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5 Business Success Factors (So You’re Ready for Anything!)

We are sweltering in the Northern Hemisphere with record temperatures, so here’s a “cool” idea on how businesses can get ready for anything by applying these success factors.

Every winter, the media is full of stories of record snowfalls somewhere in the world, whether in the US, Europe or in the Far East. Despite all the sophisticated technologies at our disposition, we just never seem to be prepared. So what are the success factors of readiness?

Remember winter storm Juno in the USA in 2015? It dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Eastern coastline of North America. According to the Weather Channel its snowfall broke records in Worcester, MA, although in most other places it fell far below that of other storms from 2013 all the way back to 1978.

In the same year, in the North of the UK, the region was battered with a rare blast of thundersnow – an unnerving combination of thunderstorms and downpours of snow. As if that wasn’t enough, they were soon preparing to do battle with the elements with yet another storm shortly afterwards.

Now what do all these storms have to do with business you might wonder? Well for me they are a great illustration of the problems that many companies can face from time to time. Governments and city maintenance teams prepare for winter by organising vast stocks of grit and salt, as well as heavy snow-clearing machinery. But despite all this preparation, they still seem to be caught off-guard when they need to use them.

The same goes for businesses. Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they’re not!

Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they're not! #trends #scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

The reason is that there are two serious problems with that way of thinking:

Firstly they are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar trend reports.

And secondly, they think that knowing the trends will somehow protect them from future risks and catastrophes. However, having the right material still doesn’t stop bad things happening, as we’ve seen this winter. 

So let’s take a look at what you can do to be better prepared and not get regularly “snowed-in” as many countries are this winter.

The Problem with Trend following alone

As I already mentioned, trend following suppliers are providing almost identical information to all their clients. This results in their clients then working on the same ideas & concepts and eventually launching very similar, non-competitive products and services. Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their advertising? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. 

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their ads? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

As an example, think about how many companies have used the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising in the past couple of years. These include:

  • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – sorry only in French & German but still easy to understand
  • BMW 320i YES, YOU, CAN
  • Orange telecom mobile exchange

Clearly the current trends of independence and freedom have been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above, and probably many others as well. Perhaps they are working with the same trend following company or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports? Whatever the reason, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising “Big Idea”.

Companies which develop concepts based upon theses types of external resources 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 for the consumers.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To TweetScenario 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 Big Ideas, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions are unlikely to be the same as those developed by the competition.

 

How to turn Trends into Future Scenarios

Businesses working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below. In just ten simple steps you can turn your trend following into a powerful competitive advantage that will surprise competition and delight your customers.

  1. Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company.
  2. Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business.
  3. Identify the most important trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political).
  4. Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least.
  5. Collide the resultant developed trends to produce the most likely changes.
  6. Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes – this is what is important.
  7. Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
  8. Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
  9. Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
  10. Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.

 

This ten-step process can be followed over a minimum of a two or three-day workshop, or over a longer period of development lasting several months. For a more detailed 10-step process, you might like to also check out a previous post on the same topic: “The Great Trends Hoax: The don’t give business a competitive advantage”.

 

Success factors

Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.

However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional success factors that need to be met in order to guarantee the most actionable scenario planning exercises. These include:

  • A diverse internal team who are both enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area.
  • An excellent creative to lead the process, ideally from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone.
  • Executive management support of the exercise as well as of  its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios.
  • Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation.
  • Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis.

Following the process as summarised above and including all five success factors mentioned, will give you the best chance of building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise before, it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.

These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning. Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. 

Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. Gain the advantage of future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #Business Click To Tweet

 


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This post is based upon one which first appeared on C³Centricity in October 2015 under the title “Turning Trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-Step Process you Need

What Great Leaders Know and You Probably Don’t

I’d like to start this post with a bit of background. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from recording the audio version of my book Winning Customer Centricity, it’s that we should never stop learning and improving. In fact I am often quoted as saying:

“A day without learning, is a day without living” (>>Tweet this<<)

You’re probably asking yourself, 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 is helping 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’m back with my dream team of coaches this week, doing some intensive voice training and exercises.

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 area you work in.

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

It’s vital that we continuously strive to keep learning and challenging our every-day habits and behaviours. Lifelong training and 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, adapting and integrating those technologies which could improve our businesses.

Accepting help is a leadership style2. We should accept help. Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish, since we cannot be an expert in every area of business. In fact if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thous ands, we should be good at managing people first.

Great leaders underst and this and surround themselves with experts in different areas where they may need support. Are you a great leader? (>>Tweet this<<) 

3. Practice really does make perfect. It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. We should always strive to be the best we can be. If this means that we have to practice our presentation ten times when all our colleagues only do it a couple of times, then so be it. We’re all different and perhaps they have a talent for speaking, or maybe they are just satisfied with a less polished performance than we are. We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. (>>Tweet this<<)

Final check is worth it4. That final check is worth it. When I was learning to fly, my instructor never stopped reminding me that the pre-flight checks were vital to do thoroughly. He reminded me that once you’re in the air, it’s too late!

The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, like pilots do, and complete that final check thoroughly and completely. You can rarely recover from anything that’s missing once you’ve started, or if you can, it will take far more effort than making that final check before your event takes flight.

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

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

View errors as opportunities to grow. In fact it’s those people who don’t, who make a real mistake, and a BIG one at that. Encourage the sharing of mistakes so that others won’t have to make the same ones in order to learn the lessons. A healthy business environment is one in which failure is celebrated as much as success.

