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

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Most major organisations follow societal trends today – and that’s a huge problem!

Think about it. They are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar reports. This results in them all working on the same ideas & concepts, and eventually launching very similar products and services that will struggle to compete effectively.

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans, or launching similar offers? Now you know why.

Here’s how to avoid this and develop a powerful competitive advantage.

 

Market Evidence

I want to start by sharing just one example of the problem I just mentioned. Think back a few years ago and you will see that many companies started using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising. In Europe these included:

    • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – only in French & German but still easy to understand whatever language you speak.
    • Coke’s Say Yes to Love campaign.
  • Coke say yes to love

 

 

These are just three examples from very different industries, but I’m sure there are many others in the country you yourself live in. (If so do drop me a line, or share in the comments below, I’d love to hear about other examples)

Clearly the trend for more independence and freedom has been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above. Perhaps they are working with the same trend or advertising agency. Or maybe they are buying the same external trend reports. It certainly looks like it, doesn’t it?

Companies that develop concepts based upon this type of external resource alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them.

Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working.

So what can you do about it? The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations don’t take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

Scenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs.

Then, the new product and service concepts, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions that are developed are unlikely to ever be the same as those of the competition and will therefore have a greater chance of success.

 

How to Turn Trends into Future Scenarios

Organisation working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They all follow a similar pattern to the ten-step process summarised below:

Following the process as summarised above and also including all five of the additional criteria mentioned, provides the greatest chance of success in building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business.

If you have never done a scenario planning exercise before it may seem daunting, at least at first. Continue Reading

I’d like to start this post with a story. As you know, I published my book Winning Customer Centricity a few years ago. And being the customer centric champion that I am, I wanted to ensure that people could buy it wherever they were and in whatever format they preferred.

This meant offering hardback, paperback and Kindle versions. It also involved recording an audiobook. Now you’re probably thinking, as I myself did going into it, “How difficult is it to read out loud?”

I went for my first day of recording with not much more preparation than getting my book printed off. What a mistake! Luckily we had technical problems and Tony Johnston, who helped me with the project, decided to redo the first part again a week or so later.

That extra time gave me the chance to do two invaluable things. Firstly, to get some coaching from two incredibly talented – and patient! – actors, Pamela Salem and Michael O’Hagan. Secondly, to better prepare myself by reading the book out loud several times, and then marking it up with pauses, emphases and other notes, to make the recording more agreeable to the listener.

However, after successfully recording the first half of the book, I again fell back into my usual ways of presentation mode on the second day, and Tony once again, generously offered to re-record it. So I went back to my dream team of coaches, and did some intensive voice training and exercises. And lucky for me – and Tony – it was third time lucky. You can judge for yourself by listening to a sample on Amazon.

By now, you’re probably thinking “Nice story Denyse, but what does all of this have to do with me and my business?”

Great question; let me answer it by simply saying “A lot!” Read on, to find my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter what industry you work in. And in addition, by adopting all seven behaviours, you will be portraying a more customer centric leadership style.

1. We should never stop learning

As we rise in the corporate world, we seem to forget that we don’t know it all! We sometimes even think that we should have all the answers, or worse still, believe that we do!

I’m often quoted as saying:

“A day without learning is a day without living”

It’s vital that we continuously strive to keep learning and challenging our every-day habits and behaviours. Lifelong learning should be everyone’s mantra.

This has become increasingly important because technical advances are coming almost daily, so we need to constantly rethink the way we work. We should be adapting and integrating those technologies which could improve our business processes.

 

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. Continue Reading

The covid pandemic clearly highlighted those companies that truly care about their customers and which provide them with excellent  customer service.

If a company claims to be customer centric then it is essential that they don’t just talk the talk, but walk the talk too. The pandemic gave many people more time to review from whom they bought and what services they were getting in return.

A few years ago I was prompted to question my own purchase decision of cable services from the Swiss company UPC-Cablecom. It had been known to have a  long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom. And as recent PWC research shows, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they were renowned for putting their customers first. UPC-Cablecom, on the other hand, had until then, been trying to win customers through non-stop promotions and aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially where the internet is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by UPC-Cablecom – my perception at least, because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s customer service centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response, since contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in no reaction for hours if not days.

 

What makes a great customer care centre?

Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Research shows that nearly a half of all customers (46%) expect companies to respond faster than 4 hours, and 12% expect a response within 15 minutes or less. And yet the average time to respond to customer service requests is currently 12 hours and 10 minutes! How does your own customer service response times compare? As you enjoy my blog posts I assume they are significantly better.

Most call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary, experience for (often dissatisfied) customers to endure. In many cases, they are automated, with a long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs – if you’re lucky that is!

