Navigate a Challenging Business Environment and Stay Ahead of Your Competition

When facing a challenging business environment, which these days is true for almost every industry, companies don’t always have the time to make considered decisions. Agility has become a much-needed skill.

So, how can companies be better prepared for whatever the future holds? 

Agility needs preparation and with this in mind, most major organisations conduct some sort of societal trend following in the hope that they will correctly “guess” what might happen. You may be one of them. So it might surprise you that I believe this is a huge mistake, especially if you think that trends alone will better prepare your organisation!

Think about it. Most companies follow the same trends, attend the same trend “shows” & conferences, and get the same or at least very similar reports.

This results in them all working on the same ideas and concepts, and eventually launching very similar products and services or campaigns, that struggle to compete effectively.

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

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

 

Market Evidence

I want to start by sharing just one example of the problem I just mentioned. A few years ago, we started seeing many companies using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising. In Europe, these included:

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

 

  • BMW 320i  Campaign YES YOU CAN

 

These are just three examples from very different industries, but I’m sure there are many others in your own country. (If so, please share the example in the comments below.)

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

Companies that develop concepts based upon this type of external resource alone can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas these reports suggest.

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

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

Scenario planning ensures original thinking from which proprietary ideas are conceived, and takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs.

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

 

Turning Trends

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How Leaders can Successfully Lead a Customer-first Strategy Adoption

As a leader, you know that customer centricity is critical to the success of your business. However, it is not enough to pay lip service to this concept; you must make it an integral part of your company’s culture and business strategy.

In this post, we will explore what customer centricity means, why it is essential, and how you, as a leader, can successfully lead a customer-first strategy adoption in your organization.

 

Defining Customer Centricity

Customer centricity is a business strategy that puts the customer at the heart of everything the company does. It involves understanding the needs and desires of your customers and then tailoring your products and services to meet them.

Customer centricity is not just about providing excellent customer service; it’s about creating a culture of customer obsession that permeates every aspect of the business. This is why it must be a company objective.

 

Why is a Customer-first Strategy Important?

There are several reasons why a customer-first strategy is crucial for the success of your business. First and foremost, it helps you build a loyal customer base.

When customers feel that a company truly understands their needs and is committed to meeting them, they are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend the company to others. This can help you increase revenue and grow your business.

Customer centricity can also help you differentiate yourself from your competitors. In today’s highly competitive business environment, standing out from the crowd can be challenging.

However, suppose you can demonstrate that you are genuinely committed to meeting your customers’ needs. That’s a great way to distinguish yourself from other companies that are just going through the motions.

Finally, customer centricity can help you stay ahead of the curve regarding new product and service development. By constantly seeking customer feedback, you can identify emerging trends and stay ahead of the competition. This can help you develop new offers that meet your customer’s needs today and tomorrow.

 

Leading a Customer-first Strategy in Your Organization

Implementing a customer-first strategy in your organization requires a significant shift in mindset and culture. Here are the steps you can take to make customer-centricity a reality in your business:

 

1. Start with the CEO

As a business leader, you need to lead by example.

Make it clear to your employees that customer centricity is a top priority for the company.

Set measurable goals and hold your team accountable for achieving them.

This sends a strong message to everyone in the organization that customer-centricity is not just a buzzword but a fundamental part of the business strategy.

 

2. Understand Your Customers

To be truly customer-centric, you need to understand your customers deeply.

This means going beyond demographic data and understanding their motivations, pain points, and desires.

Watch and listen to your customers frequently. Conduct customer research, including surveys and focus groups, to gain insights into what your customers want and need.

Collect the information in a customer persona/avatar template. If you don’t have

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7 Ideas from Great Leaders to Make Your Leadership Style More Effective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. We should never stop learning

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

I’m often quoted as saying:

“A day without learning is a day without living”

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

This has become increasingly important because technical advances are coming almost daily, so we must constantly rethink how we work. We should adapt and integrate those technologies that could improve our business processes.

 

BONUS: #8 Prepare for the Unthinkable

I would encourage all leaders to revise their vision considering these seven points.

But I’d like to add a bonus idea that will truly impact … Click to continue reading

5 Secrets You Need to Know About Brand Portfolio Success

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

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

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

 

MORE IS RARELY BETTER!

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

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

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

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

[bctt tweet=”In this over-abundant world of consumer choice, more is rarely better. #consumer #brand #Marketing ” username=”Denysech”]

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

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

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

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

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

“We

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Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

Insights are the pot of gold that many businesses dream of but rarely find. Why is that? Are you one of them? If so then I have some practical ideas on how you can get much, much better at insight development.

