Three Clever Ways to Know the Competition Better

What is the secret to success in business? That’s easy! It’s how well you know the competition.

Alright, maybe this is a slightly over-simplified perspective, but it always surprises me how many companies work with a primarily internal focus.

I have written many posts about knowing your customers, such as “Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions).” Watching and listening to them in order to fully understand their rational needs and emotional desires is a great – and free! – way to start.

But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.

Here’s a simple three-step process to do so. 

 

Encourage employees to use competitive products & services

Know the competition better by trying their products and services.In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?

However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.

This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.

Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.

Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.

 

Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material

KNow your competition better by sharing what you knowIn one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.

Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy. Continue Reading

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage? Or both of these?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communicating.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned. I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or cable box.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations as to why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

Since the internet arrived, we have access to more and more information, and yet we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore as marketers, we need to ensure that any vital information we want to share, is clearly highlighted on the pack.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on the pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention, so make use of it to impress or educate.

Here are a few of the best examples I have come across:

Nestle compass on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionNestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their pack,s with their “nutritional compass.” This includes four different pieces of information: good to know, good to remember, good question and the nutritional data.

What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. Although they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their “compass.”

 

Our customers’ attention is constantly pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are buying or actually using it. Continue Reading

Many of you know that it is vital to continuously improve your customer centricity. You must put the customer clearly at the heart of your business in everything you do. But that’s easier said than done, because your customers are constantly changing.

I think that’s why many businesses struggle to improve their customer centricity, because they don’t know where to start. Am I right? If so, then this article is especially for you. 

This week I want to share ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to improved customer centricity. 

 

#1 Review the description of your target audience

Complete this 4W persona template for customer centricityLet’s start at the very beginning – with the customer of course!

Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to refer to these as personas or avatars. Whatever you call yours, they should be precise, detailed and ideally visual as well.

If you haven’t yet developed your persona, or you know it is not as complete as it could be, why not use our new C3Centricity 4W™ Persona Template? Complete the who, what, where and why for each of your brands and finally understand who you are aiming to attract.

I suggest you also complete one for your company if it appears predominantly on your packaging or communications. I did this for a client and found that some of their brands were positioning themselves in opposition to their company image. As you can imagine, this was getting them nowhere and in fact damaging both their brand and their company image!

Include in your own persona template not only demographics and consumption / purchasing habits, but also information about where your customers do these things, what values they have that you can tap into, and what emotions motivate them to use your brand.

If your current persona doesn’t include all this information, it is probably time to update it – and why not with our 4W™ template?

 

#2 Optimise how you connect with your customers

Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect? You should after completing your updated persona template.

Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it a one-way or two-way discussion? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?

Obviously the second communication style is what you should be aiming for. You can learn far more about your customers when they are ready to share their information with you. And that comes when they trust you to keep their data safe and know that you only collect what you need to give them a superior experience. Make sure that’s what you are doing.

 

#3 Identify the needs your brand is addressing

Do you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?

 

I hope this list has helped you to define a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Continue Reading

As a dedicated customer centricity champion, just like you, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want, just like you do too, I hope. In this period of great global unrest, understanding our customers has become more important than ever before.

Just a few short months ago, I didn’t think that it would be possible for customer-centricity to become any more important. But things change and now everyone is fighting to keep their businesses afloat. So the new and constantly altering needs and desires of our customers should be a top priority for all of us to follow.

To help me keep abreast of the changes, I’m regularly checking online searches for such terms as customer service, customer satisfaction and customer care. Google and Bing have become some of my best friends!

A couple of years ago, I came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post when I first drafted it. But with the incredibly unforeseen events of the past few years, I feel it deserves a update.

Already at the time, my analysis suggested a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers. Today it is clear that any organisation that hasn’t spent time putting things right, will most certainly be suffering in this post-pandemic, global unrest in which companies are trying to do business. I’d be interested to hear your own thoughts once you have read the article.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, another of my faithful friends, doesn’t have a definition for customer centricity! If you look up the term, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable.  Try it for yourself and see!

Gartner defines customer centricity as:

“The ability of people in an organisation to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations.”

It then goes on to say:

“Customer centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”

What I particularly like about this definition, is that it refers to customer understanding and the need for customers to be the focus of decision-making. It also highlights the need to create not just customer satisfaction, but loyalty and advocacy too.

Now whereas it seems to be difficult to build longterm loyalty these days, especially in B2C businesses, advocacy is essential in today’s connected world. Of course the latter means that customers are surprised and delighted rather than just satisfied, so that they are excited to share their positive experiences with others.


Need help in adopting a customer-first strategy?

Check out our Brand Accelerator™ Course in the C3Centricity Academy


Aim for Advocacy Rather than Loyalty

As we all know, it costs between 5 and 25 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain existing ones. (Invesp) Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand. But covid saw us all changing our purchasing behaviours, as we researched, compared and then bought more online. So although loyalty is difficult, it is not impossible to achieve and luckily advocacy demands the same positive experiences that once led to customer loyalty. Continue Reading

Denyse Drummond-Dunn · What a customer first strategy means today
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Every few days there seems to be yet another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and swamps our online social media feeds. The mistakes companies are making in serving their customers are becoming ever more frequent, at least it appears that way to me. You too?

