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The Secrets to Growth. How to Get New Customers

This shorter than usual post was inspired by a great question on Quora about how to get new clients. Although my original answer was for a web design company, most of my ideas are relevant whatever industry or profession you are in. I therefore wanted to share my answers to the question in the hope of being of help to businesses large or small.

First let me say that if you’re struggling to grow, then you’re not alone! I imagine that this won’t make you feel much better. But please remember that business, especially entrepreneurship and freelancing, is for those who are strong of mind and spirit. There are going to be days, weeks or maybe even months of highs and lows. However, these shouldn’t make you question why you do what you do. For me, as a longtime entrepreneur, it’s the freedom that more than makes up for a day or two without a new client signing me up. And if you work in the corporate world, then it is the chance to impact the lives of thousands or millions of people for the better.

Wherever you work, one thing we all have in common is the need and desire to grow the business and get new customers and clients.

A few ideas for you to think about and above all to action!

Whatever ideas, tips, suggestions you may read or hear about, it is only in the action that you will make a difference. This article is no different. So when you’ve finished reading the post, stop reviewing your emails or surfing the web, and start planning your actions. We all go looking for answers, but only a few of us act on them when we find something useful. Be the exception and beat the competition!

As an aside, this is why my book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time” (includes link to download some sample chapters) is in a radically different format from every other business book out there. It has 50 chapters, but each one is only two pages long! Two pages of objectives, actions, examples and ideas, as well as an inspiring quote and a fun cartoon. It finally makes learning enjoyable again. Isn’t that what we all want? Now back to the answers.

1. Who were your Past Customers?

Let’s start with where you are today, or were yesterday. What were your past customers’ similarities? Go out and find more like them, using the same method they used to find you.

Was it word of mouth? Then ask for recommendations from them and your closest network. Was it through LinkedIn? Then make some new connections that are similar to them. Reach out to a segment of those who are most like your past customers and you think may have similar needs.

Any of these ideas will bring you more new potential customers than most advertising spend ever will. This is because you are speaking directly to the type of people who are most interested in what you have to offer. Obvious really, but we too often jump on the bandwagon of what big brands and “gurus” are using. You’ll have time for advertising when you are one of them. Until then, spend your money more wisely, when you want to get new clients.

2. Get Intimate with your Current and Past Customers

Ask your current customers, or those for whom you have just finished a project, if they need anything else? Ask them if they know anyone else who may need your services. They have just seen you in action and assuming they are happy with the result, they are probably happy to share their experiences with others. If they don’t have any ideas, then at least get a quote from them that you can share on your website. Social proof remains one of the best ideas to influence people who are unsure about hiring you, so you can get new clients.

Then analyse the profiles and develop a persona of your ideal client, if you don’t already have one. You can use my 4W™ template to help you with this task. Remember that the 4Ws stand for WHO, WHAT, WHERE and most importantly of all WHY. Often it is in the WHY that you will get ideas about who and where else you can go looking for work. Chase the problem and offer a solution. Most entrepreneurs and businesses make the mistake of chasing customers and fail to connect with them.

Chase the problem and offer a solution. This is the most efficient way to find potential new customers. #CustomerFirst #CEX #Customer Click To Tweet

3. Go Online and Find People Talking about your Category or the Type of Work you do

Quora is a good place to start. Answer questions so you get noticed and appreciated for your wisdom. (Hope I’m impressing you with my ideas here! If not then please leave a comment and tell me what I could do better)

Next check the usual social media platforms and again find discussions about what you offer. Reach out to anyone who says they’re frustrated, angry, unhappy etc. Understand why they are saying this and then offer them a solution.

That’s a surefire way to get new clients, because we all love people who come to us with solutions rather than problems, don’t we? And we forget that many executives haven’t got someone else to turn to. Be that person.

We all love people who come to us with solutions rather than problems, don't we? Be that person. #CustomerFirst #CustomerSatisfaction #CEX Click To Tweet We forget that many executives haven't got someone else to turn to when they have problems. Be that person. #Executive #CEO #CMO #ProblemSolution Click To Tweet

4. Offer a Free Analysis of Potential Clients’ Websites

This was in answer to the industry in which the person who asked the question on Quora was working. I do this a lot, as reviewing a potential customer’s website is a great way to see just how customer centric they are – or not! (If you would like a free analysis, just add your name and website URL below and I’ll send you my thoughts) But you can offer potential clients the chance to experience your work for free in many other ways.

Free is one of the most popular words on the internet, so why not make use of it? But don’t overload your response by providing too much detail. Give too much and they won’t need to hire you, they will be able to follow your suggestions and do it themselves. (And I stand guilty of this, I know! I always like to over-deliver.)

Provide a few ideas about things that need changing, but don’t give the solution too. End with a comment like “There’s a lot more I could help you with to make your website shine, but it would be too long to write here in detail. Let me know if you’d like to chat.” Then pitch them your solution when you have the person on the line.

I use this myself. I offer the mini C3C Evaluator™ tool for free and charge for the full quiz. People who try the mini version still get tremendous value and clear actionable results from it, but of course the full tool would provide much more depth – plus a free advisory session with me to discuss next steps. All this for $99 when my hourly rates are more than five times that! I’m sure you can see that they are getting a bargain, and me a very happy potential new client!

5. Frequent Outreach

Perhaps the best tip of all, is this last one – for now; I have many more I can share of course. (See what I just did?!) Go back to everyone who responded to your outreach but said no. Perhaps it was no then, but could be a yes now. However, don’t pester them with daily or even weekly emails. Wait a month or more before reaching out again. Also, go back to everyone who didn’t respond. These days, we receive so many messages that we sometimes delete without reading, or they end up in our spam folder. Send a second and third follow-up email, again waiting a few weeks or even a month or two between each.

So there you have a few ideas on how you too can grow and get more clients. Hopefully these five suggestions and tens of ideas will spark some ideas for action in you for your business. PRINT THIS OFF AND READ IT whenever you are in a low spot on your business curve. It will inspire you to take action in those moments where we feel frozen in panic and lacking in ideas.

And of course, you can always reach out to me for a whole lot more. I’m Denysech on Skype. However, if you do connect there, please explain why you are connecting. I get anonymous connection requests every day – and refuse all those from people I don’t know! Thanks.

Three Clever Ways to Know the Competition Better

What is the secret to success in business? That’s easy! It’s how well you know the competition.

