Scenario Planning | c3centricity

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Which Sight do you Use the Most?

There have been a lot of posts in the last few weeks suggesting we take a look back over our experience in 2012 or to start planning what we would like to do in 2013. I therefore thought I would combine both perspectives by reviewing how we can work more efficiently with customer underst anding and information to develop deeper insight and grow our businesses.

All organisations try to underst and their customers in order to satisfy their rational needs and emotional desires. The way they go about doing this however, can make a big difference in how successful they are. There are globally four ways we can consider to collect and then use information and knowledge about our customers:

#1. Hindsight

This is arguably the most used “sight” in customer underst anding. We look back and record or measure what our customers did. Where they bought; how much they consumed; what advertising they saw and when. All these metrics are based on past performance and we often then use this information to estimate how healthy our br and and business is going to be in the future. This is based on the assumption that our continued efforts will be rewarded with similar, if not greater success. However, in today’s fast-paced world, nothing stays the same for long, especially not the customer.

Examples of hindsight are market shares, media consumption and shopping habits. Whilst br and equity can also be considered hindsight, it has been found that declining image often preceeds a sales decline, so could arguable be seen to contain elements of both hindsight and foresight.

#2. Eyesight

This is the qualitative element of the previous “sight”. It helps us to qualify the decisions we take about what is important to measure before we do so, or can deepen our underst anding of the information we have already recorded. Management can sometimes feel less comfortable with this type of knowledge if it is not quantified by “solid” quantified information. However, it is a powerful way to more deeply underst and our customers’ thoughts and behaviour and to share it with others.

Examples of eyesight include observation and ethnography, as well as online social media discussions and chat.

#3. Insight

This is what hindsight and eyesight should be developed into. This suggests that no one piece of research, nor one project should be expected to deliver insight. Insights come from combining different sources of information and knowledge into underst anding and insight. Until we underst and the “why” behind what we have found, it is unlikely that true insight can be developed.

Depending upon your definition of an insight, these can include a statement voiced from the consumer’s perspective of what their need is and what feeling they are looking to achieve in solving it.

#4. Foresight

Although a business can be successful if it develops insight, in an ideal world it should also be considering the future and likely changes to the current situation. This will enable an organisation to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities, as well as to plan for possible threats.

Going beyond insight to foresight can mean making ourselves uncomfortable by thinking about possible scenarios that perhaps we would prefer avoiding. However it is only by thinking about them and planning for our reactions in such situations, can we be best prepared to meet the challenges the future may hold.

Now that I have summarised the differences between these four sights, which are you using more often? To be successful we need to use all four, but not necessarily in equal proportions. Their use will depend upon the situation in which we find ourselves, but we need to be able to work with all four of them, in order for our businesses to remain healthy.

If we work mainly with hindsight, we risk being unprepared for market changes and new situations, so we need to strengthen our foresight. This can be done by following societal trends and developing future scenarios to challenge our thinking.

If we work mostly with eyesight, we may feel threatened by numbers and the chance of being proven wrong in our hypotheses and assumptions. Why not try quantifying some of our observations to see whether or not what has been observed is normal behaviour, or due to some sort of bias in sampling or due merely to our perception?

If you work in an organisation that runs a lot of market research projects and draws conclusions from each of them individually, it is time to strengthen your insights. If you don’t have a process for developing insights from information integration, then C3Centricity can help. Insight development can actually save you resources, since running an evaluation of what is already known may produce the required answers and avoid the need for further research.

Finally if you are living mostly in the future, you may be unaware of current opportunities / threats that quantification can indicate. Even when comfortable working with foresight, a business still needs to be managed on a day to day basis and for that, nothing beats a few numbers. Whilst foresight is essential to long-term business growth, the hypotheses must be based upon facts rather than supposition.

So, which sight do you need to strength in 2013? How are you going to do that? Start this New Year by taking a critical look at which ones you are most comfortable in using and decide to strengthen your other sights. Please share your thoughts with everyone below. 

For more information on all these sights, please check out some of our ideas and training here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/

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A Peek at the Future of Customer Underst anding

What are you expecting in 2013? This is a question we should all be asking of both ourselves and our businesses this week. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider what we need to do, to be better prepared for the opportunities and risks that will present themselves in the future.

For this reason, and to also announce an exciting addition to the C3Centricity partnership, I decided to ask this of one of THE most inspirational experts in the area of future scenario building, SciFutures‘s Ari Popper. Ari is the co-founder and President of the company that helps organisations to consider the future in a different and more rewarding way. You can learn more about them on the C3Centricity partner page HERE.

As we finalised our partnership, I took the chance to interview Ari on the changes that he saw for those of us working to underst and and better satisfy the customer of today and tomorrow.

Denyse: Ari, thanks for agreeing to this interview. As we start the New Year, I’d like to begin by getting your thoughts on what you see as the three biggest changes / trends that will likely take place in 2013?

 Ari: Thanks Denyse. My pleasure.

It may sound like hyperbole but this is one of the most exciting times to be alive. Humanity is experiencing a significant step change in ‘life as we know it’ driven by a number of powerful trends. In 2013, these trends will continue to gather momentum and embed even deeper in all aspects of everyday life. Different foresight professionals emphasize different trends but this step change is mostly driven by rapid advancements in emerging technology, the democratization of knowledge and our increasingly networked society.

