrate it into their own projects, which is essential for long-lasting impact.

 

6. Best-Practice Improvements

As well as regular follow-up events, it is important to frequently track the current situation of the project roll-out. This ensures that any deviation from the plan is quickly identified and corrective actions taken.

This helps in improving the original plan by pinpointing any areas that need additional steps or enhancements. It will also guarantee continued involvement by everyone since they will see that they have the chance to suggest changes.

In this way employees who were not involved in the original project do not feel it mandatory to execute as specified, when they know things could be improved. They will also feel concerned about the project’s success rather than excluded and will be more likely to give their ongoing support.

How a Company Reacts to a Crisis Says a Lot About its Customer Centricity

In the UK, there was a recent, highly publicised significant and sustained cyber-attack on the Telecom company Talk Talk’s website.

According to the news as I write this, it seems that a fifteen (!!!) year old Irish lad and a 16-year-old Brit may be responsible. They might have been able to steal information such as names, addresses, passwords and other personal information including bank details. The phone and broadb and provider, which has over four million customers in the UK, said that this information “could have been accessed, but credit and debit card numbers had not been stolen”. This was later corrected and Talk Talk admitted that such sensitive financial information had also been obtained.

When the news first broke, Talk Talk tried to play it down. When people requested to cancel their contract, they were told they would be hit with a hefty £200 cancellation fee! That’s really adding insult to injury isn’t it?

As a result of the ensuing outcry, they later amended their position, saying that they would only waive termination fees for customers wanting to end their contracts if money is stolen from them. The local Consumer group Which? called the offer the “bare minimum”.

“In the unlikely event that money is stolen from a customer’s bank account as a direct result of the cyber-attack [rather than as a result of any other information given out by a customer], then as a gesture of goodwill, on a case-by-case basis, we will waive termination fees,” the company said on its website.

Am I dreaming? Goodwill gesture?!! My brother is one of their soon to be ex-clients and I, therefore, followed the h andling of the whole case with interest.

What Talk Talk did was ignore their customers’ feelings. As a result, they are provoking their customers to cancel their contracts as soon as they come up for renewal. That is certainly what my brother will do. If on the other h and, they had said that people had up to a month, or three or six months, to cancel their contract if they so desired, then I’m sure that many would have waited before taking such a rash decision.

That would have given them time to calm down, and they might even have forgotten or forgiven the incident by the time their contract came up for renewal. By forcing people to stay, they are also forcing people to leave just as soon as is legally possible. This is just another example of a short-term gain for a long-term pain / loss.

As if that isn’t enough, reporters facing imminent deadlines, will often go with what (little) information they have about the situation. They can’t wait hours or days for the company to craft an appropriate response that will assure that its image remains intact. As a result, damage is done incredibly quickly to a business as well as to its image when such incidents are h andled badly. A good reason for organisations to be prepared for any and all eventualities, by using scenario planning. See “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything” for more on this topic.

 

What Talk Talk should have done

As all good crisis managers know, what Talk Talk should have done is to follow best practice procedures. When a crisis happens especially when it directly involves the customer:

  1. Admit the problem.
  2. Detail exactly what has happened.
  3. Say what you are doing to put it right.
  4. Empathise with customers and offer a solution.
  5. Explain what you will do so it doesn’t happen again.

These five simple steps are known by all PR professionals and yet when a crisis happens the reaction from so many companies appears panicked and chaotic. It is as if knowing what to do doesn’t ensure a company does what needs to be done. (>>Tweet this<<) In this case, it doesn’t even look like Talk Talk has thought through and prepared for such an eventuality – even though this isn’t the first time it has happened to them! Being prepared is half the battle. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

Learning from Mistakes

According to an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, this is Talk Talk’s third major security breach in the past year! When asked whether such sensitive financial information was encrypted, Talk Talk’s CEO, Dido Harding, said: “The awful truth is, I don’t know”. What is shocking is not only that it has happened before – several times – but that the head of the organisation has not taken steps to ensure such gaps in her organisation’s security were corrected.