Alright, maybe this is a slightly over-simplified perspective, but it always surprises me how many companies work with a primarily internal focus.

I have written many posts about knowing your customers, such as “Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions).” Watching and listening to them in order to fully understand their rational needs and emotional desires is a great – and free! – way to start.

But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.

Here’s a simple three-step process to do so. 

 

Encourage employees to use competitive products & services

Know the competition better by trying their products and services.In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?

However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.

To challenge & beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against through regularly experiencing their product and service offers. #marketing #competition #brand Click To Tweet

This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.

Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.

Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.

 

Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material

KNow your competition better by sharing what you knowIn one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.

Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy.

However, it was managed by the marketing services team and was hidden away in the lower ground floor where people rarely passed by. Additionally, the packs were emptied of their contents, to avoid infestations of vermin and insects, so people never got to try the products.

It would have been even better had the products been displayed in a location that was easily accessible to everyone. In addition, the products should have ideally been sampled before the packages were emptied of their contents. That said, they still remain one of the few companies I know that have been observing and following their competitors in such a consistent way for decades. As you can imagine, they were always ahead of the market and up-to-date with their competitive intelligence!

Stay ahead of the market & up-to-date with what you competitors are doing with a competitive library of products and communications material. #brand #marketing #communications Click To Tweet

Another client of mine has made a library of communications material. Their advertising agency is of course the major source of the samples, but employees who travel are also encouraged to take photos of ads and promotional materials which are then added to the library. You would be amazed how inspiring it is to review this work whenever a group is discussing their own advertising and promotions. They avoid duplication, get great ideas from countries to which they don’t normally have access, and can again take their customers’ perspective when comparing the samples with their own work.

What could you do to make your competitors’ products and communications more easily accessible to your employees? If you’re serious about wanting to know the competition better than you do today, you have to stay on top of what they are doing at all times.

 

Understand your Competitors’ Customers too

Observe to know the competition betterThis same curiosity to know your competitors’ products can also be used to know and better understand your competition’s customers as well.

When your employees go out to observe your own customers, they should also pay attention to those people who are not using your products or services. In this way they can gather additional information that can then be compared with your knowledge of your own customers.

Whether it is getting a better understanding of your competitors’ products and services or the people that use them, the information accumulated must be stored and shared internally to be of any benefit. Some companies organise weekly or monthly sessions where people from different departments can share their latest knowledge and observations. For more ideas on how to share effectively read “Knowledge sharing and how to WOW!” 

Other companies organise customer connection sessions where teams of employees from different departments – with differing perspectives – go out together with a task to complete or a question to answer. These could be for example:

  • How, where and when do people use our product or service?
  • What is their biggest frustration in shopping for the category?
  • If they could make one change to our major competitor’s product, what would it be?
  • What differences are there in the way the category’s brands are displayed?
  • Which social media channels are most popular with category users?

Employees gather ideas and information by first observing and only afterwards asking questions for clarification purposes. Upon their return, the teams can meet up to share their ideas and learnings, as well as to discuss the impact of their findings and agree on what actions if any need to be taken. For more details on how to observe customers, whether your own or those of your major competitors, read “Five Rules of Customer Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

I have witnessed these customer connection sessions being run in countless organisations. Every single time I see just how excited and energised employees get about improving the way the company makes, packs, sells or communicates its products and services.

Isn’t it time your organisation got closer to your customers and those of the competition? 

 

These are three ways you can easily and quickly know the competition better than you do today. Do you have other ideas that you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments below. 

Have you run any such customer connection exercises, or built a competitive library of products in your own organisation? If so please share your experiences too.

For more ideas on how you can know the competition even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of brand building, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures here. If you would rather talk through your needs first, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. All images in this article are from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.” 

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

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


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

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

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

 

 

#1. Who is your customer?

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

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

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

 

 

#2. What business are you in?

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

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

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

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

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

 

#3.Who are your major competitors?

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

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

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

 

 

#4. What do they buy?

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

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

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

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

 

#5. What does your customer need?

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

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

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

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

 

#6. What do they think of your price?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

#7. What do they think of your packaging?

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

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

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

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

 

 

#8. What do they think of your product?

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

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

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

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

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#9. What do they think about your advertising?

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

#12. Why do they buy?

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

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

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

 

 

#13. Why do you sell?

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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You’ve Got Data? Well Don’t Start There!

Did the title about data make you curious? Great!

Of course, in today’s data-rich environment I’m not really suggesting that you actually ignore it! However, in working with clients around the world and in numerous industries, I have found that many are lost by the wealth of information that is available to them. In fact it seems to drown out their reasoning of what to do and they remain frozen in indecision. Is this your case? If so, then just follow the steps I detail below and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not 10x the ROI of your data.

 

The Current Situation with Data

Data is everywhere and most organisations are drowning in it! Technology is being blamed for disrupting businesses, but most have simply not adapted to this new data-rich world.

I admit, a lot has changed. Consumers are adapting their behaviours to the trading of their personal information. Companies are changing business models as their value shifts from products to services, or even to the sale of the information they gather.

Some organisations are reinventing themselves to take advantage of these changes. Others are ignoring them – at their peril, since they are risking to become the next Kodak, Borders or Blockbusters. If you’re interested in reading more about the US Retail Apocalypse and the 23 big retailers closing stores then I highly recommend this post on Fox Business.

So what should you do, whether you are in manufacturing or retail? Well, I believe that you should start by renovating your business model to take advantage of the countless new opportunities open to you. And in my opinion, you had better do it sooner rather than later, because your competition almost certainly will!

 

The Opportunity

Yes you have data and information, but if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will know that you have to turn these into knowledge and understanding, and then into actionable insights. And this can only be done by asking the right questions of your data and information.

If you are struggling to take needed action despite a wealth of information, then this is certainly where you should start making changes – fast!

A 2015 Capgemini and EMC study called “Big & Fast Data: The rise of Insight-Driven Business” showed that:

  • 56% of the 1,000 senior decision makers surveyed claim that their investment in big data over the next three years will exceed past investment in information management.
  • 65% admit they risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive if they do not leverage data. This is especially true given that non-traditional providers, like startups thriving on big data processing, are moving into their industries.
  • Although companies realize they desperately need to dig into data analytics to maintain their business position, 45% surveyed think their current internal IT development cycles are not sufficient for new analytics and don’t fulfill their business requirements.
  • Making matters worse, over half (52%) of those surveyed see the speed of their organization’s insight generation from data analytics as constrained by its existing IT infrastructure.

