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7 Secrets to Business Growth from Leading Global Brands

Consultants get contacted for all sorts of – admittedly sometimes strange – requests for support from their clients.

However, when I get several people asking for help in the same area, I know something important is happening in the marketplace.

This is exactly what happened to me last month. The topic? Business Growth.

Most marketers will soon be leaving on their vacation and are realising just how little time they will have left to meet their annual objectives when they return. Their brands have not performed as well as they had hoped this year and they are looking for a solution – fast!

No less than two of my current clients and four new companies have asked me for support in growing their businesses in just the past month! In particular, they have all said that one or more of their brands is stable – to be polite – and that they want to reverse the trend. Is this your situation too? If so, then I have a useful 7-step process that will bring rapid, if not instant change.

 

How to Stop a Declining Brand

OK, let’s get straight to the point with the most painful of situations first, that of a declining brand. A few years ago I wrote a popular post about using brand image metrics to understand what is happening with a brand and how to identify the best actions to take.

It is called “How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye.” I highly recommend reading it now, for a short but in-depth understanding of all the information that can be gleaned from a simple brand image study.

Almost all brands use their own brand image data in a very basic way, but there is so much more that can be done with the information, even without harnessing AI to do it for you!

In the above post I speak about the different kinds of attributes that should be measured and how to find them. They must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely:

  • Rational, functional benefits
  • Emotional, subjective benefits
  • Relational, cultural benefits

Business growth from brand image measurement

Brand image attributes must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely Rational, functional benefits; Emotional, subjective benefits; and Relational, cultural benefits. Do yours? #Insight #MRX #Marketing #Brand Click To Tweet

However, what is even more important is how you analyse the data once you have it. I suggest looking at, as a minimum:

  • Total and splits by demographics – gender, age, location etc
  • Segments as you have defined them – attitudes, values, motivations etc
  • Steps of the customer journey – aware, consider, try etc

There are many other analyses I use when working with my clients. Let me know if you need some help in getting more value from your own brand image metrics, I’d love to help.

 

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Changes in your Brand image are just one of the things that you should look at when you are trying to understand why your business is flat, or even worse, declining. It's one of the best kept secrets to brand growth!

Let's now look at some of the others.

 

The Typical MBA Five Steps to Brand Building

Most MBA students are taught a five-step process for brand building, at least in theory anyway. They are:

 

Brand Building

  1. Describe: This is done through a product's logo as well as its description on packs and other communications' material. A successful brand will describe what it is through a consistent look, feel, tone, colours, symbols and messaging. This then builds to its brand equity which forms in the minds of customers both current and potential.
  2. Position: A brand needs to differentiate itself from its competition with some unique value. This can be done through its packaging, colour, aroma, distribution or another element that can set it apart. Using them to position the brand will provide customers with a reason to believe and to buy.
  3. Promote: Promotion can take numerous forms and channels, such as video, social media, TVCs (Television & Cinema), print ads or online advertising. It can include straightforward advertising and promotions, but also customer reviews, retail offers, websites etc. All of these will increase the brand's awareness, hopefully spontaneous recall, as well as improved perception.
  4. Personalise: Several books have been written about people "loving" brands. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, building strong loyalty and a solid fan base is important. With so much choice available today, personalisation and individualisation have become essential characteristics in many categories. They make people feel closer to the brand through increased resonance and a perception of importance. These are two of the essential ingredients that build fans / followers.
  5. Evaluate: This is in fact both the last and first step to successful brand building. It is important that a company keeps on monitoring and reviewing the performance of its products, services and brands. Hence evaluation & review of a brand is an essential element of brand building.

While these five steps aren't wrong, I believe that we can all do a whole lot better. As I said above, this is the theory, but I imagine that you are an expert or at least a professional, who already understands just how much effort goes into brand building. There are far more than these five simple steps!

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When I realised that there is a lot missing from this standard list, I decided to expand it, but not too much so it remains manageable. However, my clients get a far more detailed process, as I am sure you can imagine. (Contact me to learn more)

 

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Did you notice that the MBA list is all about the product or service, and that there is nothing mentioned about the customer or consumer? Big mistake!

So here is my process for brand building, a shortened version of the one I use when working with my clients. It succeeds whether your brand is a product or service, new or established, local or global. Take a look and let me know what you think. Is there something important I have forgotten that you do? Let me know in the comments and I'll send you a free copy of my book "Secrets to Brand Building."

 

My 7 Secrets to Business Growth

1. Gather as much information as you can about the brand

You already have far more information than you realise! Start by gathering as much information as you can find and bring it all together.

In addition to brand image and equity measurements, you need trend information on shares, distribution, stock levels, customer penetration and profiles. Look for changes in the trends and identify where and when they happened. The why will come later.

This first analysis is the equivalent to an autopsy after death - but hopefully you are reacting long before your brand is on life-support!

 

2. Identify the category in which you are playing.

This is the category from the customers' perspective, not the industry definition your business association or retail audit supplier uses. Talk to customers if you can, or watch and listen to discussions on social media.

These exchanges will often mention comparable brands, suggestions for switching etc. All this will provide a better indication of the category than your industry knowledge sources ever will.

 

3. Understand your customers and talk to them - a lot!

I already mentioned speaking with your customers to understand the category you are in. But I want you to make a habit of speaking to your customers - both current and potential - on a weekly, and ideally daily basis.

For a simple start, set up Google alerts for your brand, category and customer groups, so you are following what is happening on the web. If you haven't already done this, stop reading and do that NOW! It's that important.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, then you will know that we promote - and our clients heavily use - C3Centricity's 4W™ Template to store everything we know about our customers. You can download a free workbook including the template HERE.

 

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4. Define your USP and desired image

Now you know the category in which you are competing and what customers want, verify whether your brand has a USP (Unique selling proposition) and an appropriate image and equity.

The description of your brand should include functional, emotional and societal benefits as mentioned above. To learn more about identifying these, and how to measure all aspects of your brand image, personality and equity, read "Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know."

 

5. Develop a Big Idea on which to communicate

Once you have your USP it's time to develop a big idea on which to communicate it. Big Ideas should be based on a relevant insight about your customers. (You do have one don't you?)

For an improved process that delivers truly actionable insights, please check out"Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation)." This post details the exact process my clients use to develop insights they can easily and quickly harness to develop their own Big Idea with their advertising agency.

Here are a few examples; the first two are interesting in that two brands in different categories have used the exact same insight to come up with their own Big Ideas :

  • Persil. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Dirt is Good.

 

  • Nido. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Let them grow, let them go.

 

  • Mastercard. Insight - “Life isn’t about what I buy, but about the relationships I have with the people I care about, and the special moments that I can share with them.” Big Idea - Mastercard helps you deliver priceless experiences.

 

  • Jillz. Insight - "I want to drink alcohol on a night out, but I don’t like beer, and wine is too variable in quality." Big Idea - A fresh drink from the tap for elegant women.

Jillz secret to brand growth

 

  • Philadelphia soft cheese. Insight - "Food is delicious, but I don’t want to get fat (Butter vs Cream Cheese) Big Idea: Indulge your desire with less calories.

Philadelphia secrets of business growth

Hopefully these examples have inspired you to review the insight and big idea for your own brand. If you think you have a great example why not share it below?

 

6. Promote the brand where and when your customers are

This is the step that seems to be difficult for so many brands. They think that by advertising on digital media they will get their message across. But there are (at least) two things wrong with this approach.

Firstly, are your target customers actually online and if so, where? Pinterest may be perfect for a fashion or cosmetic brand but not for many other industries. The graph below show the usage by demographics for the US market. Perhaps you should take a look at your own statistics to check that social media and particularly the current channels you are using, are optimal for your brand?

social media stats are a secret to business growth

 

7. Measure your success

Peter Drucker was so right when he said:

“What gets measured gets managed.”

So you clearly have to measure what you have been doing, so you understand what is working and what is not. But what metrics should you choose?

The data you should be following will help you to assess whether or not you are meeting the objectives for your brands. Therefore start by looking at what you were planning to improve and then choose the appropriate metrics to follow the changes you made.

I would also recommend this short read: "How to choose your KPIs."

 

Next Steps

So you've gone through all seven steps and your brand is showing signs of stabilising if not actually declining. Great! So what's next? Well you start by prioritising the actions you need to take to correct the weaknesses you have found. Define the tactics and strategies you will need and put your action plan into effect.

Then? Well, you start at step 1 and go through the process again! You see brand building is a never ending virtuous circle.

If you have specific questions relating to any of the seven steps, or if some other area of brand building is challenging you at the moment, then why not book a complementary advisory session? I love to help and that one call could solve your issue immediately, so why wait in torment? Be confident that we can quickly move your business forward together!

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

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

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

 

HOW MARKETING HAS CHANGED

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

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

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

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

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

 

BRAND BUILDING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

MOVE BEYOND BRAND BUILDING

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

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

 

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

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

How to Take Local Brands to Global Success: The 5 Rules to Fortune

I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a couple of years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer. They weren’t speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and comfortable with data. They were referring to the growing need for marketers to stand up to the challenge of taking local brands global. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.

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

 

1. Understand the Market

Future scenarios for global success

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

For global rollouts, an additional information concerning the comparison of similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets must also be considered. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t developed future scenarios, as I recommend here.

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

  • I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get answers as well as making use of visual search that enables them to buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea Place offers shoppers the possibility to snap and then see an article in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings, before you purchase it.
  • Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.
  • Join the Club! Another use of personalised data is in providing privileged services – at a price. This idea is used for the regular delivery of razor blades and tampons, as well as for personalised exercise routines and menus. Consumers are happy to join a “club” to pass on mundane tasks to a (virtual) assistant to make their lives simpler. Some successful examples of these include Dollar Shave Club, Freda, and Amazon Dash buttons.

