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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.

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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Say Goodbye to Marketing & Brand Building, Say Hello to Consumer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’d like to see more about its complete history, then I highly recommend this  Hubspot  infographic.

With the advent 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. Consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated consumers with spammy emails, popups and subtle cookies for following their every move.

Br and Building

Many large CPG companies such as P&G  and Nestle changed the name of their Marketing departments to Br and Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. But they failed because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With few exceptions, it’s still all about them  and their br ands  and not much about the consumer.

Luckily some other 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 exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. The aim for satisfaction and delight will never end. (>>Consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. The aim for satisfaction and delight will never end. Click To Tweet<<)

I think we have taught our consumers far too well! They underst and a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They underst and 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 might be different, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now have a portfolio of br ands from which they choose. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one br and 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 br ands today compared to just ten years ago.

Marketing skills
SOURCE: Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report 2015

Customer Centricity

In response to these ever more savvy consumers, marketing has to change. In the  2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it is confirmed that new skills are now needed. The most sought-after skills today are analytical thinking and customer centricity. Marketing is now as much an art as it is a science. In order to take full advantage of the enormous availability of information about our customers, we can no longer rely on our creativity alone.

How to Know if you're Customer Centric

Companies which place the consumer 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 consumer centric and emotional, with the consumer and not the br and as the hero. They involve their consumers 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, or why not complete the C3C Evaluator?

C3C Evaluator

Move Beyond Br and Building

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

  1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.
  2. Whenever a decision is taken, ask "What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?" (>>Tweet this<<) This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a "free" trial, in the hope that the consumer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.
  3. Review the language of your website. If there are more "we's" than "you's" then you know what to do(>> Tweet this<<) While you're online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.
  4. Take a look at your target consumer 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 underst anding of them and their emotional triggers.
  6. Spend time with your front-line staff and consumers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merch andisers 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 underst and 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 br and building to a more customer centric approach. If you'd like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, download a free sample of my book "Winning Customer Centricity". The fun drawings in this post come from the book!

 

 

How the Best Marketers are getting Deeper, More Actionable Insights

Are you as busy as I’ve been, trying to deliver on all your final objectives before year-end? Stressful times indeed, but this post is a must-read if you want to start 2016 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone (>>Tweet this<<) and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in the company.

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for (>>Tweet this<<). Successful businesses depend upon deep customer insight. They underst and the power of engagement built on insight to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Great companies underst and the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

So if you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these tips which I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams this week. Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation.

  1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first. Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude and you are likely to meet with more success. This is because you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.
  2. Insight generation should start with customer connection (>>Tweet this<<). When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers. They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes.
  3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really underst and the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.
  4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight learn new things about the business every day, so why not as’ that they share them? Every project and every analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question at h and. However, ask that they make them a regular part of their newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking.
  5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merch andisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail. These connections can quickly become addictive as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.
  6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage. According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in some research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to h andle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will be better informed and feel less overwhelmed.
  7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.
  8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall underst anding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with them. Do they involve you in insight development or only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer underst anding easier in your organisation?

For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let’s have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts or provide fun training days, as we already do to businesses in many various industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity

 

This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and the current discount codes. The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!

My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.

Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act

Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.

Business doesn’t get what it needs

One of the problems that has been highlighted by BusinessIntelligence.com is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.

Information must become smarter

The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better underst and the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.

Information needs to become useful

While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the information available to us.

Market research and insight teams need new skills

In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and  insight professionals need to acquire new skills:

  • Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of underst anding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on br ands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support br and building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story

Stories exist in all cultures. They have developed down through the ages as a means of transferring knowledge, long before books and now the web enabled their storage.

Today’s information-rich world has made storytelling a required talent for CEOs and CMOs alike to develop. And websites and Fan pages now make it a necessary skill for br ands too.

Br and stories are perhaps one of the easiest ways to resonate with customers. Hopefully, this will then lead to those highly sought-after but ever-diminishing rewards of loyalty and advocacy. Of course, I say “easiest” with caution, since great storytelling is an art that is often learned but rarely truly mastered. ( and I am conscious that I am (too) often in that group!)

One of the best places to find great stories is on TED. Amongst the most popular talks on the topic of storytelling, andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story.html”>The Clue to a great story was given in February 2012 by Andrew Stanton. Stanton is the Pixar writer and director of both the hit movies Toy Story  and WALL-E. I was reminded of his talk because it has since been turned into an infographic on the TED Blog. It inspired me to review the five “clues” Stanton talked about and then to apply them to br ands. These five essential elements of remarkable br and stories are the result.