Tony, a naturally positive person, reminded me of this after our first “disastrous” session. “Don’t dwell on past deceptions Denyse” he said “Think about what you learned, what actually developed your skills.” 

6. Honesty is always the best policy. Somehow honesty is rarely discussed these days and yet we all know that trust is one of the main reasons people do business with companies. Therefore it seems odd that we speak a lot about trust but not honesty. In today’s world of immediate sharing of experiences with the world, dishonest behaviour is quickly known. It is so much easier to be honest than to recover from an act that was not, and the trust built over the longterm will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur. (>>Tweet this<<)

Customers in your vision7. Business isn’t only about millenials. Everyone is speaking about the Millenials these days; this is the generation, also known as “Gen Y” or “Generation Me”, generally accepted as having been born since 1980, after “Gen X.” While Millenials may be trendy, there are other groups which are arguably just as important to consider for a successful business. For example, this is an important year for the population in the US, because for the first time, there will be more Millenials than Baby Boomers, but also because the first Gen Xs will turn fifty.

A great article in TIME Magazine at the end of last year mentioned several key points that will impact businesses. While the article speaks primarily about the importance of Gen X, Baby Boomers are also important since they are usually a larger group in most developed countries and generally also richer. Another article about the over 50’s provides some interesting statistics on their size, wealth and spending, and shows how mature consumers are changing the l andscape of the digital world we live in. I would add, not only digital, and encourage all companies to revise their vision with these in mind. Great leaders don’t just follow the latest fads and trends, they more often work with future scenario planning; you should too.

These are just a few of the ways the great leaders I have had the chance to meet and work with, make a real difference in their organisations. I hope you have been inspired to make a few changes in your own thinking.

If you have something to add please do leave a comment, the more challenging the better!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe images used in this post come from Denyse’s latest book Winning Customer Centricity, which is now available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>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 Innovate More Creatively

I was recently on a trip to the US; a transatlantic flight on a Boeing 747, my favourite airplane – apart from the Seneca II that I used to own. Anyway, the reason I love long-distance flights is because they cut us off from everyday life, although unfortunately no longer the phone nor web these days.

They therefore provide us with a very rare commodity; some precious thinking time. How do we ever get that otherwise? Speaking personally, my brain seems to be constantly under pressure from the challenges of work, family, friends – in a word, living – so I love it when I need to get on a flight, the longer the better.

I watched Transcendence on this flight; it’s about the moment when the human brain and technology become one. I love science fiction (SciFi), because it frees the mind to dream and to be far more creative than the “normal” working environment ever allows.

After the film and lunch were over, my mind turned – of course – to business and how I could set my past, current and future clients free too; how to make them more creative as well as more customer centric. So this is what I came up with, far above the clouds and worries of my everyday world.

The future is in our h ands

We are all wise after the event, but how do we become wise before it? In my opinion, by setting free our thoughts about the future and our creativity. Many companies have an innovation group, but rarely do they set them free, to think big, to think out of the box.

In fact in many cases, they are literally put in their own boxes, separated from the business for which they are supposed to be innovating. Whilst the intention of this separation may be laudable – it is claimed that it provides increased freedom  – it generally doesn’t work, because the group’s creativity is not grounded.

Despite their incredible creativity, even science fiction writers are grounded; their stories are based on facts, a progression from current actualities to future possibilities. I am not suggesting that innovation be limited to the mere renovation of today’s products and services, but rather that they be based upon a realistic progression of today’s realities, rather than pure hypothesis. In particular, they should be developed out of current sociatal trends, behaviors and needs.

Trend following isn’t creative

Are you following trends? Are you happy with the information you are getting from your supplier? We all love to look at new inventions and products from around the world, but just think about what useful and actionable information you are really getting.

I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you are almost certainly getting exactly the same suggestions as the tens, if not hundreds of other clients your supplier has. Reports aren’t generally personalized, or only minimally, so whatever ideas their reports might spark, are likely to be sparking in every one of your competitors minds too!

So if trend following won’t help your innovation, what will? My answer would be many things; isn’t that good to know?

Develop your trends into future scenarios

Trends do not provide you with a competitive advantage, especially for innovation, so you need to first turn them into future scenarios. There are (at least) two ways to do this.

Firstly you can combine the trends and form what are often referred to as axes of uncertainty. When crossed, these form four (or more) new worlds for you to then define, describe and develop. Your possible actions in each of these scenarios can then be identified, so your business is prepared for all major possible risks and opportunities.

“We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond” Marcel Proust (>>Tweet this<<)

The second way is by identifying the major trends that may impact your business and then letting a Science Fiction writer describe the world that could develop. It is not so much a matter of being right as being provocative, the more the better. That’s why SciFi writers are amongst the best people to stretch our thinking. They have the creativity to go far beyond what most of us would think about, even when stretching our thinking. After all, the point of future scenarios is to prepare business for the future, not to predict it (>>Tweet this<<)

Visualise the future

Once you have developed your scenario – or two – you should visualise them to increases buy-in and sharing. This can be through a simple presentation, descriptive profiles or more exciting animations and videos.

Lowe’s has been one of the companies at the forefront of such visual development, using virtual reality to develop The Holoroom to show what SciFutures‘ science-fiction writers had developed. The room puts consumers into a new world where they can see their own new world, at least of their home after their planned renovation.

Other industries that are quickly developing new virtual worlds for customers include car and plane manufacturers showing future travel options. Car purchasers can also experience their new cars before actually buying them and can help in the development of cars that more perfectly meet their desires and needs.