So what has happened in the past couple of years? Not a lot in terms of usage, but a lot in terms of data gathering; just check out the graph below from Kleiner Perkins for current and estimated growth of data volume.

 

Big data trends Kleiner Perkins 2017

Of course big data has been big news for years, thanks to its 5Vs (volume, velocity, variety, variability, value). These were the driving forces behind the need and finally the computing upgrades which made it possible to adopt a new way of analysing it all.

This article by Olivia Ryan sums up the “6 ways big data expansion can significantly damage our privacy.” These are the major points which the GDPR is hoping to address, and about time too in my opinion.

Today it’s the EU’s GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation, with its stricter rules coming into play later this year, which has everyone concerned. It is definitely worth checking out the details here if you are not sure what you need to change by when.

Interestingly, there is no equivalent federal law in the US (for now), but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it if your business is based there. Find out more in this excellent article on Forbes.

It’s true that companies do recognise all the threats detailed in the earlier mentioned study, and while startups flourish in every industry, the mastodons of commerce are slow to change, hence the need for GDPR. (see below for an alternative approach to individualised data utilisation)

 

An Alternative Approach

Data comes into its own when used for personalised engagements. However, there is an alternative or complementary approach that some organisations are now using. This is to address global issues such as resource management, water usage or pollution, which certain customers feel passionately about.

One example is Nestle whose relatively new CEO Mark Schneider is finally bringing some fresh air to the dark and dusty halls of their Vevey offices. However, cutting costs, selling less attractive business units (such as US candy to Ferrero) to upgrade their image will not bring sufficient change that consumers demand of large corporations today.

Compare this to the efforts Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman, who has made his organisation one to be admired by consumers and shareholders alike. As they say in their website

“We aim to use our scale and influence to help bring about transformational change in four key areas where we believe we can make the biggest difference:

  • Taking action on climate change and halting deforestation
  • Improving livelihoods and creating more opportunities for women
  • Improving health and well-being
  • Championing sustainable agriculture and food security.”
Bold words indeed! And they can only do it with the help of data and metrics to measure and follow their progress. Given these very different approaches to preparing for the future, I know which one I am betting on – and you? Let me know in the comments.
The appeal of this alternative approach is confirmed by the results of SalesForce’s recent research findings reported in the “State of the Connected Consumer.” To summarise their six conclusions:

  1. Information-Savvy Customers Now Control the Marketplace. 70% of consumers agree technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
  2. The Culture of Immediacy Drives Mobile-First Expectations. 64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time.
  3. Customers Still Value Human Connections in a Tech-Driven World. Two-thirds of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if they’re treated like a number instead of an individual.
  4. New Data-Sharing Attitudes Spark Next Era of Marketing Personalization. 63% of millennial consumers agree they’re
    willing to share data with companies that send personalized offers and discounts.
  5. Smarter Use of Customer Information Expands Opportunities for Sales.More than three-quarters of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to work with a salesperson who is focused on achieving customer needs instead of making a quick sale.
  6. Fast, Personal Service Is Directly Linked to Customer Loyalty. 71% of consumers say that customer service provided on any day at any time has an influence on loyalty, and almost as many (69%) say the same about personalized customer care. 

Looking at these findings, it gives me hope for a more human approach to customer connections by manufacturers and retailers alike. I believe that those which fail to take this informed customer into account is unlikely to survive the next decade.

 

Making Data Analysis the Beginning and Not the End

I mentioned above and also dedicated a whole post to the topic of technology being an enabler not a disruptor of businesses. (Check out “Technology is the Enabler not the Disruptor (So Stop Using it as an Excuse)” for more on this) Many organisations think that their problems with data will end when they get the latest technology platform installed or start using the newest system for analysing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Technology enables improved analysis perhaps, but as previously mentioned, data is only as good as the questions you ask of it. That’s why data is the beginning of your business solution, not the end.

Data is only as good as the questions you ask of it. #BigData #Analysis #Information #CEX Click To Tweet

In addition, in “The Impact Of Changing Consumer Expectations On Manufacturers” Steve Smith spells out the situation very clearly for manufacturers:

“With new consumer expectations being set by companies that disrupted their respective markets — Uber, Amazon, Netflix — the previously accepted levels of customer service are no longer good enough.”

What these three companies demonstrate perfectly is that technology has merely enabled the consumer to get more of what they want, whether that is travel, retail or entertainment. Although these are three very different industries, they have attracted a growing number of customers because what they offer is a trustworthy service. No, rather they offer few surprises, and when there is disillusion, they sort it out quickly, and usually far above and beyond the customers’ expectations. Surprise and delight are the table stakes of today’s world of customer service.

Surprise and delight are the table stakes of today's world of customer service. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

In Conclusion

Coming back to the title of this post, as you can see there is a lot to do before analysing all the data you have. And probably it’s a lot more than you even know about at present, at least from my experience!

You can’t go wrong if you start with the customer and identify what you need to know and understand in order to go beyond their expectations.

You can't go wrong if you start with the customer & identify what you need to know & understand. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

Make a list of all the things you want to know and then see if you have the information to answer them. In many cases you do, it just hasn’t been analysed in a way that makes the solution obvious. That’s when you should review and eventually update your platform and systems.

Doing this any earlier will be like buying a fancy new hammer to crack a nut! What you need to understand is the best way to crack the nut; often times the hammer is fine for cracking if you use it correctly.

If you’re drowning in data and thirsting for insights then we should talk. Book a free advisory session and I’ll give you some ideas on how to crack your own nut!

 

 

 

A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation (and 3 Secrets Shared)

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Whether you believe that 60% of new product launches fail, or the number is 80% or 95%+, the truth is that successful innovation is rare. Why is this? Read on for my own ideas of the reasons and propositions for some simple solutions.

Last year I wrote a highly popular post on “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.” In it, I spoke about the importance of starting the innovation process with customers. I also mentioned that it should be a virtuous circle rather than the funnel that most organisations still use today. 

This time, I want to examine the role of the customer in successful innovation. And why they should actually have a prominent position throughout the process.

 

Start with the Category rather than (just) the Customer

Every customer-centric organisation should start their processes with a review of the customers they are looking to please. But to do this, the first step to both insight development and successful innovation is to identify the category in which you are, or want to compete. Especially when looking to innovate, it is vital to identify what business you are in.

Now you probably can immediately answer that question but would you be right?