I find this strange, since almost every organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of satisfying their customers. They all talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why do you think that so many organisations continue to struggle?

After all, a customer first strategy is not that difficult, at least in theory. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs – a lot of – money to implement.

Reasons for adopting a customer-first strategy

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I found.

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
  • The price premium for great customer experience is real—and it’s big, up to 16% PWC
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
  • By 2020, customer experience was expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. I haven’t heard if it did! Customers 2020 Report
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co

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

I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!


If you’re ready to put your customers first, then why not sign up for the C3Centricity Academy and follow the course on the topic?  FIND OUT MORE.


 

Marketers are too busy building brands

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

However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all the data that is available to them these days.

Continue Reading

One of my clients, who is following the 50 weekly actions for customer centric excellence as described in my book Winning Customer Centricity, recently asked me for some ideas on how to better involve their customers in co-creation.

Working more closely with customers is the best way to understand, satisfy and delight them. So I am impressed that they are taking customer co-creation even further than they are doing today. In fact, I realised that this is an area that many of you may be interested in learning more about, so I decided to share what I told them. But first …

 

What is Co-creation?

The term co-creation has been around for decades. However, it is only in the last ten years or so that we are seeing a growth in co-creation in so many different areas of marketing.

According to Wikipedia co-creation is

“A management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.”

Individualisation, which offers higher-priced items with a customer perceived higher-value, has also been popular for years. It allows customers to design their own unique products to show off their personality. For instance, customers can personalise their M&M chocolates and design their own Nike running shoes.

But these are not strictly co-creation, since they are designed by only one person for use by just one person. Co-creation is rather about designing an offer by many, for the purchase and enjoyment of many. 

After the success of such personalised offers, organisations understood that there is immense value in getting input from customers. Many now include them not only in product enhancements, but also in developing their advertising, promotions and even in first-stage innovation.

The practice has been further intensified by the internet, which has enabled companies to reach out to customers across the globe, virtually for free. Social media, in particular, is a great source of customer understanding, as well as for highlighting issues with current offers. This is why co-creation should include social media in some form, as I’ll share further on.

 

Who to work with?

Winning Customer Centricity - The BookAs I mention in my book, not all business managers feel comfortable exposing their new ideas and concepts to their customers. If this is the case in your own organisation, then you are left with the only option of interviewing employees. This isn’t such a bad thing; after all, they too are customers, but you need to keep in mind their biasses. They probably know more about the brand than the average customer does and they are also likely to be more positive towards it. However, their passion for the company and its brands is a valuable asset not to be neglected.

If your management allows you to work with customers, then you will want them to be vetted for different things by the recruitment agency.

By the way, I highly recommend using a recruitment agency to find you the customers who would be most appropriate for the task planned. Continue Reading

I was recently asked to speak about how to build relationships with clients, in this case for a realtor association. In preparing for the interview, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how important it is to build a mutually beneficial relationship while at the same time respecting the customer.

Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. An article on Business2Community by Owen Ray says that

The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”

If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.

Companies that are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Many businesses ask far too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes. And why cookies are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.

 

1. Ask Permission to Gather Information

This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t intentionally, if at all, subscribe! You too?

Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for.

Not only should you ask for their consent if you are not in direct personal contact, but when connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.

Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers.

This also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.

Far too often I see requests where the permission is encouraged by using colourful buttons to click, or an implied criticism if you don’t, with phrases such as  “No, I have enough sales” or “No, I don’t want to save money”.

 

2. There Must be Mutual Benefit

When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them immediately. Continue Reading

Did the title about data make you curious? Great!

Of course, in today’s data-rich environment I’m not really suggesting that you ignore it, rather the opposite! But in working with clients around the world and in numerous industries, I’ve found that many are lost by all the information that is available to them.

In fact it seems to drown out their reasoning of what to do and they remain frozen in indecision. Is this your case? If so, then just follow the steps I detail below and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not 10x the ROI of your data!

 

The Current Situation with Data

Data is everywhere and most organisations are drowning in it! Technology is at the heart of this data explosion and is being blamed for disrupting businesses, but most have simply not adapted to this new information-rich world.

I admit, a lot has changed in recent years. Consumers are learning how to adapt their behaviours and now trade their personal information for extra benefits. In response companies are changing their business models as their value shifts from products to services, or in some cases, to the sale of the information they gather.

Some organisations are reinventing themselves to take advantage of these changes. Others are ignoring them – at their peril, since they risk becoming the next Kodak, Borders or Blockbusters. If you’re interested in reading more about the US Retail Apocalypse and the 23 big retailers closing stores then I highly recommend this post on Fox Business.

So what should you do, whether you are in manufacturing or retail? Well, I believe that you should start by renovating your business model to take advantage of the countless new opportunities that the wealth of data offers you. And in my opinion, you had better do it sooner rather than later, because your competition almost certainly will!