Innovating outside the box

In too many cases innovation is built upon reality and a company’s current offers, in other words are renovations not innovations, just a step change from what we have today. New products developed using scenario planning tend to be faster, clearer, more efficient, longer-lasting and overall more attractive.

Technology makes what was even unthinkable just a few months or years ago, a reality today or in the very near future. Everything is moving faster and faster, so businesses must do the same. As this is rarely possible, they must already think the unthinkable today, so that they are prepared when it actually happens tomorrow. (>>Tweet this<<)

Are you ready for the brave new world  that is estimated to be just ten, twenty or at most just thirty years from now? That’s when the point of singularity is estimated to arrive.

If you would like help in improving your own innovation process, or in developing a future scenario for your organisation, please let us know; we would be excited to inspire you.

C3Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer underst anding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better underst anding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben  and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another br and which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?

Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognise good ideas when they see them (>>Tweet this<<)

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too (>>Tweet this<<)

Exp and your Thinking

Innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coca Cola takes br and innovation seriouslyLast year, Coke used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

This year they took this winning idea a step further and launched the bottle that could only be opened by another Coke bottle – another way of sharing.

Starting from a different innovation lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative NPD concepts (>>Tweet this<<)

Go Beyond Trend Following

Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities.

The innovative ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during that conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have inspired you too to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us today.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Ben &Jerry’s and Coke in this post.

This post has been adapted from one first published on C³Centricity in June 2013

Four Tough but Essential Decisions Every Business Leader Must Make: Who, What, Why & How?

“Why do I have to do it?” That was what my friend’s daughter provocatively asked him recently. She didn’t want to do something he had requested of her and like many kids was now questioning his reasoning as well as his authority.

This happens in the work environment too. When you are the boss, your team members are likely to sometimes ask you a similar question. And whilst it may be done less bluntly, they will still be questioning your reasoning and authority.

Last week I spoke about honesty in the workplace and it caused a lot of discussion online and in various LinkedIn groups. This week I want to speak about the difficult decisions we, as leaders, are sometimes forced to take.

Organisational structure

Individuals are all too often promoted for good performance in their current positions and not for their people-management skills or because their abilities are suited to the future positions. This is coined the “Peter Principle” in management theory, named after Laurence J. Peter. His book on the topic, co-authored with Raymond Hull, suggests that people tend to get promoted until they reach their “position of incompetence”. In fact  it has been shown that CEOs who fail are quite often found to have made poor people choices  that they have then been unsuccessful in dealing with appropriately.  (>>Tweet this<<)

True leaders accept mistakes, both theirs and their teams, and personally own their bad decisions. However, that doesn’t just mean firing the under-performing employee. It also means firing someone that doesn’t “deserve” to be fired, just because your priorities have changed. It also means taking the time to explain why; no hiding behind HR to do the dirty work or just h anding over the official letters in silence. Taking the responsibility of one’s acts can sometimes be painful, but that’s what distinguishes a true manager.

Portfolio management

In the garden, you keep your plants healthy by regularly trimming them. You remove the dead wood and cut back the longer stems so the plant will bush out and have more new growth and flowers. The same is true in business.

Both P&G and Unilever have done some radical pruning of their br ands over the years. P&G has around 300 br ands today, a third less than just a decade ago. And Unilever continues to frequently reduce the number of its stock-keeping units (SKUs). Since introducing its “ Path to Growth” initiative almost fifteen years ago, the number of its br ands has been culled from 1,600 down to just 400.

Retail organisations are no longer willing to offer increased space for ever-exp anding numbers of br ands and variants. This is especially true in recent years with the start of a clear increase in the numbers of supermarket chains offering smaller stores. Therefore it makes sense to regularly review your own portfolio and cut the “long tail” of slowest movers. The “Pareto Principle” or 80-20 rule helps a lot to make these difficult decisions.

People management

Most major organisations go through periods of growth followed by times of headcount reduction. These latter cutbacks often result in emotional pain for many of the previously loyal employees, and often for the staff who remain too. You would think that someone would notice these cycles and come out with a better way of managing a workforce.

Personnel cuts are usually claimed to be for cost-cutting reasons, but are all too often followed by new hiring initiatives within months if not even weeks of the event! Now I underst and that staffing needs change and new projects may require new skills. But I blame management for being short-sighted when they make such layoffs. Whilst a business needs a core of different staff functions, the requirements of short-term projects should be met with temporary hires. This will avoid the costly practices of first hiring and then firing staff shortly afterwards.

Luckily young professionals are looking for more freedom in their careers today than my security-seeking generation ever were. Therefore why not identify your own staffing cycles and take advantage of this trend to find alternative ways of meeting temporary skill requirements?

Resource allocation

Almost every department must occasionally defend both its headcount and its budget. Whilst intellectually we may underst and that we can’t have it all, we still complain when seeing others getting more than they need (or deserve?).

Unfortunately too many businesses set their goals by looking in the rear-view mirror (>>Tweet this<<), rather than by contemplating plausible future scenarios. Basing tomorrow’s needs on what was done last year, or worse still on what competition did, guarantees that budgets will not be available where they are most needed. If however resources are managed from the top down, in line with company rather than personal objectives, the business is more likely to get to where it is headed. How do you manage yours?

These four decisions are amongst the most difficult a leader will ever have to make. To summarise, they cover the who, what, why and how you run your business. It is in making these tough decisions that leaders prove why they are where they are. What decisions have you found the toughest to make in your own career and why?