A recent client of mine was looking to launch a juice flavoured soft drink. They naturally (?) thought they would be in competition to juices. When we dug deeper, using our “Home or Away™” decision tool, we found they were actually competing with energy drinks for athletes!

Another practice I use is to zoom in or out when looking at a category, in order to identify new opportunities. Today’s technological world is forcing many organisations to take another look at their complete business models – whether they like it or not!

  • Telecoms have become geolocalization data providers to other industries.
  • Pharmaceuticals are being forced (?) to move from treating illness to maintaining wellness.
  • Food companies are moving into nutraceuticals, concentrating the health benefits of certain foods. (have they really only recently understood that our health comes primarily from the food we eat?!)
  • Tobacco companies are reinventing personal pleasure systems with e-cigarettes and other tobacco replacement products. In fact, André Calantzopoulos, Philip Morris International’s CEO recently predicted a “phase-out period” for cigarettes.
  • Alcohol providers are turning more and more to lower and non-alcoholic drinks trying to keep up with the interest in wellness. They have understood that whereas drinking is a social behaviour, most people no longer include getting drunk with that sociability.

From these examples, it is clear that most companies could benefit from a re-evaluation of their assumed category, to see whether it has or will change in the near or longer-term future.

Once the category is defined, it becomes much easier to identify the correct customer segment to target. Of course, you still need to get to know them through customer connection sessions. And then complete both a customer persona and journey map for them. (You do have these don’t you?)

 

Your business is or will change - fast - so don't depend on your skills alone

One of the problems I see when I first start working with a new client is that they start their innovation process from their strengths, their technical and product skills. While this may deliver quicker introductions, it is more likely to produce renovations and certainly not ground-breaking innovations.

This is such a standard "no-brainer" way of innovating that many companies find themselves out of business as a result.

  • Kodak thought it was in the photo business and not in the memory and souvenir business. They consequently lost out to digital, despite having the technology
  • Borders thought they were in the print book business rather than the storytelling business. As a result, they lost out to Kindle, despite a late reaction with the launch of Kobo. For now, Barnes & Nobles have managed to join the race with their Nook, but for how long? It will be interesting to see whether Amazon's quiet expansion of its physical bookstores will support or sound the death knell for other outlets.
  • Blockbuster video rental lost their dominance of the home entertainment industry to streaming options like RedBox and Netflix.

These are a few examples of businesses that have changed, leaving the category leaders high and dry with no-one to blame but themselves for their lack of scenario planning. (This won't happen to you, will it?)

Music trends on and offlineAnd what about AI and VR and their impact on TV,  gaming, music today?

Speaking of which, look at the graph on the right which shows the incredibly fast change from offline to online music. In less than ten years online passed offline and all but annihilated it!

This is how fast and well prepared all businesses need to be today.

Many industries have been cloned into totally new businesses as a result of technology and new customer priorities.

As already mentioned, Telecom companies now make more money selling geolocalization data than they do selling phones and lines.

So what about some other industries that are being impacted by changes in customer behaviour and preferences?

As just one example of this, Food companies must now adapt to delivering family time, not just ready-made meals. There has therefore been an explosion in meal kits because families want to eat better and even prepare together.

 

The future of the future

But enough about the past and present, how can you prepare for the future and have successful innovations? What new areas are some of the larger online companies buying into today and why?

Google has gone from Internet-related products and services to hardware such as Pixel smartphones and Google Home, an Amazon Echo-like device. It has also expanded into a multitude of other industries, through partnerships and investments. These include energy, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and eye-tracking. It's clear that they intend to stay up-to-date if not ahead of fast-moving trends and be ready to take advantage of them. Read more on Wikipedia.

Perhaps in preparation, in the last year or so Google has reorganised its various interests into a conglomerate called Alphabet. Google remains the umbrella company for Alphabet's Internet interests, but this restructuring no doubt announces more to come.

Virgin has gone from airlines, media and entertainment, to travel, health and aerospace. You can read about all their industries and investments on Wikipedia.

Amazon has gone from an online bookstore to the general retail of a vast selection of products. Today it is testing bricks and mortar stores for both books and general groceries. You can again read more about this on Wikipedia.

Facebook started as a social media and networking service. One year ago, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed his ten-year vision, centred around artificial intelligence, global connectivity, VR and AR. Read more on Wikipedia.

Tesla started in the automotive industry but has since moved into energy storage and residential solar panels. Today it is advancing into underground high-speed transport and space travel.

All these examples show the importance of being ready to adapt to fast changes impacting many industries at lightning speed. We no longer have the luxury of time to wait, watch and learn as we once did. Future scenario planning is the only way to be ready for all eventualities and to be able to quickly jump into any new opportunities before our competitors do.

 

Your next steps to future-proofing your innovation

Some of my clients understand that they are not as well-prepared as they need to be for successful innovation. In my training course I propose many different ideas; here are just a few of them:

#1. Working with new innovation levers

As already mentioned, most organisations start innovating from their past successes and current skills. While this is certainly quick, it is unlikely to lead to successful innovations. Why not challenge yourself to look at your business from a new perspective? 

Challenge yourself to look at your business from a new perspective. #innovation #Business Click To Tweetsuccessful innovations come from using multiple levers

The diagram on the right is a simplified example of the innovation wheel that I use in brainstorming sessions with clients who are tired of thinking within their boxes.

A personally adapted and developed wheel is a powerful tool to get people to think differently about their brand, category or offer. The brand expansion it encourages has seen brands like:

  • Gerber and Purina move into insurance.
  • Nespresso move into china and chocolate.
  • Mars move into ice cream.
  • Vicks (P&G) move from various cold remedies into a sleep-aid.

What all these examples have in common is a deep understanding of both their customers and their own brand image.

 

When one or both of these are missing, you get epic failures like the examples below:

Coca-Cola Clothing: while it may work for sponsorships and promotions, clothing didn't work for them - this time around?

Coca-Cola clothing nor successful innovation
Image source: eBay

Zippo perfume for women: Zippos got it spectacularly wrong with this offer on many fronts. Smoking and especially Zippo lighters have very masculine images. Replacing the wonderfully exotic and luxury glass bottles of perfume by this was never going to work!

Zippos perfume not successful innovation
Image source: Fragrantica

 

Colgate frozen food: The only thing that frozen entrees and toothpaste have in common is that after the first you need the second! From that to expecting consumers to make the jump from minty mouths to chicken was just too much!

