How to Succeed in Leadership, Marketing, Innovation and Insight

Although I love quotes, especially about how to succeed, I love success even more. Do you?

One of my favourite quotes on the topic of success comes from Winston Churchill during his address to the Harrow School (UK) during WWII in 1941. It was one of his shortest speeches but probably one of his most quoted. He said:

“Never give in, never, never, never, never”

If you are interested, you can read his full speech – which is not a lot longer! – here.

 

Hearing this quote again recently, got me thinking about failure. Failure in our lives, our businesses, our jobs, our relationships. And you must admit that we are just at the beginning of the impact of covid on the world and I know we need to prepare for a lot of failures in the coming months and years. But I ask myself how often we fail merely because we give up too quickly?

Another of my favourite quotes on success and failure comes from Napolean Hill:

“Most great people have achieved their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” 

Now whereas I do advise people today on how to find more happiness in their lives (See my new website on intuitive coaching at Finding-Your-Happy.com), I want to address here the many current and possibly future failures in business.

Another recent post of mine concentrated on why companies fail in their adoption of a customer-first strategy. You can read it here: 7 reasons most companies fail to adopt a customer first strategy. This was a follow up to another popular post on what a customer-first strategy is, and what it isn’t. If you missed it, then you can read it here: “What Customer First Strategies Really Are (And What They’re Not!)”

Over almost a decade of blog posting, I have written many other articles which include my solutions to failing in countless areas of marketing. I, therefore, thought it would be useful to share four of the most popular ones here in a single post (Links to original full-length posts in titles). Let me know what you think.

 

How you React to Failure Could Make You a Success

Failure's only a failure when you don't learn from it
Source: Microsoft

For this first summary of a post, I’d like to share not a list of solutions but a selection of inspiring quotes on reacting to failure. I think it sets the stage beautifully for the other articles to come.

In the full post (which you can read by clicking the above link) you can also find suggested actions for each of them. They will make you realise that there are great opportunities in every failure! So don’t be afraid to fail. Just never give up!

1. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” Bill Gates, American Businessman

2. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach Click to Tweet

3. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin, American Politician

4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman Click to Tweet

5. “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure” John C. Maxwell, American Clergyman

6. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet” Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman

“Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet” Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman Click to Tweet

7. “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success” Sir James Dyson, British Designer

8. “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something” Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman

“Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something” Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman Click to Tweet

9. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” Nelson Mandela, South African Statesman

10. “Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure” Jack Lemmon, American Actor

“Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure” Jack Lemmon, American Actor Click to Tweet

They say that pride comes before a fall; I say success follows failure! I wish you much success in failing fast, learning faster, so you can enjoy more success! And remember the full post linked in the above title contains suggested actions for each of these quotes. What are you waiting for?!

 

How to Innovate Successfully (What You’re Still Getting Wrong!)

This post mentions the ten reasons innovation fails and then shares ideas on finding a solution to each of them. If you are struggling to fill your pipeline (and shame on you if you are still using a linear approach – see why below), or can’t seem to get the same number of successful launches you used to have, then this article is for you.

successful innovation process

#1 The process: Introduce some creativity into the process. Use a virtuous circle (as shown above) rather than the usual linear or funnel approach.  All innovation processes should start with a deep understanding of the potential customer segment you want to attract and then the insight developed about them.

All innovation processes should start with a deep understanding of the potential customer segment you want to attract and the insight developed about them. Click To Tweet

#2 Meeting company quotas: Instead of company quotas on the number or proportion of new product launches, a better target is a percentage of sales. This should eliminate all but the very best ideas, which are expected to increase sales rather than merely replace current products or expand on-shelf display.

 

#3 Lack of customer understanding: The best way to innovate successfully is to start by looking at the target customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. Watching and listening to your customers with an open mind, rather than with a pre-prepared hypothesis in your head, will enable you to identify pain points the customer may even be unaware of.

The best way to innovate is to start by looking at your target customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. Find a solution to their problems. #Innovation #Brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

#4 Lack of category understanding: Never assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified how your customers are choosing and using it. You might be surprised to learn that your competitors are not those you thought they were!