 

2. Understand the Customers

What does the product stand for in the eyes and minds of your customers? Do those in the new market have the same sensitivities as the ones in the local market where your product has met with success? Will the consumers in the new target market perceive the same benefits in the same way?

If not, is this really a potential market, or are you just rolling-out there due to geographic proximity? I am still amazed how many organisations base their roll-out strategy on geography rather than the customer! Big error!

Examples of such disasters include:

  • Kellogg’s Cornflakes launch into India. It failed because they ignored the Indian habit of having a boiled & sweetened milk rather than using cold milk for their cereals, so the flakes went soggy.
  • P&G’s Pampers was launched in Japan with the image of a stork which confused consumers. Whereas a stork is fabled to bring babies to parents in the west, this is not the case in Japan.
  • Mitsubishi (Pajero), Mazda (LaPuta) and Chevrolet (Nova) all had issues when rolling out their cars into Spanish speaking countries. Had they bothered to check the meaning of the model names in the local language, they would have avoided the negative connotations and the need to change their names after launch.

 

3. Position Based on a Human Truth

Local brands need a human truth to go globalOne of the similarities that brings all consumers together is their basic human needs. Think parenting and wanting the best for your children, used by many, many brands, including Nestlé’s Nido and Unilever’s Omo / Persil.

Or what about women and their frustration with not being considered as beautiful as the retouched models in their magazines, which is very successfully used by Unilever’s Dove?

And how about men and their need to charm women, to affirm themselves, that is used by Lynx / Axe from – you’ve guessed it – Unilever, again. (They really do know their consumers better than any other brand builder today!)

Human Truths or Needs are used the world over and form the basis of many very successful roll-out communication strategies. So before you dream of taking your local brand’s success to global stardom, think about what human truth you are using to build it. If you can’t identify it, there is a far lesser chance of your repeating its local success in other markets.

 

4. Can You Use Your Local Heritage?

Many countries and regions have strong, stereotyped images that can play to inherent qualities associated with certain product categories coming from them. Examples of these include French perfume, Swiss watches, Russian Vodka, Italian fashion, German or American cars and Japanese technology.

If your brand has a strong positive association with local tradition or nationality, then make use of it. Even if consumers in the new market may be less aware, authenticity and tradition are strong current sensitivities on which you can build your brand in new markets. (Just make sure you check trend levels of them before choosing the new countries for rollout!)

 

5. Understand the Category

As I mentioned above, many companies get their rollout strategy wrong by looking at geographical proximity, rather than the closeness of the customers’ social sensitivities in them. Just because countries are geographically close, doesn’t mean their populations are similar when it comes to category image and usage.

When planning product roll-outs, also consider how alike the customers are in terms of usage and behaviour, as well as the category trends. By doing this, you are more likely to better prioritize the markets most open to the local brand’s product launch.

 

One Final Idea

I’d like to end with a final comment on global roll-outs. C3Centricity’s partner PhaseOne, wrote a guest post for us on the risks of implementing a global creative strategy. As communication experts, PhaseOne knows what it takes to succeed in engaging customers across the globe. The article makes a great complement to this post and you can read it here: “Why Implementing Global Creative is Risky

 

Many companies have effectively rolled-out local brand successes to other countries in the region, if not the world. But many more have failed. What would you add to the list to increase the odds in favour of a regional or global roll-out? I would love to read your own thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to know more about improving your branding and communications, then please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com

winning customer centricity through customer service excellence

 

 

C3Centricity uses images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity.”

 

 

This post has been adapted and updated from ones which were first publicised on C3Centricity Dimensions in 2012 and 2013.

How Well Do you Know Your Customers? 13 Questions your Boss Expects you to Answer

Be a true leader; share this post with the members of your team who need the inspiration and support.


Your boss expects you to be able to answer all his questions and especially to know your customers. Here are the 13 things your boss is likely to ask you and a handy Checklist to prove to him that you know your customers better than he realises.

Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really? The following is a checklist of 13 facts you need to be able to answer in order to know your customers as well as you should.

As you read the post, keep tabs on your answers and share your final score below. I’m offering a personal 50% discount code to spend in store for everyone who publishes their score here in July 2018. And if you’re the boss, I’d love to hear how well you think your team would do – 100% of course, no?!

 

 

#1. Who is your customer?

C3Centricity how well do you know your customerOK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you really know about them?

Their age, gender and location are the basics, but there’s a lot more you need to know about them. Check out12 things you need to know about your target customers for more on what you need to know to be able to describe them in the depth your boss expects.

The C3Centricity 4W™ Template is a great resource for storing all the information you have on your customer. Download a free copy and watch the related videos HERE.

 

 

#2. What business are you in?

Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customers. Many organisations are working with industry definitions rather than customer ones. What about you? If you want to know your customers, you need to understand what category they think they are buying.

This is one of the essential elements you need to understand in order to know your customers deeply. It is something that many organisations don’t take the time to clearly identify, which results in an incorrect appreciation of their market and competitors. By not correctly identifying the category you are in, or plan to enter, your innovations will also lack the success you are hoping for.

Many organisations are working with industry definitions for their category rather than customer ones. They are losing sales! And you? #CEX #Customer #Category Click To Tweet

For instance, are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? One of my clients wanted to launch a fruit flavoured soft drink and thought they were competing with other soft drinks. When we worked together we discovered that they were actually competing in the energy drink business!

How many of your brands are not competing where you thought they were? See How to Innovate better than Apple for more on this topic.

 

#3.Who are your major competitors?

KNow your customer checklist on competitionAgain another slow starter to show you know your customers. Here you want to make sure that you have correctly identified what market you are actually competing in and who are your competitors. It just might not be the one you think!

Also, do you know as much about your competitors’ customers as you do about your own? Complete a SWOT to know exactly where you stand with them – although it’s probably best to wait until you have read the next eleven points before actually doing this.

Once you know who your competitors are, use the 4W™ Template again for each of the major ones and add information to it every time you learn something new about them.

 

 

#4. What do they buy?

What and where your customers buy your product should have been covered in point #1. (If it’s wasn’t, make a note to gather that information and add it to your 4W™ template.)

Now you should look at how much your customer spends on your product or service and how much they have available. How does what they spend compare with the amount they spend on your competitors? Is your share of category and wallet growing? If not, why not?

Other information you need to gather to know your customers in this area is how they react to promotions. Do they only buy on promotion? Do they buy in bulk? Do they have size or packaging preferences? All this information will help you to get into the head of your customers and really know them.

Understanding the shopper, who is not always the person who uses or consumes your product, is also essential information you need to have at your fingertips for this section. If they are different people (mothers, housekeepers, single mums) then I would suggest you also develop a 4W™ Persona Template for the shopper too. In this way you can compare and understand the similarities and differences between the buyer and the consumer. I’m sure that having personas for both will also impress the boss and show him/her that you really know your customers!

 

#5. What does your customer need?

I’m not speaking about what he says he needs, but what he really needs and perhaps doesn’t even know yet. What would surprise and delight him? What does he need that he only knows he does when he sees it?

Sometimes customers will compensate without even realising it. By watching and listening to them you will know your customers well enough to be able to offer them even more (satisfaction). Read “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively” to become an expert at customer connections.

Apple is one company that seems to be very good at getting at peoples’ unarticulated needs. Be inspired by them to know your customers as deeply as they do.

Apple have people queuing up to buy one of their new products even when they already have a perfectly functioning older model. Do they really need this new version? No. Do they want it? Perhaps! But, what their real emotion is, is a desire, a craving for the latest version, whatever the price! Wouldn’t you like customers to feel the same about what you have to offer?

 

#6. What do they think of your price?

To know your customers you need to understand cost versus value to them.
Source: Dreamstime

Here consider not just the price they pay, but also the cost to them of their actual purchase. Do they buy online with packing and shipping costs extra? Do they have to drive out-of-town or even further to be able to purchase? All of these add to the perceived cost of your brand.

In order to know your customers, you have to calcualte the total cost to them of buying what you have to offer? And how that price compares to the total value they place on it?

Value will automatically include comparison to competitive offers, so ensure you include an evaluation of their brands’ values too.

Review the elements of your offer which your customers value and which they value less. Is there room for renovation to include more of what they like or to remove what does not bring value – and usually involves cost for you. Spend your manufacturing and development budget on things your customers value most.

Spend your manufacturing and development budget on things your customers value most. #CEX #Renovation #CustomerValue Click To Tweet

 

 

#7. What do they think of your packaging?

Packaging today goes far beyond protecting the product inside and making its on-shelf presence more impactful.

It is a further medium for communications and also for showcasing your value and USP (unique selling point). However, many organisations have still not realised this. You can therefore get ahead of the competition when you know your customers deeply and their packaging preferences. Read “Is your packaging product or promotion?” for more on this topic.

Packaging is also an important part of your manufacturing costs so its value to the customer should be critically assessed. Even if you reduce your carton strength or pack content because you can, it certainly doesn’t mean you always should. Perhaps your customers don’t immediately notice the changes, but one day they will wake up and re-evaluate the value they are getting. Your packaging which is now made of flimsy carton, will appear to them as being of lower quality and this perception mat get transferred to its contents. Upon evaluation of your total offer, they then might decide to switch away!

Just because you can reduce your carton strength or pack, doesn't mean you should. Your customers may not notice in the short term but they will in the longer term when you have taken things too far. #Pack #marketing Click To Tweet

 

 

#8. What do they think of your product?

