More than one year after the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, I wondered what has changed. And more importantly, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship whilst also respecting it.
Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. A recent article on Business2Community by Owen Ray said that
“The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”
If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.
Companies who are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Too many businesses ask too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes.
I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.
1. Ask Permission to Gather Information
This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t subscribe! You too?
Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for. Not only should you ask for consent; if you are not in direct personal contact, but connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.
Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers. It also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.
2. There Must be Mutual Benefit
When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them in return immediately. This can be as simple as offering coupons for your products, some valuable information not easily available elsewhere, a free guide or e-book on a relevant topic, or special privileges such as club membership or express shipping. Something that shows them that they were right to agree and that you value their information.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm them by asking everything in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, you can complete the information you require through several contacts with the same customer.
This also has the added advantage of keeping the conversation more frequent than it might otherwise have been. Ask just enough to be able to identify your priority metrics and then refine your understanding of them as you gather more information.
More and more CPG companies and brands now offer a loyalty program, especially to their higher-value consumers. These provide more targeted privileges and even give the opportunity to preview new communications or product concepts. In general customers love to give feedback and it has the benefit of building a closer tie to the brand as they feel ownership of those launched.
This is probably one of the more intimate and bigger win-win relationships that can be developed with your customer. But it does take a dedicated team within the company to manage such a club, as these customers are naturally the most demanding for services and constant information updates. So only set one up when you know you can satisfy their needs, as otherwise they can feel frustrated when they perceive they are not getting the attention they think they deserve.
Over the past couple of years, we have started to see new types of member offers. Sephoralaunched a members-only social platform, which encourages shoppers to share beauty tips and advice, and to comment about any new products bought, not just those from their stores.
Both of these provide exceptional recognition to their members, making them feel a part of an exclusive program, which is exactly what they are!
4. Keep the Relationship Fresh
Once you start building the relationship with your customers, you must continue to interest them by offering news, information, photos, videos or articles of interest. This can be quite a strain on internal resources, so you may want to (also) consider including user generated content (UGC) on your website.
Not only does this ensure continuously updated content, but also involves the customer in what is shown, so that it remains relevant and of interest to them. People love to post and comment, so include message boards, tip sharing platforms or photo albums, whatever is relevant to your targeted customers.
Beauty, fashion and petcare brands were amongst the first to make use of UGC, as they are in very visual industries. Who doesn’t want to share a photo of themselves when they are looking especially beautiful, or show how cute their cat or dog is?
One great example comes from L’Oreal. Their DermaBlendPro brand encouraged users to share photos or videos of how the brand had transformed their look, by hiding disfiguration or tattoos. They clearly understood that happy customers make the best brand ambassadors, and this was clearly proven by the thousands of entries and immense buzz the brand received on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.
For your customers to appreciate how much you value them and their business, involve them in it, by asking for feedback on how you are doing. If you have new ideas or plans, share details with them or enable them to vote for new flavors, concepts or advertising ideas.
You can also enable them to preview the ads or products before everyone else, but do make sure you provide them with some great information about it too, so that they can share it with their friends and family members. This will make them feel like the special and valued customer they are, and also help you spread the word - for free!
6. Always Offer a Simple Way Out
Once you have made the connection with your customers, recognize that they might change their minds at any time and want to unsubscribe from your club or mailing list. Make this as quick, simple and pain free as possible. This shows respect for your customer and their time, and also enables them to leave with a positive opinion of you and the brand. You never know, they might change their minds and stay after all, or come back again in the near future.
From making the unsubscribe link in tiny font to pale and almost illegible, to using button colours to mislead, many brands think that this will stop people from unsubscribing. It may, but it is more likely just to irritate them and label your communications as spam.
Even large companies get this wrong. Apple may provide full details of all the different ways to connect on their contact page, but it is laid out in an overwhelming block of text that is so off putting I doubt anyone hunts to find the information they need.
Another example used by Swiss airlines and their parent company Lufthansa almost had me agreeing to give all my information, not just the necessary data to make my experience more comfortable. Their coloured button draws the eye and without reading you could end up making the same mistake I almost did.
With so much choice available to customers today, it is our responsibility to build an engaging and respectful relationship with them. If there is no trust, there may soon be no sales!