We have huge social, economic and environmental challenges and they certainly won’t disappear in 2013 but we also have the most incredible tools at our disposal for dealing with these challenges. We are living in a time where our options for creating positive transformations are immense and these options are increasing rapidly. I think of it using an artist’s pallet metaphor with color availability representing potential creative expression. Perhaps as recently as 25 years ago we had only 20 colors to work with. Today, thanks to these big transformational trends, we have hundreds or perhaps thous ands of colors to work with.

For example, the average person in Africa has access to the same amount of information as president Clinton had 20 years ago thanks to that smart device in her pocket. You can participate in free online courses offered by universities like Harvard, Stamford and MIT. [One of these courses on Computer Science had over 100,000 people register from countries all over the world!] You can have your own genome sequenced in 24 hours for less than $600. The list goes on and on and on. What I am interested in and what we do at SciFutures is to help our clients underst and that the greatest tool we have is our imaginations. Truly now, more than ever, we are living in a time where what we can imagine, we can create.

Denyse: WOW Ari, that suggests that there are huge opportunities for anyone willing to take them. I am a great believer of Quantum physics and the power of thought. Can you give any examples of what we may see?

Ari: SciFutures recently sponsored the Extreme Futurist Festival in LA. It was two days of ‘mind blowing’ glimpses from the future. My overall impression was that we have the technical knowhow to solve significant problems, even those as pervasive as world hunger. For example, Douglas Mallette, a NASA scientist who worked on technical solutions to feed astronauts living in the first Mars colony, has applied this expertise to ending world hunger. Simply put, it is a sustainable, low cost solution to create a closed loop aquaponic fish farm that can feed the hungry indefinitely with very low expertise and maintenance.

Daniel Epstein who founded the Unreasonable Institute challenges us to be ‘unreasonable’ in order make significant progress. His ‘unreasonableness’ has facilitated a low cost and extremely viable way to cure blindness permanently using fairly simple technology applied in a sublimely creative way. It is clear to me that we are not lacking in the ‘how’, we are lacking in belief and imagination.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. Let’s come back down to the more mundane world of market research, insight and the information business. What do you see as the three biggest challenges for those working in the profession in the coming year?

Ari: The market research industry has taken a well deserved battering over the past few years. I think of it as the inevitable decline of old models and tools that were great in their time but lacking in relevance and applicability in today’s world (see above). You can see it in the fact that most of the big research companies struggled to grow organically and also in the plethora of disruptive and creative research boutiques tat have popped up.

Significant advances in neuroscience, behavioral economics and the impact of emerging technologies like mobile have disrupted the industry resulting in a few big losers and a few new winners. It is a classic case of creative destruction. I think the MR industry is on the verge of a Cambrian explosion of tools, techniques, insights and smart and nimble entrepreneurs or entrepreneurially minded companies like Google (Google Surveys) are going to do extremely well. 2013 will see a continuation of this trend. The end benefit will mean a massive improvement in the quality and actionability of insights for end clients and the death of old fashioned research tools, techniques and sadly, companies that cannot change.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. I have to say that (sadly) I agree with you. It is why I started C3Centricity and have chosen just a few, very unique partners such as SciFutures to work with. It’s time that the profession woke up before it gets killed in its sleep! Tell me what SciFutures, the company you founded in early 2012, offers that is different from others working in the futures arena and how you can specifically support businesses in meeting the challenges we already talked about.

Ari: SciFutures was founded to use the power of creativity and imagination to help companies disrupt routine and outmoded thinking to create genuinely disruptive ways of operating. We are unique in that we use science fiction narratives as a device to engage our clients and transform complex data into engaging and inspiring scenarios. We like to say ‘we make the geek speak’. We were going to be a creative strategic consulting company but what has really surprised me is the fact that our clients are asking for help in implementing these radical strategies. We now have formed strategic partnerships with technology experts and are in the process of envisioning and also building radical inventions. This could only happen in today’s world since, as Warren Ellis says, “we are living the science fiction condition”.

Denyse: You’re really touching on an important change needed there Ari. How we all have to become storytellers and to share our knowledge and underst anding through stories, in order to get our messages across within the organisation. Finally Ari, if you could give just one piece of advice to all those in marketing and customer underst anding for the coming twelve months, what would it be?

Ari: Well, you have to embrace the times. Don’t fight progress and don’t put your head in the s and – it isn’t going away. Ensure that some risky or unreasonable activity is a part of your plans for 2013 as it is better to disrupt than to be disrupted.

Denyse: Great point Ari. So in summary 2013 is going to be the year of disruption, and to paraphrase Darwin “It is not the strongest that will survive, but those most responsive to change.” Thanks a lot for your time Ari. I am sure I can speak for all my readers in saying that you have certainly opened our minds with your ideas  and thoughts about the future.

Thank you!