 

Make me Care

According to Stanton, a story needs to start by quickly drawing sympathy from the audience / reader. The hero is introduced as being rejected or badly treated by family, friends, circumstances, or the world in general.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
SOURCE: CopyPress

Well-known examples of heroes include Cinderella or the lovable WALL-E in the film of the same name. Their predicament immediately generates feelings of concern and empathy, especially when identified as unfair or outside the control of the hero.

This works well for people, but for br ands I believe the emotions sought should be on the opposite side of these as demonstrated by Plutchiks’ Wheel of Emotions (see right).

Those of trust, admiration or anticipation are more relevant for br ands than remorse, grief, and loathing. People spend money on br ands because they believe that they will provide pleasure and / or solve one of their problems. Our job as marketers is not only to satisfy this need but to go even further by turning that expectation into surprise and delight (but more on that later).

 

Take me with you

In storytelling, there is often a journey, a mystery or a problem that needs solving. Something that entices the reader or audience to linger a while longer  and to learn more about the situation. In a similar way, a br and wants its customers to remain and become loyal. It therefore makes promises, whether real or just perceived as such by the customer.

Storytelling in businessWhen I first started working at Philip Morris International, there was a rumour amongst consumers that Marlboro was financing the Ku Klux Klan in the US. This started because its packaging had three red rooftops or “K’s” on it (front, back and bottom of pack). Management obviously didn’t want this untruth to be believed by its smokers, so one of the K’s was removed by making the bottom of the pack solid red.

However, consumers’ desire for mystery and intrigue was so strong that another rumour quickly emerged. This time, smokers had found three printer’s colour dots inside the pack (black, yellow and red). The story went that these markings symbolized that Marlboro hated Blacks, Asians and Indians! Once again management looked for ways to dismiss this rumour, but as in the previous case, just denying it would have most likely led to further reinforcement of the rumour. Since the printer needed these colour matches, they remained for many years.

Customers love to tell stories about “their” br ands. There are many myths about the greatest br ands around, often starting from their packaging or communications. For example, Toblerone has the “Bear of Berne” and the Matterhorn, exemplifying its Swiss origin, on its pack. The br and name too has Berne spelled within it and the chocolate itself is shaped like a mountain.

Camel has the “Manneken Pis from Brussels” on the back leg of the camel. Whereas the Toblerone links were intentional, I don’t think JTI planned that association into their design! Consumers just looked at the pack and having discovered the resemblance, started to share their findings, and it became a “truth”.

Many other br ands have developed stories through their communications, that are also shared and repeated until their customers believe they are true. Further examples include Columbia outdoor wear’s “Tough Mother” campaign, Harley Davidson’s enabling “middle aged” men to become bikers at the weekend, or Dove’s campaign for real women to name just a few. All these stories confirm and further support the connection their customers have with these br ands, so they almost become a part of their extended families. Such a strong emotional connection will ensure br and loyalty and advocacy for as long as the stories are maintained.

Be Intentional

In a story, the hero has an inner motivation, which drives them toward their goal. They will encounter problems and challenges along the way, but their motivation remains strong to reach their desired destination.

For a br and, this motivation is what it st ands for, its br and equity. What is the br and’s image, its personality; what benefits can the customer expect? Not only is it important to identify these, but perhaps even more importantly, is to consistently portray them in everything a br and does. From its product to its packaging, its communications to its sponsorships, the customers’ loyalty and appreciation are reinforced by every element that remains consistent and continuously reinforced.

Let me like you

A story depends on a hero with whom the audience can empathize; someone worthy of their respect, even love.

This is exactly the same for br ands, which is why problems and crises need to be h andled quickly, fairly and respectfully. In today’s world of global connection, everything a br and says or does, anywhere in the world, is shared and commented upon, around the globe in a matter of milliseconds. Whereas in the past, disappointed customers may have told ten others, today it is estimated to be closer to ten million, thanks to social media!

In a great article entitled “What an angry customer costs” by Fred Reichheld, it is said that the cost to companies of haters or detractors is enormous. “Successful companies take detractors seriously. They get to the root cause of customers’ anger by listening to complaints, taking them seriously and fixing problems that might be more pervasive” But it’s not merely a question of preventing the spread of negative word of mouth. As Reichheld, himself says “For many customers … (resolving complaints) …is where true loyalty begins”.