Know your customers product preferencesProduct testing is an often overlooked essential of concept development. Even if a product is tested before launch, and supposingly does well (or it wouldn’t have been launched, I hope) competition is constantly changing, as are your customers’ tastes.

Therefore it is important to keep an eye on your performance over time. Annual measurement at the very least and preferably also of your major competitors is the minimum, to keep your finger on the pulse.

Another important aspect of product testing is to keep track of the metrics over time. It is not sufficient to test versus your previous offer or that of your major competitor. Incremental changes may not be immediately noticed, but can become significant over time. And this applies to product just as much as to its packaging mentioned above.

If you don’t have the budget for regular testing – and I would question why you don’t for such a critical element of you mix – there are other things you can do. Follow social media comments from your customers for one. These provide invaluable input not only on your product’s performance and that of your competitors, but online comments can also supply ideas for renovation and innovation.

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#9. What do they think about your advertising?

As with product testing, this is another of the on-going performance metrics, to ensure you know your customers. In addition, the earlier you start testing within the communications development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts. I am continually appalled at just how many companies waste large portions of their marketing budget by producing multiple ads, sometimes to practically air-readiness before choosing the final direction.

The earlier you start testing within the communications development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts. #ads #brand #marketing Click To Tweet

Of course, your ad agency will never complain about you working in this way, but couldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? I highly recommend you check out PhaseOne’s unique tool for early stage, confidential global communications evaluation.

Their clients rarely develop more than two ads and often by testing early-stage concepts, they develop only one. Think about how much money you could save by doing this! Contact me if you’d like to hear how businesses globally are benefiting from this approach and saving tens of thousands in ad testing..

 

 

#10. What do they think about your online presence?

It’s not so much what they think here, but more about do they even notice? Unless you know your customers’ habits online, you are unlikely to be where and when they are ready to receive your messages.

Instead of choosing and using just the most popular online websites – like everyone else – your work completing point #1 will indicate which are the most visited by your customers. For some brands an online presence is of minimal importance, whereas for others it actually replaces more traditional forms of advertising. Think of RedBull as just one powerful example of this. Although they now advertise both on and offline, they started building awareness through social media and word of mouth alone.

 

#11. What do they think of your social media personality?

You can’t hide your personality on social media, nor delete what you have shared. The words you choose for a Tweet, the ideas you share on FaceBook, the images you post on Pinterest, all build to a picture in the minds of your customer. What image do you think was created in the minds of people who read the following Tweet exchange from Nestle?

Know your customer to prevent such disasters
Click to see full conversation

 

 

Treat your online discussions in the same way you would any other form of communications and use the same tone and spirit. Just because it’s new media doesn’t mean it is less important or serious.

As the above example shows, mismanagement of customer connections on such platforms cannot be removed – even if as Nestlé did, you take it off your own website – it will always be online for others to find and haunt you with!

 

#12. Why do they buy?

There are many “why” questions I could have added here, but this is fundamentally the most important. If you know why people buy and how you are satisfying their needs, the more likely you are to satisfy them.

In addition, if you frequently monitor their changing needs and desires through trend following, the more likely you are to continue to enjoy increasing customer satisfaction.

But please don’t stop at trend following alone. Develop the trends into plausible future scenarios and you’ll be years ahead of possible changes in customer desires – now that’s a true competitive advantage! Read Turning trends into future scenarios and the 10-step process you need to do it for more on this topic.

 

 

#13. Why do you sell?

I’ve saved the best for last. Why are you in the business you are in? Are you looking to grow a products’ sales, increase distribution for your other products, make a different product more attractive (or a competitors’ less attractive), or are you just milking profits? All of these are valid reasons, but you need to be very clear on why, in order to know how to answer all the other questions.

 

The BCG Growth Share Matrix is a well-known tool you can use to check that you really understand what you are trying to do. This verification will enable you to eliminate the actions that don’t align with your objectives and mission for your brand.

 

Know your customer by using the BCG share-growth matrix
Source: Shazeeye.com

 

 

So there’s my 13-point “Know your Customer” checklist to enable you to know your customers well enough to answer any question your boss may ask of you. I suggest you go back to the top and revisit each point and answer them truthfully. By reviewing all 13 I am sure that your thoughts will have changed or at least been modified as a result of this new perspective.

These are the essential questions your boss may (should?) be posing and you should be prepared to answer whenever you are asked. And if you yourself happen to be the boss, why not ask your team how many they can answer? Let my know your score below; be the first to confirm that you can answer all 13!

This post is based upon an article first published on C3Centricity in 2013.

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Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?

What does a Head of Marketing (CMO) do in their average four-year tenure to ensure that they keep their job for longer?

Did you know that CMOs have the shortest average term of office of any chief in the C-suite, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry? And even more shocking is the fact that in the consumer goods industry it is even lower at just 3.6 years! So just how long have you been in your position?

A 2012 global survey by the Fournaise Marketing Group provides one possible explanation. It highlights the ongoing tensions between CEOs and CMOs. A huge 80% of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed with their CMOs, compared to just 10% for their CFOs and CIOs. Why is this? Perhaps it’s because CEOs don’t understand the role of a CMO or is there still an issue with the ROI of the marketing budget? I’ll let you be the judge of this in your own situation.

 

The Opportunities

Let’s start at the beginning. Marketers, what opportunities are there, that you can keep your job? Despite the short lifespan of a CMO, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not all bad news. While the position is plagued by high turnover, this could also be because CMOs are highly visible for promotions or a steal by the competition. Nice to feel wanted, isn’t it?

CMOs are highly visible, which is great for promotions or a steal by the competition. #CMO #Marketing Click To Tweet

It is therefore important that a new CMO quickly makes an impact. More so than any other c-suite function, bar the CEO of course, who sometimes faces almost immediate criticism by shareholders and the financial world, upon being named.

Another piece of good news for the head of the marketing function is that being on the executive board they have access to resources. The bad news is that as the CMO is a member of the EB, management expects them to make (profitable) changes fast. And even more so if they have just been hired! The board trusts the new CMO to analyse the situation, identify what needs to be done, develop the plan to do it and then take actions. And all of this in their first 3 months or so!

Are you or have you yourself been in exactly this situation? Tough isn’t it? That’s why many CMOs hire a supportive advisor or sounding board such as myself to accompany them on this stressful early part of their journey. (If you like, you can book a complimentary session with me here)

In the meantime, here is what I would do if I were in the position of a new CMO, or one who is reaching their four-year breakpoint and is not ready to leave quite yet.

 

The Challenges

The latest Forbes research into the CMO function highlights three major areas where the head of marketing’s remit now goes far beyond the previous traditional, more creative areas. In the report they mention three changes that CMOs are grappling with in an effort to impact both inside and outside their organisation:

  1. How the relationships between brands and customers have changed.  The most influential CMOs lead digital transformation with a customer-first mindset.
  2. How brands can offer the very best customer experience. Top CMOs are championing the voice of their customers and aligning their organizations around better customer experiences.
  3. How brands can become more human and approachable. CMOs are no longer afraid to raise their voice or take a stand on political and social issues – because that’s how they connect and build trust with their customers. Take a look at the Forbes list of The World’s Most Influential CMOs of 2018 to see inspiring examples of this.

The report concludes:

The world’s most influential CMOs recognize that customer experience is the new brand, and inspire marketers everywhere to ask: How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people?

How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people? @Forbes #CMO #Marketing Click To Tweet

However, the most influential CMOs also recognize that their ultimate job is driving business growth. And to do that, effective CMOs play a larger role, taking on additional responsibilities in areas as diverse as internal culture, talent, IT purchasing, and customer engagement. Talk about broadening their skill-set!

 

So how should CMOs, old and new, tackle their businesses from a fresh perspective? I suggest looking at the following five areas:

1. Mission and Vision

These are the very foundation of a company and are the starting point for any employee who wants to understand their role in an organisation, not just the CMO.

For the head of marketing however, it is perhaps even more important, since it is their actions that will bring them to life for consumers. And don’t forget that this also includes developing the corporate brand as well!

The mission should be played out in every product, service and communication that is launched. If it doesn’t, then those planned actions should almost certainly be reconsidered.

Or perhaps it’s the brands in the current portfolio that are not a good fit for the company’s aspirations. If this is your case, then a brave and determined effort is needed to admit which ones are not supporting current values and make plans for moving them out. This can be done either through discontinuing them or by selling them to other organisations which have less lofty ambitions.

One example of this that was recently in the news comes from Nestle USA. Nestle has for many years had the ambition to become a nutrition, health and wellness company, not “just” a food and beverage company. This past month we saw them (finally) selling their U.S. confectionery business to Ferrero. CEO Mark Schneider said of the sale:

“This move allows Nestlé to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals and infant nutrition”.

Companies that ignore making hard portfolio decisions, risk diluting their impact, their image and more importantly their equity. The various top 100 most valuable brand tables only highlight this issue. Brands appear on the leaderboard but sometimes fail to remain there.

In the Brand Finance list Amazon took over the top spot from Google this year. And Apple then pushed them into third place. What makes Amazon more valuable than Google? Customer understanding and building a relationship based on solutions. Beyond being an online retailer, Amazon includes a cloud infrastructure, electronics, music and video streaming. Compare this to Google’s search and cloud technology; pretty limiting if you ask me.Companies that ignore making hard portfolio decisions, risk diluting their impact, their image and more importantly their equity. #marketing #brand #Business Click To Tweet

Now it is true that Google’s parent company Alphabet does dabble in other sectors such as smart-home technology, self-driving cars, aging research and more, but almost all these new developments are losing money. Identifying and responding to customers’ needs is clearly one of Amazon’s real strengths and has allowed them to expand into distant industries far from their origins of the simple online bookstore they were just 25 years ago.

