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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem with Trend following alone

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

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

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

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

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

Companies which develop concepts based upon theses types of external resources alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them. Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working for the consumers.

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

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To TweetScenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs. Then, the new product and service Big Ideas, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions are unlikely to be the same as those developed by the competition.

 

How to turn Trends into Future Scenarios

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

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

 

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

 

Success factors

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

Marketing Information Lost in Translation: How to Save yourself & Rise above the Competition

A recent report I came across this week shows that 76% of marketers do not use behavioral information in either segmentation analysis or targeting. They have the data, they’re just not taking advantage of it to better identify and then satisfy their consumers. This shocked me, so I went looking for more information to clarify the situation. 

The study was conducted in late 2013 by Razorfish and Adobe amongst marketing and technology executives in the US, Canada, Germany, France and the UK. According to Pete Stein, CEO of Razorfish, the two main reasons for this lack of usage are firstly that today’s marketers are driving consumer segmentation with outdated technology, processes and tools, and secondly that there is an exponential growth in the availability of behavioral data.

In another study called “From Stretched to Strengthened” IBM reports that 71% of CMOs feel unprepared to h andle today’s “data explosion”. A third study, Domo‘s “2013 Data-driven marketing survey” found that two-thirds of marketers feel unable to h andle the volume of marketing data that’s available for analysis without feeling overwhelmed, and  concluded that there were five reasons why this is the case:

  • 69% don’t have the time to analyse it
  • 66% can’t see it integrated
  • 44% don’t have the time to collect it
  • 40% don’t have access across devices
  • 40% can’t see it in real time

These statistics suggest some interesting, no vital, changes that business intelligence / planning / market research / insight (BI) departments should make to address these needs of marketers. Once made, they would increase their perceived value and recognition, as well as that of the marketing department as well. Now that can’t be bad can it?

Here are my thoughts on each of them:

No time to analyse the data

I personally believe that if the support function (BI) was doing its job properly, marketing wouldn’t have to analyse the data. In fact I don’t think it is, nor should it be, their responsibility. Of course, this does mean that BI should be attributed with the appropriate levels of resources in both time and personnel to run the analyses and generate actionable insights.

Studies conducted every couple of years by the market research arm of the Corporate Executive Board (MREB), consistently show that world-class businesses have BI departments that have progressed from methodological experts to insight consultants, and then to knowledge synthesizers. Therefore unless you allow your team to develop in this direction, the onus for analysis will remain a challenge.

Can’t see the data integrated

Even before Big Data became a buzz word, companies have struggled to break down the internal silos of information ownership. The ever-increasing flow of data into organisations has just made the matter worse, so that it can no longer be ignored. Information integration may dem and a significant investment in both time and money, but the rewards are huge.

For example, from my own experience with clients, I have witnessed a grocery retailer increase sales by 15% whilst decreasing its promotional & discount allowances by 13%. This was achieved by simply making better use of the information they already had, and enabled them to make more relevant suggestions and offers to their customers. Airlines too are realising increased buy-in of their vacation and flight promotions, through more timely and relevant mailings to precisely segmented customer groups. That was only possible because they integrated the information from their different departments.

Don’t have time to collect the data

For me the problem is actually no longer simply not having the time to collect the data, but a rather subtle adaptation of our expectations to near real-time data availability today. We have all become less patient and this as true for the CEO, as it is for the CMO and on downwards.

Marketing must become more agile and flexible to be able to react to the latest data and adjust their actions and communications accordingly. Why continue to reward retailers with promotional pricing for items that are not flying off their shelves? The money could be better spent elsewhere, whether at a different retailer more aligned to the targeted segment, or even to another type of action.

Don’t have access across devices

Tablets set to outsell PCs in 2015It amazes me that so many people are still struggling to acknowledge that the PC is rapidly losing out to tablets. In fact, according to the International Data Corp. tablets will outsell PCs within the next year or so. IDC also says that while global smartphone sales in 2013 were up by 39% over 2012, they’re expected to grow by only around 19% this year.

However, as more smartphones get connected to cars as presented at the recent Geneva Car Show, marketers will be expecting to review their latest audience data or sales during their drive into work. It therefore makes sense to enable cross-device accessibility.

As an aside, I hope marketers also underst and what this trend means to their communication plans and how they connect with and engage their consumers.

