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Your Pre-Vacation Marketing Checklist: Don’t Leave the Office Without Doing It!

Have you already taken your mid-year vacation, are you currently on it, or are you eagerly anticipating your departure, as you finish all those last-minute tasks?

If it’s the latter, then you will find this checklist extremely useful. For those of you who have already taken your vacation, then this list will provide you with a simple way to catch up and even get ahead of your colleagues, before they return. Either way, enjoy this quick “To do” list for an easier Summer at work.

1. Check Customer Changes

Describe your customer personasWhen was the last time you reviewed your customer persona or profile? This should be a document that you keep near to you at all times, and update with new information every time you learn something. (>>Tweet this<<)

If you don’t yet have one, then you can read this post on how to complete one quickly and easily. There is even a free template to store all the information, which you can download from the Members area. (FREE to join)

With people changing fast in response to the incredible progress witnessed today, in technology in particular, you have to constantly keep abreast of your customers’ changes. (>>Tweet this<<)

2. Check Sales to Plan

This might sound like a no-brainer since I am sure you are certainly already following your sales monthly, weekly, if not daily. However rather than the simple comparison to plan, mid-year is a great time to review versus your annual objectives and make the necessary adjustments to meet them before it’s too late. If you wait until everyone is back in September, it will almost certainly be too late to have much impact on the numbers.

The other “no-brainer” that some top managers seem to forget, is to check your market shares and segment shares, not just your sales progression. Even if you’re growing at 20% p.a. if the market is increasing at a faster rate, you will be losing share! (I’m always amazed to find just how many companies are still only following sales and profits)

3. Check Communications to Image

Again it is easy to get lost in the detail  and end up reviewing merely the creative of your past, current and planned advertising. However, this is a great time to assess in detail the first six months’ advertising of both your br and and its major competitors.

Campaigns should complement each otherWhat is the overall message? Is everything coherent and building towards a story (>>Tweet this<<), or does each campaign appear to be an independent part of the total puzzle? It is surprising how few marketers ever look at all their campaign ads together and yet this is what the customer will see and hopefully remember – at least in a best-case scenario – over time.

At worst your customer will only see a selection of them across all the campaigns, which makes it even more important that your messages are coherent and building your story and image, or at the very least are complementary over the year, as well as years.

4. Check Distribution and Stock

Summertime can often be a strain on distribution and stock levels, as people leave on vacation and less experienced temporary personnel are hired to replace them. If your product is weather sensitive, such as ice cream, soft drinks, or Bar-B-Q articles (in Summer), stock levels can vary tremendously. Make sure you have plans in place to reduce or increase deliveries based upon these external factors that are out of your control.

Especially where temporary staff are concerned, whether on the retail or manufacturer’s side, they might not underst and the possible wide variances in stocks that can quickly take place. This must be carefully explained before the more experienced staff leave on vacation.

5. Check Value versus Price

Customers are more sensitive to value than priceIn addition to (hopefully) good weather and variable distribution, summertime is also one of the major periods for sales and discounts. This is because retailers often want to clear seasonal stock in preparation for the new articles to come in the Autumn. Therefore price tends to become a more important decision factor for customers (>>Tweet this<<) as they witness and welcome the increase in price cuts and promotions.

Depending upon your industry, customers may therefore start to compare your price to the articles on sale and decide that it is no longer worth its (higher) price, because in the current climate, it has become of lesser value to them.

Whether you respond to this with your own sales prices, or bundle promotions, it’s clear that price cannot be left until your return.

6. Check how your Customers will be Serviced

Customer service excellence has become an increasingly important part of most products. Just because it is vacation time, doesn’t mean that you will no longer receive customer complaints and comments. Will they be h andled in the usual, efficient way or will time to respond be negatively impacted by the vacation period and perhaps less experienced personnel?

Customers remain just as impatient as ever, to receive a response to their contact with you, so you will need to ensure that your service continues at the same quality level.

7. Check for any New Trends that are Developing

Although you should be working with longer term future scenarios, rather than just following trends, it is always good to keep your finger on the pulse. This should be a part of point #1 above on customer personas, but I have separated it, as there may be new trends developing which might offer opportunities for new products, services or even categories.

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In order to be ready to benefit from any new market situation when you return from vacation, before you leave, put in place a social media scan and analysis around any new emerging trend. This way you will have all the information available upon your return to decide whether or not it is something worth considering.

These are the seven most important items which should be on your pre-vacation marketing checklist. In fact it’s a checklist my clients work with all year long! Is there anything else that you would add? If so, I’d love to hear what is on your own pre-vacation checklist. Just leave a comment below.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe images used in this post come from Denyse’s latest book Winning Customer Centricity, which is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in all good bookstores.