Colage entrees not successful innovation
Image source: Marketing Directo, Madrid

 

 

#2. Zooming out for brands and categories

When you are successful in one category, it can be tempting to extend into others. However, this needs to be done after careful thought. Go too far from the parent brand, as the above examples did and you'll be doomed to failure. Stay too close and you'll not benefit from anything more than a mere renovation.

Will BabyNew be a successful innovation?
Image source: BabyNes

Companies which expand successfully are those that build on their strengths, whether image, position or technical know-how. One example I like to share of a successful innovation using this idea comes from Nespresso's owner Nestle.

They expanded from capsules for coffee (Nespresso) into capsules for both hot and cold drinks (Dolce Gusto).

Nestle then expanded their systems into BabyNes, a capsule system for bottle feeding.

I can imagine they will be looking to extend their system even further in the future. Perhaps they will consider adding minerals, vitamins and supplements to food and drinks, or targeting specific groups of consumers such as seniors or athletes. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

 

#3. Zooming into a category niche

It is possible to innovate by zooming in rather than out of the category in which you are in. There are again many examples of this since, in theory at least, it is simpler to do. You already know the category customers and can segment to appeal more strongly to certain groups of them.

Food manufacturers use this strategy a lot. They often extend into low calorie or low fat, and more recently into gluten-free, OMG-free or lactose-free offerings.

Online marketers depend a lot upon finding the right niche for their product or service offer. They have the advantage over bricks-and-mortar stores of collecting a wealth of personalised information. Together with machine learning, they can quickly develop algorithms to precisely target each person with relevant offers. Offline retail will never catch up, however long they collect data - unless they have an online sales strategy too, of course.

 

Conclusion

So there you have some ideas on how you can improve the frequency of launching successful innovations. Whether working with scenarios, innovation levers, zooming in or out, the one element every strategy has in common is customer understanding. You wouldn't expect anything less from me, would you? Going forward just remember:

  • It's important to know and understand your customers intimately today but also how they are likely to change tomorrow.
  • It's important to understand the category you really are competing in and what customers think about it.
  • It's important to understand your brand's image and ensure it's aligned with any future innovations you consider.

 

What new ways are you looking to successfully innovate in this fast-paced, constantly changing and challenging world? Please share your ideas and thoughts about the above ideas or add new ones below. Thanks.

How to Sell More to Less People: Essentials of Segmentation

Businesses often make the mistake of trying to sell more to everyone.

Why is this a mistake? Well, if you try to please everyone you end up delighting no-one. This is why best-in-class marketing works with best-practice segmentation. Read on to find out how.

Every brand needs to appeal to a precise group of customers. This means that you need to make a choice of who to target amongst all category users. Making a choice also implies that you will have to ignore some category users who you could perhaps attract. Does that scare you?

It certainly worries many marketers and yet it’s the only way to sell more. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, segmentation ensures you have the best possible chance to satisfy the needs of your targeted customers.

Where to start

When deciding who to target, most companies conduct some sort of analysis. This can be as simple as identifying your users by what you observe, such as young men, or large families. Or it can be more complex, like trying to appeal to those who value freedom and are looking for brands that can provide or suggest this dream. This latter one would result from a values and motivational segmentation.

As already discussed in an earlier post called “The 3 Rules of Effective Targeting”, the deeper your understanding of your target customer, the more likely it is to provide you with a competitive advantage. Therefore segmentation alone is insufficient; you must then get as close as possible to your target customers in order to understand them as deeply as possible.

 

The MIDAS touch

Whatever method you use for segmenting and choosing your target customers, the results of your exercise of customer grouping needs to meet the following five conditions, known collectively as the MIDAS touch. (>>Tweet this<<) 

Measurable: The individual groups need to be clearly defined and quantifiable using KPI’s such as size, market share, value share.
Identifiable: Each segment must have a distinct profile and each customer must be attributed to only one segment.
Definable: Every cluster must be easy to describe and share with others so that you have mutual understanding of each of them.
Actionable: The groups must be easy to identify, in order to be able to target your actions and communications to them.
Substantial: The chosen segment must be financially viable to target, which means that it should, in general, be stable or growing, and durable over the long term.

All good segmentations or clusterings will fulfil these five key conditions, or at least they did until recently. Today the last condition is being adapted thanks to personalisation. It is more important to assess whether or not it is sustainable rather than substantial.

Even with this change, it is still easy for you to evaluate your segmentation, to ensure it is both valid and robust. If it does not meet these five conditions, then you will struggle to activate it and target your actions to your chosen group of customers.

As already mentioned, understanding your target as completely as possible is vital to the success of your business. I would, therefore, suggest that you review your own segmentation and decide how it can be improved. (>>and%20the%20customer%20group%20deeply%20[tweetlink]%20%23segmentation” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<) (There’s always room for improvement, isn’t there?)

This may mean simply completing the information you have on each segment. Or it may mean running a whole new segmentation exercise. However, it is definitely worth getting your segmentation and target customer choice right. After all, they form the very foundation of your brands’ customer centricity.

 

A solution for those with few resources

If you do not have the time, money, or expertise to run a detailed segmentation study, you can still make an informed decision based on simple criteria. These could be gathered by mere observation, an analysis of who your purchasers are, or a review of contacts from your customer services group.

Once you have identified the different types of users you are attracting, you can then decide which is the most important group to you, using what is often referred to as the Boston Matrix. This analysis was first developed in the 70’s by the Boston Consulting Group. At the time, the matrix  was created to help corporations analyse their business units and was based on market growth and relative market share.

Today this scatter plot is created using various elements to make up the two axes. Whilst the criteria you use for each axis can vary, this simple analysis has the advantage of being able to be further refined over time, as you get more information.

 

Choosing the criteria for the axes

The two axes you specify for the Boston Matrix can be as simple or as complex as you like. Obviously, the more criteria you use, the more accurate your analysis is likely to be. Examples of the criteria you can use include:

Attractiveness: Segment size, segment growth rate, segment value, competitive environment, how well the group fits the company or brand – or vice versa.

Ability to win: Attractiveness to your customer, completeness of your distribution channels, your media mix, your reputation.

You can use any or all of the above suggestions for creating the two axes. C3Centricity provides an automated tool for calculating the two axes and then positioning segments on them. This is made available to all participants of the Customer Centricity Champions Classes. Find out more by signing up to one of the forthcoming webinars.