Every business and every person makes mistakes occasionally. It’s what we do after making a mistake that makes the difference. As Bruce Lee is famously quoted as saying Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” (>>Tweet this<<) 

Excellent leaders and great businesses admit their mistakes quickly and with courage. They see them as a chance to learn and to grow, rather than as an excuse for ignorance and denial. As a recent article in Forbes mentions, “A company in crisis is an opportunity for change”. (>>Tweet this<<) A business should take both short-term and long-term actions as quickly as possible. Doing nothing is the worst reaction to a crisis, as it opens the way for even greater criticism and exaggeration. As already mentioned, journalists love a good story and if you don’t provide it, they will create it with what they’ve got.

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them” Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel

Being Customer Centric

I spoke about customer centricity in the title because I believe that companies who are thinking customer first, will react appropriately in a crisis. Taking the customers’ perspective will mean that they will do what’s best for their clients first and foremost. They will address the issue for their good, and only then address it internally. Therefore, all businesses which are in the habit of thinking customer first are more likely to do the right thing first.

There are many organisations that have reacted inappropriately in a crisis and their business has suffered, in some cases to the point of closure. Another recent crisis, that of Volkswagen, highlights just how far a company will go to win the approval of its clients. It shows that although they may have understood the importance of their customers, in this case at least, they exaggerated and lied to win their approval. Both such practices will almost always be discovered sooner or later because too many people are involved in keeping secrets. Customer centricity may not be easy, but it’s the right way to conduct business in today’s informed world.

When faced with a crisis, a customer-centric business follows the 5-step process mentioned above, to empathetically respond first to its clients, and then to the press and relevant authorities. It’s a clear sign that the organisation has the right priorities.

If you’d like a useful checklist about what to do in a crisis, I highly recommend the one which Forbes published a few months ago in their article “You have 15 minutes to respond to a crisis; A checklist of Dos and Don’ts.”

Have you prepared several future scenarios to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges your organisation may follow? If not, then let’s discuss possible solutions. Contact me today here.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. The Audiobook version, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, was published last week.

Market Research, Business Intelligence & Big Data: Have we Forgotten about Human Data?

The annual pilgrimage to the ESOMAR Conference took place last week in Dublin. I heard that there was much discussion, both on and off the stage, about Big Data and the future of market research. Hopefully, the whole profession will get behind one initiative, instead of each individually trying to “solve world peace” on their own!

This week sees the second Swiss BI-Day taking place in Geneva and there will no doubt be similar discussions about Big Data and the future of Business Intelligence.

It appears that Big Data is not just a buzzword or a commodity that has been likened to oil; it has become the centre of a power struggle between different industries. Many professionals seem to be vying for the right to call themselves “THE Big Data experts”.

This got me thinking about the future of data analysis in general and the business usage of Big Data more specifically. There seems to be no stopping the inflow of information into organisations these days, whether gathered through market research, which is proportionally becoming smaller by the day, or from the smartphones, wearables and RFID chips, that get added to every conceivable article, more generally referred to as the IoT (Internet of Things). Who will, and how are we to better manage it all? That is the question that needs answering – soon! (>>Tweet this<<)

Data Science Central published an interesting article earlier this year called “The Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used Today To Change Our World”. Already being a few months old probably makes it a little out-of-date, in this fast changing world we live in, but I think it still makes fascinating reading. It summarises ten ways that data is being used:

  1. Underst anding and Targeting Customers
  2. Underst anding and Optimizing Business Processes
  3. Personal Quantification and Performance Optimization
  4. Improving Healthcare and Public Health
  5. Improving Sports Performance
  6. Improving Science and Research
  7. Optimizing Machine and Device Performance
  8. Improving Security and Law Enforcement
  9. Improving and Optimizing Cities and Countries
  10. Financial Trading

Many of these are not new in terms of data usage nor business analysis. What is new, is that the data analysis is mostly becoming automated and in real-time. In addition, the first and second items, which were largely the domains of market research and business intelligence, are now moving more into the h ands of IT and the data scientists. Is this a good or bad thing?