If you are not yet a C³C Member, sign up (for free) in the C³C Members area. You’ll get a discount code to buy the book, many useful templates from it, as well as case studies, videos and audio presentations to download.

How to Stop Customer Satisfaction Drip, Dripping Away

I recently spent a few days in a condo that I have rented before in Miami Beach. It is a wonderful penthouse suite with panoramic views of the sea to the east and Miami city and port to the west. I rent it because I am always delighted to spend a few days of vacation in such a perfect place.

However, this last time I wasn’t happy. What has changed? Very little really but enough to make me feel disappointed. That made me reflect on how quickly our customers can move from delighted to dissatisfied because of some small detail we might have overlooked or which we ourselves see as irrelevant. Let me explain.

  1. I arrived at the condo building, but the usual doorman with whom I had built a good relationship has been replaced by a new person. Just as efficient but not “my” doorman; he didn’t know me so he came across as less welcoming and friendly. In the business world our customers like to be recognized for their loyalty.
  2. The condo was as perfect as ever, but had obviously been cleaned in a rush in time for my arrival. It smelt wonderful of course, but I didn’t notice the high-sheen tiled floor was this time wet and I went skidding onto my backside as soon as I entered. Customers notice when things are wrong more than when everything is right.
  3. The usual paper products were supplied, but only four sheets of kitchen roll and not many more of toilet paper! No big deal but it meant I had to immediately go out and buy them first thing the following morning instead of lazing at the beach. Customers will sometimes buy a competitive product rather than go searching when yours is out-of-stock.
  4. I went to bed early upon arrival because I was tired from the sixteen hour trip and the six hour time difference. I had never noticed before but neither the blinds nor the (too short) curtains cut out the daylight, so I tossed and turned for hours before sleep finally took over. Small issues with your product or service may go unnoticed – at least until there are many more “small issues.”

I am explaining these details to demonstrate how little things can build upon one another to create dissatisfaction. The same can happen to your customers. So ask yourself, what little changes have you been making that your customers haven’t (yet) noticed?

  • Reducing pack content just a little
  • Reducing the cardboard quality of packaging
  • Making the flavouring just a little more cheaply
  • Increasing the price just a few cents
  • Shipping just a few days later than usual
  • Call centres being not quite as friendly as they used to be
  • Response time to queries and requests a little slower than before

These adaptations are unlikely to be noticed by your customers at the time they are implemented, unless they are already unhappy with your product or service. The minor changes you have been making over the past months or years will have gone by without any impact on sales. Therefore you decide to make a few more. Each will save you a little more money, which adds up to big savings for you.

However, one day your customers will notice and question their original choice (>>Tweet this>>). To avoid this slow drain on your customers’ satisfaction and delight, here are a few ways to avoid this situation arising in the first place:

  1. When you run product tests, compare not only to the current product and your major competitors but also to the previous product. (or its ratings if the product is no longer available)
  2. Run a PSM (price sensitivity meter) or similar test to check levels of price perceptions and acceptable ranges.
  3. Measure br and image on a regular basis and review trends not only the current levels.
  4. Check that call centres are judged on customer satisfaction and not (just) on the number of calls answered per hour.
  5. Offer occasional surprise gifts or premium services to thank your customers for buying.
  6. Aim to make continuous improvements in response times both online and in call centres.

Perhaps surprisingly, in many categories, customer satisfaction, loyalty and delight come from the small differences and not the big basics (>>Tweet this<<). For example:

  • Consumers are delighted by the perfume of a shampoo more than by the fact that it cleans their hair.
  • Amazon surprises and delights its customers by occasionally offering premium delivery for the price of st andard.
  • Kids will choose one fastfood restaurant over another because of the “free” gifts offered.
  • Women love to buy their underwear from Victoria’s Secrets because they walk out with a pretty pink carrier bag overflowing with delicate pink tissue paper.
  • Men buy their girlfriends, wives and mistresses jewellery from Tiffany because they know that the little aqua box they present to their loved one already says it all, even before it is opened.
  • A car is judged on its quality and safety by the “clunk” of the door closing, more than its safety rating.

In today’s world of dwindling product / service differentiation and an overload of choice, which I already spoke about in the last post entitled “Do your Shoppers face a purchasing dilemma? How to give the right customer choice every time”, your customers want to be made to feel cared-for, not cheated. Find new ways to surprise and delight them and they will remain loyal, even if you have to increase your prices. As L’Oreal continues to remind its consumers every time they buy one of their products, “They’re worth it”.

If you would like to review your br and building and learn new ways to catalyse your own customers to greater loyalty and delight, then contact us for an informal discussion of your needs. I know we can help.