NEVER Succeed at Innovation: 10 Mistakes even Great Companies make

There have been many attempts to dethrone the blond supermodel doll Barbie over her fifty plus years of existence, mostly without much success. The latest endeavour (named Lammilly, after her creator) is different in that Nickolay Lamm is going after co-funding and has already achieved over $350,000 in just a few days according to the website.

This interesting addition to the “Anti-Barbies” story prompted a number of questions in my head:

  • Is it wise to go after a declining segment?
  • What was wrong with Barbie’s customer satisfaction?
  • Who is the target for this new doll? Child, adult, collector?
  • Why now, after so many previous unsuccessful attempts at dethroning Barbie?

Those questions and various discussions on FaceBook then got me thinking more generally about innovation and how companies have adapted their processes (or not) to today’s connected world. So here are my thoughts on how NOT to innovate:

1. Change the colour, perfume or taste of your current product and then charge more.

Pepsi innovation of Crystal PepsiThis is what Pepsi did when launching Pepsi Crystal: it lasted less than a year. Interestingly this is also what Apple just did with its iPhone 5C, except it charged less. Again it is already being discounted at Walmart because of disappointing sales, which might just be a good thing for Apple in the long run. Sales of the 5S remain buoyant and any damage to the corporate image caused by the cheaper 5C should hopefully be significantly reduced.

2. Organise an innovation team and provide them with a separate office, ideally far away from the current business.

If this is how you are set up internally, get the team back into talking distance with the rest of the business. Rather than stimulating creativity as it has been claimed to do, by being separated from everyday business concerns, it actually alienates everyone else to innovation and decreases overall creativity.

3. Make sure R&D heads up innovation so your new products can make use of your technical know-how and skills.

R&D needs to connect with customers for improved innovationWhilst this may result in technically improved products, they are all too often not in line with consumer current needs or future desires. Your research people need to connect with your potential customers regularly so they can be tuned into customers’ wants and current frustrations. Wouldn’t you rather have your R&D developing new products that practically sold themselves? As Peter Drucker said “… know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (>>Tweet this<<). If R&D are in constant contact with your customers, they will always have them in mind when planning their product development.

 

4. Don’t let people from outside the organisation work on innovation; prefer well-established thinkers from within the organisation, preferably with more than ten to twenty years in the company.

This often happens as the result of a naïve manager lacking the required confidence to accept criticism, to challenge the status quo and to get out of their comfort zone. No person, let alone an organisation, can be an expert in every area. Why not take full advantage of external expertise to catalyse innovation? It’s certainly faster than learning   and training the required new skills internally. Just think about how many major Fortune 500 companies have joint ventures: they know something about reaping the benefits of collaboration for a win-win to grow their businesses.

5. Only move an innovation concept forward when it is finalised and everyone in the company agrees with its potential.

Apple still excels at innovation

If you wait for complete agreement on a new concept, you will never launch any new product. Rather than looking for total buy-in from everyone, accept the proof of a well-documented justification; if it looks and feels right you can learn from in-market measurement once launched to make adjustments. This is the approach often used by many successful hi-tech companies including Apple. Become a beta tester but make sure you fail fast and learn fast (>>Tweet this<<).

 

6. Follow a well-tested established process for concept development. Take time to ensure everything is working perfectly before launching.

St andard innovation funnelRigid processes and creativity rarely go together (>>Tweet this<<). Rather than working step-by-step through a st andardised process every time, accept that your approach can and should be adapted to the concept as well as market needs.

Some argue that the more ideas you have the better the winning concept. I personally think that massive numbers of ideas merely dilute both thinking and action. I recommend working through a few potential “promising concepts” with some target customers, to refine and develop the winner. I have found this approach to lead more consistently to a winning concept that customers would buy, as well as far more quickly than any st andard funnel process of proliferation and elimination.

7.  Never use social media or test amongst consumers who are outside the control of the organisation, so competition doesn’t learn about what you are developing.

As with no. 4 above, this situation often arises from less experienced managers afraid of being found lacking in creativity. In reality, competition often knows far more about an organisation’s innovations than the majority of its employees do. Therefore test and learn, then test and learn some more, whilst of course making reasonable efforts to reduce any confidentiality risks involved.

8.  Never share ideas with anyone outside the innovation team to avoid leaks.

As mentioned in no. 2 above, everyone can be creative and have great, innovative ideas. It therefore makes no sense at all to limit accepted creativity to one team alone. Whilst it is important to have an innovation lead team, all employees should feel encouraged to bring their ideas to the attention of the business. After all, we are all consumers.

9. Only innovate products and services similar to those in which you are already an expert.

This is not innovation, this is renovation. As with no. 1 above, it is unlikely to provide significant growth for a business, but it can satisfy consumer dem ands for novelty until such time as your disruptive innovation is ready. Never accept renovations as a replacement for true innovation. (>>Tweet this<<)

10. Don’t think too far ahead; after all, the world is moving so fast that we don’t know what the future will look like.

Preparing future scenarios can speed innovation

Whilst it’s true that the world is moving forever faster, this actually makes forward thinking vital not impossible. My recommendation is to develop future scenarios to challenge the organisation to think through a number of “what if” scenarios so that the business is prepared for multiple opportunities and risks.

 

These are my ten mistakes that even the best companies make sometimes in innovation. Are you guilty of any of them? Hopefully these ideas will provide you with food for thought as well as possible solutions.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime, PepsiCo and Apple in this post.