 

#5 Not living up to your promises: In today’s connected world, false or exaggerated promises are quickly identified and shared on social media. Nothing is every hidden for long these days, so if you make a mistake, admit it, own it, correct it and move on. It will be forgotten or forgiven quicker than if it becomes a scandal.

If you make a mistake, admit it, own it, correct it and move on. It will be forgotten or forgiven quicker than if it becomes a scandal. #Mistake #Brand #Marketing #Scandal Click To Tweet

#6 Not being sufficiently differentiated: With such an abundance of information available to everyone, comparisons are easy to make.  Solution-based offers will always be able to charge more than product-based ones. It’s up to you to decide which you want to be.

 

#7 Being too different: Identifying a sub-category of users with a precise need and then meeting that need better than anyone else, is the more successful way to differentiate.

 

#8 Pricing yourself out of the market: Understanding how much potential customers value your offer is essential to the success of any product or service. Neither cost nor price is relevant to your customers other than in helping them to decide to purchase when they see the value you offer. If they perceive greater value then they will buy, otherwise, they won’t. Pricing really is as simple as that.

 

#9 Inappropriate distribution: Appropriate distribution doesn’t mean being in stock everywhere at the lowest price. But it does mean being available in the retail outlets that your target customers visit more often, whenever they are ready to buy.

Appropriate distribution doesn’t mean being in stock everywhere at the lowest price. #Distribution #Brand #Marketing #Sales Click To Tweet

#10 Being too far ahead of the customer:  If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product or service idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision. Keep the concept in your “back drawer” until customers are ready. You will then be the first to respond to these new needs and beat the competition to market with the correct solution. Launching too early and failing, gives the competition time to catch up and probably launch at a more appropriate time.

 

The full article goes into more detail on each of these solutions of course. So if any of them resonate with you, it is worth checking out the full post.

You must innovate to stay in the game, but that doesn’t mean launching anything just to meet the company’s innovation targets. Launch bigger, bolder and better, as one of my bosses used to say. And never give up!

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What Great Leaders Know and You Probably Don’t

LeadershipThis post summarises my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter the industry in which you work.

1. We should never stop learning. As we age and rise in the corporate world, we seem to forget that we don’t know it all! We even think that we should have all the answers, or worse still, think that we do!

 

2. We should accept help. Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish since we cannot be an expert in every area of business. In fact, if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should be good at managing people first. 

If we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should be good at managing people first. #Leadership #Management Click To Tweet

3. Practice really does make perfect. It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. We should always strive to be the best we can be. We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. 

We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. #Leadership #Learning #Management Click To Tweet

4. That final check is worth itWhen I was learning to fly, my instructor never stopped reminding me that the pre-flight checks were vital to do thoroughly. He reminded me that once you’re in the air, it’s too late!

The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, like pilots do, and complete that final check thoroughly and completely.

 

5. Accept defeat and mistakes. We all make mistakes sometimes and get defeated occasionally. We’re human after all.

However, those mistakes and defeats are great teachers. If we learn and grow from them, then the pain involved should be short-lived, as we move on to bigger and better things.

 

6. Honesty is always the best policy. Somehow honesty is rarely discussed these days and yet we all know that trust is one of the main reasons people do business with companies. Trust built over the long term will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishaps that may occur.

Trust built over the long term will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur. #Trust #Failure #Mistakes Click To Tweet

 

7. Business isn’t only about Millenials. Everyone is speaking about the Millenials these days. While Millenials may be trendy, there are other groups which are arguably just as important if not more so, to consider for a successful business. For example, there are now more Baby Boomers that Millenials in the US; and guess which has the money?!

Great leaders are aware of these seven points; are you? If not, then read the full article for further details. Leaders don’t know it all but they do know how to learn, and especially from failure. Never give up on your plans, just adapt them when needed, which these days is almost monthly!

 

How the Best Marketers are getting More Actionable Insights

Developing insightBe honest! Everyone struggles to develop true insights about their customers. Most times we accept summary information or facts about the marketplace and call them insights.