Winning Customer Centricity Book

Don’t forget to check out my latest book Winning Customer Centricity. It’s available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes & Nobles, as well as in all good bookstores. And if you haven’t yet joined, sign up for free to become a C³Centricity Member  and get a DISCOUNT CODE as well as many free downloads, templates, case studies and much more.

C³Centricity used an image from Miami andBeaches in this post.

 

Are you Jeopardising your Customers’ Loyalty? Or is it Going to Disappear Anyway?

As you have no doubt already noticed, my Blog posts and those of many other Bloggers too, are often prompted by real-world experiences. This week is no exception.

I want to share with you some examples of how companies jeopardise the loyalty of their customers and also seriously limit their chances of getting repeat purchases. But manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party; there have been some interesting comments on retail loyalty as well these past few weeks, so I will touch upon that too.

Promising More than the Customer Gets

This week I bought a new br and of bacon; I fancied a real English breakfast for once. When I opened the pack up, I was shocked to see that under the first three or four deliciously lean slices, was a pack of rather fatty, poor quality meat. Now why would a company do this? To make the sale of course. Seeing such great quality you would rightly expect the pack to contain similar meats to the front slices.

Another example which uses a similar ploy involves packaging. How often have you been enticed into buying a new product because of the picture on the pack? Or perhaps it was in an advertisement showing a delicious-looking meal or an amazing improvement to the skin or hair? Sometimes the pack content or product result may be acceptable, but when it’s not, you’re disappointed rather than delighted, aren’t you? (I previously wrote about one such experience in a post on br and honesty here) Again, why would a manufacturer set themselves up to deceive the customer into buying – once?!

Are such behaviours customer-centric? Certainly not! They are deceitful tricks used to sell customers less than they were led to expect. Yes you may get the sale, but you won’t get repurchase and certainly not loyalty. Which do you want? One, several or long-term purchases?

Raising Prices without Saying so

Most major markets have seen low rises in their CPIs (consumer price index) in 2014 with Switzerl and actually in the current situation of a deflation! However that hasn’t stopped several manufacturers from increasing their prices. Or should I say decreasing the content of their packs, as that seems to be the more usual response of many of them? This is not a very customer-centric approach to pricing.

The shopper is buying the same br and at the same price, but the contents, which the consumer rarely verifies, have decreased. If the reduction is significant, consumers may notice that the pack is significantly larger than the contents inside, which may then prompt them to check the actual weight they have bought.

A recent article in the UKs “The Telegraph” talked about some of the most noticeable offenders, including Birds Eye (Pirmira’s Iglo Group) and Twix (Mars) c andy bars. However many categories were using the same method of hidden price rises.

A survey of 1,257 UK’s Which? members found that over half (58%) said they would rather prices rose than packs got smaller. A further 37% would rather the pack shrank, but only if they were told. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

M andatory Sign-ups for Free Products

There are hundreds of new offers on the internet every day, trying to entice new customers to “try before you buy”. However some sites dem and m andatory sign-up to the paid program before allowing their customers to test their service. Credit card details and other personal information is requested, supposedly to “help the customer to subscribe more easily” should they decide to buy after the trial period.

However there is also most likely an automated transfer included from the free to a paid service should the customer forget to cancel in time. They then find themselves in the situation of buying a paid suscription without full knowledge of it. Is this customer centric? Of course not. If a customer decides to buy, he would be much happier to provide the necessary information to do so at the time of purchase. Again, you may have sold one more membership, but are extremely unlikely to get a happy or loyal customer.

 

Cheap isn’t Always Less Expensive

More and more airlines and hotels are selling their services “on the cheap” or at least that’s what it looks like. However, when you start adding on the extras, those attractive prices don’t seem quite so cheap anymore.

Take a low-cost flight for instance; in Europe that would probably be with Ryanair or EasyJet, and in the US with SouthWest Airlines or JetBlue. In addition to the cost of the flight, you will often pay for hold luggage and sometimes  carry-on items too, as well as food on board, priority boarding, seat reservation, pillows, blankets, headphones and even entertainment.

Hotels will add on charges to guarantee bed type, taxes, WiFi, breakfast, gym use, bag storage, resort fees and even m andatory gratuities.

IMG_0217Retail advertising and promotions are other areas where shoppers need to have their wits about them and a calculator on h and. The old adage that bigger is better no longer seems to apply. If several sizes are offered purchasers really need to check prices per 4 ozs or 100 gms. The BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) and BOGO promotions can also sometimes work out more expensive than buying one pack at the usual price charged.

One of my favourite promotional ads of all time is one I photographed in the UK at the local Pound Store, the equivalent of the Dollar Store in the US. See the photo above. Now that really is a bargain!