SciFutures is one of C3Centricity’s unique and carefully selected partners. If you would like to be better prepared for possible future opportunities and risks, why not contact us? You will be amazed by the inspiration and actionability of what we bring. Also check our website to review some of our solutions: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision

The Great Trends Hoax: They don’t give a Business a Competitive Advantage

Do you follow trends? I bet you do! Everyone likes talking about the future, imagining what it might hold and then taking pride in seeing that they were “right”, that what they had “predicted” has come true. If this is how you work with trends, then you must read this post – urgently!

There are many trend providers today, from futurologists, to trend agencies, to gurus, all claiming to have “the truth”. An ex-colleague of mine made an interesting comment to me last weekend, as we hiked up to the top of La Dole, one of the small hills in the Lac Leman area of Switzerl and where I live.

We were discussing trend following and she was comparing the providers with which her company had worked in the last five or ten years. Which of them “had got it right” and which ones hadn’t. I said that I wasn’t too keen on businesses working with trends alone, as there was no competitive advantage in doing so. She then made a wonderful comment: “You’re right of course. In fact when you go to these meetings to hear about the latest trends each year, you are sitting with a group of 20, 50, 100 or often even more people, all hearing the same presentations and “predictions”. If you all go back and start working on actions to respond to the future that was just presented, you’re all doing the same things and are in a way actually making the predictions come true”.

As I said, I have never really liked working with trends other than for developing plausible future scenarios, but she had put one of my concerns into words; you don’t gain competitive advantage from following trends. Whilst they may at best provide indications of some tactical actions you might take in the short-term, trends cannot help you develop your vision and strategy.

So if you want to achieve the real advantage of following trends and to get a head-start over your competition, then it’s time you started developing your own future scenarios. How? Well, here’s a 10-step approach that I have found has worked with many of my clients, which assumes that you are already following trends of some description:

10-Step Process

  1. Identify the most relevant trends for your category from all those that you are currently following. This evaluation is often best h andled by your market research and insight group, who have access to a lot of information, both internal and external, and not just on trends. If this is a new area for you all, you may decide to seek some external support to help you make these first difficult choices.
  2. Invite a group of about 10-15 people from various departments within the organisation and who have ideas about what will happen in their different areas of the business, to join your “Futures” team. I have found that when invited, few refuse and in fact more ask to join the group when they hear about it, than you really need, so you’ll get the wonderful privilege of choosing the best and most complementary members.
  3. As a team, discuss each of the selected trends in turn and how it is likely to develop in the future, say in the next 10-20 years. Really push everyone’s thinking out of the “probable” and into the “possible”. Depending upon the number of trends, this may take several meetings to pass them all under review.
  4. The market research and insight group, who will ideally be leading the whole process, should then summarise the future of each trend and the forces that will be acting upon it. Agree on the two or three main trend drivers, that are common to the developments, and which when crossed will result in four to eight future worlds.
  5. Review these worlds in another “Futures” team meeting and decide if they are all relevant for your business, or whether their impact will in fact be similar; you are looking to eventually reduce the number of worlds to a more manageable size.
  6. Describe each future world and build a story around them; a day in the life tends to work well.
  7. Identify the challenges and opportunities for the business in each of the created new worlds.
  8. Share the conclusions with the “Futures” team and refine your selection of actions for best business preparedness.
  9. Illustrate each of the worlds that you have selected as being of most relevance. To make them inspirational for everyone with whom you share them, why not try something different? We work with storytelling, visualisation and videos to get the findings across in the most exciting way.
  10. Present to top management and enjoy sharing with them your identified opportunities and challenges, which from my own experience they will never have imagined before.

You will notice that the last step of the process is the presentation to management. Of course in reality it is only the beginning, as you will then need to support each business in defining solutions to answer the challenges and opportunities identified.

Additional steps for Regional / Global players

Also, if you work in a regional or global role, you will need to follow up with regional and global presentations, to ensure that everyone appreciates the necessity of working together on the trends, their progress and their impact on business. They also need to underst and that it will be important to alert markets behind them on certain trends and what may happen to them, as well as to observe those ahead of them to prepare their own market for changes.

Scenario planning is a company project, not a departmental one, which is why trend following cannot be left to each market or business unit to do on its own. Have fun with your own scenario developments and enjoy the unique chance of inspiring the whole business with the opportunities and challenges you have identified. It is much more rewarding than presenting trends, which have merely grown or declined from one year to the next.

Have you had experience in developing scenarios yourself? If so, please share what worked or didn’t for you, and let me know if you would add any important steps from your own process, to the ones I have mentioned above.

For more information on scenario planning, vision and strategy development, please check out our website:  https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

If you would like our help in developing an inspiring story about what your business’s future worlds could be, and what challenges and opportunities may await you in 10, 15 or even 20 years from now, then why not contact us for an informal discussion? NO Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

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6 Tips to Thinking Outside the Innovation Box

Does your business have an innovation process? No? Then perhaps you should count yourself lucky! Most businesses that do have one, sometimes get stuck in it, stopping them from thinking Bigger and Bolder, and therefore also stopping them from dreaming. If this is the case with your own organisation, then this post should offer some inspiration for change.

When companies are starting up, they often begin with just one or a few products or services to offer. However, as they grow, they get ideas about other products or services they could add, sometimes at the suggestion of their current customers. As business continues to grow, they might set up an innovation process or put someone in charge of searching for new ideas and unfortunately this tends to be when they start to lose contact with their customers and what they really desire.