(Surprise and) Delight me

Stanton says that stories should charm and fascinate the audience. For br ands, we should aim for surprise and delight as previously mentioned. The surprise of learning something new about the product or company that made it; delight at getting unexpected gifts or attention from the br and.

This is where limited editions and seasonal offers first started, but over the last few years, thanks to today’s connected world, br ands are going much further:

  • In 2010, SpanAir delivered an Unexpected Luggage Surprise for its customers flying over Christmas Eve.
  • Also in 2010, another airline KLM, had staff members prepare gifts for a select few passengers who tweeted about their pending departure on a KLM flight at the airport.
  • Tropicana  brought “Artic Sun” to the remote Canadian town of Inuvik, where residents live in darkness for weeks each winter.
  • Amazon is known for their excellent customer service, but they often go the extra mile, upgrading customer shipping to expedited service for free.
  • Kleenex surprised sick people with their Feel Good campaign that targeted people Tweeting about going down with the ‘flu.
  • Google, who are known for their creative and timely illustrations on their homepage, started showing a birthday cake as the image above the search box on people’s birthday.

The last example actually happened to me for the first time a few years ago and I admit that I was so excited I actually Tweeted about it! Am I the only one who was touched by this gesture, because I haven’t heard anyone else mentioning it?

So those are Stanton’s five clues to a great story, adapted for br ands. Do they work? What stories are told about your own br ands? Or do you have other great examples to share? Please share them below.

For more on br ands please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ or contact us here for an informal chat about how we could support your own br and building efforts or provide fun and-evaluation/”>training days.

This post has been adapted and updated from one which first appeared on C3Centricity in 2013.

The New Way to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

When I get several requests in the same week on exactly the same topic, I know something is happening in the marketplace. This week was one such occasion.

A Pharma company wants a presentation on it; a CPG company asked me to give a half-day workshop about the topic; a conference requested a keynote speech about it; a major US business school wants a guest lecture covering the idea  and a consumer goods company wants an article for their newsletter. What’s the topic? The new ways to innovate, that’s what.

With all this interest, and despite having written some popular posts in the past on best-practice innovation, such as “ How to innovate more creatively”, “How to get R&D as excited about consumer innovation as you are”  and “Never succeed at innovation: 10 mistakes even great companies make”, I thought I would summarise the latest trends around how to innovate more successfully today. So here are some ideas to get you thinking about the changes you might want to bring to your own innovation processes.

Customers react to new innovation1. Start with the customer in mind – always

So many organisations still have an innovation process that starts with R&D or operations. It’s time to reverse your innovation funnel and start with the customer. (>>Tweet this<<) What are their problems with current products and services; what do they dream of having? How are they compensating or compromising?

 

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” Steve Jobs

However, as Henry Ford and Steve Jobs remind us, customers don’t usually know what they want. They are usually very clear about what they don’t like, but they also often know the solution they are looking for – even if they don’t express it as such. It is our job to interpret what they are saying into what they need. Therefore, identify the result they want but not how they want to achieve it, otherwise you will be looking for that “faster horse”!

2. Stage-gate innovation is essential for a successful business

Today’s world is fast paced and customers never stay satisfied for long. What surprises and delights today, is ordinary and normal, if not tomorrow, at best in a couple of weeks or months. That’s why it’s vital to work on new product and service developments even before you launch your latest offering.

NEW INNOVATION STAGE-GATESMany companies today work with generation pipelines, with three, four or five stages of innovation preparation. This ensures that they are already working on the replacement of each product they launch, whether or not it’s a success.

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

According to the McKinsey article “ Reinventing Innovation in CPG“, real growth comes from ground-breaking innovations, not simplistic renovations. However, line extensions do provide the time for organisations to prepare their true innovations, while responding to today’s customers incessant desire for novelty.

They are also easier to develop and launch, which means they are less dem anding on resources. Companies which are satisfied with only incremental innovations are unlikely to see significant growth in the long-term. For this reason successful br ands need to do both. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Launch before you’re finished

Many tech companies use this approach, by involving customers as beta testers. In this way, they get their customers help – for free – to improve and mould the final offer. It also allows them to launch more quickly and gain the positive image associations of being first to market.