 

#1. Insights rarely come from a single market research study

Management often thinks that insight is “just another word for market research”. I remember one of my previous CEOs saying exactly that to me just before he addressed the whole market research and insight global team at our annual conference. I’m sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!
Core Strength Training and Three of Its Benefits for Your Back – Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) – Association chiropratique canadienne single dumbbell chest press free download pdf owner’s manual for image imtl99000 home gym.
Insights are demanding to develop and are rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information in order to answer one or more questions. Whilst it may enable a business to make a more informed decision based upon the objectives, insight development is quite a different process.

Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the data and information you have about a category or segment user. Then summarising it into knowledge and turning that knowledge into understanding. Only then are you ready to develop an insight.

[bctt tweet=”All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and Big Idea (for communications) are built. What is yours? #Brand #Marketing #Communications #BrandBuilding ” username=”Denysech”]

All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and Big Idea (for communications) are built. For example

  • AXE (Lynx in UK): (young) men want to attract as many beautiful and sexy women as possible. This is one of their newer ads, where the seduction is a little less in your face and more subtle – but still there.

 

  • Haribo Starmix: There’s a child inside every adult. This “Kid’s Voices” campaign has been running for years and manages to surprise and delight with each new episode. Which is your favourite? Please add a comment below.

 

  • Dulux sample paint pots: I love to decorate my home, but I don’t want to look stupid by choosing the wrong colour. Although these are now a standard offer for many paint brands, Dulux were the first to understand the problem facing potential home decorators.

Dulux sample pot example of insight development

Insight development will provide the basis on which you will define the actions that are needed to change the attitudes and / or behaviour of your target audience. It also provides a solid framework on which to build your Big Idea for your communications’ strategy.

 

So there you have them, the five ideas and numerous examples that will help you to develop better insights more easily.

Although you probably already have your own process for creating them, I know from experience Click to continue reading

The Good, Bad and Downright Ugly Parts of a Head of Marketing Job

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

 

Did you know that the average tenure of a Head of Marketing position continues to fall, reaching just 41 months according to the latest Spencer Stuart research published by the WSJ?

It is still one of the shortest average terms of office of any chief in the C-suite, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry. But one piece of good news in the past year is that although conditions for CMOs have become more difficult since the coronavirus pandemic, “In many cases, CMOs are not being removed, but it’s been pretty dramatic layoffs beneath them” said Greg Welch, practice leader for marketing, sales and communication at Spencer Stuart.

So just how long have you been in your position?

The Bad News

A global survey by the Fournaise Marketing Group provides one possible explanation for the continued decline in tenure. 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.

Another piece of research by HubSpot reported that Marketing as a career suffers credibility issues as well. It ranked the most trustworthy jobs, with Doctor ranking number one and near the bottom, just above Car Salesman and well below Barista, was “Marketer”. Car salesmen? Really? That is scandalous!

The Opportunities

Let’s start at the beginning. What opportunities are there, that marketers can keep their jobs? Despite the short lifespan of a CMO, and while the position is plagued by high turnover, this could also be because CMOs are highly visible.

Therefore they can be targets for promotions or a steal by their industry competitors. Nice to feel wanted, isn’t it?

[bctt tweet=”CMOs are highly visible, which is great for promotions or a steal by the competition. #CMO #Marketing” username=””]

It is understandably 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? … Click to continue reading

How to Improve Customer Centricity in Hospitality

The title of this week’s post might surprise you. After all, the hospitality industry should be highly customer centric, as it relies on satisfying its guests.

However, it can learn a lot from consumer packaged goods (FMCG/CPG), as I shared with industry experts at a Faculty Day of one of the leading hospitality schools in Switzerland. Having spent most of my career in consumer goods, I was invited to share what the hospitality industry could learn from the industry. From the reactions at the end of my talk it seems that the answer is a lot!

It might surprise you, but the two industries have a number of similarities. They both (should) have their customers at their heart. And they are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clients in the quality of the products and services they offer.

[bctt tweet=”As the world changes, customer demands are changing too and companies need to stay current, if not ahead of these demands, in order to ensure continued growth. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Future #Trends” username=”Denysech”]

 

During my presentation, I shared many ideas; here are a few of the points I covered:

 

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about the need to move from a return on investment to a return on relationships. While I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Despite many books touting the need for our customers to “Love” our brands, in reality, I’m not sure that any of us want to have a deep relationship with brands.

[bctt tweet=”Brands that have a high following and loyalty, have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. #Brand #Marketing #Engagement” username=”Denysech”]

The relationship is based on more than just the brand. It is founded on trust and confidence in the product, the brand’s website and their engaging communications. Think Coca Cola and Red Bull as great examples of this.