But we all know that insight development is difficult. So hard to get to that “aha” moment when what we have said about our customers is so obvious we can’t understand how we – or anyone else for that matter – never realised it before.

If you are struggling to develop insights that truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these 8 tips.

#1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. Identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitudes. This way you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.

#2. Insight generation should start with customer connections. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week or two, you’re not getting out enough!

Insight generation should start with customer connections #Insights #MRX Click To Tweet

#3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations. Make a habit of taking a coffee or lunch with people from other spheres of the company and exchange your latest ideas and learnings. You will both discover a lot about the organisation and its customers!

#4. Get MRI (Market Research & Insight) to share their nuggets of information regularly. Market research and insight teams learn new things about the business every day, so why not ask them to share more? Don’t wait for a formal presentation of the results of the latest piece of research. Get them to share findings and analyses with you on a regular, (at least) monthly basis.

#5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to join in when research projects are being run. Listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail (but always ask the permission of the store owner).

#6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can integrate multiple data sets from all available sources. Ask them to manage more information and you will both be happier.

#7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. It usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight

#8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments.

Following these 8 ideas will make your business one of the most successful in insight development. How would that feel? Read the full article HERE. Insight development may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Never give up.

 

And if you want to improve even faster in any areas of learning from failure, you can invite us to give a 1-Day training that will catalyse your team in record time. Download the summary brochure of all our current training courses HERE.

 

These are some ideas and processes for avoiding failure or even more importantly, learning (a lot) from them. Whether it is in business management, innovation or customer understanding, you can learn from the best, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. I hope you appreciate it!

 

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How to Innovate Successfully (What You’re Still Getting Wrong!)

I’ve written a number of posts on innovation and yet I still get client requests to further help them innovate successfully!

One of the favourite articles here on C3Centricity about the topic is “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.” 

Despite all the great ideas and tips it includes, I believe there is still more I can share. That’s why I am adding to last week’s post on marketing in general, with a post specifically about improving your innovation. In particular, I wanted to help those of you who may be unable to complete all the “best-practice” actions I recommend, through a lack of resources, be it time, money or people.

Not every organisation has access to large market research or marketing departments and extensive budgets. In fact, in many companies these roles are being handled by one and the same person with very few resources; is that your case? If so then you will definitely find this post of interest. But even if you’re one of the luckier ones with a good size team and plentiful budget, I’m sure you will still find value from the ideas shared.

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the reasons why new products fail. And then we’ll identify some creative ways to completely eliminate them from your next launch. Sounds good? Then read on.

Why your innovations fail

Did you know that the proportion of product launches which fail every year is generally “guesstimated” to be somewhere between 74% and 95%?

Why CEOs accept such abysmal levels and accept their organisations’ continued use of the same old innovation process is beyond me!

Book on innovating successfully

In this article in HBR, Saul Kaplan, author of “The Business Model Innovation Factory” shared five important reasons that explain why companies fail at business model innovation:

  1. CEOs don’t really want a new business model.
  2. Product is king. Nothing else matters.
  3. Cannibalization is off the table.
  4. ROI hurdles are too aggressive for fledgeling models.
  5. Rogues and renegades get no respect.

I find these five reasons spot-on. They are all based on fear of getting outside the organisation’s comfort zone. If you can identify yourself with even one of these, it might explain why your innovations are not as successful as you would like them to be.

Successful innovation involves change, and human beings don’t like being out of their comfort zone. It may involve challenging accepted ideas and ways of working too. No wonder so many innovations fail.

And with such odds, I think it is incredibly courageous to start a whole company based around just one new product idea, but that seems to be the norm for startups in many areas today.

Taking the organisational reasons mentioned above, I’d like to detail ten more ideas I have found in my work with clients as to why innovations fail:

#1 The process itself: Innovation is by definition a creative process, but many organisations use a well-worn, restrictive and uncreative process to develop their new products. As David Gluckman says:

“Committees are the death of innovation.”