Time to Change your Outdated Work Habits

This week I’ve been helping a client create a new website. He had already mapped out what he wanted to include in it and he provided me with pages of ideas and possible content. Have you ever noticed how it is much harder to rewrite or adapt something, than it is to create from scratch? (>>Click to Tweet<<)How difficult it is to “unlearn” behaviours? Whether it is changing the content of a website, editing the script for a play or book, or adopting new habits, it always dem ands far more effort than the original creation itself. Why is this?

One reason is that we humans like comfortable solutions. We always look for the easiest and simplest way of doing things. That’s why you can find yourself in your car in front of your garage with no memory of the drive back home. You know the way so well, you’ve been on autopilot and your brain has been thinking about other things. 

A recent excellent short read in The Guardian entitled “Habits: why we have them and how to break them” by Dr Benjamin Gardner, Lecturer in Health Psychology at University College, London, provides some of the answers:

  1. Habits are automatic responses to situations
  2. Smoking, snacking and TV viewing are common habits
  3. We learn habits by repeating actions in a situation
  4. Around half of all everyday actions are habitual (>>Click to Tweet<<)
  5. Habits free up mental resources for use elsewhere
  6. They usually take more than two months to form
  7. Setting a realistic goal will help you persevere
  8. Habits may form more quickly for enjoyable tasks
  9. To break a habit, find and avoid the habit trigger
  10. Moving house disrupts many existing habits

So how does this apply to our work? Well firstly, if you are looking to measure behaviour, customers are likely to struggle when referring to the reasons for certain habits, since they have been adopted and now take little mental power (points 4 & 5 above). This is why retailers sometimes change the layout of their stores – although that can also have a negative impact too – to make their shoppers think about what they buy and perhaps also tempt them to try new products or categories.

Reading the above list, it may sound like it will be difficult to break a habit, but as the last point mentions, disruption makes it much easier to change. Think about the arrival of a new boss, the introduction of a new structure or some other event in business, it can result in many habitual tasks being re-evaluated and even replaced. Read on to find a few ideas on how you can make some perhaps necessary changes of your own.

Tracking Br and Equity

Br and equity measurement is a great habit

Last week I wrote about the importance of tracking the three areas of customer br and value: those of functional / rational, emotional / subjective and relational / cultural. Now before you congratulate yourself on measuring the complete spectrum of image attributes, ask yourself how long you have been working with exactly the same list. We all love consistency and comparability but that is often just an excuse to avoid the hard work of evaluating the current metrics and deciding what needs to be added, replaced and removed.

The marketplace for so many – dare I say all? – products and services is moving so fast today that your attributes need to be regularly reviewed and adapted to the new market environment.

Tracking Usage & Awareness

Are you still measuring usage through an omnibus paper or telephone interviews? Look into the possibility of online or mobile as both a quicker and cheaper method of data gathering. Or what about using automatic data gathering from mobile phones, online websites, or smart chips on your products? Of course you will need to conduct comparative runs before switching methodologies, but you may find you get more acceptance from the consumers contacted and easier and swifter returns of information into the organisation.

Trend Following

Future l andscape

Do you continue to buy a st andard service and reporting for following societal trends, just like your competitors do? How about extending trend following into scenario planning? It will make more use of your current service and will provide a significant competitive advantage. (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Replacing Reports by Stories

Replacing reports bz stories is a great habitThere is so much talk about the value of storytelling that I hope I don’t need to explain this point, but have you done anything to integrate it into your own work? One of C³Centricity’s partners (SciFutures) just produced a short and inspiring summary of the key themes and ideas generated at FT2013 (2013 Foresight & Trends Conference). However, they did it through telling a science fiction narrative, rather than by writing the usual report. I would highly recommend checking it out here  and then I dare you to tell me that you would have preferred to read a conference report instead!

So these are just a few habits that it might be worth considering to change in your work environment. Do you have others that your know you should break? If so I would love to know what they are and more importantly, what is stopping you from bringing those needed changes? Let me know because perhaps I just might be able to help.

Did you know C³Centricity runs training workshops and support sessions on revamping your Market Research Toolbox and Processes?  Contact us to learn more.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime, Microsoft  and  Kozzi

8 Marketing Essentials for 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the US catching up with a few C³Centricity partners about marketing priorities for 2014. The meetings were as inspirational as the new products being presented at the Las Vegas CES (Global Consumer Electronics & Consumer Technology Tradeshow)!

We discussed some of the most important challenges marketing will be facing in 2014 and brainstormed some possible solutions. If you are having any of these difficulties then I’m sure you will find the following ideas useful:

Social Media Metrics

Email is a popular customer service connection pointAs many companies transfer budget from traditional to online advertising, it is essential to also shift some of your funds to measuring its impact, even if some people do question the validity of such metrics. However, the most important thing to do is to link the metrics to what is happening in your business. Your CEO isn’t interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, but he is interested in knowing that you gained x% in awareness. Some st andard numbers often followed are mentioned in “ 10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” but remember that engagement and listening for better customer underst anding are also (more?) important, as mentioned in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours?

Storytelling

There is so much (too much?) information flowing into organisations today, but it is not being sufficiently accessed because most of it is not being integrated and analysed. Even when it is, sharing the insights is often a challenge because of the complexity of the process. Turning knowledge and underst anding into stories and then visualising or videoing them is a better way for both sharing and getting participation in actioning them. Why not review both your insight development and your knowledge sharing processes this year? If you’re comfortable with where you are, perhaps now is a good time to start storing your information and insights in easily-accessible libraries?