Today we all underst and the importance of customer centricity, the power of putting the customer at the heart of the business and yet we still manage to forget them somehow when looking to innovate. For this reason, I thought it would be useful to share my six tips to help you to think outside the innovation box in your organisation, whether you are a big multinational, or just a small local firm.

#1. Start with your customers in mind

This makes so much sense and yet we all seem to forget it at times. Big companies have R&D departments so their innovations tend to be technology and skill driven. Smaller ones have maybe more limited resources, so ideation falls on the desk of the owner, marketing head or the person responsible for operations. All businesses have customers, so why not start with them? What do they dream about improving, what are their biggest issues with your category? Finding solutions to their frustrations will almost certainly guarantee the success of your next new product or service.

#2. Why do you want to innovate?

The answer to this simple question will give you some ideas of the solutions you need to create:

  • Is competition growing? If so, what do they know about your customers that you don’t? What can you do about it, both now as well as in the future to stop it happening again?
  • Is the market segment growing faster than you are, so even though your sales are growing you are losing market share? If so, why; what products and sub-categories are increasing, what benefits are attracting customers more than in the past? Can you follow or lead with a different benefit area?
  • Is your image getting old and in need of updating? Where are your comparative weaknesses and is competition filling all possible positionings in the category map?

#3. Do you need to innovate or renovate?

The difference between the two can make a huge difference in what you develop. If you need to innovate but actually produce a “small” innovation, closer to a renovation, you are less likely to succeed, at least in CPG, according to Steenkamp. Identify which end of the innovation scale you are aiming for and rework your ideas until you reach it.

#4. Can you innovate outside your box?

Most companies innovate in very predictable ways, so that even their current customers are less excited or inspired to try their new offers. This is unfortunately a trait of human behaviour; we all get bored in the end, even with the best product or service that excited us when it was launched. What was once seen as a breakthrough can quickly become taken for granted as customers become used to it. Therefore why not think outside the box, using different levers? For example food companies continuously bring out new flavours, when maybe a new sensation is what’s needed. Nestlé’s chocolate mousse is a great example of this.

#5. Reinventing innovation needs a new culture, not a new process

As mentioned above, new processes are usually not the best answer to more successful innovation. According to a recent Forbes article likeminded people develop likeminded products. To create breakthrough innovation, you need a culture shock, people who think differently. This can be as simple as taking people from different departments to work together, or hiring people from the outside, with very different mind-sets to stimulate new thinking.

#6. Innovate in answer to scenarios not trends

Most customer-facing organisations follow societal trends. The problem with this is that their competition is doing exactly the same thing, which means that they will be in a constant rush to launch faster than their competitors, and at best end up leading a new segment of two or more almost identical products.

A much better way to innovate is to respond to opportunities or challenges identified by developing future scenarios out of the trends. These have the advantage of being unlikely to be duplicated, at least in the beginning, and are further out time-wise so they will allow more time to create a new offering even before your customer knows they have the need. In some cases this might mean you will have to be patient until the customer is ready – it took Nespresso more than 20 years to become the phenomenal success it is today! – but at least you are less likely to be faced with a competitor offering a similar product.

If you follow these six tips, you can be sure your innovation will meet with greater success and your business will be well prepared to capture future opportunities better than the competition. If you are already doing all of these, I congratulate you. Still struggling to grow as fast as you would like? Well then here is my seventh, only for the bravest innovators:

EXTRA #7. What business are you in?

If you are constantly met with innovations from your major competitors just before or after your own launches, then it is time to get out of the fight be changing the territory. What do I mean by that? Ask yourself what business you are really in.

For example a cigarette manufacturer could see itself as a provider of personal pleasure; now that opens up innovation doesn’t it, far beyond just a different cigarette br and? And suppose a food company became a nutrition business offering supplements and meal replacements; a home cleaning corporation widens to become a home carer and beautifier; a pet food company shares its passion for animals be offering insurance and medical treatments. Asking what business you are really in and not the one you thought you were in, can sometimes be just the spark that is needed to truly successful innovation.

So which one of these are you going to use this month to start reinventing your innovation? Take action today, so that you get a positive ROI on your reading of this post.

Would you like to share your own ideas for improving innovation? Please add a comment below; we reply to all comments and might invite you to write a guest post on the topic for us.

If you want to know more about innovation, please check our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

Do you know someone who is struggling with their own innovation? Please share this post with them.

Does your organisation need more help in reinventing its own innovation? We can run a 1-Day Catalyst session to get you started FAST; contact us here for more information.

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10 ways Customer Excellence can Ignite Your Business: And Why You Need It Now

Why are so many businesses looking at building a Customer Excellence (CE) department today?

Customers, consumers and clients are demanding more attention; they want to be heard, they want to be seen and understood for who they are; they want their needs and desires answered. Social media has increased our attention to them, but many organisations are still struggling to walk the talk of customer centricity. If this is your own case and you are looking to develop customer excellence, then this post is for you.

Several companies have contacted me in the last few months, to ask for help in creating a Consumer / Customer Excellence Department. Having already gone through the challenges of doing this when I worked in the corporate world, I knew that I could certainly help others with this exciting objective. However, each time, my first reaction was to ask “Why”; not why they had contacted me but why they wanted to create the group and why now?