What other ways do you show respect for your customers? Please share your best examples below. Of course, if you have come across a bad example that frustrated that, then please share it too. Let's name and shame!
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
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.
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
In 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!
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
This 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.
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?
OK 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?
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.
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!
Again 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™ 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?
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?
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.
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!
Product 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.
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.
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 meif 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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you or your team can’t answer all 13 questions, I have a solution. Book a 1-Day Catalyst training session and be amazed at the progress & changes!
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.
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?
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’d like to discuss opportunities of working with me, contact me here: https://c3centricity.com/contact)
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 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:
How the relationships between brands and customers have changed. The most influential CMOs lead digital transformation with a customer-first mindset.
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.
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 2019 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?
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.
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.
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.
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 Head of Marketing 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
Do you feel isolated and would like an external perspective, advice or ideas? Then we should talk.
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.
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
Every 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<<)
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
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
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.
A few weeks ago I spoke about failure and the differences between cultures in how people react to it. It was one of the most popular posts I have ever written, so to complete the perspective I thought I would share some equally inspiring quotes on success, with again some thoughts for actions that are suggested by each of them.
Many think that success is the end of their effort, when it should be the start of a journey towards even greater things. The start of something bigger, better and even more exciting. Success should motivate, stimulate a desire to try even harder, to go that much further and to succeed again and again. This first quote sums this up brilliantly:
1. “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure” Bill Cosby, American Actor (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: Those who succeed accept failure as one of the necessary steps to reach their goal. They know they are unlikely to succeed without first failing. What if your fear of failing was stopping you from your greatest success? Manage your fear and do it anyway.
2. “The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way” Dale Carnegie (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: As #1 above also mentioned, failure is a necessary step on the way to success. Learn from your mistakes and be thankful for them, as they are steering you away from the wrong direction.
3. “Eighty percent of success is showing up” Woody Allen, American actor, director & screenwriter (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: You can’t just wish for success, you have to earn it, to make it happen. You have to put the work in, risk making mistakes and then carry on trying. How often do you forget to “turn up” when the going gets tough?
4. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” Henry Ford, American Businessman (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: Success rarely comes in isolation, whether we are speaking about people, thoughts or actions. We need others to provide different perspectives, skills and energies. We need different experiences to complement our own norms. If you are not succeeding, ask for help or advice; people generally love to give it.
5. “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will” Vince Lombardi, American football player, coach and executive (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: Success doesn’t come easy, even if as an observer we may think otherwise when seeing others succeed instead of us. Rather than feeling jealous, use others’ success as an indication that everyone can succeed if they put their minds to it. Put your energy into succeeding and not to putting down others’ successes. Are you trying hard enough to get your own success?
6. “Try not to be a success, but rather to be of of value” Albert Einstein (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: I love this quote, because it is often said that trying to succeed for success alone is setting yourself up for disaster. Look at how you can help and be of value to others and success will follow. Which are you trying for?
7. “The secret of my success is a two word answer: Know people” Harvey S. Firestone, American businessman & founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: This follows on nicely from the previous quote, in that it again puts people at the heart of success. Seek to be of help and value to others and success will follow. Be interested in others and their challenges, listen carefully, because your next success might just come from one of these.
8. “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business and your business in your heart” Thomas J. Watson, Chairman & CEO of IBM (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: One more quote on the importance of people, this time for businesses. A company doesn’t always succeed because it has the best products, but rather because its customers are treated better. Are you putting as much thought into satisfying and hopefully delighting your customers, as in developing the best product you can make technically speaking?
9. “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful” Albert Schweitzer, German theologian, philosopher & physician (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: Why make it hard on yourself by searching success in something you don’t love? Look for happiness first and success will follow. If you are successful, search within yourself if you are really doing what you love, or if you are doing it for other reasons – money, family or friends’ expectations, tradition etc.
10. “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses” Marilyn vos Savant, American magazine columnist, author, lecturer & playwright (>>Tweet quote<<)
THOUGHT: Whilst we all want to improve in areas of weakness, it is our strengths that will bring us success. As the quote above mentions, we succeed in what we love and we generally love what we’re good at. If you don’t know what your strengths are – many of us feel shy to state them – then find what you love doing instead. Be strong and love your strength. These are ten of my favourite quotes on success. To summarise all of them in just one sentence: Turn up, work hard, accept mistakes, be of value to others by using your strengths and above all Be Happy. Do you have another favourite quote on success? Please share it below. Have something to add to the topic or disagree with what I’ve written? Then please share your thoughts as I’m always ready to learn from others. C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.