But too often the result of all that effort is just a recording telling you to call back later as the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line.

We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternative solutions to waiting on the line. Going to the website to find a solution in their available FAQs, or to complete a contact form, or to send an email. This I find insulting since I am sure most people only call after having tried to find a solution online – anything so they don’t have to suffer these long waits! Continue Reading

How do you know when you have too many variants in your brand portfolio? In my opinion, the answer is that it’s when you can’t answer that question! Can you?

One of the most popular evergreen posts on C3Centricity is “The Beginners Guide to Brand Portfolio Management.” It seems that we all suffer from a deep-rooted fear of managing and reducing our brand portfolio, especially when it includes many historic or regional variants.

That is why I decided to write about these best-kept secrets in portfolio management, which even large corporations are not always aware of!

 

MORE IS RARELY BETTER!

We live in an over-abundant world of consumer choice, but more is rarely better. The paradox of choice is a powerful concept  popularised by Barry Schwartz.

It states that people actually feel freer when they are given fewer choices. Have you never ended up walking out of a store without the purchase you had planned, because you had been faced with too many choices? I know I have – often!

It is said that the limited choice offered in hard discounters in one of the reasons for their success. It appears that it’s not only about lower prices.

Retailers such as Aldi and Lidl present just one or two brands of each category they stock, in addition to their own brand. The branded products they do sell are almost always the cheapest offering the brand has, or one of their older versions that are no longer very popular. And they are usually at the same price if not even higher than in normal supermarkets!

More than fifteen years after the first research on which Schwartz based his theory was conducted, new studies have given some alternative perspectives on choice. They claim that large assortments are not always a bad thing. In the study by Gao & Simonson, they propose that there are many factors which were forgotten in Schwartz’s original study.

You can read the full findings of this latest work in Neuromarketing. What I found of particular interest in this article, being the customer champion that I am, is that they conclude by saying that it all depends on understanding your customer – doesn’t everything?! Their summary findings state that:

“In certain situations (when the ‘whether to buy’ decision comes before the ‘which option is best’ decision) a large assortment CAN increase purchase likelihood. Especially in eCommerce, it is possible to reap the benefits of a large product assortment, while helping customers make choices?”

In other words, the online searches that we all now perform before purchasing many articles, will benefit from a wide selection of offers. Once we have decided to buy, then a large choice can become a barrier to the final purchase.

THE 5 SECRETS

In conclusion, to summarise the best strategies for brand portfolio management, which seem to be a well-guarded secret since many corporations still ignore them, are:

  1. Remember, that if you offer a vast choice of variants for each brand, consumers could get analysis paralysis and end up walking out of the store without buying anything.
Continue Reading

In most countries, the population have a love / hate relationship with their police. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be adopting a customer first strategy in Switzerland!

Let me explain. A few years ago they introduced a new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why these speed cameras seem to be so effective. It’s simple; they’re customer centric! The Swiss police have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share more about this story here.

 

Background

One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many (dare I say most?) countries, is because of their insidious speed controls.

Whether they are permanent fixtures as on the right, or temporary ones, we all dislike the flash that tells us it’s too late, that we’ve been “caught.”

We then wait a few days, to weeks or even months, naively hoping that it wasn’t our car that was flashed. But eventually the letter arrives asking us to pay a fine.

I think the worst of them all are the laser guns that the Police have been using for many years now. We don’t even know we’ve been flashed until the communication arrives at our home! Or we are pulled up a few hundred meters down the road.

 

The relatively new types of radar that are being introduced in my home area don’t flash either. But that’s because we never get “caught” as such.

You see they measure our speed and give us immediate feedback. Take a look at the photo on the right; I’m sure you’ve seen such installations before in your own area.

Now if we make the assumption that all four types of equipment are to get road users to decrease their speed in critical areas – and not just to gather money as I’ve heard suggested – then the results must vary widely.

 

 

So let me share my thoughts from the perspective of a customer first strategy champion.

 

 

What This Has to Do with Your business

So why is this example relevant for you and your own customer first strategy? Well, ask yourself what you really want for your business? 

In the case of the police, I am assuming that they want to reduce the speed of drivers in certain areas and make the roads safer for everyone. In this case, the customer-centric approach, which has by far the most success at slowing drivers down to within the speed limit along a larger portion of the road, is the information panel. If that is their objective, then the Police in every country should adopt these new style radars.

But if those who consider speed checks to be a mere money-making operation are right, then the Police will continue to use one of their other options. And they must accept the negative consequences on so many levels, not just on their image or speeding in their localities. Continue Reading

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
Listen on Apple Podcasts“Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.”

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