Setting up a Customer Excellence (CE) department is not just a structural change; it is more importantly a cultural change that must go deep into the whole organisation if it is to work. #CEX #CMO #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

It is often the CEO or CMO who makes the original request, since they feel that the company is not paying enough attention to their customers. However, the initiative will only succeed if everyone in the company not only buys into the vision, but is also excited by the changes it will bring.

 

Let me share some of my own experiences to help you on your own journey, by illustrating a few of the imperatives to succeed in such an initiative:

#1. CE should report into the Board

This new department must report into the board and ideally have a seat there too. The initiative must be seen as an organisational and not a departmental objective. If CE reports into marketing, it will be seen as a marketing support group; maybe just a new name for the traditional marketing services, market research or insight departments, as I am sad to report was once said to me by my CEO!

 

#2. CE should group all customer-facing departments

Customer Excellence should include all customer-facing departments, including market research and insight of course, but also care centres, consumer services, web services, CRM and perhaps even the promotions teams.

Customer Excellence should include all customer-facing departments, including market research & insight, care centres, consumer services, web services, CRM and perhaps even the promotions teams. #CEX #Customer #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

This means that CE will watch over both personalised and anonymous connections with customers, but these can provide valuable information that can be integrated and used cross-functionally.

 

#3. CE ensures the business connects with the same tone & vocabulary

Every personalised contact with the customer must use the same tone and voice. They should also be based upon background information about every previous connection, by whatever medium used. In this way, the customer who already sees them all as links to the company, will perceive that the business cares about them and wants to build a deep relationship and understanding of their needs and desires. Everyone likes people who take a positive interest in them, so this is a true win-win.

 

#4. CE should be multi-category

In order to truly integrate all the knowledge and understanding, the CE group should also work across categories and brands in a multi-category company. In this way they will comprehend the person as a whole, and not just as a category user.

This also has the added benefit of giving the organisation an opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell when a connection is made, by proposing appropriate products and categories.

I am sure you have all been contacted at some time in the past for an inappropriate product, by a company that didn’t do this, right? For example diapers promoted to single men, a new desert to people on a diet or who are diabetic, innovative new alcoholic beverage to teetotallers etc etc. Irritating for the customer and damaging the image of the brand.

 

#5. CE should be Global

Wherever relevant, Customer Excellence should have a worldwide remit, integrating all regions and markets. This enables them, and the business, to be aware of global as well as regional category and societal trends, which in turns helps the company be prepared for future opportunities and challenges.

In addition, this can build a useful community spirit, especially in decentralised organisations. Markets should always be looking for information from countries ahead of them on any relevant trends, whilst also looking back to help those who are following them on other trends.


Customer excellence roadmap in the book Winning customer centricityThe book Winning Customer Centricity: Putting customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time  includes a simple roadmap for adopting a customer first strategy. It covers the four foundational topics that need to be addressed.

Find out more and about the book and reserve your spot for the webinar:

 

 

 

 


#6. CE should develop Scenarios

Most organisations today follow trends, but these do not bring competitive advantage unless they are developed into future scenarios. By doing this, Customer Excellence can prepare management for the future, identifying possible changes to the market, so that opportunities can be grabbed and response to possible challenges well prepared in advance.

Business relevance will always be higher for scenarios than trends. In a regional or multinational organisation, scenarios can help markets to be better prepared, by sharing information across borders and continents, rather than using geographic closeness to define regions.

Language rather than geography sets the boundaries in todays connected world, so innovation and new product roll-outs should follow them. Surprisingly, companies still favour launching based on market proximity; this is a big error.

Language rather than geography sets the boundaries in todays connected world, so innovation & new product roll-outs should follow them. Surprisingly, companies still favour launching based on market proximity; this is a big error. #NPD… Click To Tweet

 

#7. CE should be Market / Brand agnostic

By being market and brand agnostic, the Customer Excellence department is free to give advice and to share their true opinions, without fear of upsetting the business unit or regional head. Corporations today must get comfortable with cross-departmental team working and the creation of a Customer Excellence department is a great way to catalyse this change.

 

#8. CE should Integrate all Customer Information

Understanding and insight development from the information gathered by market research, sales, marketing, finance, supply chain, and all the other available sources within an organisation, can only come from total data and knowledge integration. Consumer Excellence can again provide the analytical expertise and the cross-category perspective to reap the full benefits for everyone.

Having a one-stop shop for a company’s customer and market information, knowledge, understanding and insights means that work is not replicated when requests come in from different departments. Additionally, multiple categories may be interested in similar target groups, which means that customer excellence can provide deeper insights to both groups without twice the work.

 

#9. CE should cover costs through better negotiation

This also applies to the purchasing of external information and reports. Few suppliers would ever tell a company that they have already purchased a report or database. They are happy to make that second or even multiple sales to different departments within an organisation. However, if all information requests are handled by one group, companies can certainly avoid this and also negotiate better deals for multiple purchases for reports that are relevant in several business units and which should be made available across the organisation.