As mentioned earlier, we don’t like things that shake up our comfortable beliefs and actions. Committees are unlikely to come up with groundbreaking innovations, just because they’re a group. In such teams, you tend to go with the least disruptive idea that everyone can accept.

 

#2 Meeting company quotas: It is surprising that with such miserable success rates, so many companies – and which shockingly include many of the largest CPGs around – continue to fix quotas on the number of annual new product launches.

How crazy is that?! It just encourages too many new products to be launched too early, and almost guarantees their failure!

 

#3 Lack of customer understanding: This is most likely one of, if not the most important reason for new product launch failures. And I don’t mean that you should ask the customer what he wants; he doesn’t know until you make it available to him in many industries. Successful innovators know their target customers better than they know themselves!

 

#4 Lack of category understanding: This follows on from customer understanding, in that you need to identify how the customer is currently working around or compensating for their need today. Don’t assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified what the customer is currently doing or using. That is the way to identify your true competitors.

 

#5 Not living up to your promises: If you promise a better, cheaper or more enjoyable experience, then customers deserve to be able to confirm this when they buy. Especially in today’s connected world, if you disappoint by not meeting customers’ expectations, your product will fail even more quickly than in the past. Early-adopters will Tweet or leave comments on Facebook, Blogs or other social media platforms for all to see.

 

#6 Not being sufficiently differentiated: Following on from living up to your promises, customers need a reason to change their behaviours. Depending upon the category this can be costly, whether in time, money or effort.

Many customers prefer to continue buying an inferior product or service than making the effort to change. Just think about industries such as Telecom, Banking, Hotels, Air travel or Insurance. These businesses are in a constant battle to differentiate themselves and provide a real advantage to attract new customers. Luckily for them, at least until recently, the effort of leaving was perceived as greater than the pain of staying.

 

#7 Being too different: Whilst not being sufficiently differentiated can be a certain cause of failure, being too new can also meet with no success. The reason for this is that if customers are totally unfamiliar with the new product or service offering, you will need to spend considerable resources to educate them. If you are unable or unwilling to invest the time and money in doing this, then you will undoubtedly fail. Attracting more than just a few customers who are willing to spend time understanding what you are offering takes resources.

If you are unable or unwilling to invest the time and money in doing this, then you will undoubtedly fail. Attracting more than just a few customers who are willing to spend time understanding what you are offering takes resources.

 

#8 Pricing yourself out of the market: I’m not just speaking about pricing your product too high; being too low can also negatively impact your likely success. Part of a customer’s perceived value of a new product, especially before buying, comes from the price and expected usefulness to them of the promise you make.

Part of a customer’s perceived value of a new product, especially before buying, comes from the price and expected usefulness to them of the promise you make.

 

#9 Inappropriate distribution: This can be the consequence of an incomplete understanding of your customer and is also linked to differentiation. Whilst you can just follow near competitors into their own distribution channels, why ignore the possibility of being available exactly where and when your customers might just be ready to buy it the most?

 

#10 Being too far ahead of the customer: There are many examples of great products that were ahead of their time. Gillette brought out 2–in–1 shampoos with conditioner and shampoo combined in the early 70’s. They were a dramatic flop! Ten years later most personal care manufacturers offered these products and were met with huge success.

Following trends is a great way to understand how your customers are changing, but you need to also understand their speed of change to get your timing right.

It took Nespresso almost twenty years to become profitable for Nestle and Philip Morris has needed similar levels of patience in certain markets, before their most infamous of brands, namely Marlboro, took off.

 

How to innovate successfully

The ten reasons for innovation failure which I have mentioned, each have a number of solutions which you can use. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

New process to innovate successfully

 

#1 The process: Introduce some creativity into the process. Use a virtuous circle as shown on the right, rather than the usual linear or funnel approach.

All innovation processes should start with a deep understanding of the potential customer segment and then insight development.

 

#2 Meeting company quotas: Instead of company quotas on the number or proportion of new product launches, a better target is a percentage of sales. This should eliminate all but the very best ideas, which are expected to increase sales rather than merely replace current products.