In Forbes’ Worlds’ Most Valuable Brands list, Apple leads ahead of Google and Microsoft, with Google in fifth position. The Forbes list is dominated by tech companies because I believe they are more in line with consumers needs today. These companies are also relatively new and thus have missions and values which are closely aligned with our new-age world. However even this list highlights the struggle Google is having to increase its value in the same way as Amazon or Apple. I wonder how their CMOs are planning to correct this. (and if they’d like my help!)

The vision and mission of an organisation can sometimes be difficult to live up to, but isn’t that the case for anything of value? This is why I see it as the first thing for a new CMO to get their head around and fully embrace – updating comes later when the EB trusts them enough to allow them to suggest changes.

The vision and mission of an organisation can sometimes be difficult to live up to, but isn't that the case for anything of value? #Business #Vision #Mission Click To Tweet

 

2. Talking to (more) People

Once the (new) CMO understands the company’s mission and vision, it is important for them to evaluate how well these are integrated into the daily working of all employees.

This means gathering qualitative information from key players from the board on downwards, at global, regional and market level. Including market heads, business unit heads, marketing heads, brand managers, sales heads, operations, innovation, R&D, market research and insight provides a good overview. The more diversity in perspectives gathered the better, so the head of marketing should aim to talk to people from different departments, categories, levels and geographies (where relevant).

Have you noticed how most consultants that start working within a company will usually commence their audits by speaking with many people internally? They then come back and share a multitude of findings and information that we should probably already have known! Frustrating perhaps, but a useful pointer at what all CMOs should be doing – regularly – in order to be up-to-date with the organisation and ensuring they add value everywhere.

Have you noticed how most consultants start their audits by speaking with many people internally? Copy them for increased understanding and impact! #business #impact #CXO Click To Tweet

I don’t know how many times I have heard a new client say to me “If only we knew what we know.” That’s why we external consultants have it relatively “easy.” We can ask the naive questions that perhaps a new CMO is too shy to pose and a longer-serving CMO is afraid to admit they don’t know.

Well, why not change this by taking the decision to ask the naive questions you have about your business – even if you are not new to your job? You can make your fact-finding less formal by doing it over a simple coffee or lunch. This way your colleague is unlikely to see that you are actually drilling them for information! A definite win-win as you will be building your reputation and internal relationships at the same time.

“Dare to ask the naive questions you have about your business. You have everything to gain.”

 

3. Analysing (more) Information

After the qualitative information gathering, and having identified any possible issues and opportunities the business has, based on the interviews and their own analysis of the situation, it’s time to put some metrics against them.

Some organisations are very rich in terms of data and know it. But many more are rich and don’t know it, as previously mentioned.

Some organisations are very rich in terms of data and know it. But many more are rich and don’t know it. #information #Data Click To Tweet

The information you need will depend upon the business you’re in, but there are some basics that all companies have or should have, ideally with the trends of them too:

  • Market size, in total and by geography.
  • Category size, shares.
  • Consumer (customer, client) profiles.
  • Brand image and equity.
  • Segmentation results.
  • Customer lifetime value.
  • Communications’ awareness and performance
  • Website / SEO performance

The analysis of these metrics and especially their trends will help identify the facts from the feelings. Not to say the latter are unimportant, but they will need addressing separately. With this analysis done, the CMO can start defining strategies and prioritising actions.

One exciting improvement to information analysis that is now available to any business is the use of AI and machine learning. A recent article from Bain & Co explores the opportunities that it brings to marketing mix optimisation in particular. They call it MMO 3.0. The article makes a great read, but their conclusion suffices for here. They end by summarising the major elements of analysis that CMOs should keep in mind:

“Stay practical and in control of your data. Use balanced analytic approaches. Don’t let analysis get too far beyond action. Cultivate analytic marketers. And focus on incrementally better insights and predictions that you understand, rather than big-bang black boxes you don’t.”

I believe that that these points are valid and valuable for all marketers to remember. As AI and machine learning distance us all from the data sources, we are at risk of losing the means to make sense of it all. And we are all so overwhelmed by the data tsunami, that we often forget to keep it simple – so KISS your analytics and look for small, steady advances in your information learnings.

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4. Evaluating New Team Skills

Most CMOs will join an existing team, so I will not speak about how to create a dream marketing team. (However I would be happy to jump on a Skype if that is your situation) It will therefore be necessary to review and evaluate the members of your inherited team.

Hold off the temptation to immediately start hiring colleagues from your previous company for at least six months and ideally a year or more. Give yourself and your team the necessary time to get comfortable working together. This will also enable you to correctly identify any missing skills; sometimes good people are just in the wrong jobs.

As a recent article in The Marketing Journal mentions:

"The war for marketing talent is escalating as companies demand people skilled both in the art and the science of marketing, and who understand the emerging realities of empowered customers in a social media universe."

Despite what the people who attended the Cannes Lions in the South of France last week may think, creativity alone is no longer enough. Marketers need a whole list of other skills.

The war for marketing talent is escalating as companies demand people skilled both in the art and the science of marketing. #Marketing #CMO #Brand Click To Tweet

I came across an interesting list (thanks to @ValaAfshar from Salesforce) of the 20 talents that the ideal team should have. I think it pretty much covers the needs of the modern marketing department but you be the judge:

1 storyteller 11 entertainer
2 designer 12 alchemist
3 builder 13 connector
4 magician 14 negotiator
5 stabilizer 15 teacher
6 fighter 16 juggler
7 explorer 17 scientist
8 dreamer 18 futurist
9 mentor 19 mathematician
10 recruiter 20 journalist

Now clearly many of you reading this article don't have such a large team that you can include all these positions in addition to brand and communications staff. Nor do you have the possibility to hire more members to a smaller one, so you will have to think creatively. However as everyone has far more talents than the one for which they were hired, I am sure you will find people in your current group who can fulfil all or most of these positions. (How about a storytelling scientist?)

 

5. Improving Processes

All organisations have ways of working and hopefully many of them have been developed into processes. I believe these processes are what make a company more or less successful. This is because the methods used and any information collected is consistent, which makes product and service management that much easier. It also makes results comparable and the process repeatable over time.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”Will Durant - not Aristotle!

As for the CMO, their process is their whole job. It involves reviewing the information mentioned earlier and then taking the following steps:

  1. Prioritize: Every position will uncover more tasks to do than can be handled in the average working day. That's why priority setting is so important. For the CMO this will mean identifying the tasks that will support the company's objectives as well as its mission and vision.
  2. Strategise: Next they will build strategies to meet these objectives in the most resourceful way. With such emphasis on ROI for marketing, this will include paying attention to the budget split and people allocation. I would highly recommend reading this article by Smart Insights' cofounder Dave Chaffey on the differences between strategy and tactics - with some useful examples included.
  3. Structure: As already mentioned having a range of skills in any team is important, as is talent development. CMOs must ensure they are surrounded by a capable team able to implement their strategies with appropriate tactics and actions.
  4. Motivate: Every job has its set of challenges and with marketing being challenged to prove its ROI, motivation can take a hit. The CMO's task is to motivate both their team and internal peers to the opportunities provided by marketing to impact and grow the business. No man is an island and the CMO needs the support of the c-suite, and especially the CIO and CFO to support their plans.
  5. Excite: Marketing excites me, but I know not everyone feels the same. The function can be seen as having too much fun and not being that serious, especially at the Cannes Lions time of the year. However since marketing will impact most other functions within an organisation, it is essential for the CMO to excite other departments to support their carefully laid-out plans.
  6. Lead: This is often one of the most difficult things for a CMO to do - really! Since they are usually the most experienced professional in the marketing group, it can be tempting to end up doing a lot of the work that should be handled by the team. Yes it can always be done better, but if the CMO manages all the above steps then they will not need to get personally involved in the day-to-day tactics and actions. If you are still doing everything from planning to sweeping the office floor (ladies, you know what I mean don't you?) then it's time to check which of the above steps you need to improve - and yes I'm actually referring to all female c-suite members and managers in general here!
If you're doing everything in your department from strategy to switching off the lights as the last one out, then you're probably a woman! #marketing #CXO Click To Tweet

Of course, the CMO also has a lot of other processes that they lead, such as for communications development, innovation and scenario planning. However, for this post I wanted to concentrate on the role of a new CMO and how they can quickly make their mark. If they get through their first 90 days and then 3+ years, they will have plenty of time to address these other very specific processes. Other C3Centricity posts on these topics will certainly help them.

So marketers, have I answered your question about how to keep your job? Are these five steps sufficient to make a difference? Personally I think so - but only if they are followed with real actions and change. After all making an impact is the name of the game in any profession but especially for one that previously relied on creative juices alone. Do you agree? What changes are you making or would you like to see made in your own organisations?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Who are you targeting?

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

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

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

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

3. What reason might make them consider switching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Objective: Grow our market share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brand Portfolio Secrets to Success (The 5 Things You Need to Know)

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

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

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

 

More is rarely better!

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

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

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

They usually present just one or two brands for each item they stock and the branded products they do stock are almost always at the same price if not higher than normal supermarkets.

In this over-abundant world of consumer choice, more is rarely better. #consumer #brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

 

Although Schwartz’s original book was published in 2006, he recently commented on the current choices facing consumers in “The Paradox of Expanded Choices.” In it he concludes wistfully by saying:

“We can imagine a point at which the options would be so copious that even the world’s most ardent supporters of freedom of choice would begin to say, “enough already.” Unfortunately, that point of revulsion seems to recede endlessly into the future.”