Consumers are Getting Wiser

The above are just a few examples of “tricks” that manufacturers and retailers play on their customers. It’s almost as if they are trying to see just how far they can go before their clients notice. Well, I think we have noticed, and this is confirmed in an article on CMO.com that caught my eye last week. It mentioned a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. Faisal Masud, Staples’ chief digital officer and EVP of e-commerce, who was part of a panel discussion at the event, made the following comment:

“Consumers are agnostic to where they shop. The days of window shopping and just paying the price you think is fair are gone. A lot of folks don’t even want to interact with people or companies. They just want their goods fast and at the lowest possible price. For that reason, a lot of the retail loyalty programs are a little bit doomed.”

I would add that a lot of br and loyalty will go the same way if practices such as those mentioned in this article continue. I believe these behaviours are short-terms acts of desperation of a losing br and. In fact I spoke in detail about using pricing in another post calledAre you on the way to br and heaven or hell?

Winners treat their customers as important people who have a choice and to whom they offer the best product or service they can, to satisfy, delight and why not also surprise them? If you are still thinking of such trickery as a way out of your current br and decline think again. It’s just not customer centric.

Do you have other examples you have seen of behaviour that is not customer centric? If so, I would love to hear about them.

And if you would like help in finding a solution to your own current business issue I would love to help. Just contact me for a chat and let’s see where it takes us.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay

Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.

Walmart gives serviceIn 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “ Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.

 

Target gives serviceTarget announced last October its plans to introduce the “ Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.

 

Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.

 

Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?

 

Tesco gives serviceTesco recently introduced their “ Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “ Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.

 

Sainsbury's gives serviceSainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “ Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s  horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco.

 

If pricing has become (still is?) the entry stakes for retailers today, what else can they do to differentiate themselves and propose a viable alternative that appeals to today’s shoppers? Here are a few I came up with, based upon some of the more interesting initiatives and current trends in societal sensitivities:

  • Individualism: I live alone, as do a large minority of people in the developed world ( 47% in Sweden according to Euromonitor) How about offering smaller packs and individual servings? I would happily pay more for the convenience and the guilt avoidance. (I throw out vast quantities of food that is past its sell-buy date)
  • Localism: the horsemeat and other food sc andals have made people wary of buying from countries where they are unsure of their controls, hygiene or ethics. Identified sourcing and traceability brings trust and reassurance.
  • Fair trade guarantees fairness  and serviceFairness: This helps eliminate the guilt attached to buying (too) cheap products. We now know that products from the East are in general cheaper than products from the West. However, we still want reassurance that workers are being treated fairly. Fair Trade associations and the end to child-labour are causes most shoppers would be will to pay (a little) more for.
  • Sustainability: Recent weather changes have finally convinced everyone of the need to look after and protect our planet from further degradation. Therefore sustainability has become something to fight for. Whether this is reducing the use of palm oil to protect Indonesian rainforests or finding alternatives to bottled water which both wastes resources and pollutes the l and, people are dem anding more of manufacturers.
  • Packaging: Packs are no longer just for protection and shelf-impact, they provide information on ingredients, sourcing and links to apps that provide more about the company who made it or give access to reviews from other buyers.
  • Lowe's offers virtual room designerServices: Some retailers are offering schools for cooking, home repairs, creative pursuits or decorating (see Loew’s virtual room designer as a great example of this). No longer is it sufficient to sell products, people are getting help with making the best use of them and thus getting more value from their purchase.

 

These are just a few of the ways that retailers are building their relationships with their shoppers. They may come for price, but that is an unsustainable competitive advantage in today’s world. Retailers that maintain the loyalty of their customers will be offering more in terms of support and services to keep them coming back.  

If you would like to update your own retail environment and services, why not contact us for an informal chat? We can provide shopper journey mapping, in-store eye-tracking, at shelf facial imaging and many more forward-thinking tools.

C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and named company websites.

HELP! Your Customers don’t Value you as much as you do!

Have you noticed how extra “freebies” are always suggested to have an extremely high value, sometimes close to the level of the product you’re thinking of buying? Last week I spoke about the best 10-step process for following and developing your br and / corporate image. This week I want to speak primarily about value, an important area of any image.

I have just returned from another trip to the US; the Americans are, amongst many other things, the champions of exaggeration (apologies to all my American friends, but it’s true!) Here are a few examples I saw during my recent trip – thanks to my jetlag and my late night TV binges – of valuations of extras offered for free with the sale of various products:

  • Three additional CD’s are valued at $59.99, when the proposed product’s asking price is 3X $39.99 or almost $120
  • A set of plastic measuring cups valued at $39.99 and a recipe book valued at $79.99 are offered free when you purchase a $129.99 express cooker
  • Mini samples of other products when you buy a “starter kit” of cosmetics, valued at twice (!) the price of the product you are buying – which is incidentally already grossly overpriced.