 

Choosing the actions to take on each segment

Sell more through better customer targetingOnce you have positioned the different segments or groups of customers on the axes, you can easily see what needs to be done for each:

Target: these are your core users as they are both attractive to the business and easy for the company’s product or service to attract. Therefore, they need to be protected from possible attacks by the competition.

Convert: these users can be attracted to your product or service but your ability to win them is currently low. To win these customers you probably need to consider improving one of the elements of the mix in order to attract them.

Grow: your product or service can easily win these groups but perhaps they are not as profitable as you would like. This might change, so it is important to review them from time-to-time or develop a different strategy to attract them.

Ignore: many organisations struggle to make the decision NOT to go after a group of category users. But if you have neither the product / service nor the segment size that would be profitable to you, why spend time, money and energy going after them?

 

Conclusion

All businesses want to sell more. They also want as many customers as possible. However trying to sell to everyone is unlikely to meet with the success you hoped. Choosing the right group of customers to attract with your product or service is essential. But so is doing everything you can to then understand your chosen segment as deeply as possible. Truly customer centric organisations excel at doing both; do you? (>>Tweet this<<)

Need help in segmenting, identifying or understanding your target customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity. Contact us here or check out our forthcoming Webinar Customer Centricity Champions. You’ll learn far more about segmentation, how to use the Boston Matrix and a whole lot more. Reserve your slot before it’s too late!

C3Centricity used an image from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity

This post is an updated version of one first published on C3Centricity.

For Greater Customer Satisfaction, Should Marketers Answer Their Needs or Desires?

In 1943 Maslow proposed his theory about people’s needs in a paper entitled “A theory of human motivation”.

He used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence to describe the pattern of needs that motivate people. At the time he didn’t present it as a hierarchy, nor as a pyramid, but that has become the accepted representation these days.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

While the hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology, management training and psychology instruction, it has largely been supplanted by attachment theory in clinical psychology and psychiatry. However since attachment theory is concerned with how people respond to hurt, separation and threat within relationships, it has less relevance for marketers.

All br ands, products and services should be designed to satisfy their target’s needs, so Maslow’s hierarchy seems a good framework to use, when defining on what your offer will be based.

If this interests you, and it should especially if your business is global or geographically spread as I will explain below, then here are the three steps for doing so.

1. Satisfying: Firstly identify which of the five needs your br and or service is looking to fulfill. Remember different br ands within the same category can play to differing needs, especially in terms of their communications. Whilst it is generally accepted that the lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed, there are exceptions.

Think of consumers in poorer countries who will buy a TV over proper shoes and clothing for their children. In such cases status and in particular consumer emotions are playing an important role, but more of that later.

2. Resonating: Next develop communications for your target audience by incorporating solutions to their relevant needs. These will obviously resonate more quickly and easily with them than pure product or service information alone. They may also be more emotional and will therefore have greater impact on them.

Here are some good examples that I have seen in recent years of easily identifiable needs being addressed through advertising.

Knorr’s packet soup in the UK, based on needs of food, safety and love. See video

Cartier’s corporate campaign from last year, which marked its 165yrs, was appropriately named “L’Odyssée de Cartier” and is clearly based on esteem and self-actualisation.

 – Omo washing powder, one from a long series entitled “Dirt is good”, based on safety and love. See video

Peugeot car, based on self-esteem and status: See video

UK back seat safety belt buckle-up campaign, based on safety. Warning, the ending is violent! See video

Interestingly, all these are examples from a few years ago. Although newer examples are available, they are not as obviously based primarily on need states as are these ones. I believe one reason for this is the increase in the level of pure emotional content of current advertising. In fact all the above examples use emotions as well in addressing the needs they are looking to answer, which is perhaps why they performed better than many.

We find much more content today that addresses primarily desires rather than needs. One reason for this is that marketers have finally realized that people often buy out of desire and not because of a need alone. However, what makes it difficult for marketing to respond, is that people find it easier to speak about their needs or what they don’t want, than their desires.

Henry Ford apparently already knew this when he said:

“If I had asked people what they wanted,

they would have said a faster horses”

He resonated with them by providing a solution to their need of travelling more quickly, but in an exciting new way. A more recent quote with a similar sentiment comes from the late Steve Jobs of Apple. People often claim that he was against Market Research, but that was not true. He was in fact only against market research in which questions were simply being asked of consumers, an nd marketers were then responding directly to the answers given without further thought. As he was quoted as saying:

“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” (>>Tweet this<<)

I believe he understood that it was better to respond to a consumers desires than to their needs. Look at Apple’s advertising; it has almost always been resonating emotionally rather than merely rationally with its target customers. As a typical example, check out their ad from last Christmas, a real tear-jerker called “Misunderstood“.

http://youtu.be/nhwhnEe7CjE

However, I know that many good examples of needs-based advertising do still exist. If you yourself have any representing identified human needs, then it would be great if you would share them in the comments below.

3. Going Global: Another advantage of using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to position your br and / service, is that the same needs are felt by all human beings. That is why these communication ideas are often referred to as “Human truths”. This means that you are more likely to be able to successfully roll out such a campaign regionally or even globally, than if you were basing communications on local specificities alone. The examples above, although mentioned as being from certain markets, were actually all regional or global campaigns.

So coming back to the question asked in the title of this post, the answer is BOTH. To guarantee satisfaction, your customers must feel that you really care about them, truly underst and their needs and that your offer also resonates with them emotionally. If you are successful in doing that, then your communications will be understood without any effort on their part. It will be so obvious to them and they will simply identify themselves with what is being shown. Furthermore, an emotionally charged ad is more likely to be shared with their friends on social media. An important additional benefit that is particularly appreciated today.

If you believe that your communications are not appropriately addressing your target customers’ needs AND desires, then please contact us. We have some great case studies from some well-known br ands that we can share to inspire and support your own improvements. You will also be excited by the unique methodology we use to underst and the meaning your customers take away from your ads.

This post is based on a much shorter one that was first published on C³Centricity in September 2011.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?

How well do you know your target customers? I mean really know them? Are they men, women, young, old, Fortune 100 companies, local businesses? If you can at least answer that, then you have the basics, but how much more could you know about them? Can you answer the following twelve questions?

I was recently working with a local service company who was looking for help with their online presence. They were keen to get more active on social media and had asked for advice about the best platforms, optimal frequency of publishing and possible content ideas.