Showrooming & Virtual Reality

Virtual realityIt has been suggested that showrooming will be the end of retail outlets, but I believe there will be an integrated, rather than an either / or future. Virtual reality enables shoppers to see how products could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also allows both retailers and manufacturers to improve their offer by identifying any pain points, and enables them to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. How about going online with 3D catalogues or providing in-store areas to offer your customers product trial and experience?

 

New Communication Opportunities

According to Jay Walker-Smith of Yankelovich

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

Whether that second number should be 5,000 or 20,000 as I’ve also heard mentioned, it suggests that little can or is being retained our customers. Since this is unlikely to change in the future, as attention spans shorten even more, finding new messaging opportunities that resonate with our customers is vital. Why not use social media to track your target audience’s expressed wants and needs, and then compare them to what your key competitors are communicating. This will help you to uncover hidden communications’ gaps which you can then use to connect with your customers.

Adapting Communications to Personas

Don't alienate your business from its customersAre you dissatisfied with your current segmentation efforts? Creating personas can already add interest and thus actionability, by visualising their similarities and differences. Have you thought of taking the same approach to your communications too? By crafting personas built from your existing data on media habits and going beyond traditional segmentation, you can focus your attention on how to actually communicate with these different groups.

Channel Management

Mapping your br and’s story as told by the br and across channels can provide a “mosaic” of its communications and quickly highlight areas which need attention.Successful campaigns work across multiple channels but it is important to examine the contribution of each to avoid overlaps and gaps. Why not make 2014 your year of br and building through improved channel management?

Better Communications for Organisational Strategy

Following on from the above point, people’s attention spans are diminishing and we are all skimming rather than reading today. This means that companies need shorter, more impactful copy, for advertising and websites, but also for internal newsletters and communications. Analysing the content of communications can be very informative in underst anding the messages our customers, employees or consumers are receiving. We can no longer be satisfied with knowing just what we are sending out. Make this year the one in which all your communications resonate and provide the right messages to your targets.

Disruptive Innovation

Trends around the worldCustomers are becoming more and more dem anding – no news there! They don’t stay satisfied or surprised for long. What was novel yesterday is normal today and boring tomorrow. I suppose that’s why shows such as CES get so much air-time on local, national and even international media. We all love to dream and imagine a better life just around the corner. The same goes for our customers, who are always open to new and better propositions.   What are you doing to meet these increasing dem ands? Is your innovation linear, exponential or disruptive? If it’s not the second and hopefully the third, you are probably missing out. Why not make 2014 the year you disrupt your innovation process?

These were eight of the tens of ideas that I discussed with my partners to help companies identify their marketing priorities. Have a look at your plans and see whether you are still playing it safe by just repeating what you did last year? The same number of campaigns, the same promotions, even the same type of innovations. There’s still time to make 2014 the year of exponential growth and change for your company. 

Best Marketing Quotes to Inspire Essential Actions

Last week I referred to one of the C³Centricity year-end traditions of drawing up a Top 10 list of the most popular posts of the year. Another tradition is our love of inspirational quotes – you only have to look at our homepage to see that!

We have a whole section on quotes in the Library, to which we are constantly adding when we find new ones or get proposals from our friends and followers. In addition, we occasionally like to share some of our favourite ones of the moment and propose actions that are inspired by each of them. Here is our selection for 2013.

 

#1. “Strategy and timing are the Himalayas of marketing. Everything else is the Catskills.”  Al Ries, marketing professional & author who coined the term “positioning”

Whilst I’m not sure I agree that the other challenges of marketing are just “Catskills” (small hills), getting our strategy and timing right are definitely vital. With things moving ever faster today and customers constantly changing their focus and upping their expectations and dem ands, timing has become even more important to get right today. How often do you review your plans, especially for the timing of actions? It is no longer sufficient to fix them annually and then just forget them. Why not make quarterly reviews and monthly evaluations of whether or not your plans need adjustment?

 

#2. “In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.”  John Romero, designer, programmer & developer of video games

Boss expects you to know your customerThis is a great quote that reminds us to not only target effectively but to be ruthless in doing it. Don’t just take all customers that fit your identified criteria of demographics and habits, but also check their lifetime value too. The better you identify your target customers the more likely it will be that you really satisfy and hopefully delight too. Read “13 Things your boss expects you to know about your customers” for more on targeting.

 

#3. “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation” Milan Kundera, Czech writer best known for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

Another of my favourite marketing quotes, as it is about marketing’s importance to business and reminds us to review ROI in the light of business impact. It also highlights the importance of innovation in today’s world of dem anding customers who rarely stay satisfied for long. Read more on this at “What’s keeping marketers up at night and solutions to help them sleep“.

 

#4. “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department” David Packard, co-founder of HP

The new marketing manThis quote may surprise you, but for me it’s a reminder that marketing, as mentioned above, should involve everyone in the company. Although marketing may be the experts, all employees have a role to play in supporting the company and its br ands; they speak with family and friends and even act as a walking advertisement for them. Success in making a company more customer centric comes from every employee thinking customer first. Read “Why marketing will never be replaced but what every CMO must change” for more on this,

 

#5. “Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising” Howard Schultz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks

Mr Schultz has clearly understood the importance of customer centricity. As mentioned above, everyone in the company needs to underst and the importance of the customer to the success of the business. Front-end employees – and these are not just in retail outlets, but sales, merch andising, call centre and social media experts – are vital to business and are rarely seen at their true value. Of these I believe call centre employees are amongst the least valued despite their rise in importance in today’s connected world where customers expect answers where, when and how they want them. Read “Clues to a great br and story” for more on this.