Do the companies making these offers really believe that people will purchase the product they are advertising because of the value of the “free” extras? Or is it me that doesn’t underst and their motivations? We have all become used to the exaggerated claims of the products offered on TV in these infomercials, but have you noticed how they are now creeping into online offers too?

This post was in fact prompted by a recent email I received from what until then I had judged to be a serious resource for tips on social media best practices. If I signed up for a bi-weekly newsletter service, I was offered two “free” eBooks totalling 130 pages between them and valued at $157! Come on, be serious! How many books do you know that are worth almost $80 each? Even those filled with lots of glossy colour photos are usually on sale for less than that. And to make matters worse, with the explosion of self-publishing, many excellent books are being offered at below the Kindle royalty threshold of $9.99 these days.

My reaction was to immediately cancel my subscription to the person’s newsletters; if he can claim such prices for his eBooks, perhaps his tips were just hot air claims too. I do get upset by companies which are stupid enough to think they can fool their potential or even current customers into buying something because of an over-valued freebie. So let’s talk value and look a little more closely at what customers think about the value of your own products / services.

Setting the Price

Setting your price to reflect customer valueWhilst you can put a price on your offer – in fact you will certainly do this before launch, with or without the help of your customers – it is only once it is on the market that customers will confirm its true value. If you over-price your offer, your product will either fail or will have to be sold at a constant discount. I wrote about the danger of continual discounts in my post “ Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell?” which concluded with the thought that the slippery slope of price-cutting ends in turning your br and into a commodity bought on price alone.

 

 

Underst anding your Value

The journey to customer valueThere is a big difference between price and value. Hopefully you are (no longer?) pricing your product based upon its cost and then adding your margin. If you have correctly identified your customers’ need and have produced a product that meets or hopefully surpasses these needs, then the price your customer is willing to pay can be higher than its actual cost. This is why it is essential to start new product development by observing and listening to your customers.

Communicating your Value

Communicating your value through dvertisingIn contrast, from C3Centricity’s recent work on luxury watch communications, Terry Villines of our partner PhaseOne wrote a guest post about the essentials of value which can be applied to any category. It is called “ Is your br and worth paying more for?”.

In it Terry speaks about the six specific types of benefits found among br and messages wanting to imply premiumness. These were:

 

  1. Product innovation – your br and brings a new or enhanced benefit to the category.
  2. Human Worth – by tapping into the target’s self-esteem, a br and communicates how they are worthy of the more costly br and
  3. Unique Production Process – the way in which the product is made results in the delivery of a more significant benefit
  4. Premium imagery – associating the br and with other things that are premium in nature
  5. Higher performance than competing br ands
  6. Endorsement by a credible authority

These six elements will indeed suggest added value or premiumness, but if your product does not live up to your customers’ expectations they won’t be happy – and in today’s world your sales will be immediately impacted, thanks to social media. Therefore it makes sense to make a good estimation of the value of your product and then if necessary see how you can substantiate it with additional communication elements as detailed above.

Is your product correctly priced or are you forced into a price war to maintain sales? If so then you are already on the “stairway to hell”. If you aren’t (yet?) then you should ensure that your communications and product quality are always in line with your customers’ ever increasing dem ands. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market will maintain your br and at the forefront of changing market conditions and dem ands and will enable you to defend your pricing without the need for price cuts. That way you can use discounts to attract new customers rather than to keep your current ones alone.

What do you do to guarantee your br and is priced correctly? I’d love to hear your own ideas. Need help in knowing more about pricing and value identification? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Are you Happy with your Market Research?

Next week is the official start of Spring in Europe, although in the US you have already moved your clocks forward by an hour.

Therefore, this seems to be a good time to review what market research we are running and spring-clean our toolbox in line with our new company objectives. If you would like some help in doing this then please read on for some original ideas on how to make it all easier.

In order to decide on the tools you need, it of course depends upon the maturity of your market, the size of your budget, as well as the position of your br ands in their life-cycles.

Last Spring, we used the 5Ps of marketing as a basis for the review of the market research toolbox; if you didn’t see it or would like to re-read it then you can find it here. This year I will be taking into account the three elements mentioned above and looking at how you might adapt the tools in consequence. Whatever stage your br and is in, however, there are some metrics that you will always want to follow. These include awareness, usage, product performance versus competition and advertising & communication (including pack and web) effectiveness.

 

Market maturity

Are you competing in a mature category or is it still growing strongly? Mature markets tend to change more slowly; consumers have their purchase habits settled and in some cases choose from amongst a portfolio of br ands, between which they switch depending upon current promotions.

If you are competing in such a market, then you can probably manage with monthly or bi-monthly or even less frequent data about stocks, pricing and shares. Unless a newcomer is launched onto the market, many mature categories have br ands that are being “milked” by their manufacturers, with perhaps little investment in communications. Therefore it is price that usually dominate share changes and can to a large extent be predicted.