C3Centricity how well you know your customers

However they were in for a surprise. Rather than getting straight onto the “sexy” topic of social media, I started by taking them through the basics of target customer identification. Lucky for them that I did! When we had finished the exercise, we had found five different targets for them to target, rather than the mere two they had been addressing until now. This clearly would have a huge impact on the where, what and how they communicated online.

These are the twelve questions that enabled us to brainstorm, identify and then complete a better and more complete description of their target customers. Their use also resulted in clear differentiated segments for their services – three more than they had originally thought!

How would you like to double your own market potential? Read on:

  1. WHO DEMOGRAPHICS: OK this is usually a “no-brainer” and is how most organisations describe their customers. Not really original and definitely not competitive, but still the essential foundation.
  2. WHAT THEY USE: Whether you are offering a product or service, you need to know what your customers are using today. And not only for your category, but in adjacent categories too. What do they use – if anything – if your product / category is not available?
  3. WHAT THEY CONSUME: Here we need to underst and what types of information and media they are consuming; what do they read, watch, listen to in their spare time. Which social media do they use, what websites do they consult on a regular basis?
  4. WHAT THEY DO: How do your customers spend their time? What type of lifestyle do they have? What are their hobbies? What do they do all day, and in the evening and at weekends?
  5. WHAT THEY BUY: This is where you describe their current category purchasing habits. How frequently and what quantity do they buy? Do they have regular buying habits? Do they do research before buying or repurchasing? Do they compare and if so how, where, why?
  6. WHERE THEY USE: Is the category consumed in home, in work, on vacation? With friends, with their partner, their children, with colleagues? Are there certain surroundings more conducive to consumption? What makes it so?
  7. WHERE THEY BUY: Do your target customers have certain places and times they buy? Is it an habitual or impulse purchase? Is it seasonal?
  8. WHERE THEY CONSUME: Today “consume” covers not just traditional media but new media as well. From where do they get information about products? From manufacturers, friends, family, colleagues? Do they access it online, in print, on radio or TV, at home or on the road? What websites and people do they follow, listen to and value the opinion of? What interests do they have in general and concerning the category?
  9. WHERE THEY SEE: One reason to target a specific group of customers is so that you can better communicate with them. Where are they most likely to be open to your messages; what media, what times, which days?
  10. WHY VALUES: What values do your customers have that you are meeting with your product or service, and explain why they are using it? Do they have other values that are not currently addressed, either by you or your competitors? Do these values offer the possibility of a differentiated communications platform or product / service concept?
  11. WHY EMOTIONS: What is the emotional state of your customers when they are considering a purchase or use, both of the category and the br and? Clearly identified emotions enable you to more easily resonate with your customers through empathising with their current situation. You are more likely to propose a solution that will satisfy their need or desire when their emotional state is precisely identified.
  12. WHY MOTIVATIONS: What motivates the customer to consider, buy and use their category and br and choice? Emotions and motivations are closely linked both to each other and to the customer’s need state. By identifying the need-state you want to address, you will be better able to underst and your customers and increase the resonance of your communications.

If you can answer all twelve of these questions in detail, then you certainly know your customers intimately. But before you sit back and relax on your laurels, remember that people are constantly changing and what satisfies them today, is unlikely to satisfy them tomorrow. Therefore you need to keep a track on all four layers of your customer description to stay ahead of competition, as well as to satisfy and hopefully delight your customers.

As mentioned above, by answering and completing a detailed description of the target audience for my client, we were able to identify a couple of new segments that my client’s services could address. Although their demographics were similar, their emotional and need states were quite different. This gave us the opportunity to respond with slightly different service offers for each group.

If you would like to try out this exercise for yourself, we have some useful templates that we make available to C³C Members. Why not sign up and get access? It’s FREE to join.

For more information on better identifying and understanding target customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

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

The Consumer is No Longer Boss. It’s the Customer who’s now the King!

Next Wednesday is National Boss’s Day in the USA and in honour of the occasion Kathleen Brady of Brady & Associates wrote an article for the New York Daily News suggesting ways to please your Boss. Although not the topic of this post, the article incidentally makes great reading for anyone with a Boss (I think that’s all of us!)

It was P&G’s A.G. Lafley who first coined the phrase “The Consumer is Boss” about 12 years ago and since then marketing has been trying to please the consumer. It was also around this time that Consumer Packaged Goods companies then started referring to themselves as being consumer centric.

The Rise of the Customer

The below chart from Google Trends shows the search frequency of “customer” versus “consumer” since around that time. I don’t believe the changes you can see are due to a decreasing interest in consumers but are rather a reflection of the importance that all industries are placing on the people who buy their products and services. Whereas CPG may have started the trend, all industries now underst and the importance of the people that spend their hard earned cash on them. Depending upon the industry you are in, those people might be called consumers, customers or clients and customers has become the name most often used to cover all three.

Google trend of customer & consumer searchesThe Fall of Customer Centricity

Maz Iqbal’s recent post on the CustomerThink website entitled “ The Paradox At The Heart of Customer-Centric Business” challenged the very nature of customer centricity. Whilst his ideas are certainly thought-provoking and perhaps controversial, I do agree that customer centricity alone will not grow a business. However, I personally believe that most organisations have spent most of their existence thinking more about all the other areas of the business and less about the people that actually make their businesses viable, their customers.

The Customer is now the Boss

Whilst this still continues to be the case in many organisations – unfortunately – and taking inspiration from Brady’s article, I thought I would share my own thoughts on what we can do to better please our Customers / Bosses.

#1. Make sure everything we do is ABCD: We shouldn’t be satisfied with our customers’ satisfaction! We need to go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty when trying to please them. We should surprise and delight them whenever we can, responding not only to their articulated needs, but also their unarticulated and even unimagined needs.

Look at Apple who regularly proposes technologies that their customers didn’t even know they needed and which surprisingly quickly become an essential part of their lives. They underst and their customers so well that they even know what they (we) will want in the future.

#2. Underst and what they need to know: According to a recent report by Adobe on what keeps marketers up at night, the number one issue is reaching their customers.

top-concerns-large-adobe-2013 autoimprovedIf we really underst and our customers, we will know how to reach them, where and when they are ready to hear what we have to say. Whereas in the past companies knew their customers were more than likely to listen to or watch their advertising when it was aired, today’s technology enables customers to switch off all but the most relevant messages for them at any given time.

#3. Know how they measure performance: We may feel proud of our latest new product idea or added benefit, but if our customer doesn’t value it, then our efforts will be ignored at best or even rejected if we try to charge extra for them. Perception and reality can be far apart, and customer value can mean charging more or less than we had planned.