Another article posted on Data Informed a few months after the above one, talks about The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today   and succinctly summarises some of the dynamic uses of data today. The author of both pieces, Bernard Marr, wrote that “This isn’t all the stuff of science fiction or futurism. Because the technology for big data is advancing so rapidly, rules, regulations, and best practices can’t keep up.” He gives five examples of where data analysis raises certain ethical questions:

  1. Predictive policing. In February 2014, the Chicago Police Department sent uniformed officers to make “ custom notification visits to individuals whom they had identified, using a computer generated list, as likely to commit a crime in the future. Just one step towards the “Minority Report”?
  2. Hiring algorithms. Companies are using computerized learning systems to filter and hire job applicants. For example, some of these algorithms have found that, statistically, people with shorter commutes are more likely to stay in a job longer, so the application asks, “How long is your commute?” Statistically, these considerations may be accurate, but are they fair?
  3. Marketers target vulnerable individuals. Data brokers have begun selling reports that specifically highlight and target financially vulnerable individuals. For example, a data broker might provide a report on retirees with little or no savings to a company providing reverse mortgages, high-cost loans, or other financially risky products. Would we want our own families targeted in this way?
  4. Driving analysis devices may put you in the wrong insurance category. Since 2011, car insurance companies like Progressive and Axa, have offered a small device you can install in your car to analyze your driving habits and hopefully get you a better rate. But some of the criteria for these lower rates are inherently discriminatory. For example, insurance companies like drivers who stay off the roads late at night and don’t spend much time in their cars, but poorer people are more likely to work the late shift and to have longer commutes to work — both of which would be strikes against them when it comes to calculating their auto insurance rates.
  5. Walmart and Target determine your life insurance rates. OK, not directly, but Deloitte has developed an algorithm, based on “non-traditional third-party sources” that can predict your life expectancy from your buying habits. They claim that they can accurately predict if people have any one of 17 diseases, including diabetes, tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression, by analyzing their buying habits.

Marr starts this article by very briefly discussing privacy and inherent biases in data. I think these issues are far more urgent than deciding whether it is market research, business intelligence or data scientists that are in charge of the actual data analysis. Perhaps we all need to work together so that the “Human” side of data is not forgotten? After all, most data comes from people, is understood – if no longer strictly analysed – by people, for the benefit of people, to help change people’s behaviour. What do you think? Join the conversation and let your voice be heard. (I’ll be presenting this very topic at the Swiss BI-Day this coming Tuesday, so I do hope that you will pop by and listen)

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

How to Fast-Start your Customer Centric Journey and Accelerate Ahead of Competition

Many of my clients tell me that they underst and they should be paying more attention to their customers, but admit that they just don’t know where to start when it comes to becoming more customer centric.

I can empathise with them; the task may seem overwhelming at first. After all, it is not something that can be corrected by just starting a new project or taking a single action. It dem ands consistent effort over the longterm, to make an organisation truly customer centric. Here are a few of the ideas I give them at the start of their journey, taken from my latest book Winning Customer Centricity, now available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”> Noble,  iBook and in all good bookstores.

As I am often quoted as saying:

“Customer Centricity is a Journey and not a Destination(>>and%20not%20a%20Destination%22%20%20[tweetlink]%20%23CRX%20%23Quote” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

So where do you start?

The first action to take when turning around a product or service-based company is to start by thinking about how your organisation is currently working. What is its structure and what processes are used to develop your offers? It is only by underst anding how your company functions, that you can identify the priority changes that need to be made. Therefore these are the first five things I suggest to do when starting on your own journey to improved customer centricity:

1. Identify a C-suite sponsor

Customers on the board with c-suiteEvery project needs a sponsor, but when it involves a major culture change, it must be sponsored at the very top, ideally by the CEO. (>>Tweet this<<) If this is not possible, the most customer – savvy executive should be the sponsor, whether that is the CMO or the SVP of marketing services or customer insight.