In terms of market research needs, retail audits, price tracking and promotional monitoring are all important metrics to gather. Br and Image studies are also important, but can be limited to every few years, when real changes are more likely to be recorded. Too frequent measurement of a static market is likely to show only noise from sample error rather than true shifts in image. If you are in a service industry, then loyalty and satisfaction (NPS) metrics are also useful. (If you’re not quite sure what NPS is or how to use it, then HubSpot did a great Infographic a few months back that I recommend reading)

If however, you are competing in a new or strongly growing category, you will need far more frequent data in order to make informed decisions. In these cases, retail chain data, shares, stocks, out-of-stocks and pricing will be vital to follow, ideally on a weekly basis. Br and Image data should be gathered annually, but everyone should underst and that in a fast moving market, things can alter rapidly, so the ratings are merely snapshot comparisons versus competition. To complement image data, social media monitoring can provide additional information on how your br and’s equity may be changing. Check out what is being said on LinkedIn groups, your Facebook page and those of your competitors, as well as on Twitter using a “#word” search.

 

Size of the Budget

Although companies should invest wisely in terms of their information needs, in reality budgets are (too?) often defined based upon previous year’s spend rather than current investment needs. It is also not wise to rely solely on a sales percentage for market research, nor marketing come to that, since you should arguably invest more in a growing br and. Many times companies work with this percentage model which seriously limits the potential of promising br ands through lack of customer awareness and information for decision making.

In addition, when budgets are tight, organisations can sometimes be tempted to use qualitative research rather than the needed quantitative data. If you need metrics, then you have to run the appropriate methodology; decisions cannot be taken based upon a few group discussions alone. And please don’t think about doubling the number of groups to get a larger sample! The results will remain qualitative in nature whatever the sample size.

 

Br and Life-cycle stage

As mentioned above, we often need more information when a br and is stagnating or declining than when it is growing, to underst and exactly what is going on. You could argue that when it is decreasing it is (almost) too late, so in fact it is important to find ways to forewarn potential declines before they happen. In many cases a br and’s image will start to stagnate or decline long before there is any dip in sales. Therefore br and equity measurement is particularly vital for a maturing br and. Other ways to revitalise such br ands is through renovation and this is where concept and pack testing come into their own. You may also decide to look at pricing and new campaigns developments which will also need verification.

When a new product or service is launched, it is wise to do some quick tracking of off-take to gauge likely success. Early measurement can help you make small adjustments to the offer before many people have considered or tried it, reducing the risk of failure in the mid-term. Of course once launched the br and can also be added to your ongoing monitoring of the basic information mentioned above.

If you have information and answers to all of these questions, whatever the stage of your market, category or br and, then your MR house is in good order. If not, then perhaps it is time to update your toolbox with newer, better tools.

Do you review and Spring clean your toolbox every year? What changes have you identified as being needed in your own toolbox? It would be great to compare our spring cleaning efforts, so please add your thoughts in the comments below.

For more information on identifying KPI’s and performance metrics please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

Need help running your own MR review? C3Centricity offers a 1-Day Catalyst session, where we work with your team to identify priorities & needed change in your processes. Contact us here for an informal chat about it. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Is your Br and Worth Paying More for?

This week’s guest post is from C3Centricity partner PhaseOne. Terry Villines, their senior vice-president shares some of the learnings from analysing the marketing communications of thous ands of premium br ands. Whether you work in the Luxury Industry or not, wouldn’t you like your br and to be worth more?

Every product category has at least one – a br and that costs more than the competitors; a br and that, even though it costs more, is successful at building the business; a br and that has been successful at convincing their target that they have a premium offering and are worth the extra cost.

For example, Rolex is clearly seen as a more premium br and than Timex or Fossil, and consumers are willing to pay more money for a Rolex even though all of these br ands provide those who wear them with accurate time. 

How are br ands ableto convince audiences that they are worth paying more for – regardless of category?

PhaseOne has mined over 1,000 pieces of marketing communications to identify guiding principles for establishing a premium positioning.  The key is to:

“Credibly promise that consumers will get more of what they want most from the product, promising more benefit than competing br ands”

Six specific types of benefits were found among the messages PhaseOne analyzed.  The inclusion of these benefits was associated with strong Premium Positioning.

#1.  Product innovation – your br and brings an enhanced benefit or a new benefit to the category.

#2. Human Worth Factor –  by tapping into the target’s self-esteem, a br and communicates how  the target is worthy of the more costly br and – “I’m worth it / You’re worth it”

#3.  Unique Production Process – the way in which the product is made results in delivery of a more significant benefit.

#4. Premium imagery – associating the br and with other things that are also premium in nature.

#5. Higher performance than competing br ands.