 

#6. “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions”  Claude Levi-Strauss, French anthropologist & ethnologist, sometimes called the “father of modern anthropology”.

Hindsight, Eyesight or Foresight

Market Researchers are probably the experts in questionnaire design but sometimes there are better ways to underst and your customers than just asking questions. With easy access to your customers through social media and the internet, why not spend time listening and watching your customers and not (just) asking questions? Read “Out of sight, out of mind” for more ways to better underst and your customer.

 

#7. “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be” May Sarton, pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton, an American poet, novelist & memoirist.

Successful companies are consistent in showing what they st and for; the same applies to br ands. Do you you know what you st and for, rationally, emotionally AND relationally? These are the three essential elements of a strong br and. Read more about br and image definition and measurement at “What does your br and st and for? Ten steps to perfect image following“.

 

#8. “We see things as we are, not as they are” Leo Rosten, teacher, humorist, journalist & scriptwriter.

three people quotesThis is a difficult habit to break on both a personal and professional level. When we are responsible for a br and, it is sometimes necessary to accept that we may not be the ideal customer and thus we have to make choices that will fit them but which we ourselves like less. Underst anding your customers’ needs can be helped by spending more time with them. Why not add it to the annual objectives of your team to regularly shop or use your products and services? In the meantime read “Ten things your customers won’t tell you” for some immediate ideas.

 

#9. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” Nelson M andela, anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician & philanthropist who served as President of South Africa

It would be impossible not to include a quote from the formidable and recently departed Nelson M andela. Every business needs to have a heart and their customers at the heart of the business. “Improving customer centricity in hospitality” has some great ideas for the industry, that others could also implement.

 

#10. “Fortune favors the prepared mind” Louis Pasteur, French chemist & microbiologist who discovered the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation & pasteurization. 

Future l andscape

Being prepared is what scouts are famous for, but businesses too need to be prepared for all eventualities. Unfortunately so many organisations think that this can be achieved by following trends, but this will only tell them at best where society might be going. It doesn’t prepare the business for all possible future events both positive and negative. Building scenarios on the other h and will enable both opportunities and possible risks to be identified before they happen and provide sufficient time to develop appropriate plans. Read “Turning trends into future scenarios and the ten step process you need to do it” for more ideas for preparing your own business.

Those are my top ten marketing quotes of the moment. I hope they inspired you to try some new actions. If you have your own favourite quotes to inspire action and change, why not share them below. We’ll publish the best on our website too.

Need help in bringing action and change to your own marketing? C³Centricity runs 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions on numerous topics. Check out our website for more information or contact us for an informal discussion.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com  and Kozzi.com

 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Is this Why you Can’t Get Closer to your Customers?

As we get to the end of 2013, it is common for many of us to review what we have and haven’t accomplished during the year. If becoming even more customer centric was one of your objectives, let’s review one aspect of it, that of really underst anding and getting closer to our customers.

It is good to remember that even if we want to become more customer centric and might have planned it as one of our objectives this year: 

“Customer centricity is a journey, not a destination”

It is something we need to keep top-of-mind constantly and continuously look for even more ways to make the customer the heart of the business. Deep customer underst anding comes from a multitude of sources of knowledge and information that has been gathered, built up and integrated over time. Nevertheless, the way we go about doing this, can make a huge difference to our chances of success in underst anding and pleasing our customers.

There are four ways we can collect and then use information and knowledge about our customers, and all are necessary for the deep underst anding that brings customer delight and business success.

#1. Hindsight

Hindsight is backward looking but still gets you closer to customersDespite the ever-increasing flow of real-time information into a company, this is arguably still the most used “sight” in customer underst anding today. We record or measure what our customers do; where they bought; how much they consumed; what advertising they saw and when. Unfortunately, despite the possibility technology provides us to record and send this information immediately to businesses, for most organisations, these metrics are based on past performance by the time we get to analyse them.

Even worse, this is exactly the type of information that we use to estimate how healthy our br and and business is going to be in the future. We assume that the market will stay roughly the same and that our continued efforts will be rewarded with similar, if not greater success. However, in today’s fast-paced world, nothing stays the same for long, especially not the customer.

Examples of hindsight are market shares, media consumption and shopping habits. Whilst br and equity can also be considered hindsight, it has been found that declining image often precedes a sales decline, so could arguable be seen to contain elements of both hindsight and foresight.

#2. Eyesight & Hearsight

Eyesight  and Hearsight helps you get closer to customersThis is the qualitative element of the previous “sight”. It helps us to confirm the decisions we take about important metrics to follow, or can deepen our underst anding of the information we have already recorded. Management can sometimes feel less comfortable with this type of knowledge if it is not complemented by “solid” quantified information. However, it is a powerful way to more deeply underst and our customers’ thoughts and behaviour and to share it with others.

Examples of eyesight include observation and ethnography, listening in to call centres and following or joining in to online social media discussions and chat. In addition, new technologies are exp anding this area with additional sources, often using biometric and / or neuroscientific readings. These include retail eye-tracking, webcam emotional facial analysis and online impact algorithms. (If you’re interested in learning more about any of these, which are available through C³Centricity and its partners, I would be happy to discuss further with you over Skype or a quick call)

#3. Insight

The spark of insight brings you closer to customers

This is what hindsight and eyesight should ideally be developed into. This suggests that no single piece of research, nor one project, should be expected to deliver insight, at least on its own. Insights come from combining different sources of information and knowledge, into underst anding and insight. Until we underst and the “why” behind the knowledge we have found, it is unlikely that true insight can be developed.