I for one enjoy shopping because I am always looking out for the latest introductions and innovations. For the more “normal” shopper, it looks like we need to help their decision-making by reducing the complexity of the task.

One requirement to achieving success in this is clearly a deep understanding of your customers so that you can offer the best selection of variants to consumers in each region, if not store. As I have so often mentioned (and sorry if I am boring you with this) is that it all comes back to knowing and understanding the customer. Simple really!

 

Corporations are brands too!

Brand management is essential to a healthy business, but marketing has one of the quickest promotion ladders of many professions. That’s great news for marketers, less so for brands. Why? Well because marketers want to make an impression and get that promotion as quickly as possible. And one of the easiest ways to do it is by launching a new brand or variant.

I believe this explains why we poor consumers often end up NOT buying something because we just can’t make up our minds between the vast choice of flavours, packs and sizes on display in some large hypermarkets. More is most definitely not always better when it comes to retailing as I’ve already mentioned!

Does any brand really need tens of flavours/aromas or hundreds of variants?

To answer this, I decided to take a look at the latest table of leading global brands. According to Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands of 2016:”  

      1. Apple
      2. Google
      3. Coca-Cola
      4. Microsoft
      5. Toyota
      6. IBM
      7. Samsung
      8. Amazon
      9. Mercedes- Benz
      10. General Electric

Most of these brands certainly don’t have hundreds of variants from which to choose from and therefore the customer’s final selection is relatively easy.

However, interestingly only one of these companies is a CPG (consumer packaged goods) brand, so I decided to take a closer look at the sub-category of consumer brands. (Note: Interbrand still separates alcohol and beverages from CPG!) Here are the CPG brands, including beverages, within the Top 100:

      1. Coca-Cola (3)
      2. Pepsi (23)
      3. Gillette (24)
      4. Pampers (28)
      5. Nescafe (36)
      6. Kellogg’s (39)
      7. L’Oreal (45)
      8. Danone (55)
      9. Nestle (56)
      10. Colgate (57)
      11. Lego (67)
      12. Johnson & Johnson (73)
      13. Sprite (86)
What immediately strikes me is that many of these brands are actually also the names of the corporations behind them.
 
This might explain why few consumer goods companies appear in this list because they just have too many brands and variants. A few of the larger CPGs – like Unilever and Nestle – have started associating their company name more prominently with their brands. However, they have taken two differing approaches.  
 
Unilever places its corporate logo on the back face of their product’s packaging, leaving the brand logo as the hero on the front.
 
Nestle, on the other hand, incorporates its logo into the front panel design of most of its brands. There are a few noticeable exceptions which include their waters and petcare brands. Both of these are run as stand-alone businesses, which certainly explains this. 
 
I am assuming that both organisations did this to increase corporate reputation and also consumer trust, especially for their lesser-known brands. I am closely watching to see if this strategy results in increased loyalty in the long-term because for now, their performances are not demonstrating a positive return.

 

Businesses are focusing better 

An interesting trend in the past decade or so, is that some CPG leaders, such as P&G and Unilever, have significantly culled the number of their brands’ SKUs. In some cases, this has meant reducing them from thousands down to “mere” hundreds and they continue to do so on a regular basis.

Taking Pareto’s Principle as a guide, it should be relatively easy to cut the bottom 5%, 10% or even 20% of brand variants without losing any significant share. This is why both companies continue to do this on a frequent basis, it just makes good business sense.

A newer, alternative strategy some of the better-managed companies are also using, is the selling off of certain brands or even categories. This enables them to better focus on their core businesses.

After a long tradition of the big buying the small – and often more successful competitors – the trend seems to be reversing.

Katie Rothschild from Interbrand noticed this too. In her analysis she says:

“A number of FMCG brands have a stronghold within the BGB table, such as Gillette (#24), Pampers (#28) and Kellogg’s (#39). These are global household names that possess a combination of strong heritage, positive family associations, and the trustworthiness that is all-important for brands that are bought on a daily basis and consumed instantly. 
However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the success of smaller, niche brands is starting to chip away at the market share of these global giants and shake up the traditional approach of FMCG marketing. 
Niche brands cleverly make use of their nimble size to tap into new trends, be first to market, and win new audiences through visual and verbal storytelling. The big guys are taking notice. 
Niche brands focus on a particular market position, demographic, or unmet consumer need, and with this focus comes deep understanding of consumer’s needs and wants. What can established global businesses learn from the success of these brands, and what growth opportunities do they represent?”
What is surprising is that most CPG giants still don’t focus, or at least not to the same extent as many startups do! But it looks like they are going to have to change if they want to stay in the race. For now, it’s as if they know theoretically that they should be making cuts and some do make a few of them. But in the end, they don’t go far enough perhaps because they’re scared of losing share.
If you are struggling to make this difficult decision yourself, then perhaps I can provide a few reasons to convince you to make that much-needed pruning:
  • Those multiplications of flavours, aromas, packaging etc you are making are renovations, not innovations. Wake up marketers, you are not innovating! Renovations should be primarily replacements not additions to your already over-extended brand.
  • Retailers can’t stock every variant, so the more you offer the less chance you have of getting wide distribution. Think back to your pre-launch market assumptions; I bet they included a wildly exaggerated level of distribution in order to get that precious launch approval!
  • Precise targeting and a deep understanding of your consumers are the most successful ways to limit SKU explosion. If you are suffering from too many variants, then perhaps you should go back and review what you know about your consumers and what they really need.

Arguably some categories need constant renovation. (food and cosmetics to name just a couple) but even that’s no excuse for simply multiplying SKUs. Use the “one in, one out” rule I mentioned above, because if you don’t, the retailer probably will. And with little concern for your own plans and preferences.

 

The Secrets

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

  • Remember, that if you offer a vast choice of variants for each brand, consumers could get analysis paralysis and end up walking out of the store without buying anything.
  • You need to manage the corporate brand just like your other brands, especially if it appears prominently on packaging and other communications’ materials.
  • Make an annual review of all your brands and variants and ruthlessly cut the bottom 20%. If you want to keep any of them, then you must have a good reason – such as that it’s a recent launch – and a plan to actively support them.
  • Innovate less but better. Be more targeted with each of them and include your customers in their development.
  • Be realistic in your distribution targets. Know what will sell where and why. Not only are you more likely to keep your share, but you’ll also make friends with your retailers.

 

Coming back to the leading consumer brands from the Interbrands’ list, all top ten excel in brand portfolio strategies that are precisely differentiated, clearly targeted and well communicated.

David Aaker wrote an article on L’Oreal a few years ago that explains the above theories very well. Even if it’s from December 2013, not much has changed and it still makes a great read, highly recommended.

I believe most brands with tens or hundreds of variants in a market, are being managed by lazy marketers. People who don’t have the courage to manage their brands effectively by regular trimming and who can’t face up to the lack of success of some of their “babies”. Are you one of them? What’s your excuse? I’d love to hear your reasons for keeping all your SKUs.

This post had been updated and adapted from one which first appeared on C3Centricity in May 2014

C3Centricity used images from “Winning Customer Centricity” and Dreamstime in this post.

13 Inspiring Marketing Quotes (And the Actions You Can Take)

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What habits have you become so comfortable with that you don’t even notice or question them? With today’s fast-paced world, businesses need to be constantly adapting and preparing for the future.

These thirteen marketing quotes (plus a bonus one!) are amongst my favourites of all time. They will hopefully excite and inspire you to consider what changes you need to make to become even more successful through a customer first strategy.

As is the tradition at C3Centricity, there is a recommended action for you to take for each quote. How many will you complete?

#1. “There may be Customers without Brands, but there are no Brands without Customers.” Anon (>>Click to Tweet<<)

This has to be the most important marketing quote to remember for all of us wanting to be more customer centric. It’s also one of my favourites, as I’m sure you’ve realised!

Brands depend on customers and if companies remember this, then they can only succeed. If however they get so tied up in their products & services that they forget their customers, they may enjoy their work but their brands will always be vulnerable to competition.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Watch the Customer First Strategy Webinar HERE

 

#2. “Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets.” Nido Qubein (>>Click to Tweet<<)

One of the biggest mistakes marketing can make is to not appropriately define its target audience. It is understandably hard for a brand manager to accept that he can’t please all category users and that his target sub-category is smaller than the total category he thinks he could attract.

By trying to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one! So bite the bullet and reduce your target category size by being more precise in selecting and describing your audience.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Learn the essentials of targeting HERE.

 

#3. “The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” John Russell, President, Harley Davidson (>>Click to Tweet<<)

If they aren’t already included, then every employee should have regular customer connections added to their annual objectives. Whether they are the CEO, an Executive Vice-President, a machine operator, sales clerk or brand manager, they all need to understand how their day job impacts the satisfaction of their customers.

Customer connections also inspire new thinking, can identify previously unknown issues and excite everyone to think customer first in everything they do.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Sign up below for the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar.

 


For more ideas about getting to know your customers, join the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement to Grow your Business Faster.

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#4. “If you use standard research methods you will have the same insights as everyone else.” David Nichols (>>Click to Tweet<<)

When was the last time you revised your market research toolbox or refined your insight development process? It’s a rapidly changing world both technologically and societally-speaking. The methods you use to observe, understand and eventually delight your customers should be moving as fast, if not even faster, to stay in touch with the market.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Attend a 1-Day Catalyst session reviewing all your market research methodologies and metrics. Find out more HERE.