This is a particularly valuable additional benefit for decentralised corporations, since there is generally little collaboration at the purchasing level. However, from my own personal experience, savings can even be found for centralised enterprises, through simply negotiating volume discounts.

 

#10. CE Ignites Customer Centricity & Business Growth

Last but not least, the customer benefits from a CE function, since all employees are thinking about the role they play in satisfying them. Becoming customer centric is a long journey, so the more people that are involved at the start, the more likely that cultural change will happen. This is because each employee reinforces the thinking of putting the customer at the heart  of the business.

To conclude, the creation of a Customer Excellence department sponsored at board level, can put the customer at the heart of the company, as well as of every department within it. The business will benefit, the customer will benefit and hopefully the employees too.

What have been your experiences with the creation of a Customer or Consumer Excellence Department? Please share your own stories here and add the other benefits you have found from your own experiences. 

For more about the processes of enhancing customer centricity or creating a Customer Excellence Department, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com

Choosing the right marketing ROI metrics

If you work in marketing and are being challenged by management to demonstrate that you are an investment and not just a cost to the business, then this post is definitely for you.

Marketing is coming under a lot of pressure these days; it is being asked, no dem anded, to demonstrate the ROI of their investments. With the explosion of information readily available from social media, this has become even more pressing. In response, marketing is showing how many “Likes” they have on Facebook, or how many fans they have on their br and pages, but are these effective and relevant measures of marketing success today? I doubt it.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, marketing is no longer (just) the creative arm of business (you can read that post here); – it is now also heavily involved in data integration and analytics, with the need to befriend the IT department to manage all the information.

This is a truly exciting time to be in marketing, especially because of all these changes. However change also brings its own challenges and many in marketing are feeling the need, if not obligation, to defend their budgets, whether stable or increasing. This is due to the many opportunities for what many see to be “free” media on the web, so I thought it would be useful to review what marketers can do to ensure they continue to be viewed as the essential predecessor of sales that they are in reality.

“Everything that can be counted doesn’t necessarily count; everything that counts can’t necessarily be counted” Albert Einstein

According to the Lenskold Group’s 2010 B2B Lead Generation Marketing ROI Study, most marketers don’t know what impact a 10% increase or decrease in their budgets would have. Therefore if the CEO is looking for money, you know where he’s likely to go; if marketers can’t defend their own budgets, who will?

One of the biggest challenges faced by marketing people is that they don’t all speak the language of business. CEO’s and CFO’s are interested in sales, margins and profits, so there is no point in speaking to them about increasing awareness or the number of clicks on your latest website or ad – unless you can say what impact these increases will have on the business.      

I think that the main issue with calculating marketing is that too many marketing plans are still being developed based upon those of previous years, without too much thought going into what the objectives of each action are specifically. How many times have you been asked why your br and is running three new ad campaigns this year and the reply is “because we ran three last year”!

If you or your organisation is likely to reply in a similar fashion, here are three tips for you to consider:

#1. Plan the metrics when you plan the actions

Marketing are often found scrambling to prove why their budgets should not be cut half-way through the year, when the CEO is looking for money. Unless you know what the results of your actions are likely to be, as well as best case and worst case scenarios, which means you have already thought about the outcomes and metrics, you are unlikely to be able to defend your continued spending when times are tough.

Defining the metrics doesn’t mean finding the easiest way to measure your actions, but the way that will produce the most relevant metrics to show their impact on sales and profit. Thus although advertising does impact awareness, it is only when the awareness level is linked to trial and purchase does it become relevant from a business perspective.

#2. Aim for foresight rather than “eyesight”

There has been a lot of talk about developing insight in recent years, but I think it is even more valuable for business to develop foresight. Most market research studies measure what is happening at best and often report what happened in the past, since the results are presented weeks if not months after their recording.

To be effective you need to get more comfortable with hypotheses and considering likely outcomes of your actions, in order to know when you need to ask for more budget or when you might even return monies if your actions are not delivering the expected results. No CFO will reduce budgets next year just because you didn’t use all your money this year, if they can clearly underst and how you came to the decision concerning the required investments and the likely results.

Another point to consider is to run test and learn exercises, which will save time and provide metrics on which to base your hypotheses, when the test is compared to a control group. CFO’s love numbers and comparisons are even more likely to meet with approval of your dem ands.

#3. Think quality not (just) quantity

Marketing is usually happy to report on the number of contacts made at an event, or the number of people remembering an ad campaign, when in many cases increases in these contact / recall numbers don’t mean an equal or proportional increase in sales. So unless you know exactly the relationship between the two, find a more meaningful metric for the business.

Management always has too much to read and review, so keep the metrics to a small number, three to five should be sufficient. Since marketing directly impacts sales, the effectiveness KPI’s chosen should be a collaborative decision of the two departments concerned. Whether your organisation is used to working with a sales funnel, a path to purchase or a decision journey, choose metrics that can be measured in a consistent way along it and thus also followed over time.

And one last word of warning; link your metrics to outcome not to spend, which is the easier and oft chosen one. Of course a CMO will be following many more than 3-5 metrics of the marketing activities, to ensure the budget split is as effective as possible, but the CEO will not need to see them all.

These are just three tips to help marketing defend their budgets through appropriate measurement; what others would you add?