If you are concerned about confidentiality or competitive speed to respond, then work with customers through co-creation. (>>Tweet this<<) Involve them at every stage of the development process from ideation to launch preparation. If your management are  concerned about the risks of sharing innovative ideas outside the company, involve employees instead, perhaps from other divisions so they are less biassed.

5. Review the category in which you’re playing

Are you sure that your customers see your br and in the same light as you do? Many times I have heard a customer correct an interviewer in a research project, when asked about br ands in a category. “That br and isn’t in that segment, category A” they say; “It’s not a competitor of X, but of Y and Z, the main br ands in category B”. Some examples include dried soups which today compete with sauce mixes, carbonated soft drinks with fruit juices and body gels with shampoos.

Another advantage of underst anding the category in which your customers place your br and is that this can provide you with new ideas for expansion.

Mars ice creamMany confectionary br ands have moved into ice cream and desserts. They have understood that they are being seen as more of a “treat” than merely “just” a chocolate bar. When your customers choose between products from several different categories when deciding what to eat or buy, it is a clear indication that you are not (only) competing in the category you first thought you were. (>>Tweet this<<)

In conclusion, there are many reasons why innovations fail:

  • A short-term mindset where success is dem anded in weeks or months rather than years.
  • Top management instils a fear of failure, so no-one will defend ideas that are unpopular.
  • The innovation process itself is biassed towards current knowledge and skills.
  • A lack of deep customer underst anding.

These five ideas will help you to reinvent your innovation and also make it more customer-centric. After all isn’t that what all best practices should do today, involve the customer? If you have other – better? – ideas, then why not share them below?

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts  and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient just a little longer – but it’s coming soon!

 

 

4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

How to Fast-Start your Customer Centric Journey and Accelerate Ahead of Competition

Many of my clients tell me that they underst and they should be paying more attention to their customers, but admit that they just don’t know where to start when it comes to becoming more customer centric.

I can empathise with them; the task may seem overwhelming at first. After all, it is not something that can be corrected by just starting a new project or taking a single action. It dem ands consistent effort over the longterm, to make an organisation truly customer centric. Here are a few of the ideas I give them at the start of their journey, taken from my latest book Winning Customer Centricity, now available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”> Noble,  iBook and in all good bookstores.

As I am often quoted as saying:

“Customer Centricity is a Journey and not a Destination(>>and%20not%20a%20Destination%22%20%20[tweetlink]%20%23CRX%20%23Quote” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

So where do you start?

The first action to take when turning around a product or service-based company is to start by thinking about how your organisation is currently working. What is its structure and what processes are used to develop your offers? It is only by underst anding how your company functions, that you can identify the priority changes that need to be made. Therefore these are the first five things I suggest to do when starting on your own journey to improved customer centricity:

1. Identify a C-suite sponsor

Customers on the board with c-suiteEvery project needs a sponsor, but when it involves a major culture change, it must be sponsored at the very top, ideally by the CEO. (>>Tweet this<<) If this is not possible, the most customer – savvy executive should be the sponsor, whether that is the CMO or the SVP of marketing services or customer insight.

The initiative must be recognised as a priority company objective by everyone in the organisation, so the higher the level of the project sponsor is, the better it will be.

2. Make every employee aware of the priority initiative

Once you have a senior sponsor, the next step is to make everyone aware of the initiative. It always amazes me how many departmental projects go unnoticed by other groups within the same organisation. (>>Tweet this<<) In my consulting practice, I often uncover overlapping projects when I am invited to work with a client on a project. Perhaps this is because I work across departments and therefore don’t suffer from the silo effect impacting most employees. I also have the privilege of being able to ask “silly questions” which of course are never redundant.

In order to make all employees aware of the project, it must be mentioned at every opportunity. This means signing your emails with a suitable quote such as:

“We don’t pay your salaries, our customers do, every time they buy our product” (>>Tweet this<<)

or

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers” (>>ands%2C%20but%20there%20are%20no%20br ands%20without%20customers%22%20%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customers%20%23Br ands” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

You can also mention it in newsletters, on bulletin boards, or through internal memos, with clear explanations as to why it is important and how everyone is expected to participate. This alone will make the project st and out from the tens if not hundreds of other projects in your organization, which are most likely driven by a single department or group.