 

#5. “The structure will automatically provide the pattern for the action which follows.” Donald Curtis (>>Click to Tweet<<)

There has been a lot of discussion about the new roles of the CMO, CIO and the creation of a new CCO (Chief Customer Officer) position. Perhaps it is time for your organisation to review its structure and see if it is still optimal for the business of today, as well as of tomorrow.

As mentioned above, the world is changing rapidly and you need to keep abreast of these changes to stay in the game. Who wants to find themselves the equivalent of the Kodak or Borders of 2017?

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Develop plausible future scenarios to prepare for possible opportunities and threats. Contact us HERE.

 

#6. “Customer Service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the entire company.” Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos (>>Click to Tweet<<)

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes from a man I truly admire, for truly “getting” customer centricity. Their slogan is even “Powered by Service”! As already mentioned above, every single person in a company has a role to play in satisfying the customer.

Zappos have an integration program for all new hires – including the EVPs – that incorporates time at their call centre answering customer queries. What a great way to show a new person what the company is really about.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Why not start a similar introduction programme in your own company and organise regular customer connection sessions? We can show you HOW.

 

#7. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Marketing roll-out plansToday’s customers are very demanding which has prompted many companies to increase their innovation and new product launches. However, it has been shown that renovation is as important as innovation in keeping customers satisfied (find links to relevant articles HERE).

Instead of forcing your marketing and R&D to meet certain percentage targets of new launches, most of which will be destined to failure according to latest statistics, why not review your current offers with new eyes?

If you truly understand your customers, you will quickly find small changes that can make a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty, when you take their perspective. And as an added bonus, if it solves a frustration of theirs, it might even bring you increased profits, since the perceived value will be higher than the cost.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Download the free "Secrets of Innovation" eBook by completing the form on the right-hand side of this page.

 

#8. “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos (>>Click to Tweet<<)

In the past, most companies were more concerned with the reputation of their brands than they were with that of their company, other than with investors. As consumers become interested in knowing and adhering to the policies of the companies behind the brands they buy, it is vital to manage your image from both perspectives.

In addition, if your company is the brand as is the case of Coca-Cola or Red Bull, then this is vital to follow very closely. The same applies for any organisation that is considering adding their company name more prominently to their packaging.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Review whether there are differences between your company and brand images and whether they are complementary. And book a 1-Day Catalyst Training Session to ensure you are measuring the right metrics to optimise your images.

 

#9. “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Chinese Proverb (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Today’s customers often have more complex paths to purchase in many categories than they did in the past, so thinking of the simple awareness to loyalty funnel becomes less relevant.

In order to understand the purchasing of your brand, think information integration, as customers are becoming as savvy about products as they are about themselves. They seek out information based on the size of their budget and take the time needed to make what they consider to be an informed decision.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Check whether you are in every relevant touchpoint with appropriate information for them. Learn more about optimising your communications HERE.

 

#10. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Winston Churchill (>>Click to Tweet<<)

If your world has changed then so should the metrics you use to manage the business. Annual reviews of your KPIs should be made, if not even more frequently.

Also, review last year’s business results in comparison to the metrics you have been following. Were you correctly assessing the environment, the market and customer behaviour? If not, then it's probably time to update your KPIs.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Review and refine your KPIs. Find out more in Chapters 37-38 of "Winning Customer Centricity."

 

#11. “The fear of being wrong is the prime inhibitor of the creative process.” Jean Bryant

Do you embrace entrepreneurship in your organisation? What happens when someone fails whilst trying something new? The more accepting you are of relevant trial and error exercises, the more likely it will be that your employees will share their more creative ideas.

If failure is punished, then they will be reluctant to try or even propose new things and your business will stagnate. This is a great time to review your ways of compensating creativeness as well as how you share learnings from failures.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Download the FREE "Secrets to Actionable Insights" below.


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#12. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.” T S Eliot

Do you ever take decisions based on information or knowledge? If so then perhaps you should reconsider your insight development process.

While information and knowledge are essential to a deeper understanding of your customers, it is only when you have integrated everything you know and understand about them, that you can begin to develop insights that will positively impact your customers’ behaviour.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Sign up for a 1-Day Catalyst Training Session on "Insights to Action" or "Insights to Impact." More information HERE.

 

Storytelling#13. “If you can’t sum up the story in a sentence, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Garr Reynolds

Taking the decision to share information and understanding in a new way through storytelling, will have a profound impact on the way your employees think and remember the essential understandings of your customers.

Before every presentation ask yourself what is the one sentence that sums up everything you want to share.

If you can't come up with one, then perhaps you don't know what you're talking about, or perhaps you just need more time to practice.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Read Chapters 45-47 in "Winning Customer Centricity."

 

So there you have thirteen marketing quotes that will excite and inspire most people. And because I promised you a bonus if you read to the end, here is one more which aptly sums up all the others.

It is the one message out of all these marketing quotes from Charles Darwin which remains vital to remember in this awesomely changing world we live in.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, it is those most responsive to change”

If you have your own favourite marketing quote that inspires you to change your business practices in 2017, then please share it below. We would love to hear from you and we promise we'll add it to our growing library of quotes, with appropriate credit to you. (Fame at last!)

For even more inspiring marketing quotes, why not check out our website library? it's regularly updated.

C³Centricity used images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity" in this post.

Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions)

Last week I asked whether it is employees or customers who are more important to an organisation. If you missed it read “Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees” now and catch up.

I knew it would be a provocative question but I still didn’t expect quite so many comments! So this week I decided to be just as provocative and talk about the issues that challenge many businesses. And where the answer to whatever problem they have is actually quite simple. For me, customers are the answer! They can either answer or help you overcome any challenge or issue you may have.  Read on and then let me know if you agree.

 

How can I innovate more successfully?

 
According to an excellent article by Harvard Professor Dr Srini Pillay “Humans have a natural aversion to innovation because it involves a healthy dose of uncertainty and risk.”
 
 
Unfortunately, we try to reduce this risk by referencing past events to help us to predict the probability of our future success. Dr Pillay concludes that possibilities rather than probabilities are more likely to lead to better results.
 
I would concur with this statement, as the world is changing too fast to rely on past events as a predictor of anything in the future. This is why I say that customers are the answer!
 
It is only by getting closer to our customers and being constantly curious, that we have any chance of increasing our success in satisfying them.
 
It therefore makes sense that we involve our customers in helping us innovate. Not as a judge of concepts, which is what many businesses do. This is wrong because we know that consumers don’t know what they want, at least not until they see it.
 
However, they do know what their pains are; what is wrong with a product or service and what they would rather have. Co-creation and in fact ongoing conversations with our customers is the only way to stay ahead of the game.
 
In another article, this time in the HBRHeitor MartinsYran Bartolomeu Dias and Somesh Khanna from McKinsey shared the results of numerous interviews they conducted in Silicon Valley, the home of US (tech) innovation.
 
They conclude that it takes many skills and cultural changes for most organisations to become more innovative. These include:
  • Audacity and grit: The determination to continue despite failure. And I would add the acceptance of failure and the license for employees to fail too.
  • Strong leadership and true collaboration: An inspiring vision and the tenacity to make it happen – together.
  • Give employees autonomy. We all need meaningful work. The chance of helping an organisation grow is what motivates top employees. That and the freedom to make decisions based on clear goals but without directive processes on how to meet these objectives.
  • Build platforms, not products. This may be the hardest for many organisations to grasp. Giving your customers the opportunity to decide what and how they use what you produce, and how it should be changed is the route to success. Networks and co-creation are the future that is already here. And customers are the answer!
 
  • Think like engineers and customers. Everyone in an organisation should be encouraged to look at problems from the customer’s perspective. It always amazes me how we seem to “take off our consumer hat” when we arrive at our place of work!
  • Know that money only gets you so far. Innovation has a much shorter shelf-life than it used to. In fact, best-in-class organisations have a continuous process ingrained in their culture.
  • Get acquisitions right. Many companies are looking for acquisitions for a way to quick-start their innovation. But it is difficult to get the timing right. The current value is good but potential growth is better.
 
The article concludes with an interesting comment that it is “leadership in business model innovation that offers the deepest and most transformational insights.” I would add it’s our customers too!
 
If innovation is a challenge for you and you know your process is not optimal, then you might like to read “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.”

Where do I find out what issues my brand has?

You’re measuring your sales and hopefully the trend is upwards. You’re following your distribution and hopefully it’s expanding. You’re calculating your profits and hopefully those are also rising. What else are you doing to follow your brand?
 
You would be amazed at just how many brand managers stop there! Even those in major CPG companies! It’s not enough. You know nothing about your customers! Your forecasts are based on outdated information from the past. (and if you didn’t skip to this point but read the previous one, you know why that’s insufficient)
 
The health of your brand and a good estimate of at least its short-term future comes from your work with customers. From brand image and equity,   to co-creation and observation, your customers are the answer.
 
Brand image and equity measurements are vital for helping you to understand what current and potential clients think about your brand. If you want to learn more about the topic then read “What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes.”
 
There is an additional bonus in following your brand image and that is that it acts as an early-warning signal. This is because it almost always starts to decline before your sales do!
 
The reason for this is that we are creatures of habit, retailers included. Change is difficult as a decision has to be made. So we tend to continue with the same products and services until something important happens. Important in the eye of the customer that is.
 
It may be a new brand introduction, a price promotion, bad publicity or negative comments on social media. If these are important enough to customers then they may decide to change brands. And if this impacts a lot of customers, the sales decline can be fast and significant.
 
Better therefore to follow your image as well as comments on social media.
 
Social media platforms can provide a wealth of information about your brand. Of course, different people adopt different platforms for different uses. Pew Research ran a useful analysis in their Social Media Update 2016 of the demographic similarities and differences of channels in the US. It is definitely worth a read to understand these differences, as well as to identify the best platforms for your own brands.
 