For more on KPI’s please see our C3C Solution on our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

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Defining a Better Strategy from Improved Customer Centricity

Every company today has a vision and mission statement that it proudly shares both internally and externally, to explain who they are and what they want to achieve.

Surprisingly – or should I say sadly – few B2C (Business to Customer) companies include the customer in these and yet it would not exist without them. A famous, albeit anonymous, quotation says:

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

If you are in a people-facing industry, it is vital to start your vision and mission with clear statements that indicate to all that your customer is at the heart of your business.

Past, present, future:

In many companies the vision and plans are based upon past performance, and forecasts for the future are then calculated based on current sales trends. In today’s fast changing world, the future is less and less like the past, so it is unwise to rely on backward looking measures alone. A better way to prepare your vision and plans, is to start by reviewing your mission statement, which states clearly what the company is aiming to be, and then to see how this fits with the target audiences. If changes are necessary, societal trends can help to identify what they are.

 

Foresight:

Foresight is an essential part of the planning process, as it will enable a company to assess its vision with the future rather than the past in mind. Society is constantly changing; it is said that a generation today is as little as 5 or 10 years, whereas in the near past it was considered to be 20 years or more. What this means for a company, is that its strategy and plans will need almost constant adaptation, since what worked just a few years ago is no longer relevant for today’s customers.

One of the biggest challenges for an organisation wanting to introduce trend following, and I see no reason for any company NOT to be doing this, is that there is too much choice. There are agencies that are specialised in trend following, such as Mintel, TrendWatching, Yankelovich (now part of the Futures Company), McKinsey’s Global Institute, TrendHunter, Global Trends, to name just a few. In addition, many communications agencies also propose their own trend following services, McCann Pulse being one of the better.

When you are ready to introduce trend following into your organisation, it is vital that everyone agrees on ONE trend following tool for the whole company and then selects the most relevant trends for each business or service. This will avoid duplication of efforts, facilitates exchanges within the business and ensures everyone both speaks the same language and underst ands the trends and their implications for the company in the same way.

Some of the most talked about trends for business to follow at the moment include:

  • Aging Baby Boomers
  • Authenticity
  • Heritage, nostalgia, tradition
  • Community, crowdsourcing, innovative co-creation
  • Making the world a better place
  • Urbanization
  • Health and Wellbeing

 

Scenario building:

Once you have an agreed list of trends you are following in the company, you might think your work is done, but that is not the end, it is just the beginning. Every company is – or should be – watching societal trends, so there is NO competitive advantage to doing so. However, you can get the edge over your competitors by developing them into plausible future scenarios and then identifying their drivers and trigger points. Scenario planning can often be done with the same organisations you are using to follow your trends, but is of course a proprietary exercise and thus will probably cost you the same, if not even more, than your trend following investments. As it is this second step that delivers true competitive advantage it is definitely worth the money.

Scenario planning, is a strategic planning method that enables you to make flexible long-term plans and also be better prepared for the most likely future events. Most scenario work is done by extending the trends into the future and then combining them, to see how they impact one another and also your business. Two to three axes are then identified on which the most extreme changes will occur and the corresponding “new worlds” are developed and described.

The last part of the exercise is to then position your categories and markets on the trends and to identify the drivers and  trigger points, which will enable you to be forewarned of possible market changes.

What changes are you following today and how are you working with scenarios to better prepare your organisation? Please share your most creative ideas.

For more on trends and scenario planning please visit our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

This post first appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on November 24th 2011

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New Year, New Challenges: 3 Helpful Ideas for Innovators

As we ramp up to face the economic, political and societal changes that will surely continue in 2012, many organisations are challenging their R&D and hopefully marketing departments too, to develop and launch new products and services.

With luck, these developments were already in their plans and pipeline for this year, but sometimes businesses are forced into going to market sooner than they would have liked, due to market circumstances or competitive activities.

An article in Marketing Week (read here) at the beginning of last year, mentioned that Unilever said that increased investment, as well as their “Bigger, Better, Faster” innovation initiative was the driving force behind its increased profit and sales in 2010.

As we are all only too aware, today’s customers are highly dem anding of novelty and each period of satisfaction becomes shorter and shorter, as they quickly get accustomed to the latest improvements.

In an earlier post (read here), I spoke of the research carried out by Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, a marketing professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler which showed that CPG / FMCG innovation needed to be one of the two extremes of “innovativeness” to succeed:

  • either a minor improvement, or renovation, such as a new flavour, size, colour, packaging, content …
  • or a radically new product that is significantly different from anything else on the market. These are of course more breakthrough and therefore more difficult to develop. Past examples have included microwave meals, Sony Walkman, Nespresso, iPhone, Ipad,

The interesting and perhaps disturbing thing about breakthrough innovation, is that timing is everything; bring it out too early and people won’t underst and or see the need; too late and competition might beat you. This is one of the reasons that IT companies quite often offer “beta versions” of their products or software before they are 100% ready and then quickly follow with a version 2 with corrected or improved functionalities.