#6. Endorsement by a credible authority.

Interestingly, some of those things that we have readily accepted as contributing to Premiumness did not prove to be effective:

  • Claiming superiority alone does not confer Premiumness.  Positioning a br and as superior does not equate to the br and being worth more.
  • Having an abundance of features or advantages does not make a product worth more.  Features and advantages may contribute to a Premium Positioning, but they are not sufficient to establish the positioning on their own.
  • Marketing messages that contain breakthrough creative elements and premium production techniques do not translate into Premium Positioning.  Such techniques can reinforce a Premium Positioning, but they cannot create it.

We’re confident that these benefits can be tapped for virtually any product / service category.  Yet, it is likely that the weighting / emphasis given to them will vary.  For example, in a just completed study of the advertising for 16 Luxury watch br ands, PhaseOne found most messages cluster into only 3 of the benefit clusters:

  1. Premium Imagery – br ands focus on the visual aesthetics and the watches role as a fashion accessory
  2. Human Worth Factor – br ands add a layer of specific personal or lifestyle interests to suggest for whom the br and is most appropriate
  3. Unique Production Process – br and communications emphasis that the watch is made of high quality materials with precise craftsmanship.

How do you see br ands in your category successfully convincing their customers that they are worth paying more for whether it be durable goods (auto to washing machines), packaged goods (confections to sodas) or services (Insurance to Dentistry)?

If you would like help from C3Centricity on improving the positioning or communications of your own Luxury br and, then please contact us, we know we can help. For more on br and positioning, please check our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

Do you yourself work on a Premium br and or perhaps you did in the past? Were you using another type of benefit that didn’t work? Then please share your experience here. Of course, you can also share what worked too, if you are feeling really generous! We would love to hear from you.

Time to Spring Clean your Market Research Toolbox

This week we are officially into Spring in Europe, so we all now start thinking about spring-cleaning the interiors of our houses and apartments. Of course living in Switzerl and, where people seem to be born with duster and brush in h and, I can imagine that there is not much work for most of my neighbours, but I have to admit that for my place it is a slightly different matter!

This is the reason why today I want to speak about YOUR interior, however I am not talking about your home, but about your Market Research Toolbox. When was the last time you took a look inside? Isn’t now an appropriate moment to review the tools you have in there? Some may be a few years old and need updating, whilst you may now notice that some others are missing that you really need. If this is the case, then this post will help you to do your toolbox spring clean.

In order to decide on all the tools you need, I suggest you start by taking a look at your br and essence. What do you want your br and to st and for in the hearts and minds of your target customers and your stakeholders? Who is your target customer; what attributes describe your product or service; what is your br and’s personality and character, and finally what benefits can your target customers expect from your br and? Once you have these identified, you need to agree what measures you will use to ensure that you follow them effectively and efficiently.

The 5Ps of marketing have been around long enough to assume that many people still find them to be useful, so we will base our review of your toolbox around these five topic areas, keeping your br and essence in mind of course.

Here are some questions I came up with, to help you to identify whether or not your toolbox needs some cleaning or updating:

People:

Who is your br and or service targeting? To underst and, you will need to gather representative data on your users, current, past and potential, and not just demographics, but as much information as you can gather about their habits, attitudes, preferences, values and motivations.

Price:

Are you pricing your br and based on cost or value? What do your current, past and potential customers value and what price estimate do they place on your offer? What are the psychological price barriers for your category and br and? Where is your price in comparison to your competitors’? If it is higher, what additional value are you offering to warrant the difference?

Promotion:

How effective are your communications? What tools do you have to help in their development and to test their performance; not just at the end before airing, but also early on in the process of their creation? What do your category users talk about online? Are you gathering information on and responding to these discussions? What promotions and rebates are you offering and what do your target customers think about them? What is their impact on purchase and loyalty? What is their ROI?

Place:

Where do your current and potential customers expect to find your br and? What is your level of distribution in these channels, as well as that of your competitors? Do you have out-of-stock? Where, when? What is the estimated sales loss due to a gain or loss in distribution? Are there new channels developing or others that are losing in popularity? Are you also selling online? Should you be?

Product:

How does your product or service perform in the market? What changes have been made to your own as well as to your competitors’ offers recently? What changes are important to make and which do your target customers value less? What are your customers’ pain points and how can they be reduced?

If you have information and answers to all of these questions, then your MR house is in order and I can only congratulate you. If not, then perhaps it is time to update your toolbox with newer, better tools.

Do you Spring clean your toolbox every year? If not, perhaps you should. The world is changing fast and what worked in the past, even just a year ago, may need to be tweaked or replaced today.

For more on identifying KPI’s and performance metrics please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

What changes have you identified as being needed in your own toolbox? It would be great to compare our spring cleaning efforts!