Can’t see data in real time

With the never-ending flow of information into organisations it makes sense that marketers dem and to be able to look at the latest data in real time. Retail or audience data that is a month or even a few weeks out of date is of little use in this fast-paced world in which we live. Marketers will also expect market research to provide direct access to consumers and become less and less patient of studies that take weeks if not months to complete.

My conclusion from all of this is that the C-Suite needs to invest even more in data management for marketers and not only for the financial results to which they have become accustomed. They should not dem and the ROI of marketing without empowering marketers to be able to analyse the data available to them. What do you think?

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft and Mashable in this post.

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

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

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

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

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

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

#2. Underst and your primary target

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

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

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

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

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

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

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

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

#5. Reinvent your innovation

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

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

 

#6. Follow your image

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

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

#7. Turn your information into insight

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

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

#8. Share your information and insights

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

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

#9. Evaluate your progress

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

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

 

#10. Plan for action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Is there a Future for Insight Departments?

Many organisations have revamped their Market Research groups as Insight Departments in the past five to ten years. However, it takes more than a name change for those involved to achieve the recognition they deserve. If you work in or with such a department, then read on, as I have some ideas on how you can achieve this.

Last month Forrester issued the results of some research they had done looking into the Future of Market Research in 2013. Their conclusions were:

  1. 2013 is the year of truth for market insights: their future will depend on how successful they are at getting increased investments and tapping into alternative information sources than just market research
  2. Market insights departments need to invest in knowledge, technology and skills: the group will need to better respond to the fast-paced management need for the customer underst anding that can impact their business decisions
  3. Vendors have to show their worth: suppliers have become commodity providers as they have allowed their clients to select on price more than differentiation.
  4. Future market insights solutions have to connect the dots: single source is no longer sufficient – if it ever was – and vendors need to be able to better respond to the need for 360 degree perspectives.

Whilst I certainly agree with these conclusions, which in fact impact both supplier and company insight professionals, I believe that most of these needs are not really new. Some more forward-thinking organisations have in fact already identified and adjusted to these changed needs. So what is there to do if you haven’t? How do you prioritise what needs to be done in your organisation? Here is my top 5 tips:

#1. Find out what management really needs

It is amazing how many market research and insight groups still have little, or no contact with top management. So how can they possibly be perceived as value creators for the business? It is not enough just to attend the presentations of the business plans or to get a copy of them to read afterwards. You need to talk with those who wrote them and those who will implement them. Ideally, you should be instrumental in helping to draw them up. Get out of your offices and into the boardrooms and hallowed top-floor offices. Listen hard and ask hard questions. Make sure you underst and where the company is going and your role in getting there.

#2. Review the information you currently collect

Most organisations have regular on-going measurements of some sort, which probably haven’t changed in years, if not decades! Now you know what the business needs, review, revamp or retire the studies that are no longer needed. Show that you are using your budget wisely, to provide management with the information and knowledge they need, to help them to take better decisions.

#3. Revamp what is important

Those projects that do add value to the organisation will certainly need updating on a regular, possibly annual basis. Do your retail audits reflect the current market situation? Are the attributes you follow in your br and image trackers accurately covering the strengths of the latest competitive launches as well as your own? Take each study and adjust for each br and in collaboration with your marketing AND sales teams.

#4. Share the knowledge

Many organisations are afraid of competition getting a hold of their information, and therefore do not make it widely available within the organisation. Have you never learnt about something going on in your own organisation, but from competition? I know I have. Therefore the risks of tipping off the competition are far lower than others may think, so start to share the information you gather. It is amazing how much you can save when you do, as other departments often then discover that they are conducting research, or buying information and reports that are already available in-house.

#5. Integrate for Insight

Despite some managers still believing that insight is just another word for market research, insights are in fact developed out of multiple information sources. Whilst Forrester suggested that this could be managed by your suppliers, I believe that whilst they may help, true insights come from integrating information and knowledge from multiple sources, both internal and external. This means not only different projects, but also different departments that have differing perspectives and perhaps also different connection points with the customer. The insight group can help bring all this underst anding together and develop actionable insights for profitable business growth.

Well this is my starter for five. What else would you add to help bring insight departments into the center of the brave new world of customer centric organisations? If you carry out these first five steps that I have mentioned, then you will start to get more appreciation for the real value you are adding to the business and your budgets might even be increased; which will then lead to even greater value. Now that’s what I call a win-win and a really bright future for everyone in Insight! What do you think?

For ideas and training on insight development check out our website: http://www,c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

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