I got an email today that irritated me, I mean it really insulted me, and prompted this post on customer centricity. I am sure it would have annoyed you too; in fact you have probably already received it or at least something similar yourself in the past.
It announced a “massive 46-page eBook” that I had been chosen to receive for free. It sounded as if I should be happy and feel privileged to receive it. I wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call 46 pages massive. A jumbo jet is massive; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is massive; not a measly 46 pages – even if it was for free.
Why do companies continue to think that they can treat people like idiots? In my opinion, it can only be a very short-lived business strategy. People will quickly learn the truth, especially in today’s connected world. Or should I blame the advertising agencies for coming up with these “lies”? However, it seems to me to be just a little too close for comfort to the “misleading claims” from which the Advertising St andards Authority in most countries should be protecting us.
If you are looking to be truly customer centric, here are some other examples that you are hopefully NOT doing.
The above illustration is just one example of many exaggerated claims which seem to have become prevalent these days. This is most probably because the internet makes it so easy to reach new, “naive” customers, who still trust organisations to do the right thing. Why do so many companies use overly attractive adjectives that their product or service can’t live up to? They are setting themselves up to disappoint their potential customers, especially if they don’t register what comes after that word before buying.
Massive, mouth-watering, heart-stopping, mind-blowing, huge discount, best price ever; most of the time the products are not, which is probably why they feel they have to use such words. Customer centric companies don’t use these claims unless they can substantiate them.
One area that often suffers from exaggeration is packaging. How many packs have you opened to find the product sitting miserably in the lower half of it? What a disappointment from the promise of the packaging. Or worse still in my opinion, are companies whose packs have been discretely reduced in contents over time. Companies may print the weight of the product that is inside the pack, but customers recognise and buy the pack without checking its weight each time they buy.
What is particularly offensive in this example is that it is the company’s most loyalcustomers who are being cheated. The company reduces the pack’s quantity but not its price; they are getting a price increase without informing their customers. That isn’t customer centric.
Another area that often suffers from exaggerated claims is price value. I was recently offered access online to a video “worth more than US$ 997” for just US$49.99. I don’t know any videos, even those of the classics or Oscar-winning films, that are worth that amount, and certainly no such offers proposed on the internet.
To paraphrase the infamous quote of Oliver Platt:
“Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the seller” (>>Tweet this<<)
How are you pricing your own product and service offerings? Do you base it on company cost or customer value? If not the latter, you may also be leaving a lot of money on the table, as your offer might actually be worth more than you are charging for it. The most important information you need to decide on your price is what your customer is prepared to pay for it; that is what value is all about. Customer centric companies know and apply this on a daily basis
Promising but not delivering
Airlines are renowned for this, especially the low-cost ones. They advertise flights at ridiculously low prices that few, if any, end up paying, since you need to add on the cost of paying by credit card, booking your seat, taking a bag on board etc. etc. Yes the advertised price attracts attention, but once you have made a few attempts at reserving these low prices, you underst and the “game” and compare before buying. And most of the time the “normal” airlines are cheaper. As I’m sure you’re heard many times and to quote Thomas (Tom) J. Peters:
“The formula for success is to under-promise and over-deliver” (>>Tweet this<<)
Amazon and Zappos are two companies who regularly do this; in fact it’s a part of their business model. They occasionally provide priority delivery at no extra cost, as a delightful surprise for their customers. Amazon also proposes useful suggestions of other books, music or other products to buy whilst you are surfing their website to purchase something. Yes, I know it is in their interest to get you to buy something else, but it is a service and highly valued by most people. Customer centric behaviour is always a win-win for both the customer and the company.
You subscribe to a service on a free trial basis, or a one-off monthly fee as many Telecom companies now offer. What you don’t notice or remember, is that it is automatically renewed at the end of the trial period unless cancelled. Yes I know it’s written in the terms and conditions or at the very bottom of the online page if you scroll down, but I don’t read font 8 very easily, even with my glasses! And be honest, none of us reads to the very end of the terms and conditions, and the companies that use this tactic are counting on it.