I also believe that it would be much better to seriously limit the acceptance level of new product ideas proposed in any year. This would be a case for quality over quantity and only the very best would get through the approval process.

This would also mean that brand managers would have to be assessed on sales performance and growth, rather than on the number of new products they launch.

 

#3 Lack of customer understanding: Steve Jobs is often quoted as saying

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

The best way to innovate successfully is to start by looking at the target customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. If you already have a new product idea, then consider how it would make the customer’s life better. If it doesn’t, then you perhaps need to reassess its market appeal as it’s probably just a renovation.

Watching and listening to your customers with an open mind, rather than with your hypotheses in your head, will also enable you to identify pain points. The customer may even be unaware that they are compensating for something that they would change. What an incredibly valuable opportunity to offer a solution to them.

 

#4 Lack of category understanding: Never assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified how your customers are choosing and what they are currently using. That is the way to identify your true competition.

I suggest using either a zooming in or zooming out technique from the current category, which I explain in our “I3 – Improved Ideation & Innovation” 1-Day Catalyst training sessions.

 

#5 Not living up to your promises: In today’s connected world, false or exaggerated promises are quickly identified and shared on social media. However, speaking about possible pain points you have identified and sharing your solution, will avoid your having to make any such misleading claims.

 

#6 Not being sufficiently differentiated: With such an abundance of information available to everyone, comparisons are easy to make. In fact, there are many websites which make a good living out of doing just that and then sharing their results.

Categories with little differentiation rapidly see that competing becomes largely price based. As a result, the products quickly become mere commodities. Better therefore to understand the category in which you are competing and its customers, so you can offer a point of differentiation. Solution-based offers will always be able to charge more than product-based ones. It’s up to you to decide which you want to do.

Solution-based offers will always be able to charge more than product-based ones. It’s up to you to decide which you want to be.

 

#7 Being too different: There are many startups today which offer only a few products or services. The successful ones have identified one or more pain points which the “big guys” have not, and take full advantage of them. In this case, their being different is a plus, because they offer the customer a solution.

However, for most brands, their problem is not being different enough, as mentioned above. It takes more than a new colour, aroma or packaging to be perceived as positively better than others. Identifying a sub-category of users with a precise need and then meeting that need better than anyone else is the more successful way to differentiate.

 

#8 Pricing yourself out of the market: Understand how much potential customers value your offer is essential to the success of any product. Getting it wrong can result in lost revenue or worse a promotional spiral leading to brand hell or commoditization. (read more about this in “Are you on the way to brand heaven or hell“)

 

#9 Inappropriate distribution: Appropriate distribution means being available where and when your customer is ready to buy. It also means reducing the effort needed for them to change their habits and buy your new offer. Trial will only come if you make it easy for customers to purchase.

This doesn’t mean being in stock everywhere at the lowest price. But it does mean being in the retail outlets that your target customers visit more often. Forget the exaggerated 100% distribution claims you used to get your new product line approaved; be selective in where you distribute, to attract your target customers first. The other customers will be your second priority as you get wider availability.

 

#10 Being too far ahead of the customer:  If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product or service idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision. Keep the concept in your “back drawer” and follow the societal changes of your customers, so you will be ready when they are.

Most organisations are working on multiple new concepts at the same time, each at a different level of preparedness. Trend following will allow you to identify when the customer is ready for each offer. This will avoid too early, as well as tardy launches.

Identifying relevant trends to follow will also enable you to plan a multi-national roll-out in a more solid foundation than mere geography.

 

These are ten of the most common reasons for new product launch failure and a few ideas on how to resolve each of them. Which do you think is most prevalent in your business? 

What are you going to change to increase the success of your future new product launches? Is it some other reason altogether, that I’ve missed? Let me know and share your thoughts below. 

I will be sharing more tips on innovation excellence in future blog posts, but in the meantime feel free to send me any questions you still have. I’m always ready to have a short Skype or phone call to assist you with your own brand building challenges.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it, to help others find it! Thanks.

C3Centricity used images from Wiley, C3Centricity online and the book “Winning Customer Centricity” in this post; it has been updated from the original article first published in 2014.

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