 

The Opportunity

Yes you have data and information, but if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that it’s not enough. You have to turn these into knowledge and understanding, and then into actionable insights. And this can only be done by asking the right questions of your data and information.

If you are struggling to take needed action despite a wealth of information, then this is certainly where you should start making changes – fast!

A 2015 Capgemini and EMC study called “Big & Fast Data: The rise of Insight-Driven Business” showed that:

  • 56% of the 1,000 senior decision makers surveyed claim that their investment in big data over the next three years will exceed past investment in information management.
  • 65% admit they risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive if they do not leverage data. This is especially true given that non-traditional providers, like startups thriving on big data processing, are moving into their industries.
  • Although companies realise they desperately need to dig into data analytics to maintain their business position, 45% surveyed think their current internal IT development cycles are not sufficient for new analytics and don’t fulfil their business requirements.
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Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and goes viral on social media. Amongst the most notable recent examples include United’s Flight 3411 incident disembarking passengers by force and Walmart refusing to match their online prices in-store. These types of incidents almost only ever happen when an organisation doesn’t adopt a customer first strategy, so the solution is relatively easy.

Every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers today. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Perhaps yours is one of these? Do you know why this is? What’s stopping you from taking the necessary actions?

A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong?

I think one reason, and probably the most common, is because they don’t see an immediate return on their investment. You see, it costs money to make changes in internal processes and procedures.

Another possible reason is because some organisations have hesitated to start for so long, they now feel that they have been left so far behind that they don’t know where to start. What do you think?

The good news is that if you’re in one of these situations, then help is at hand. Read on because this article shares some of the most useful tips I’ve seen on the topic of adopting a customer first strategy.

 

REASONS TO ADOPT A CUSTOMER FIRST STRATEGY

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer-first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the most noteworthy numbers I found during my research online; if you are still not sure it’s worth it, then this data will no doubt convince you.

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. (Source: CEI Survey)
  • 74% of consumers have spent more due to good customer service (Source: Entechus.com)
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.  (Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
  • 49% of consumers have left a brand in the past year due to poor customer experience. (Source: Emplifi)
  • Companies earning $1 billion+ can expect to earn an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in CEX. (Temkin Group now Qualtrics)
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. (Source: Bain & Co)

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

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

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. But with the advent of digital in the early 80’s, companies began taking a serious look at their marketing strategies.

Many organisations realised that it was time for a major overhaul of their primarily outbound strategies. Consumers no longer appreciated being interrupted in their daily lives, if they ever did! Marketing had to find ways to stimulate more inbound engagements, but how?

However, after trying multiple inbound marketing strategies, they find that they are still irritating their customers with spammy emails, intrusive pop-ups and over-complicated cookies, that gather far more information than most organisations will ever need or use. At least those will soon be a thing of the past!

Despite these changes, CMOs remain one of the leading c-suite members who struggle to keep their jobs for more than four or five years. The reasons are many, but the post “Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?” explains what you can do to ensure that you leave your position when you want to and not on your CEO’s terms.

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies, such as P&G, Coca-Cola and Nestle, have changed the name of their Marketing departments in the past twenty years, to Brand Building. They hoped that it would revive sales and give new vitality to their communications to better engage their customers in the new social world. But most failed miserably, because they remained very much in a state of business as usual. They continued with the same processes and mind-sets. And with few exceptions, they prioritised thoughts about themselves and their brands, and rarely took their customers’ perspective.

A more recent change is bringing more marketing tasks in-house, as P&G has done. Read more here. While this certainly saves a considerable part of their budget, the biggest advantage from my perspective, is that these companies automatically learn more about their customers’ behaviour. When you are planning communication campaigns and deciding on ad spend, you need to understand where your customers are and when they are most open to receiving your messages. That for me is far more valuable than any savings on agency costs. What do you think?

Even without making such a drastic move, many other consumer goods companies have realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to customer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their businesses. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey where you are accompanying your customers with the aim to satisfy and delight them, however they change.

One of the issues that has been created by marketing is that I believe we have taught our customers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. Continue Reading

I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a few years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that they were speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and tech-savvy. But they weren’t. They were referring to the growing demand for marketers who could take successful local brands to global fortune.

After all, thanks to the internet, we live in a global market and the recent pandemic has highlighted this more than ever before, with online shopping booming. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.

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

 

1. Understand the Market and How It’s Changing

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

For global rollouts, additional information is required, including a comparison of the similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t (yet?) developed plausible future scenarios, as I recommend here.

 

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

  • Conscious consumerism: Consumers have become much more thoughtful about what and where they purchase.  They support companies that demonstrate the same values that they have and brands are tapping into this trend with campaigns showing their position on various topics. Check out these examples of latest campaigns:
  • I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information – and their purchases too! – where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get near-instantaneous answers to all their questions, sometimes using visual search to identify and buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea’s Place App offers shoppers the possibility to snap an article they like and then see it in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings before you purchase it.
  • Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example in Japan which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.
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