3. Identify your categories

Identify the category you are in This may seem strange to be asked to evaluate the categories in which you are active, but I am always surprised how many companies identify the category from a manufacturers perspective and not that of their customer. (>>Tweet this<<) For example a carbonated fruit juice could be seen by customers as being a part of carbonated soft drinks, of fruit juices, or in a completely new category of its own. It all depends on how they consume it.

Another example might be a dried soup mix, which customers may use to make soup, but also to make a sauce, to add taste to a casserole or dip, or to enhance the flavour of a dish made from scratch with fresh ingredients. In each case, the soup mix would be competing with products in those different categories, such as sauce mixes, flavour enhancers, and not just other (dried) soups.

4. Identify the category users

As you can imagine, if your product is being categorised in different product segments by consumers, then the users themselves will most likely differ. Taking the above example of dried soups, the category user might be:

  • Young singles – using the product to make a quick and easy soup
  • Mothers of teenage children – to make their sauces more flavourful
  • Couples – to add to their scratch cooking recipes

In each case the group of consumers have differing needs and therefore different segment descriptions. This is why underst anding the category in which you are active and the customers of the sub-group that you are appealing to, is a vital first step to underst anding your customers. (>>anding%20the%20category%20%26%20customers%20of%20the%20sub-group%20you%20are%20appealing%20to%2C%20is%20a%20vital%20first%20step%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customer%20%23Underst anding” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

5. Choose your category segment

Choose your customer segmentAgain taking dried soups as our example, the description of your users will be very different depending upon how they use the product. The simple demographic breaks mentioned above would be insufficient to be able to get to know them well. The more descriptions you can add to these basic demographics, the more likely you are to underst and and therefore delight your customers. (>>and%20your%20customers.%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customer%20%23Personas%20″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

In C³Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to identify and store everything we know about category users. For more information on this useful template, see the post and-underst and-your-customers/” target=”_blank”>How well do you know your customers? or the Video series on YouTube. You can also download the free template in the Members area.

These are the first five actions to take when starting out on your own journey to increased customer centricity. Getting the whole company and every employee in it, behind such an initiative, is the only way to make it happen. As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos is often quoted as saying:

“We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company”

Your customer centric journey starts with these first steps, and then it’s just a matter of knowing intimately the people you are hoping to satisfy and delight, and ideally surprise too. Have you already started your journey to Customer Centricity? If so, what has been your biggest challenge to date,  and if you solved the issue, how did you do it? Others who are just starting on their journey would love to hear from you.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become. Constant innovation and novelty has made us all more impatient and critical. We want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Marketing must deliver more!

I was recently in the US and as seems to be the norm these days, the hotel in which I stayed asked me to rate their performance afterwards. I completed their form, giving only four and five-star ratings, as I had been very satisfied by the hotel, its rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following mail a day or so later:

“Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.”

Shocking mail isn’t it? To think that a Hotel apologises for not exceeding my expectations! But I believe that is the reason why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

Shocking to think that a Hotel would apologise for not exceeding my expectations! #hotel #travel #leisure Click To Tweet

How do you treat your own customers, consumers and clients? Do you do just enough to satisfy them, or do you consistently look to exceed their expectations?

If you are a regular reader here – and I’d love to know why if you’re not, so I can do better in the future – you will know that I often talk about “surprising” and “delighting” our customers. These are not hollow words; there’s a very real reason I use them. The reason is that our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long.

Our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long. #CRM #CEX #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

The above personal example I gave is one way that the hotel staff ensure they have enough time to correct whatever is not a “superior experience” as they term their own desired service level, and to continue to offer total customer satisfaction.

Here are a few examples of other companies who go above and beyond in terms of their own customer service; I hope they inspire you to do the same and to aspire to exceed customer satisfaction whenever and wherever you can.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logoI have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want “to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Although they don’t specifically mention exceeding their customers’ expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn’t trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

Zappos

Zappos powered customer satisfaction through service
Image source: Zappos.com

Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their “WOW Philosophy,” is “To provide the best customer service possible.”

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that “We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.” That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is “To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer’s expect today – the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. 

Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

Apple

Apple-logoSteve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being “better.” While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook’s vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?

“For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.”

How many orgaisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

Did you make the best product, and did you enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of these, then you are having a good year. @TimCook #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is more difficult than ever to do these days with such demanding customers, it is definitely worth the effort to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. (>>Tweet this<<) As Maya Angelou is famed for saying “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 
  • Strive for better in everything you do; never be satisfied yourself with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee’s objectives to ensure products and services that not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.