Of course, when you are informed that your subscription has been renewed, you realise what has happened and immediately cancel, with hopefully only a one month and not an annual unwanted payment. Yes the company has gotten a payment it probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but they certainly didn’t make us a loyal and happy customer, did they?
If you are using this type of “hidden selling” to get customers, please stop. Customer centric companies invite people to continue their subscription, perhaps at a special price. In this way they will get almost as many customers, but they will most certainly be happier and more likely to continue to purchase from them.
These are just a few examples of how companies are intentionally aiming to get customers to buy something that is not worth the money being asked in many cases. If the product or service they propose did offer true value, then people would buy or repurchase without the need for such tricks. As Peter Drucker said:
“The aim of marketing is to know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (<<Tweet this<<)
I would go one step further and say that it is the aim of customer centric businesses.
With today’s ease of sharing experiences on the web, why do companies continue to try to cheat unsuspecting customers? It is most definitely a short-term business strategy. Unhappy customers used to tell ten people, now they tell tens of millions, with a simple Tweet. And if there are several unhappy customers who Tweet about similar experiences, then others will start to see the trend and become wary. Whilst there will always be a few disgruntled customers who complain, more than that will highlight a real issue.
This reminds me; I hate doing it but I am one of the people who have tweeted about poor customerservice because I am not getting an answer when using the provided phone and email contacts. Customer service is all about taking the customers’ perspective (>>Tweet this<<) and offering multiple ways to be contacted and then responding quickly. Companies do respond to negative tweets, usually in record time and certainly faster than connections by other means. Why are companies forcing their customers to go public with their dissatisfaction to get heard? Most would be happy and would probably prefer to share their complaints with the company in private – IF they get a quick response.
So coming back to my question, the answer is a resounding yes. Most companies now speak about the importance of being customer centric, but so many of them are still doing many of the practices mentioned above, which are most definitely NOT customer centric behaviour. Are you one of them? Do you have other examples that you yourself have experienced? Why not share them here?
C³Centricity used images from the ASA in the UK, Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.
At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.
Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the br and or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.
Let me start by saying that I covered br and image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post called “How to Build Br and Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your br and image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.
Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring br andequity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the br ands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.
However, measuring br and image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the br ands and the company.
For some br ands such as CocaCola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G and Unilever may be far less evident.
Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their br ands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.
So how do you measure this link and underst and what the br and brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.
Following Br and & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process
Step 1: Measure your br ands’ images
Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage br ands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.
The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the br ands. This will be essential for the analysis later on.
Step 2: Measure your corporate image
Again you should already be doing this, but I am always amazed how few companies collect such metrics on a regular basis. The prompt for doing so is often a crisis or a change of management and vision, but by then it is actually too late. Whatever you measure in such circumstances will be difficult to analyse since you don’t know what the figures looked like before the event happened. This is why it is essential to measure it at least annually and perhaps even more regularly when a lot is happening in the marketplace.
As was also the case for your br and equity metrics, you will need to include a measurement of br and attribution for each of the companies you measure. This will again be used in the analytical phase.
Step 3: Analyse and cross-reference the information gathered
The third step of the process is to first review the images of each br and by the knowledge and awareness of the consumers about its parent company. Then review the corporate images based upon whether each is attributed or not to each of its br ands, or maybe even to competitive br ands. Then by crossing these two sets of relational information, you will get a clear picture of what the br and brings in terms of reputation to the company and what the corporate reputation adds to or detracts from each br and. Once you underst and the relationship between your br ands and your business, you can start to lay out a plan to boost your consumers’ knowledge and trust with appropriate PR and advertising.
Some organisations, including those mentioned above, find ways to associate their company name within their br and advertising. For instance Nestlé and Purina both end their ads with a company link and logo. Unilever and SCJohnson are a little more creative in showing a fold up / down corner with their logo and name and in the case of the latter, even their corporate slogan. This is far less intrusive and leaves the br and to shine as hero in the ad.
If you already run your own br and equity or corporate reputation studies, why not combine them as suggested above, for improved actionability? If you do a different type of analysis I would love to hear about it; just add a comment below or write to me in person at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this essential element of tracking.
If you are like most businesses, you manage your factories, products and br ands with precision, efficiency and care. You develop new products, you renovate your packs, define new communication concepts and exp and your distribution. However, if you are like most businesses, you also sometimes forget that the secret ingredient to growth, is not (only) your products or the services you offer; it is your customers. Underst and them, surprise and delight them and your business will remain healthy.