Another good source of social media statistics is from Smart Insights. Their “Global social media research summary 2017” combines information from numerous sources and provides a global perspective.
 
The sort of information that can be gathered from social media includes:
  • Natural vocabulary used by your customers.
  • Issues customers have with products and services, often in real time.
  • Trending topics of interest; use trend alerts rather than the keyword tool from Google, which is slower to update.
  • Regional or country differences from topic frequencies.
 
Observation and listening in person can provide extra benefits that social media can’t. The two information sources are thus complementary. In fact, I would consider them to be the best way to identify brand issues, long before running any market research surveys. For more on best practices in customer closeness sessions, check out “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.” 
 
 

How can I grow my brand more profitably?

As you know there are basically only three ways to grow your business:

  • Get more customers to buy.
  • Get customers to buy more.
  • Get customers to buy more frequently
 
You will see that all three ways involve the customer; of course, they do! As you know, one of my favourite quotes says “There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.” If you still haven’t understood the message, your customers are the answer to everything!
Just think about that for a moment, please. A simple but profound statement, don’t you think? Therefore, your customer is the solution to your business growth and profitability.
 
Speaking of which, sometimes a business is growing but has done so by slashing prices and being on constant promotion. This doesn’t grow your brand, it demolishes it! Both its value and reputation! Read more about this and head the warning in “Are you on the Way to Brand Heaven or Hell?”
 
A far better way to grow more profitably is to understand the value that you offer to your customers. This is done through a PSM (price sensitivity measurement), a price trade-off study (BPTO) or similar survey. These will provide you with the information you need to understand your customers’ perception of your value. Whether your price is too high or too low, you’re leaving money on the table and could be more profitable. 
 

 

Why is market research not enough to understand my customers?

There are so many reasons why running market research is insufficient to really know and understand your customers and your business. I don’t know where to start, but here are a few reasons I’ve come up with (please add your own in the comments box below):
  1. Projects are sample based.
  2. They are at best snapshots of current opinions and behaviours.
  3. The information can quickly become outdated.
  4. They ask questions.
  5. They have limited focus.
  6. People don’t tell the truth.
  7. People don’t know why they do what they do.
  8. Results are extrapolated.
  9. Results are open to interpretation.
 
I could go on and on with this list – and again feel free to add further ideas in the comments below – but you get the idea.
 
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of market research. BUT done by experts. Unfortunately, with the ease of connecting with people online and the simple survey platforms offered for free, it is easy for anyone to run a research project today.
 
It’s great that people see the benefit of surveys, but as this subtitle mentions, it’s not enough for truly knowing and understanding your customers. Also, if the reasons I gave above are not enough, there’s something else!
 
The biggest issue from my perspective is that understanding takes far more information than any single market research project can provide. Yes, it may deliver certain answers to a finite number of questions, but to understand your customer you need to get intimate.
 
I wrote a blog on just this topic which you might want to check out for a more detailed plan on getting to know your customers. It’s called “4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding.”
 
 

Why are customers always the answer?

There are many organisations that understand the importance of the customer and yet still hesitate to start walking the talk of customer centricity. If you’re one of them, then here are a few statistics that should convince you  – and your bosses – of their importance:
  • Customer centric organisations are 60% more profitable. (Source)
  • The average revenue growth of Customer Experience Leaders is 14% points higher than that of the laggards. (Source)
  • 64% of people think that customer experience is more important than price in their choice of brand. (Source) 
I don’t think anyone can read those numbers and not be excited by the potential for growth. So what are you waiting for?

Conclusions

 
As you see, our customers can provide many if not all the answers to almost any question we may have about our businesses. After all, we are in business to make a difference to our customers lives in one way or another. So it is surprising that we still go looking for our answers elsewhere.
 
If I haven’t highlighted your main business challenge for 2017, then please add a comment below. I’m sure the customer will still be the answer – but prove me wrong!
 

If you’re ready to adopt a Customer First Strategy, book a free half-hour advisory session with me directly in my calendar, so we can go through your priorities and discuss solutions.

Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.

If you prefer to listen to the PODCAST of this post, click HERE. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes too!

As you know, I am a global customer centricity champion. My passion is helping organisations to grow faster by putting customers at the heart of their business. One of the most frequent requests I get is to help in improving ideation and innovation.

This is by far the most common area that my clients struggle with. Is it a challenge for you too?

Many companies create great new products and services – from their perspective – but they fail! They then ask if I can help them to identify to whom they should be selling. Of course, I do help them, but I also suggest that next time it would be better if they called me before they started innovating! In a failure situation, it is almost always due to an outdated innovation process in which the customer has not been involved.

I know it can be difficult to innovate in this new age of technology, but it remains vital for growth. This is why I was recently invited to run two workshops on improving ideation and innovation, as well as to speak about it at three different universities in Beijing and Shanghai.

China is an Innovation Hot-House

China joined the top 25 most innovative countries in the WIPO global innovation index for the first time this year. This is because they no longer rely on cost-effective manufacturing alone. They also applied for more patents than the next two countries, the United States and Japan, combined! This clearly shows that China is improving ideation as well as their innovation. But they know they must do even more. To become a truly competitive nation, they have to better understand their customers, especially their growing middle and higher-income residents, who continue to prefer primarily imported Western brands.

Let me share with you a few of the ideas that I spoke about during my visit. They may just save you too from more costly failures.

Innovation is Essential

Switzerland continues to lead the world in innovation according to the latest WIPO GII study. It was, therefore, a privilege for me to by invited to help China corporations and academics by proposing a new way to innovate.

Most companies innovate from a technical and skills-based foundation. It doesn’t usually work very well, if at all. In fact, according to Nielsen, IRI, Fortune and many others, it is estimated that between 85% and 95% of new consumer products in the US fail. In Europe, it’s just as bad, with only 25% of new consumer products still on the shelf just twelve months after launch! And less than half that number by the end of the second year.

With such disastrous results, you might wonder why companies continue to innovate. Well there are three main reasons why they do:

  1. It keeps brands fresh. Brands which innovate have something new to share with current and potential clients. We have come to expect it. What excites today, is normal tomorrow and then just boring after that. We have gotten accustomed to regular updates and constant new choices.
  2. It encourages switching. If brands and options remain the same, people would only switch if they became dissatisfied and the cost of switching was low. Since product performances are so similar in many categories today, new variants and offers suggest differentiation. The brand appears more vibrant and people like that.
  3. It revives brands through excitement and buzz. In today’s connected world, this is vital. People learn about brands as much from friends and family as through advertising. And they trust the former more than the latter, even if some of these “friends” are virtual ones they’ve never met. According to Nielsen’s report ” Global Trust in Advertising” more than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) others’ opinions posted online.

 

NPD Funnel copyRenovate your Innovation Process

It still surprises me that companies continue to use their same innovation process when their failure rate is so high. It often looks something like the diagram on the right. Is that what yours looks like? In fact, is your process a funnel? If so, then you are facing at least two problems:

1. That it is a funnel. This process is linear, with a beginning and an end. It assumes that there is only one “winner” from all the ideation and brainstorming. And it also supposes that only one concept developed from that “winning” idea will succeed.

But what if all your ideas are great? You would be throwing away all but one of them! Or suppose that they are all “losers” and you launch the least “awful” amongst them? There must be a better way, no?

Even IDEO’s iterative process still assumes “winners”, because they quickly move from brainstorming to prototyping and testing with customers. At least they do suggest co-creating with customers which is a positive element of their process and it is great fun to do – from my own experiences.

 

2. That it doesn’t include the customer. How can you have any chance of innovating for your customers if you don’t include them? You are relying on your own perspective to make choices. Are you the typical consumer for whom you are innovating? Probably not. In which case, why are you taking decisions based on your opinion? It’s pretty irrelevant!

Virtuous circle of better innovationThe second diagram on the right is the type of NPD process that I encourage my clients to use. It is, of course, adapted to their specific needs, based upon their current process. By doing this, it makes adoption of the new process much easier, by quickly getting everyone to support the needed changes.

The major difference from most current innovation processes is that it is a virtuous circle. It starts and ends with opportunity identification, in other words with the customer and insight. This, of course, means that we must know and understand our customers deeply.

Know your Target Audience Intimately

We all think we know our customers, but this is often not totally true. Not deeply enough anyway. One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. (>>Tweet this<<)

The first thing I ask my clients to complete is the 4W™ Template of the “who”, “what”, where” and “why” of their target audience. Often times they struggle with the last “w”. If you want to try it yourself, check our post “How well do you know your customers?”

Even with the template filled, you still have to go further. Optimal understanding comes from regular connection. Our customers are changing – fast, so we need to keep our finger on the pulse of the market. Yesterday’s information is no use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow.

During my talk at Shanghai’s ECUST, someone asked how we can be better prepared for the future. I loved the question, as it enabled me to speak about another of my passions, that of scenario planning.

Change happens, and especially rapidly in China. My recommendation to the student was to not rely on trends alone. They are uncompetitive. To gain an advantage over the competition, you need to develop them into plausible future scenarios. If you are interested in learning more, then do check out our post “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything“.

Knowing why your customers do what they do, buy what they buy and consume what they consume, and then watching and listening to them, will put you in the best possible position for improving ideation and innovation. But there’s still more you can do.

Increase your External Partnerships

As mentioned above, many companies still rely on their own technology and skills to innovate. However, while technology can certainly help deliver improved benefits, it is unusual to be sufficient. In many areas, companies need to collaborate with others who are more specialised in certain areas.