Other br ands such as Nestlé’s Nespresso or even Gillette’s Silkience, the first shampoo with integrated conditioner, launched almost 40 years ago, were introduced ahead of the curve, before their consumers were ready for them. The companies then had to decide to either wait it out (Nespresso waited many years to become profitable) or relaunch at a later date, but then risk being pre-empted by competition, who then have the time to copy the new product.

So how can companies better underst and their consumers’ needs, desires, or even unarticulated and unknown needs, and launch just in time to benefit from them? Here are three ideas that I came up with, but I would welcome your input too:

1. Develop Future Scenarios

Most organisations today are following trends, but as competition is almost certainly following the same ones, there is no competitive advantage and little chance of benefiting from identified tendencies. It is only when the trends are turned into future scenarios that the real competitive advantage appears.

 

2. Identify lead countries

Most industries have markets where the consumers are more dem anding or more open to innovation in certain categories. These are great countries for both market testing, as well as for showing others what is likely to happen in the near future. Such examples include:

  • fashion in France and Italy
  • technology in Japan and the USA
  • retailing in the USA

 

3. Collaborate with neighbouring industries

Several companies have formed alliances with others to either prepare first level ingredients for their own product preparation or to develop manufacturing technologies or retailing opportunities with cross-over possibilities. Examples that come to mind include:

  • Sony-Ericsson: a joint venture by Japanese consumer electronics company Sony Corporation and the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson to make mobile phones
  • The retail giant Walmart formed a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises, Inc., one of India’s leading business groups, which led to their opening business there in 2009.
  • Nestlé and Coca-Cola formed a joint venture for Ice Tea (just ended)

 

Today’s consumers are highly dem anding of bigger, better and faster innovations, so companies must build speed and flexibility into their new product development processes and tools to answer these needs. Being better prepared is half the battle.

How are you preparing for the constant dem ands of your own customers and consumers? Please share your ideas and stories below.

For more ideas on new product and service development, please check out innovation on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

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How to Create Better Vision

Every company today has a vision and mission statement that it shares both internally and externally, to explain who they are and what they want to achieve.

Surprisingly – or should it be sadly – few B2C (Business to Customer) companies include the customer in these and yet it would not exist without them:

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

If you are in a people-facing industry, it is vital to start your vision and mission with clear statements that your customer is at the heart of your business.

Past, present, future:

In many companies the vision is based upon past performance, and forecasts for the future are then calculated from current sales trends. In today’s fast changing world, the future is less and less like the past, so it is unwise to rely on backward looking measures alone. A better way to prepare the vision for an organisation, is to review the mission statement, what the company is aiming to be and then to see how this fits with its target audiences. If changes are necessary, then societal trends can help to identify them.

 

Foresight:

Foresight is an essential part of the planning process, as it will enable a company to assess its vision with the future rather than the past in mind. Society is constantly changing; it is said that a generation today is as little as 5 or 10 years, whereas in the near past it was considered to be closer to 20 years. What this means for a company, is that its strategy and plans will need almost constant adaptation, since what worked just a few years ago is no longer relevant for today’s customers.

One of the biggest challenges for an organisation wanting to introduce trend following, is that there is too much choice. There are companies that are specialised in trend following, such as Mintel, TrendWatching, Yankelovich (now part of the Futures Company), McKinsey’s Global Institute, TrendHunter, Global Trends, to name just a few. Many communications agencies also propose their own trend following services, McCann Pulse being one of the better.

When you are ready to introduce trend following into your organisation, it is vital that you agree on ONE trend following tool for the whole company and then select the most relevant trends for each business or service. This will avoid duplication of efforts, facilitate exchanges within the business and ensure everyone both speaks the same language and underst ands the trends and their implications for the company in the same way.

Some of the most talked about trends for business to follow at the moment include:

  • Aging Baby Boomers
  • Authenticity
  • Heritage, nostalgia, tradition
  • Community, crowdsourcing, innovative co-creation
  • Making the world a better place
  • Urbanization
  • Health and Wellbeing

 

Scenario building:

So you now have an agreed list of trends you are following in the company, but that is just the beginning. Every company is – or should – be watching societal trends, so there is NO competitive advantage to doing so. How you can get the edge over your competitors is by developing them into plausible future scenarios and then identifying their drivers and trigger points. Scenario planning can often be done with the same organisations you are using to follow your trends, but is of course a proprietary exercise and thus will cost you the same, if not even more than your trend following investments. As it is this second step that delivers true competitive advantage it is definitely worth the extra money.

Scenario planning, is a strategic planning method that enables you to make flexible long-term plans and also be better prepared for the most likely future events. Most scenario work is done by extending the trends into the future and then combining them, to see how they impact one another and also your business. Two to three axes are then identified on which the most extreme changes will occur and the corresponding “new worlds” described.

The last part of the exercise is to then position your categories and markets on the trends and to identify the drivers and  trigger points, which will enable you to be forewarned of possible market changes.

What changes are you following today and how are you working with Scenarios to better prepare your organisation? Please share your most creative ideas.

Need inspiration to improve your own business’s preparatio9n for future opportunities and risks? Check our website: http://c3centricity.com/home/vision or contact us here.

For more ideas on building br and equity: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ – See more at: https://www.c3centricity.com/blog/how-your-br and-can-make-a-bigger-impressio/#sthash.FIfaCFhb.dpuf

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