I recently spoke to a company with exactly this dilemma, how to grow their very successful business even further. Having thought about possible solutions for them, I decided to share some of the ideas I came up with, as I’m sure that you too will find them useful.
The 5 ways to grow
All businesses want to grow market share and profit. Unfortunately there are only a finite number of ways to do this:
Get more customers
Get current customers to buy more
Get current customers to spend more
Notice that three of these are directly linked to the customer, so that is why I refer to them as the secret ingredient to growth. I’m not discounting the other two, but arguably they take longer to action and see results, so for quicker impact, let’s concentrate on the customer.
Get more customers
In order to get more customers you first need to learn who buys and why, as well as who doesn’t and why. In the latter group we also need to separate those who buy from a competitor and those who don’t buy the category at all. To underst and these three groups, you will need to gather information on the customers, as much and as deeply as you can. For more on this, please check out a recent post on the topic “13 things your boss expects you to know about your customer”
The other essential to underst anding how to get more customers, is to know what your br and st ands for, its image and equity. By comparing these between the three groups, you will get clear indications of what needs to be changed and how to influence them. You will see why one group buys and the other doesn’t buy your br and, and perhaps also a better underst anding of why some don’t buy the category at all and that’s not always as easy as just a lack of the relevant need.
Get current customers to buy more
There are several ways to get your current customers to buy more; they could buy bigger quantities when they do buy, or just buy the same quantity but more frequently. In some industries there are a finite number of occasions or quantities that can be bought, but I have found that these limitations are often not as strict as many businesses think they are:
Whilst a person can only be on one plane at a time, they could fly with friends or family, or use the airline for more trips
A person can only eat one lunch or dinner, but your product could be served more than once a week / month
Someone may only have one car to insure, but would also need insurance for themselves, their family, pets, house or apartment
A housewife only needs a few pots and pans, or one food mixer, but she could be interested in buying specialised plates, serving dishes or equipment for particular meals or ethnic food preparation
When you underst and your customers better, these alternative product offerings become much more easily identifiable. In addition, since they are already customers, you should also have hopefully gained their trust, which makes them more open to purchasing again from you. And don’t forget the 80/20 Rule or Pareto’s principle, which often applies to business:
“80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers”
Concentrate on those 20% and ensure you satisfy their current needs and endeavour to identify their future needs too – which brings me nicely to the next solution.
Get current customers to spend more
Getting your customers to spend more can be as simple as mentioned above, through them simply buying more quantity, or by upgrading what they buy to a more expensive product or service. There is, however, both good and bad news for you in this.
The good news is that perhaps surprisingly, ever since the recession, customers are willing to spend more on certain categories than they did in the past. Whilst they struggle to make ordinary day-to-day purchases, they correspondingly splash out occasionally and treat themselves with better quality products and services from time to time. If you underst and this, then you can be there where and when the urge hits them.
The bad news is that in reaction to declining sales, even before the recession, many companies started promoting more or dropping their prices. Once you have conditioned your customers to expect these lower prices, you are on the slippery slope to br and hell, as described in “Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell?”
So there it is. Customers are the secret ingredient to br and and business success. Think customer first and market share and profit will follow.
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Did you do a double-take when reading this week’s post title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for almost all major manufacturers, so they should be excited by it. However, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. Boring! If you want to break away from this very predictable process and add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on
One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions. I remember speaking at the annual R&D conference about consumer centricity and at the end of my talk, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, the R&D department is very consumer centric. We know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need it!”
Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven why I believed that R&D could become more consumer centric. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:
Observe & Listen to your Consumers
Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their offer.
Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, using the product or service, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concept ideas. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new concepts or solutions.
It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops and homes of shoppers and buyers.
Involve your Consumers
A few days ago I came across an article about Ben & Jerry and how they are asking residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflect their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck, which will be touring 11 cities this year, will also serve as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers have eaten their free frozen treats, they’ll be asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (vote by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Does that remind you of another br and who used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?
Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognising good ideas when they see them.
Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.
Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too.
Exp and your Thinking
How do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.
Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?
Coke recently used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.
Starting from a different lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative concepts.
Go Beyond Trend Following
Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities. The ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?