Joint ventures and partnerships are useful for developing new products and services more quickly. You don’t need to build the needed skills internally and you can rely on the immediate support of external experts. Whether you team up with another corporation or a university is up to you, as long as you recognise the support you need. If you rely totally on your internal knowledge for improving ideation and innovation, you are unlikely to find those breakthrough ideas most companies are searching for.

There are many examples of large consumer goods companies partnering with external experts. The Laboratoires Innéov was a joint venture in nutritional cosmetics between L’Oréal and Nestlé, although the relationship ended in 2015. Nestle also created  Cereal Partners Worldwide as a joint venture with General Mills and Beverage Partners Worldwide with Coca-Cola.

Procter & Gamble and >Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced the creation of a joint venture in consumer healthcare in 2011. The newly named PGT Healthcare partnership with president Tom Finn has since negotiated tens of JV’s, partnerships and strategic alliances.

Expand your Business Model

Another external lever from which more and more companies are benefitting today is a change in their business model. Take the food industry. It is moving more into health and wellness and could become a direct competitor to the pharmaceutical industry as it develops more nutraceuticals.

Pharma, on the other hand, is moving from sickness to wellness, from treatments to prevention.

Or what about telecoms? They now make almost as much money selling geo-localisation data as they do from providing communication services.

Or how about Google moving into cars, solar panels and most recently travel with its Trips App? Through the analysis of their customers’ searches, Google can identify those of us who are looking to travel, those interested in buying a new car or in using taxi services. Google knows more about us today than we know ourselves. And that is both exciting and frightening.

Work with Emotional Benefits, not just Functional Ones

Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones. (>>Tweet this<<)

Apple used to be a great innovator. In the past few years, I feel they have been relying too much on their technical expertise. The recent launch of the iPhone 7 and the new Mac Book Pro were both less successful than their previous launches. While neither are true flops, they failed to ignite excitement in their potential customers.

There have been numerous posts on why Apple is failing at innovating today. One article in the HBR by Steve Blank stated that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates “… suggested execution executives as their successors. They confused world-class execution with the passion for product and customers, and market insight. Yet history has shown us that these two talents are not the same. For long-term survival in markets that change rapidly, one is far more important than the other.”

Another article in Business Insider by Julie Bort concludes by saying “Microsoft is now officially more innovative than Apple” based upon Tweets of the events. But Microsoft too failed when Bill Gates handed the company leadership over to Steve Ballmer. For 14 years Ballmer successfully ran the business from a financial perspective. He tripled sales and doubled profits. But he didn’t set the company up for long-term survival. In early 2014, Satya Nadella took over and made some radical changes which focused the company on mobile and the cloud (Azure). This freed Microsoft to become more innovative again and the result is already showing.

You can never go wrong if you start from your customers’ perspective and connect emotionally with them. (>>Tweet this<<)

Develop Insight as a Company; Don’t Leave it to Market Research Alone

Some managers think that insight is just another word for market research. They’re wrong, but perhaps you too see it in this way?

Market research is a great source of information, but for insight, you have to integrate multiple sources of information. It is rare for a single project to provide a deep insight. This comes from truly understanding the customer and that takes time. It takes data and information, turned into knowledge and then understanding.

Insight ProcessKnowing is also insufficient unless you understand what it all means to the customer.

The full development process, such as the example given on the right, takes time and people, ideally with differing perspectives. It takes a detailed understanding of the target audience, their needs and desires so that you can resonate emotionally with them.

Many organisations work with human truths to help in identifying a concept that will resonate emotionally. These are usually based on basic human needs, which cut across cultures. This makes them particularly useful for regional and global brands.

During my different talks, I gave many examples, but one which my audiences found particularly fascinating was the insight both Unilever’s Omo and Nestle’s Nido are using. The insight is based on the human truth that “All parents want their children to grow up happy and healthy”. The insight they then developed, which is relevant for both washing powder and infant formula is “I want my child to experience everything life has to offer, even if it means getting dirty”. What is particularly interesting in this example is that both companies have been able to use the same human truth and insight but make it relevant for each of their categories.

My recommendation, therefore, if you are struggling to develop insight, is to analyse your competitors or the brands targeting a similar audience. If you can identify on what human truth and insight their message is based, you may be able to use it too.

Conclusions

These are just a few of the many ideas which I shared with enthusiastic audiences wherever I went in China. It is clear that both entrepreneurs and corporate executives in the country are keen to improve their innovation. They are also thirsty for support in further improving their ideation. For this reason, I believe they will continue to top the nations in patent applications for many years to come. Therefore, it is vital that we supposed ” developed” nations support our entrepreneurs and creative executives to stay in the race. Unless we do so, we could see China dominate new products and services as they have dominated manufacturing in the past.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on the race for innovation. 

Are You Still Using The Marketing 5Ps? Move To The Improved 7Qs.

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Marketing is a great profession and the marketing 5Ps the code by which we live. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career. From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They’re always watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising.

For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun! I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on many occasions. So does all that hard work pay off? Not always in my opinion. And why? Because marketers don’t always ask the right questions!

If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with them is that when you find an issue with one of them that needs attention, you know the “what” but not the “how”.

So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each question explains not only what to check, but why. And if you can’t immediately answer any of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

 

Q1. Who are your customers?

Your marketing 5Ps are your sourced from customer understandingThe first “P” stands for people and often that is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.

Instead, ask yourself who your customers are. I don’t mean just their demographics. I mean who they really are; what, where and how they use or consume your brand. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble.

See  “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona.

 

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully, you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? And it’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change.

Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinion, needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends and technologies on your customers’ behaviours? Do you know how these changes may alter your market in five, ten or even twenty years from now?

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Sony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumers’ dem and for home delivery.

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already prepared for?

 

Q3. What does your brand stand for?

Brand extensions need to be complementary to the parent brand's 5P structureI don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does it align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow the developments in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact your brand’s image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (Tweet this<<)

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family-oriented  and fun, casual dining.”
  • Bic disposable pens, lighters and razors offer “high-quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”
  • Dollar Shave Club: “Shave and grooming made simple.”

What you notice about these three examples is that they clearly define the customer’s benefit and what the brand is promising to provide. There is a synergy between what the internal image of the brand is and what the customers would say about it. When that is achieved you have a strong brand that your customers relate to and to which they are more likely to remain loyal.

 

Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices? Even if you work in marketing and not sales, understanding weekly, monthly and annual trends all mean increased understanding of your customers and their differences.

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (Tweet this<<) Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.

 

Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or to distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does your brand’s value compare to its current price? Incorrect pricing could mean that you are leaving money on the table!

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value of it, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.

Either way, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (Tweet this<<)

 

Q6. Are you using the right channels for your communications?

The marketing 5Ps include how to communicate consistently with customersMany marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.

Wasting money with outdated media plans and channels no longer used by your customers is still one of the biggest challenges of marketing. Make sure it’s not yours.

For a fun piece on the topic, check out “ 10 Signs Your CEO Has an Outdated View of Marketing‘ on Hubspot.

 

Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary?

Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

For more details on image analysis check out the section in Denyse’s latest book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time.” It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’s marketeers by none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s CEO!

So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the marketing 5Ps. What do you think? Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not give the 7Qs a try? They will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.

If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. I’d love to hear your own ideas and success stories.

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Is it time to review your own 5Ps?

Let C3Centricity support you with advisory sessions and 1-Day Catalyst training courses. Find out more and download our summary brochures HERE.

 

What do Customers Really Want Today?

As a customer centricity champion, just like you, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand exactly what customers want. My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer centricity

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

My other go-to source for definitions is  businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.” 

It then goes on to say

 “A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs ten times if not even more, to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”  HERE.
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you stand out? By your customer care, that’s how and knowing what your customers really want . It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. You can read a summary of the American Express research that found that  HERE.

I would also add that what customers really want today is a seamless experience from pre to post purchase, as well as both on and offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction and build loyalty.

 

The importance of customer satisfaction and understanding

There is no denying that customer centricity is important. However some companies are (too?) slow to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

  1. Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. It’s no longer (just) about product performance any more.
  2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today.
  3. Customer service is confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but they should be looking to delight them!

As mentioned before, the research that prompted this post was a google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest. I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends.

However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below with service in green, care in blue, satisfaction in red and understanding in yellow)

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Apparently not.

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days. So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

 

According to the latest report from  The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries. This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised. However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, but most other industries continue to ignore what their customers really want. You can see the full Infographic overview above; click on it to see the full-sized original.

I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found more than  two million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. Again, extremely worrying.

US Customer satisfaction
National ACSI Scores, 1994 to Q1 2016 (0-100 Scale) (PRNewsFoto/American Customer Satisfaction)

 

According to the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) June 2016 report, customer satisfaction has finally increased for the first time in over two years.

However, as Claes Fornell, Chairman  and founder of the ACSI says:

“By and large, the overall customer experience for goods and services purchased and consumed in the United States is getting worse.” 

In the UK, which leads Europe in terms of customer satisfaction, levels also rose for the first time in four years, reflecting a more positive economy. However, that was before the Brexit vote! I am looking forward to seeing whether the Brits’ optimism continues this year.

 

The Key Takeaways

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to satisfy, but ideally delight.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most industries, especially when customers are becoming increasingly dem anding.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver delight, will see their reputation improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want answers to their questions and criticisms. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, their country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below. 

You know you can no longer wait; you’re getting left behind by those organisations – and competitors – who are taking action today! If you need help in catalysing your organisation in customer centricity and aligning your business to what your customers really want today, C3Centricity provides 1-Day training on many relevant topics. See more about them and download the summary brochures HERE.

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