If you’d like to read more on setting pricing levels check out the post “HELP! Your customers don’t value you as much as you do!”

#4. Offer solutions: I learnt very early on in my professional career, thanks to a very wise and open-minded Boss (Yes that is indeed you Jean-Michel), to bring solutions not problems; the same goes for our customers. We shouldn’t communicate (only) on rational benefits; we are more likely to resonate when we speak about emotional and relational benefits. We need to show we underst and their pain and offer them a solution; no-one can refuse such an offer.

If you’d like to read more on br and equity check out the post “How to Build Br and Reputation & Consumer Trust and then Track it

 #5. Be Transparent: In just the same way as a Boss needs to share his vision and objectives, we need to listen to our customers to ensure we underst and how they are changing. This doesn’t mean more regular tracking or group discussions, but rather more visits to retail outlets and even customers’ homes to share their daily lives, trials and tribulations with them. That is the best way to really see things from their perspective and to see how our products and services fit into their lives.

#6. Mind our manners: As Lafley said, the Customer is Boss. This means that when a customer complains, we must start from the position that they are right, even if it is just their perception. How many times have you yourself heard customer care personnel trying to defend their organisation in order to prove to you that you are wrong? (As a fresh example, I just today got criticised by a supplier for complaining that my dishwasher still hadn’t been delivered six weeks after it was promised! I was told it was “because it’s school vacation and I have three technicians out”. Sorry that doesn’t explain the previous five weeks’ delay)

Do whatever you can to make your customers who connect with you feel happy they did so; make them feel you truly value their opinion and them taking the time to tell you about their experience.

And please, stop your pre-recorded messages that say “your call is important to us” when you leave the caller waiting for five, ten, twenty or even more minutes – and even worse when the message is repeated at frequent intervals! You have to DO not SAY customer centricity.

#7. Customer feedback is a gift: Every complaint is a free roadmap of how to improve your product or service. How much would you have to pay an external expert or consultant to help you in improving your offers? When a customer complains or suggests improvements, you’re getting this information for free, from people who really care and are not being paid to help you. That is as close to the truth you will ever get; use it.

These are my seven reasons why the Customer is King and how we need to act when we remember it. What others can you think of?

Need help in underst anding and connecting with your own customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Google and Adobe Digital Distress in this post.

The shocking truth about managing data: it’s simple!

There is so much talk about information and Big Data these days, every organisation is feeling swamped by the belief that they should be doing more with their data.

From gathering more, to analysing more, and developing more insights about their customers, they are also afraid that their competition is doing more. If this is your situation, then this post will provide the answers you need.

Organisations have always collected information about their customers; it’s nothing new. Whether this is through conducting market research studies, or simply from obtaining details when customers buy something, there is already a lot you can do today to manage your data. However, there is an even bigger opportunity to get a better underst anding of your customers and their needs and desires, when you integrate all the information sources you already have at your disposal. This is why there is so much news about Big Data these days. For all of you that have been shocked into inaction by all this talk, here are some simple ideas that you can use to start your own journey to managing your data, whether Big or Small:

 

#1. Make your information more visible

You are certainly already collecting a lot of data, both internal and external, but it is probably only the former that is shared today; sales, distribution, targets, budgets, plans and forecasts are the most common examples of this. How are all these numbers shared across your organisation? Why not develop a simple dashboard showing the most important numbers?

Using comparisons to competitors, indices and trends are generally the most useful way to provide a quick overview of business, into which viewers can then dig deeper, depending upon their area of interest. You don’t need to show it all on the dashboard, and you shouldn’t try, just keep the summary to the KPI’s that are most relevant for everyone to know.

For more on how to choose your KPI’s see here.

 

#2 Make your information more available

You already have many sources of information, but who has access to it? If you are like most companies, it is the department that collects the data that analyses and uses it, and other departments rarely know of its existence, let alone get to see it. Why not develop a library in which you can store all the information and insights that are gathered and developed, and then give everyone access to it?

This library can be as simple as a folder in a shared file, an Excel folder, an Access database, or a more sophisticated system that can manage budgets, projects and suppliers, as well as the storage of the processes and reports. Some organisations are afraid of doing this for fear of information getting into the h ands of their competitors, but access rights today are easy to manage so that you can significantly reduce such a risk.

You can find more information on knowledge sharing here.

 

#3. Make your information more actionable

Much of the information that companies gather is backward looking, coming from sales and distribution that have already happened or your customers’ consumption and usage habits of last week, last month or last year. Whenever you gather any sort of information, it is a good idea to review the description of your target audience for each br and, in order to ensure it is as complete and as deep as possible. This should not be a once a year exercise, at the time of plan writing, but a continuous process to stay in close contact with your customers’ desires and changing opinions and behavior.

You will almost certainly find that in today’s fast paced world, they have changed quite significantly in some areas. However, even if the current descriptions have not changed substantially, the review of your information should enable you to enrich it further for an even better underst anding. Additionally, in order to build insight and foresight the information you gather needs to be complemented by forward looking metrics such as trends and future scenarios. By looking at how your customers are adapting today, and hypothesizing on their future changes, your organisation will be better prepared for future opportunities and challenges, providing a real competitive advantage.

To learn more about developing your Vision & strategy check here.

 

#4. Make your information more readable

If you have gotten beyond the amount of data that is humanly possible to analyse, you need to consider building a database that can be analysed and modelled with the help of complex analytics. This is when information starts to become BigData and can result in a step-change in the insights an organisation can gain from it.

The sophisticated algorithms that can now be developed can make your information “speak” more clearly about your customer and become usable for many different purposes. You can try hypothesizing about your customers future behaviours, the likely success of your promotions or innovations by region or country, and then get near real-time answers to your questions about them. In some cases, you can even simulate market response to new ideas before they are even launched, in order to identify the best roll-out plan, or even to decide whether or not to launch in the first place.

If you yourself are at this tipping point, as descibed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book of the same name, and need support in developing your integrated marketing database, please contact us so we can share with you some of the successes our clients – your competitors? – have already had.

These are just a few ideas on how to make more and better use of the information you are already gathering. What made the biggest change for your own organisation in the use of the information and knowledge it gathers? Have you reached the tipping point to BigData yet? If you are proud of what you’ve done, why not share it with everyone here?

For more information on developing processes for the integration of information, the development of insights and the internal sharing of  knowledge, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

C3Centricity.com uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

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