I am sure you too have examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others can you add to this list? Please share your suggestions below.

This post used an image from “Winning Customer Centricity” Denyse’s new book out next month.

Which of these 10 Customer Centricity Steps are you Missing?

Last Saturday was the start of Summer in the Northern hemisphere and the weather certainly confirms this, at least for now! Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our journey to Customer Centricity.

Organisations need to take a step back occasionally and review how their plans are going. What changes do they need to make to ensure they meet their objectives 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 take to get 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

Knowing 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.

Boston Matrix for improved customer centricity  and segmentation evaluationAction: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their “4Ws”. In other words the 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. If you would like to learn more about targeting, check out this post.

#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. This can be by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shop 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. It’s time you started turning them into future scenarios or use future prototyping. (Contact us here to learn more about this)

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. Alternatively, why not try Sci-Fi Future Prototyping? (Contact us here for more information)

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Most 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. Check last week’s post for more details about innovation.

#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

As the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says:

“What gets measured gets managed” (>>Tweet this<<)

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 for them to start declining. Once they are, it will be much more difficult to reverse.

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”  (>>Tweet this<<)

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

This post is based on one that was first published on C³Centricity in July 2013

Deliver a Great Experience to All Prospects, Including Those that Don’t Buy

This week I am happy to share a guest post by Bob Thompson from CustomerThink. His post is inspired by his latest book “Hooked on Customers”, which I’ve just read and highly recommend to everyone looking to be more customer centric. 

For sure, increasing sales productivity is a good thing. Marketing organizations are putting in place systems and tools to generate and score leads, so that reps can focus on more qualified prospects.

However, even in the best case scenario reps will not close every opportunity. Some customers may not have a need to buy now. Others may have a need, but they may select another alternative. A CSO Insights study found average win rates of about 45% in 2011, a five point drop from 2006.

So the key question is: What kind of sales experience are you delivering to all of your prospects—including those that weren’t qualified or didn’t buy?

This is important because, whether a prospect buys or not, their experience interacting with your company will create a lasting impression. A good experience means they may return another day, when they have needs that match your solutions. Or, they’ll recommend your company to a colleague. Either way, that helps increase revenue productivity. For example, last year I was looking for software to support my online community CustomerThink.com. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I searched for solutions, interacted with vendor web sites and engaged with several sales reps by email and phone. To most of the vendors I was just another not-very-valuable small business buyer. And I was treated accordingly, no doubt thanks to some nifty lead scoring algorithms that have become de rigueur for B2B marketers.

Unfortunately, these vendors probably didn’t factor into their scoring that my posts on CustomerThink reach an audience of 80,000 visitors per month. Or, that I have colleagues in the publishing business that are also potential buyers. And what do you know, shortly after my buying experiences, an industry colleague asked me for advice on similar tools, and I was only too happy to share my recommendations. Privately.

Bottom line: While I may not have been scored or treated as a valuable prospect, I was valuable in other ways—as an influencer. And many of your prospects are, too. The point of lead scoring is to assess the value of the prospect to you—the seller—so you can make the best use of your resources. Let’s flip this idea around. What I’m advocating is that you spend time to really underst and how your prospects—all of them—perceive their experience with your br and. From the initial web search to interacting with your web site to engaging with inside or field sales reps, all of these touchpoints form an impression and influence their likelihood to buy or recommend.

Start by assessing your current customer and prospect experiences. Look for opportunities to get prospect feedback using web analytics and feedback solutions. You could even hire “mystery prospects” to take on different personas representing buyers, influencers, researchers, etc. The prospect experience used to be mainly face-to-face interactions. Then it moved to the phone, and now it’s going digital in a big way.

If you do a buyer “journey map” you’ll probably find that more and more buyers start their journey online and are rapidly adopting mobile technologies such as smart phones and tablets. In the US, Nielson reports that in 2012 about half of all mobile subscribers are using smartphones. Ultimately, a great prospect experience is about interacting on their terms–giving them the information they want, in the form they want, where they want, at the time they want it, on the device they want. Whether prospects buy immediately or not, a positive experience will become the “gift that keeps on giving” in the future.

Realize that as you’re scoring prospects on their value to you, they are also scoring their experience with your company. Delivering a great prospect experience can help you differentiate and become a B2B br and that business people talk about like consumers rave about Zappos!

This post was originally published on February 22, 2013 at www.hookedoncustomers.com

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