Depending upon your own definition of an insight, these can include an explanation of the behavioural change sought, or a statement, voiced from the consumer’s perspective, of what their need or issue is and what feelings they are looking to achieve when they solve it.

#4. Foresight

Foresight is planning for the future whilst getting closer to customersAlthough a business may be successful if it develops insights alone, in an ideal world it should also be considering the future and likely changes to the current situation. This will enable an organisation to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities, as well as to plan for possible risks.

For some, going beyond insight to foresight might mean making them feel uncomfortable as they are forced to think about possible scenarios that perhaps they would prefer NOT reflecting upon. And yet it is only by thinking about them and planning for our reactions to such situations, that we can really be best prepared to meet the opportunities and challenges the future might hold.

Now that I have summarised the differences between these four sights, I want to go back to the title of this post, “Out of sight, out of mind; how we underst and our customers”. I believe that underst anding comes out of these four sights and the integration and making sense of everything coming out of our minds. As technology starts to replace traditional market research information gathering and in some case the reporting too, we should be looking to move our skills’ emphasis from gatherer to sharer of insight.

Risks of not opening up to other sights

So, which sight are you using more often? As I already mentioned, we need to use all four, but not necessarily in equal proportions. Their use will each time depend upon the situation in which we find ourselves, but working with all four will ensure we try to underst and our customers from all possible perspectives.

If you work mainly with hindsight, you may risk a delay in reacting to market changes and new situations, so you need to strengthen your foresight. This can be done by following societal trends and then developing future scenarios to challenge your thinking.

If you work mostly with eyesight / hearsight, perhaps it’s because you feel threatened by the risk of your hypotheses and assumptions being proven wrong by “hard” facts. If this is the case, why not try quantifying some of your observations to see whether or not what has been observed is normal behaviour or merely your perception of reality?

If you work in an organisation that runs a lot of market research projects and draws conclusions and action plans from each one of them individually, it is time to strengthen your insights. (If you don’t have a process for developing insights from information integration, then contact us and let’s discuss how we might support you to develop a proprietary one). Perhaps surprisingly, insight development can actually save you resources, since running an evaluation of what is already known – the frequent first step of insight development – may produce the required answers and avoid the need for further studies.

Finally if you are living mostly in the future, you may be unaware of current opportunities / threats that quantification can indicate. Even when comfortable working with foresight, a business still needs to be managed on a day to day basis and for that, nothing beats a few numbers. Whilst foresight is essential to long-term business growth, the hypotheses must be based upon facts rather than assumptions.

Which sight do you need to strength in 2014? How are you going to do that? Plan to start this coming New Year by taking a critical look at which sight you are currently most comfortable using and then decide to strengthen your other sights. Please share your thoughts with everyone below.

Would you like some help with your own insight development process or information gathering? Then let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

This post was inspired by one published on 11th January 2013 in C³Centricity

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Turning Trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-Step Process you Need

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

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

Just one example of exactly this, is how many companies started using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising a few years ago. In Europe these included:

    • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – sorry only in French & German but still easy to understand
    • Orange telecom:
    • An international Insurance company:

These are just three I have noticed recently, but I’m sure there are others in the countries you yourself live in. (If so do drop me a line, or add a comment below, I’d love to hear about other examples)

Clearly the current trend of a desire for independence and freedom has been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above. Perhaps they are working with the same trend or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports. Either way, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising idea.

Companies which develop concepts based upon these types of external resources 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 for the consumers.

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 are unlikely to ever be the same as those of the competition and will 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 often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below:

    1. Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company
    2. Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business
    3. Identify the most important trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political)
    4. Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least
    5. Collide the resultant developed trends to produce leading likely changes
    6. Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes
    7. Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
    8. Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
    9. Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
    10. Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.

This ten-step process can be followed over a minimum of a two or three-day workshop, or over a longer period of development lasting several months. For a more detailed 10-step process, you might like to also check out last year’s post on the topic: The Great Trends Hoax: The don’t give business a competitive advantage.

 

Success factors

 

Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.

However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional criteria that need to be met in order to guarantee the most successful scenario planning exercises. These include:

    • A diverse internal team who are enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area
    • An excellent creative to lead the process, usually from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone
    • Executive management support of the exercise as well as of  its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios
    • Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation
    • Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis

Following the process as summarised above and including all five of the success criteria mentioned, provides the greatest chance for success in building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.


If you are interested in joining our upcoming webinar on Future Scenario Building, please let us know  and we will send you a personal invitation.   


These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning.

Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. You have to turn them into proprietary future scenarios.  If you need help, let us help we’re ready to support you. Contact us HERE.

10 Ways to tell if you’re Customer Centric: And what to do about it if you’re not

Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book –the formatting not the content! – it was the perfect occasion for me to review what I wanted to achieve in the coming six months.

This got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going and what changes need to be made to ensure their completion over the remaining six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can still take to go further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Underst and your primary target

Boston MatrixKnowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Action: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their +4Ws” – Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer, whether by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shops and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage unless they are turned into future scenarios.

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges.

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Example of innovation leversMost organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services.

 

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

Business DashboardAs the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says “What gets measured gets managed”. Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

 

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers”

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to  know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C3C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

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