If you need help in running your own Market Research Toolbox review, C3Centricity offers a 1-DayCatalyst intensive but fun session, working with your team to identify priorities & necessary changes in your processes. Contact us here for an informal chat about it.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

Are You Sure You Know Who You Really Are?

Earlier this week I was discussing with a client about Br and Image and Equity. “Oh we don’t need to worry about that!” he told me confidently. “We know exactly who we are and what we st and for; look, here is our br and framework” he continued, h anding me a very impressive sheaf of paper. 

Whilst I was certainly impressed with the organisation of the document and its contents, I had a niggling doubt in the back of my mind. “This all looks really complete” I responded, “Is this what you want the br and to st and for, or is this what its image is currently?” I asked. “That’s the same thing isn’t it?” he responded!

OK, OK, so you saw that coming didn’t you? But it still amazes me how many companies spend time developing these frameworks, including relevance and differentiation, br and promise, br and personality, etc. etc. but in fact have never measured whether or not their content is actually what they st and for in the hearts and minds of their customers! Therefore, I thought it would be useful to summarise what you need to know about your br and and not just what you have decided you want your br and to be.

 

1. Awareness

If people don’t know about your br and or service, then they can’t buy it, so you need to start by measuring how your awareness is moving. Hopefully it is growing, but you need to look at top-of-mind (first mention), spontaneous as well as prompted awareness, and amongst your target audience, not (just) a representative sample of category users, especially if yours is not a category that everyone buys.

Of course if you haven’t even identified to whom you are selling, then stop reading and go to the post on targeting that we published a while back; you can find it here. Awareness should be measured regularly, as it will be impacted by your marketing actions, promotions, communications, events etc.

2. Image

Once you know how many people have heard about what you are offering, you need to measure what they believe it is. Whilst you may have identified what you want your br and to be, this may not be the same as what your customers perceive it to be. They will have made up their own minds based upon what they see, what they experience and what they hear from friends, families or your own communications, as well as those of your competitors.

Whilst it is a good idea to measure the attributes with which you want to be associated, it is important to also measure some attributes you believe are particularly relevant for your major competitors, as well as those of the category itself. These latter metrics will help you identify the “price of entry” into the category and whilst not providing any competitive advantage, can seriously harm your br and if yours is weak on any of them.

Although image can fluctuate a little, in line with your marketing actions, your base image is slow to move, certainly slower than most marketers would like it to. Therefore, unless you are in an extremely active category, are being attacked by an agressive competitor who could weaken your image, or have made significant changes to your communications’ content or frequency, annual measurement is usually sufficient.

One other tip about br and image; changes to it are usually a pre-cursor of market share changes, so this is definitely an important KPI to keep updated.

3. Value

The measurement of your image should include perceptions of its value for money, especially compared to its major competitors. However, in addition, it is also useful to run a separate pricing study, especially if you are looking to raise or lower prices, as a result of changes in the competitive market or commodity prices.

In the past, the most common way of looking at the price of a product or service was to take its cost of production and then add on a percentage for margin. Today, it is essential that you start with your customers, underst and how well they value your offer and whether or not they are willing to pay more than the cost, in exchange for its perceived benefits. I am constantly amazed at how many companies still work with cost-based pricing strategies, leaving thous ands, if not millions on the table. However, since value can be impacted by so many external as well as internal factors, it needs to be regularly measured, certainly more often than image.

4. Personality

Every br and today is trying to build a relationship with its customers. In order to do this, it must ensure that its personality and character are in line with its target audience. This doesn’t mean that it should be the same; rather it should complement or complete that os its customer as this is what provides the reason to to buy. As with image, personality builds up slowly over time, through all the communications, events and promotions you propose. Therefore an annual measurement should be sufficient.

5. Satisfaction & Loyalty

I mentioned earlier that people won’t buy what you offer if they don’t know it and the same goes for its image, value and personality if they are not well perceived. The fifth metric to underst anding your br and is to review its overall satisfaction and loyalty levels. If these are lower than the category average or than you would like, then something in the mix is under-performing and you will need to identify what that is. Some categories with little differentiation may have lower levels than those with few br ands with larger differences, so no absolute number can be proposed here. However, comparing your levels to those of your major competitors, or to the category average should tell you what you need to know.

Which brings me to my final thoughts on image metrics; always make comparisons with your category and competitors rather than looking in isolation at your own numbers and their growth or decline. As with sales, it is share or their relation to others that holds the real truth.

Do you have a question or challenge about starting, updating or harmonizing your br and equity measurement and metrics? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

How do you follow what your br and st ands for? What metrics do you use to ensure you know how your br and is perceived by its current or potential customers? I would love to hear your own additions to this list.

For more ideas on br anding please see our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

 

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