The initiative must be recognised as a priority company objective by everyone in the organisation, so the higher the level of the project sponsor is, the better it will be.

2. Make every employee aware of the priority initiative

Once you have a senior sponsor, the next step is to make everyone aware of the initiative. It always amazes me how many departmental projects go unnoticed by other groups within the same organisation. (>>Tweet this<<) In my consulting practice, I often uncover overlapping projects when I am invited to work with a client on a project. Perhaps this is because I work across departments and therefore don’t suffer from the silo effect impacting most employees. I also have the privilege of being able to ask “silly questions” which of course are never redundant.

In order to make all employees aware of the project, it must be mentioned at every opportunity. This means signing your emails with a suitable quote such as:

“We don’t pay your salaries, our customers do, every time they buy our product” (>>Tweet this<<)

or

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers” (>>ands%2C%20but%20there%20are%20no%20br ands%20without%20customers%22%20%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customers%20%23Br ands” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

You can also mention it in newsletters, on bulletin boards, or through internal memos, with clear explanations as to why it is important and how everyone is expected to participate. This alone will make the project st and out from the tens if not hundreds of other projects in your organization, which are most likely driven by a single department or group.

3. Identify your categories

Identify the category you are in This may seem strange to be asked to evaluate the categories in which you are active, but I am always surprised how many companies identify the category from a manufacturers perspective and not that of their customer. (>>Tweet this<<) For example a carbonated fruit juice could be seen by customers as being a part of carbonated soft drinks, of fruit juices, or in a completely new category of its own. It all depends on how they consume it.

Another example might be a dried soup mix, which customers may use to make soup, but also to make a sauce, to add taste to a casserole or dip, or to enhance the flavour of a dish made from scratch with fresh ingredients. In each case, the soup mix would be competing with products in those different categories, such as sauce mixes, flavour enhancers, and not just other (dried) soups.

4. Identify the category users

As you can imagine, if your product is being categorised in different product segments by consumers, then the users themselves will most likely differ. Taking the above example of dried soups, the category user might be:

  • Young singles – using the product to make a quick and easy soup
  • Mothers of teenage children – to make their sauces more flavourful
  • Couples – to add to their scratch cooking recipes

In each case the group of consumers have differing needs and therefore different segment descriptions. This is why underst anding the category in which you are active and the customers of the sub-group that you are appealing to, is a vital first step to underst anding your customers. (>>anding%20the%20category%20%26%20customers%20of%20the%20sub-group%20you%20are%20appealing%20to%2C%20is%20a%20vital%20first%20step%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customer%20%23Underst anding” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

5. Choose your category segment

Choose your customer segmentAgain taking dried soups as our example, the description of your users will be very different depending upon how they use the product. The simple demographic breaks mentioned above would be insufficient to be able to get to know them well. The more descriptions you can add to these basic demographics, the more likely you are to underst and and therefore delight your customers. (>>and%20your%20customers.%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customer%20%23Personas%20″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

In C³Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to identify and store everything we know about category users. For more information on this useful template, see the post and-underst and-your-customers/” target=”_blank”>How well do you know your customers? or the Video series on YouTube. You can also download the free template in the Members area.

These are the first five actions to take when starting out on your own journey to increased customer centricity. Getting the whole company and every employee in it, behind such an initiative, is the only way to make it happen. As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos is often quoted as saying:

“We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company”

Your customer centric journey starts with these first steps, and then it’s just a matter of knowing intimately the people you are hoping to satisfy and delight, and ideally surprise too. Have you already started your journey to Customer Centricity? If so, what has been your biggest challenge to date,  and if you solved the issue, how did you do it? Others who are just starting on their journey would love to hear from you.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

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