These are just four ideas that I shared during the conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have excited you to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.
Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.
Like many successful entrepreneurs, I enjoy helping local associations with their marketing problems whenever I can. It seems that often simply offering a new perspective can be all that is needed to move things forward.
Recently, I ran a re-positioning session for my local outdoor sports association and during it, I realised that many of the things we were doing together would also be of value to other organisations, big or small, who are in a similar situation.
For this reason I share some of the brainstorming we did, in the hope that it will inspire you to try something similar.
Background completeness defines the outcome
The president of the association asked for my advice because they were losing participation in their organised events. As a keen member myself, I offered to run a brainstorming session with his committee members, to see if together we could find some solutions. I started by gathering information from all the guides, which in itself was a challenge. As motivation was low, response rate was only around 25-30% and even then some of the responses were only general comments rather than specific responses to the questions asked. Things were even worse than I had anticipated!
However, this actually provided me with the “burning platform” that I presented to the president. If he didn’t address the issues immediately, I told him that his organisation wouldn’t exist 2-3 years from now! The low response rate to the study and the drop in event participation already confirmed this, but he hadn’t “wanted to see the facts”. This is where an external perspective can be invaluable.
Whenever you are faced with underst anding a situation, it is vital to start with a review of all relevant data and knowledge, and if incomplete, to complement it with an additional information gathering exercise. If you can’t precisely assess the current situation and identify all the relevant issues, your resultant brainstorming will be less effective than it could or should be.
Prioritising 3 areas only increases the level of success
It was clear from the answers I did receive that there were a number of related issues. The low participation of the organised events, was leading to the low motivation of the guides. The low awareness level and lack of visibility of the events, led to low participation in them. A vicious circle it was imperative to break. One positive sign however, was that past participants were very keen on attending future events, so it wasn’t the “product” that was at fault; people just didn’t know about them.
Another finding, that I often also see when addressing issues with my clients, is that the target audience for this association’s events, was ill-defined. Each guide had a different perspective of the people they were trying to attract. They were being defined as children, schools, companies, ladies 40-65 y.o. expatriates, those interested in history / geography, etc etc. As you can see, a wide variety of answers that wasn’t going to improve the overall cohesiveness of the association. When I dug deeper, I found that the differing topics of expertise of the guides meant that they each had in mind different target groups for their own offers. I suggested that a solution could be to group these into three major segments and to then attribute appropriate offers to each of them separately.
Three is a magic number with many uses. In this case, three segments were sufficient to offer diversity, whilst at the same time seeming achievable to attract rather than overwhelming. I also recommend choosing three areas to work on at a time and then breaking those down into sub-points, ideally three if you want to continue to work with the magic number. (If you are interested in the theory behind the power of three, then make a search online; there are innumerable examples of different uses given there, from various industries)
Choose impact over the ease of your actions
Once the three main areas have been identified, prioritise actions based upon the impact of each outcome. For example in their case, we reviewed ways to increase their visibility. Whilst their current website was quite useful, according to Alexa it was getting hardly any visits, so I suggested starting with other ways to improve visibility rather than updating it. Even if they improved their site, it would have little or no impact on the problem they were looking to address. It was an action that was certainly easy to do, and enjoyable to work on, but other actions would bring a better return for their efforts.
In line with my preference of working in threes, I will stop here and open up the discussion to you. Why not review why you may not be succeeding in your plans? Are you trying to do too much? Are you looking for the easy way out? Are your actions lacking the desired impact?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of these three questions, use the above example to rethink the problem through. Start by taking a step back and evaluating the situation from a new perspective. Ask a colleague or even someone outside the company to review the information you have on the issue and to give you their opinion. Sometimes that is all it takes to get to the real situation.
Then identify three areas to work on. Since this is often easier said than done, start by making a list of all the possible areas impacting the situation and then prioritise them. By choosing just three areas to concentrate on, it will enable you to better focus, which will in turn make them easier to achieve. And if you complete them and still have more time or budget resources, you can then tackle the next three on the list, and so on.
One last word on prioritising the areas on which to concentrate; if as was the case for this organisation, your target audience is not well defined, you are unlikely to succeed with your other priorities. Therefore reviewing and completing the definition of your target audience should always be the first area to review.