 

#2. Build Relationships with Strangers

The hospitality industry is based on serving and satisfying its guests. But in today’s connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but could potentially become guests. These may include the friends of past guests, who have heard about the hotel or restaurant and are interested in visiting it for themselves.

One good example of this, but I know many hotels are also doing it, is the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico. This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to post them on Facebook.

This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging future guests before they even arrive. In addition, the posts will certainly have a positive influence on website visitors. And the guests who publish their photos, will have an even stronger positive impact on their friends and followers.  After … Click to continue reading

Does your Organisation Really Need a Market Research Department? And in the Future?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about New Marketing; how communication is now all about engagement, how the consumer is boss and such like.

But there has been very little said about a New Market Research Department! If you’re concerned by this situation, whether you work in marketing, market research or a completely different area, then read on for some thoughts on how this situation can and must change.

Earlier this year I wrote about the future of market research / insight departments and what researchers need to do within their organisation to improve their image and perceived value. This week I want to take a wider look at the profession in general. 

 

Current Perception of Market Research

According to  Wikipedia, Marketing is “The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers” The definition of  Market Research is “Any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy”.

What is interesting in comparing these two definitions is the difference in appreciation of the value to business of the two. Marketing is said to be a “critical function”, whereas Market Research is said to be “very important”. Perhaps this is why Market Research Departments continue to be hammered, their budgets are constantly under pressure and their value to the business is questioned.

Well, things are about to change, or at least there is an opportunity for this, if researchers take up the incredible chance offered to them in today’s world of information (over?) abundance. You can’t continue to do the same old same old when marketing, and more importantly the consumer, is clearly on the move.

 

What Business gets from Market Research

I think that one of the biggest problems that Market Research has (continues to have) is that Marketing and Management in general, find it too complex. What is often delivered from market research, BY researchers,  tends to be numbers and findings, not underst anding, insight and recommendations.

We no longer need market research to share the numbers and information today. More and more often, these are coming automatically into companies from an ever-growing number of sources, and a lot of it is even in real-time, something market research results never were! Think sensors on products, GPS on smart phones, retail purchases with debit / credit / loyalty cards, social media interactions …. DataShaka recently wrote in their The Lab an interesting perspective on data management and information sources which you might want to check out.

That’s a lot of data; indeed Aaron Zornes, chief research officer of The MDM Institute, was recently quoted in Information Management as saying that “a typical large company with (has) 14,000 or so databases on average”. And most of that data will be just sitting around in IT storage systems, rarely reviewed and even … Click to continue reading

The Great Trends Hoax: They don’t give a Business a Competitive Advantage

Do you follow trends? I bet you do! Everyone likes talking about the future, imagining what it might hold and then taking pride in seeing that they were “right”, that what they had “predicted” has come true. If this is how you work with trends, then you must read this post – urgently!

There are many trend providers today, from futurologists, to trend agencies, to gurus, all claiming to have “the truth”. An ex-colleague of mine made an interesting comment to me last weekend, as we hiked up to the top of La Dole, one of the small hills in the Lac Leman area of Switzerland where I live.

We were discussing trend following and she was comparing the providers with which her company had worked in the last five or ten years. Which of them “had got it right” and which ones hadn’t. I said that I wasn’t too keen on businesses working with trends alone, as there was no competitive advantage in doing so. She then made a wonderful comment: “You’re right of course. In fact when you go to these meetings to hear about the latest trends each year, you are sitting with a group of 20, 50, 100 or often even more people, all hearing the same presentations and “predictions”. If you all go back and start working on actions to respond to the future that was just presented, you’re all doing the same things and are in a way actually making the predictions come true”.

As I said, I have never really liked working with trends other than for developing plausible future scenarios, but she had put one of my concerns into words; you don’t gain competitive advantage from following trends. Whilst they may at best provide indications of some tactical actions you might take in the short-term, trends cannot help you develop your vision and strategy.

So if you want to achieve the real advantage of following trends and to get a head-start over your competition, then it’s time you started developing your own future scenarios. How? Well, here’s a 10-step approach that I have found has worked with many of my clients, which assumes that you are already following trends of some description:

10-Step Process

  1. Identify the most relevant trends for your category from all those that you are currently following. This evaluation is often best handled by your market research and insight group, who have access to a lot of information, both internal and external, and not just on trends. If this is a new area for you all, you may decide to seek some external support to help you make these first difficult choices.
  2. Invite a group of about 10-15 people from various departments within the organisation and who have ideas about what will happen in their different areas of the business, to join your “Futures” team. I have found that when invited, few refuse and in fact more ask to join the group when they hear about it, than
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