Finally identify the actions needed for each of the three areas to be addressed. Again, as in the above example, don’t jump on the first solution found. For instance, since the association with which I was working had a webmaster, it was easy for them to update their website. However, as mentioned, it would have had little impact on increasing the awareness of their events. We decided on a different set of actions to improve their communications and made updating the website a secondary action, once their rating on Alexa started to increase.
Are you struggling with issues that need an external perspective? Why not ask us to organise a 1-Day Catalyst session. We will get to the center of your issues and opportunities, and define actions with you that will provide the best return for your efforts. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!
For more information or to review other support options we can provide, just drop us a line at info@C3Centricity.com or check out our website: www.C3Centricity.com
Many organisations have revamped their Market Research groups as Insight Departments in the past five to ten years. However, it takes more than a name change for those involved to achieve the recognition they deserve.
If you work in or with such a department, then read on, as I have some ideas on how you can achieve this.
Last month Forrester issued the results of some research they had done looking into the Future of Market Research in 2013. Their conclusions, even if dated today, are still highly relevant:
2013 is the year of truth for market insights: their future will depend on how successful they are at getting increased investments and tapping into alternative information sources than just market research
Market insights departments need to invest in knowledge, technology and skills: the group will need to better respond to the fast-paced management need for the customer understanding that can impact their business decisions
Vendors have to show their worth: suppliers have become commodity providers as they have allowed their clients to select on price more than differentiation.
Future market insights solutions have to connect the dots: single source is no longer sufficient – if it ever was – and vendors need to be able to better respond to the need for 360 degree perspectives.
Whilst I certainly agree with these conclusions, which in fact impact both supplier and company insight professionals, I believe that most of these needs are not really new.
Some more forward-thinking organisations have in fact already identified and adjusted to these changed needs.
So what is there to do if you haven’t? How do you prioritise what needs to be done in your organisation? Here are my top 5 tips:
#1. Find out What Management Really Needs
It is amazing how many market research and insight groups still have little, or no contact with top management. So how can they possibly be perceived as value creators for the business?
It is not enough just to attend the presentations of the business plans or to get a copy of them to read afterwards. You need to talk with those who wrote them and those who will implement them.
Ideally, you should be instrumental in helping to draw them up. Get out of your offices and into the boardrooms and hallowed top-floor offices. Listen hard and ask tough questions. Make sure you understand where the company is going and your role in getting there.
#2. Review the Information you Currently Collect
Most organisations have regular on-going measurements of some sort, which probably haven’t changed in years, if not decades! Now you know what the business needs, review, revamp or retire the studies that are no longer needed. Show that you are using your budget wisely, to provide management with the information and knowledge they need, to help them to take better decisions.
#3. Revamp What is Important
Those projects that do add value to the organisation will certainly need updating on a regular, possibly annual basis. Do your retail audits reflect the current market situation? Are the attributes you follow in your brand image trackers accurately covering the strengths of the latest competitive launches as well as your own? Take each study and adjust for each brand in collaboration with your marketing AND sales teams.
#4. Share the Knowledge
Many organisations are afraid of competition getting a hold of their information, and therefore do not make it widely available within the organisation. Have you never learnt about something going on in your own organisation, but from competition? I know I have. Therefore the risks of tipping off the competition are far lower than others may think, so start to share the information you gather. It is amazing how much you can save when you do, as other departments often then discover that they are conducting research, or buying information and reports that are already available in-house.
#5. Integrate for Insight
Despite some managers still believing that insight is just another word for market research, insights are in fact developed out of multiple information sources. Whilst Forrester suggested that this could be managed by your suppliers, I believe that whilst they may help, true insights come from integrating information and knowledge from multiple sources, both internal and external. This means not only different projects, but also different departments that have differing perspectives and perhaps also different connection points with the customer. The insight group can help bring all this understanding together and develop actionable insights for profitable business growth.
Well those are my starter for five. What else would you add to help bring insight departments into the center of the brave new world of customer centric organisations?
If you carry out these first five steps that I have mentioned, then you will start getting more appreciation for the real value you are adding to the business. And then perhaps your budgets may even be increased, which will then lead to even greater value. Now that’s what I call a win-win and a really bright future for everyone in Insight! What do you think?
Do you need help in upgrading your market research or insight department? Check out our website for more actionable ideas and training, then contact me here: