We all know that customer centricity is essential; even more so these days with the lockdown in most countries due to the pandemic.
Now more than ever, businesses need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation. But I know that many struggle, even in more normal times, to be customer centric. They just don’t know where to start. Am I right? If you’re one of them, then this article is for you.
This week I give you ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to an improved customer-first strategy.
#1 Review & Revise the Description of your Target Audience
Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to speak about personas or avatars.
Is it as complete as it should be? If not, then regular readers will know about and probably use the C3Centricity 4W™ template for storing all this information. You can download it and get the accompanying workbook here.
Include not only your customers’ demographics and consumption / purchasing habits but also information about where they do these things, what values they have that you can tap into and what emotions motivate them to purchase and use your brand.
#2 Assess the Optimum Way of Connecting with Your Customers
Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect?
Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it one-way or two? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?
Obviously the second is what it should be. You can learn far more about your customers when they are ready to share their information with you.
Do you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?
They certainly have more than one need, but you must identify and address only one.
If you attempt to address more than one and especially if they are not sequential, your customer may be confused.
Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for them will leave your customers perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can meet their needs and objectives.
Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has one additional benefit. It can increase the success of regional and global launches by identifying cultures with similar levels of a specific need.
Is customer care only on the objectives of one or two departments in your organisation? Perhaps it’s only for the care centre employees or merchandisers to do.
It should, in fact, be on everyone’s annual objectives, to watch, listen and engage with your customers regularly. This will help them to understand how their work fits into the company’s objective to satisfy and delight them.
Every employee has a role to play in customer centricity and connecting with the customers on a frequent basis and sharing experiences with colleagues will ensure that everyone understands this.
Do you know where your business is going? Do you know what might happen in the future and what you would do in each situation? How would you react to new laws, new customer demands, and their new sensitivities such as ecology, sustainability, sourcing or ingredients?
It is better to plan for such events before they happen, so that you can quickly react to challenges as well as opportunities.
I am in favour of developing plausible future scenarios, rather than merely following trends. Why? Because everyone follows trends so they provide no competitive advantage. However, by developing scenarios, they will be unique to your organisation and provide a clear path to answer all possible future opportunities and threats.
#6 Review Your Business Plans for Customer Centricity
Are your customers clearly identified and described in your plans, as well as the customers of your major competitors?
Review your plans by considering how your customers will react to each of your scheduled actions. Not just the outcomes you are hoping for, but a true detailed analysis based upon your understanding of them and their desires.
Have you planned any actions to surprise and delight them, or are you only relying on the “same old” activities, repeated from year to year?
People get bored quickly and you can also “train” your customers to expect your promotions. They then wait for them before purchasing, often in quantity, and will also eventually become of less interest, and perceived value, to them. Plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year.
Are you blocked in an innovation box, relying on your internal technical and expert skills? If you know your customer well you can offer them more successful innovations, perhaps through additional sensorial experiences.
Consider adding sound to taste, colour to services, touch to packaging, aromas to retail displays. Give your customers more reasons to stay with you and they will become more loyal.
I can feel your shock as you read this, but why not review your process for developing your advertising?
If you spent more time and resources reviewing how to connect with your customer, and then reviewed early-stage work up-stream with them, you would be more likely to develop winners.
It would also reduce or totally replace your usual tests just before airing, when in most cases it is too late to change anything.
#9 Define Your Image
Your brand has an image but it might not be what you think it is. Make sure you are measuring it regularly and not only on the attributes that you ideally want to perform well on. You need to include attributes important to your competitors, as well as the category in general.
I so often see biassed attribute lists which, while providing exaggerated, over-positive images, lull companies into a false sense of security. When you are not measuring what is important for your competitors, you will always come out on top.
Another advantage is that the coverage of the total category will be more complete and you may even find a new or adapted positioning that no-one else is currently occupying.
You know that what gets measured gets managed, well are you measuring what needs managing or only the easy metrics to gather?
If you know your customers well, who they are, what they do, what they think of you and your competitors, and then compare these to where you want to take your brand, the metrics you need to be measuring become evident.
Too many organisations rely on financial KPIs alone. Make sure you are not one of them, by adding metrics to cover customer awareness, satisfaction and perception.
I hope this list has helped you to identify a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Actioning even just one of them will improve your customer centricity and your profitability too (according to research).
Of course completing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the center of your business, as well as in the hearts of your employees.
If you would like to know just how customer centric you are, complete the C3C Evaluator™ assessment. It’s free! The Evaluator™ will help you to identify where you are today as well as how to prioritise any needed changes in your organisation.
For further inspiration on making your organisation more customer centric, check out our other articles on C3Centricity, or contact us here:
We are sweltering in the Northern Hemisphere with record temperatures, so here’s a “cool” idea on how businesses can get ready for anything by applying these success factors.
Every winter, the media is full of stories of record snowfalls somewhere in the world, whether in the US, Europe or in the Far East. Despite all the sophisticated technologies at our disposition, we just never seem to be prepared. So what are the success factors of readiness?
Remember winter storm Juno in the USA in 2015? It dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Eastern coastline of North America. According to the Weather Channel its snowfall broke records in Worcester, MA, although in most other places it fell far below that of other storms from 2013 all the way back to 1978.
In the same year, in the North of the UK, the region was battered with a rare blast of thundersnow – an unnerving combination of thunderstorms and downpours of snow. As if that wasn’t enough, they were soon preparing to do battle with the elements with yet another storm shortly afterwards.
Now what do all these storms have to do with business you might wonder? Well for me they are a great illustration of the problems that many companies can face from time to time. Governments and city maintenance teams prepare for winter by organising vast stocks of grit and salt, as well as heavy snow-clearing machinery. But despite all this preparation, they still seem to be caught off-guard when they need to use them.
The same goes for businesses. Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they’re not!
The reason is that there are two serious problems with that way of thinking:
Firstly they are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar trend reports.
And secondly, they think that knowing the trends will somehow protect them from future risks and catastrophes. However, having the right material still doesn’t stop bad things happening, as we’ve seen this winter.
So let’s take a look at what you can do to be better prepared and not get regularly “snowed-in” as many countries are this winter.
The Problem with Trend following alone
As I already mentioned, trend following suppliers are providing almost identical information to all their clients. This results in their clients then working on the same ideas & concepts and eventually launching very similar, non-competitive products and services. Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their advertising? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason.
Clearly the current trends of independence and freedom have been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above, and probably many others as well. Perhaps they are working with the same trend following company or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports? Whatever the reason, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising “Big Idea”.
Companies which develop concepts based upon theses types of external resources alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them. Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working for the consumers.
The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.
Businesses working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below. In just ten simple steps you can turn your trend following into a powerful competitive advantage that will surprise competition and delight your customers.
Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company.
Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business.
Identify the mostimportant trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political).
Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least.
Collide the resultant developed trends to produce the most likely changes.
Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes – this is what is important.
Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.
Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.
However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional success factors that need to be met in order to guarantee the most actionable scenario planning exercises. These include:
A diverse internal team who are both enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area.
An excellent creative to lead the process, ideally from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone.
Executive management support of the exercise as well as of its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios.
Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation.
Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis.
Following the process as summarised above and including all five success factors mentioned, will give you the best chance of building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise before, it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.
These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning. Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends.
How do you develop your br and strategy and vision? Do you just take last year’s document and revise it? Do you build your plan based upon the sales and profit increases imposed by management? Or do you start from your target customers’ perspective?
You know me well enough to have guessed that as a customer centric champion, I am going to say that the third answer is the correct one. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take neither last year’s plan nor management’s targets into account. Rather I’m suggesting that as you are selling to your customers, they should be top of mind.
If you believe that your own br and planning process could do with an update, then read on; I have gathered together some of the latest ideas and best practices to inspire you to make a few improvements.
One of my favourite quotes on planning comes from Alan Lakein, an American businessman and author:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” (>>Tweet this<<)
Another from A. A. Milne the English author and playwright says:
“Planning is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up” (>>Tweet this<<)
So let’s start planning so we don’t mess things up!
Where you are – the situation analysis
The first step of the process is to run a situation analysis. This phase can include, but not be limited to, a review of market shares and trends, your current customer persona, your br and’s current image and changes, as well as the full details about your offer – price, packaging etc. Here we’re not speaking about the industry definitions, but the consumers’ perspective, or course. You will also need to do the same for your major competitors, but more about that below.
Who are your customers?
anding” width=”349″ height=”197″ /> The 4 Ws of targetingThis should be a no-brainer and yet I am constantly surprised just how many clients are unable to answer this question in detail. They may succeed in being relatively specific on demographics, as the above example mentioned, but not much more.
Only be completing a detailed profile, or persona as many like to call it these days, will ensure you are starting from the best possible position.
What is your current image?
A br and image and equity review is essential for both new and existing br ands. What category are you in? Is that an industry definition or a customer one? I remember working with a client who thought they were competing in the carbonated soft drinks market. In discussing with consumers we found they were competing in a mush wider arena including carbonated soft drinks AND fruit juices, because their drink contained real fruit juice.
The segment in which you compete is vital to underst and, as you will then review how your image compares to those of your major competitors. If you don’t know in which segment(s) you are competing, the latter are going to be difficult to identify.(>>Tweet this<<) And you may miss a major one through your limited view, as did my client mentioned above.
Another client of mine wanted to sell a new service for young people but its corporate image was one associated with older businessmen. It would have been a huge struggle for them to change this image, so I suggested removing the company name from their packaging. Would you believe it? The br and took off immediately because it could then position itself as a product for their precise target group and adapt communications to them. It worked – big time!
Why you got here – your key issues & opportunities
Based upon your br and audit and situation analysis, you should be able to review your current positioning and see whether you are still aligned with the vision you set. You will also have a good underst anding of your major competitors as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing where you are and why, you can now start to identify what gaps exist and the reasons for them. The actions that you plan to take could be a change to your communications to emphasise a different strength of your br and; or maybe you decide to exp and distribution to better cover your weaker regions; or maybe it’s time to launch a line extension or even a completely new br and. See why the situation analysis is a vital step to conduct before getting into strategic action planning?
Where could you go – your vision
I mentioned earlier about management’s targets that may have been set for your br and. Often these have been developed with a view to the total business needs and then attributed to each br and or category in which the company is active. It is your job to review what is possible, not just what is dem anded.
Whether the targets are too high or too low, you need to review both the budget and actions needed to meet these targets and inform management early if they are not aligned.
I know that this won’t make you popular, but at least it gives management the chance to adjust their own plans based on such input and they may be able to adjust them across their full portfolio.
How can you get there – your strategies & tactics
Now your targets have been reviewed and agreed with management, they need to be translated into strategic initiatives you will plan for the year. At this stage keep them high level. Review how you are going to meet them, remembering that there are basically only three ways to grow a business:
get more people to buy
get people to buy more
get people to spend more
Decide on which one (or more) methods you will concentrate on and then you can identify the actions needed.
If you are working with a declining br and, then you can still review these three methods but you will use them to defend your share. For this you will need to underst and which of them is the major cause of the decline and then identify tactics to reduce these losses.
What you need to do – your actions & limitations
Planning your activities need to be done with careful thought and thoroughness. You need to take into account many internal as well as external factors. For instance:
How does your plan fit with those of the other company initiatives? The salesforce won’t be able to work on every br and at the same time.
Is your br and seasonal or impacted by outside conditions? Weather, local celebrations, holidays or cultural habits can all impact dem and for certain categories and br ands.
Do your competitors have an identifiable planning that you can either interrupt or avoid?
What personality does your br and have? Your activities need to fit with your br and’s personality, which you will have checked during the review of its image.
What budget do you have? Better to concentrate on a few touch-points than to cover all of them so thinly your efforts have almost zero impact.
How do your communication plans fit across all the media you will use. They don’t have to be identical but together they should build a complete story.
Those of you that are regulars here know my love of threes. Therefore another useful way to work in a simple but not simplistic way, is to plan three strategies and have three tactics for each. Nine actions are more than enough for any br and.
When presenting your plan, don’t get hung up on the numbers. Tell a story about your vision; where you are today and how you plan to get to where you are going. Use numbers to support your ideas not to blind or drown the audience.
The same goes for your wording. Be precise and succinct, not long-winded in order to just fill the plan template – I think every company has one, no? Organisations oblige managers to use st andard templates, but treat them as guides and not as a bible. I have never heard of a plan being criticised for being too short, although I have of course heard them being criticised for lack of relevant content, which has nothing to do with its length.
What are your best tips for a successful br and strategy? I’d love to hear your own recommendations, especially if you are using a different process.
If you would like our support in developing your br and strategy, vision and plans, then please contact us here; we are sure we can help.
C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.
I was recently on a trip to the US; a transatlantic flight on a Boeing 747, my favourite airplane – apart from the Seneca II that I used to own. Anyway, the reason I love long-distance flights is because they cut us off from everyday life, although unfortunately no longer the phone nor web these days.
They therefore provide us with a very rare commodity; some precious thinking time. How do we ever get that otherwise? Speaking personally, my brain seems to be constantly under pressure from the challenges of work, family, friends – in a word, living – so I love it when I need to get on a flight, the longer the better.
I watched Transcendence on this flight; it’s about the moment when the human brain and technology become one. I love science fiction (SciFi), because it frees the mind to dream and to be far more creative than the “normal” working environment ever allows.
After the film and lunch were over, my mind turned – of course – to business and how I could set my past, current and future clients free too; how to make them more creative as well as more customer centric. So this is what I came up with, far above the clouds and worries of my everyday world.
The future is in our h ands
We are all wise after the event, but how do we become wise before it? In my opinion, by setting free our thoughts about the future and our creativity. Many companies have an innovation group, but rarely do they set them free, to think big, to think out of the box.
In fact in many cases, they are literally put in their own boxes, separated from the business for which they are supposed to be innovating. Whilst the intention of this separation may be laudable – it is claimed that it provides increased freedom – it generally doesn’t work, because the group’s creativity is not grounded.
Despite their incredible creativity, even science fiction writers are grounded; their stories are based on facts, a progression from current actualities to future possibilities. I am not suggesting that innovation be limited to the mere renovation of today’s products and services,but rather that they be based upon a realistic progression of today’s realities, rather than pure hypothesis. In particular, they should be developed out of current sociatal trends, behaviors and needs.
Trend following isn’t creative
Are you following trends? Are you happy with the information you are getting from your supplier? We all love to look at new inventions and products from around the world, but just think about what useful and actionable information you are really getting.
I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you are almost certainly getting exactly the same suggestions as the tens, if not hundreds of other clients your supplier has. Reports aren’t generally personalized, or only minimally, so whatever ideas their reports might spark, are likely to be sparking in every one of your competitors minds too!
So if trend following won’t help your innovation, what will? My answer would be many things; isn’t that good to know?
Develop your trends into future scenarios
Trends do not provide you with a competitive advantage, especially for innovation, so you need to first turn them into future scenarios. There are (at least) two ways to do this.
Firstly you can combine the trends and form what are often referred to as axes of uncertainty. When crossed, these form four (or more) new worlds for you to then define, describe and develop. Your possible actions in each of these scenarios can then be identified, so your business is prepared for all major possible risks and opportunities.
“We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond” Marcel Proust (>>Tweet this<<)
The second way is by identifying the major trends that may impact your business and then letting a Science Fiction writer describe the world that could develop. It is not so much a matter of being right as being provocative, the more the better. That’s why SciFi writers are amongst the best people to stretch our thinking. They have the creativity to go far beyond what most of us would think about, even when stretching our thinking. After all, the point of future scenarios is to prepare business for the future, not to predict it(>>Tweet this<<)
Visualise the future
Once you have developed your scenario – or two – you should visualise them to increases buy-in and sharing. This can be through a simple presentation, descriptive profiles or more exciting animations and videos.
Lowe’s has been one of the companies at the forefront of such visual development, using virtual reality to develop TheHoloroom to show what SciFutures‘ science-fiction writers had developed. The room puts consumers into a new world where they can see their own new world, at least of their home after their planned renovation.
Other industries that are quickly developing new virtual worlds for customers include car and plane manufacturers showing future travel options. Car purchasers can also experience their new cars before actually buying them and can help in the development of cars that more perfectly meet their desires and needs.
Innovating outside the box
In too many cases innovation is built upon reality and a company’s current offers, in other words are renovations not innovations, just a step change from what we have today. New products developed using scenario planning tend to be faster, clearer, more efficient, longer-lasting and overall more attractive.
Technology makes what was even unthinkable just a few months or years ago, a reality today or in the very near future. Everything is moving faster and faster, so businesses must do the same. As this is rarely possible, they must already think the unthinkable today, so that they are prepared when it actually happens tomorrow. (>>Tweet this<<)
Are you ready for the brave new world that is estimated to be just ten, twenty or at most just thirty years from now? That’s when the point of singularity is estimated to arrive.
If you would like help in improving your own innovation process, or in developing a future scenario for your organisation, please let us know; we would be excited to inspire you.
C3Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.
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.
These past few weeks, I have been speaking about very basic, rational and tangible subjects like brand planning, innovation and portfolio management. Therefore I’d like to take a step back and look at a more philosophical and emotional approach to marketing this week. After all, we’re all creatives, even if these days we must manage brand data almost as often as we create communications.
Life is a journey made up of highs and lows, wins and losses, and the same applies to business. This week I have been working on a new product idea based upon the most popular blog posts on my website. These are the ones that suggest actions coming from some of the most inspiring marketing quotes I’ve found over the years. In my search for new ones, I was reminded of one of my all-time favourites:
“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed. I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself” Georges Clemenceau, French Statesman
I love this quote for two reasons. Firstly because it reminds us that we all – without exception – fail sometimes. And secondly, that it is these failures that are the signposts of our moving forward. If we never try anything new then we are unlikely to fail.
Why is it then, that at least in Western culture, we are taught to avoid failure and celebrate success? Shouldn’t it, in fact, be the other way around? A similar proverb shows how Eastern culture has, at least in my opinion, a better perception of failure:
“Fall seven times, stand up eight” Japanese proverb
In other words, it is not the failure that matters as much as what we do afterwards. If we learn from it and get back up, then success will follow. In fact, it was the prolific inventor Thomas Alva Edison who it is claimed “failed” thousands of times before he succeeded in inventing such things as the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. As far as he was concerned:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
We have all known and will continue to experience failure, but it is what we do after it that differentiates winners from losers, the successful from the less so. However, failure in itself doesn’t mean that you have failed, only that you haven’t as yet found the right way to succeed.
So with a few more inspiring quotes on failure, let’s all think about the future, stand back up and take action; success might just come from our very next idea.
1. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”Bill Gates, American Businessman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Do you only celebrate success? If so, your business is giving out the wrong message. In fact we learn much more from our failures than from our successes.
2. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Learn from every failure and celebrate those who share theirs with everyone, because it takes courage to do so, but also gives free learning.
3. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin, American Politician (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Lack of success can come from a lack of preparation, as much as from a lack of, or incorrect action. Thinking before acting increases the chance of success.
4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”Henry Ford, American Businessman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Every failure teaches us something new. Use that knowledge to change the future and get closer to success.
5. “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure”John C. Maxwell, American Clergyman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: As already mentioned everyone fails at times, but successful people don’t stop, they just try again, but differently.
6. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet”Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: I love this one, as it gives hope for the future. Never take failure – or success for that matter – personally. We are all just on a road of growing and learning.
7. “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success” Sir James Dyson, British Designer (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: This quote from James Dyson is particularly poignant. As Edison before him, Dyson made thousands of “tries” before getting his inventions right (5,127 and 14 years of “failures” to get his vacuum cleaner prototype to be precise). Success is never easy and it is never fast – except when viewed from the outside.
8. “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something”Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: We should never fear failure when we can learn from it. Success should be feared, as we might then stop trying and learning.
9. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” Nelson M Mandela, South African Statesman (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: This reflects the Japanese quote mentioned above. Appreciate failure as a chance to prove your strength to stand again.
10. “Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure”Jack Lemmon, American Actor (>>Tweet this<<)
THOUGHT: Never give in to fear. Prepare as best you can and then if you fail, learn from it and move quickly forward.
I hope you enjoyed reading these quotes and the thoughts they prompted in my head. They say that pride comes before a fall; I say success follows failure. I wish you much success in failing fast and often, so you can enjoy more successes!
If you have a favourite quote on failure, please share it below. I’d love to add it to the collection on our website, with attribution to you of course.
This Monday is Memorial Day in the US, when Americans everywhere think back to those in the US Armed Forces who gave their lives in the line of duty. I too am thinking back, but to all the marketing plans and ideas that have been sacrificed!
The reasons why some plans are accepted and others aren’t are many. Non-alignment with corporate plans is one of the most usual, but lack of clarity, consistency, preparation or budget are also common. And even when accepted, they aren’t always executed as planned. So I thought that it would be useful to take a look back at our own marketing plans that we set earlier this year and review what is and isn’t working. We still have time to make changes and meet our 2014 targets, so which of the following is your current issue?
Declining market share
Firstly, you should be ashamed that you’ve let your br and slide so much that you are actually losing share! Br and equity measures would have given you a clear warning that something was going wrong, months if not years ago! Did you ignore the numbers or were your efforts too small to have the necessary impact? Either way, it’s time to start working out what’s going wrong. Review the 5P’s of marketing for starters and prioritise actions based on what you find.
Stable market share
So your br and’s growth is slowing? This happens in the normal life-cycle of a br and, so no panic, but you do need to take action to renew growth. But don’t think that small tweaks will be enough. Competition is ruthless these days and you will need to create some buzz around your br and. Surprise and delight is the name of the game to win (back) consumers. Start from your strengths and then ramp one or two of them up a couple of levels.
Since most companies have one product manager or group in charge of each br and, this shouldn’t happen and yet it still does. Multiple suppliers with differing interpretations of the br and promise, and annual revamps of simply the previous year’s work, makes for communications that gradually slip from the original positioning and message. Instead of just looking at the latest or planned communications, it is vital to also review the previous five years’ work. It then becomes obvious how messaging has shifted. (>>Tweet this<<)
Inconsistent product performance
As with communications, most product testing compares current to the proposed new product and sometimes also versus the competition. Unfortunately small changes made can be undetectable to consumers even in direct comparison, or are within statistical errors and so are ignored. But over time, consumers are likely to come to realise that the product to which they have been loyal for many, many years, is no longer what it used to be. Therefore it is useful (essential) to compare product ratings to those from previous years, as well as to the current product.
No emotional attachment
This is a dangerous situation to be in, since if consumers have no emotional attachment to your br and, they can switch without too much thought. In fact your br and is no longer a br and, it’s a commodity! It needs to st and for something in the hearts and minds of consumers, so that they will choose you rather than a competitor. Especially in categories where performance differences are minimal, emotional attachment is what keeps consumers loyal. (>>Tweet this<<)Review how your consumers feel about your br and and what you can do to build more emotional attachment. The stimulation of the senses is a great way to do this. (read more here).
Confusing br and hierarchy
Your line extensions are like family members. There should be a well-defined parent br and and each variant should have clear resemblances to it. As mentioned above concerning product and communications consistency, line extensions can drift away from the look and feel of the parent br and, especially in dynamic categories where innovation and renovation are vital. When was the last time you looked at your whole product range – together? Differences in fonts, colours, sub-br and descriptions and design become quickly obvious. Make the changes needed to get the family back in line.
Hopefully this list has given you some food for thought and ideas on which to take action this week. If you are facing a different challenge I’d love to hear about it and possibly offer you some solutions. Just drop me a line here.
C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.
Last week I presented at the first Swiss Business Intelligence Day. It was an inspiring conference to attend, with world-class keynote speakers opening the day. They included Professor Stephane Garelli from IMD, Philippe Nieuwbourg from Decideo and Hans Hultgren from Genesee Academy.
After such an illustrious start, you can imagine that I was more than a little nervous to present my very non-IT perspective of business intelligence. However, the presentation did seem to go down well, so I want to share with you some of the ideas I talked about. Not surprisingly, with my passion for customer centricity and always with the end-user in mind, I took quite a different perspective from that of the majority of IT experts who were present.
BI should Collaborate More
With the explosion of data sources and the continuous flow of information into a company, managing data will become a priority for everyone.
The Big Data market, which more than doubled last two years, is forecast to triple in the next four, according to Statista. BI will have to exp and its perspective, work with more varied sources of information and exp and its client base.
In the past BI was inward looking. It ran data-mining exercises, reviewed corporate performance, developed reports and occasionally dashboards. It was, and still is in many organisations, mostly concerned with operational efficiencies, cost-cutting and benchmarking.
The above plot is my own, simplified view of how BI fits into data management within most organisations today. The other three quadrants are:
Competitive intelligence (CI) uses external competitor knowledge to support internal decision-making. Although BI is sometimes considered to be synonymous with CI because they both support decision-making, there are differences. BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data. CI gathers, analyzes and disseminates information with a topical focus on company competitors.
Investor Relations (IR) uses internal data to get external people, such as shareholders, the media or the government, to support and protect the company and its views.
Market Research (MR) on the other h and is mostly outward looking. It studies customers’ behaviours & attitudes, measures images & satisfaction, and tries to underst and feelings & opinions. That information is then used, primarily by marketing, to develop actions and communications for these same customers.
The four quadrants, even today, usually work in isolation, but that will have to change with this new data-rich environment in which we are working.
BI is Ripe for Change
According to a recent (Jan 2014) Forbes article, BI is at a tipping point. It will need to work in new ways because:
it will be using both structured and unstructured data
there will be a consolidation of suppliers
the internet of things will send more and more information between both products and companies.
thanks to technology, data scientists will spend more time on information management & less time on data preparation. At present it is estimated that they spend 80% of their time on data cleaning, integration and transformation, and only 20% on its analysis!
In February GigaOM echoed these thoughts, claiming that we are not in BI 2.0 but rather 4.0. They said the volume of data and the number of people now exposed to it, makes data availability to everyone essential. No longer does BI involve only the CEO and IT specialists, it concerns everybody.
Google glass, as tested by Virgin, is a good example of this. It delivers real-time, on time and relevant information to Virgin’s hosts and hostesses, to meet, greet and advise its passengers. Their customer support team can accompany their VIP guests and warn them of delays and gate changes as they happen. Google Glass enables them to get out from behind their desks and interact more with the guests they are trying to please.
BI must Deliver More Synthesised Knowledge
According to a recent Business Intelligence reporton management’s opinion of their data, they are currently frustrated. They say that it comes from many disparate sources and is rarely if ever available in real-time. They can’t easily access it without the help of IT and it takes too long to customise it to what they need. What is particularly interesting in the findings, is that management were not saying that they don’t need information; in fact it actually looks as if they want to have access to more data. BUT more of it in a way that makes it easy to find what they want, when they want it.
Another finding from the survey shows executives’ thoughts about data delivery. Currently they are getting their information primarily through emails and spreadsheets. I find this shocking that today we still expect management to take the time to wade through all the data in order to draw their own conclusions. Less than one in eight of the C-suite is getting dashboards, which is their preferred medium (>>Tweet this<<). They also want mobile delivery so that they can access information on the go.
This study provides us with a simple plan to satisfy their needs and to help us meet our own challenges of data abundance. This is what we should prioritize, since we can no longer continue to do what we’ve always done in the same way we’ve always done it. The BI priorities are as simple as ABC; accessibility, business impact and consistency (>>Tweet this<<).
BI needs to Provide Simplified Access
Information should be provided where and when it is needed and in such a way as to have most impact on the business. This means making it easy to review, and quick and simple to draw conclusions. This is why the number one dem and from business is dashboards.
Dashboards have the advantage of imposing consistency (>>Tweet this<<) so no time is lost in underst anding what the information is showing. With the availability of more information, comes the challenge to make it available to more people. And more people will also mean more and different needs.
To underst and the accessibility challenge I find the tree is a great metaphor for what we struggle to achieve. The roots can be compared to all the different sources of information we have at our disposal. The trunk is like all the integrated information that is reported in dashboards and the branches, twigs and leaves are the different data warehouses we create.
Whilst a one-page overview is sufficient for management, others will need greater granularity. Therefore we need to make information available at different levels of detail. My experience suggests three types of information sharing.
The leaves are like data warehouses where the raw or nearly raw data sits
The twigs are the information repositories where analysed data and information resides
And the branches are the knowledge libraries where the integrated actionable insights sit
What I have learned from setting up numerous data warehouses, information repositories and knowledge libraries, is that it is not easy. Not because of any technical complexity, but because of winning the needed internal support for the project and getting the essential acceptance for global access to the information. It takes more than technology, it takes a culture change in many cases too, and this is the real challenge. Stopping the “information is power” mentality means finding ways to counter the opposition who claim confidentiality of their own data whilst also requesting access to everyone else’s. In addition, even if people need information, they will generally not make the effort to go looking for it, if there is an easier way, such as by asking someone else! All these issues need to be resolved for an integrated database project to succeed.
One way to encourage the culture change mentioned earlier, is to demonstrate the business impact of what you are providing. The desired impact won’t come by delivering spreadsheets, it will come from dashboards (>>Tweet this<<).
So how do you summarise a company in a one-page dashboard, especially those which are present in multiple categories, globally? Well, often the simplest way is not to try to cover the total business, but rather the top categories and markets that would cover 70% – 80% of total sales. In most cases this would be sufficient to underst and the main priorities for management.
Of course at category level each business unit should be able to get access to more detailed information, as should the regional presidents, if you are working in such a complex business environment.
The real power of dashboard information will come from data integration, where both internal and external information are synthesised, for a holistic view of the business. I have worked on several projects that combined internal information with consumer data for a complete business report. The consumer information came from promotions, call centres and CRM activities, and was combined with market research on product and communications performance, to provide a solid base of consumer underst anding. This can then be presented alongside the more usual financial information that executives are already receiving. Having a complete overview of the business has far more impact than individual, silo’d summaries and enables management to make decisions more quickly and easily.
Another challenge when setting up and integrating databases, is in the harmonisation of their master data. When you are working with consumer data, this challenge can be multiplied by ten if not one hundred. For example, consumers will talk about a pizza, without specifying the br and, sub-br and, variant, flavour, packaging and size that would be used by the business to define it. So you have to find a way to translate what the consumer is saying, into the products as recorded internally.
The consistency of the master data will even increase in importance and complexity, with the expansion in available data sources. In addition, the fact that more people will get involved, will confound things even more, since their needs will differ.
Asking Better Questions of the Data
Accessibility, business impact and consistency are vital to the success of the new BI’s data management and usage, but I feel the urge to add one more thing. That of asking the right questions of the data. Although BI is used to asking questions, I think Market Research (MR) are the real experts in questioning. Therefore they should be involved in ensuring integrated databases are combined in such a way as to permit easy extraction of whatever level of information is required, or whatever perspective might be taken.
For example, BI is used to running forecasts. Those usually start from a review of past data and current reality to develop forecasts based on complex algorithms. They will do this within their teams with perhaps input from finance. MR on the other h and, is more likely to work from societal trends and develop plausible future scenarios, brainstorming across the organisation to gather a wide array of perspectives. Both perspectives are complementary and combined, they make a powerfully readied organisation.
Making more data more accessible to more people will certainly help this question development, as I think getting the right answers depends upon asking the right question, don’t you?
These were just a few of the ideas I shared at the Swiss BI Dayin Geneva. How do you see business intelligence adapting and changing as a result of the increased information availability happening today?
C³Centricity used images and graphs from Statista, Microsoft and Virgin in this post.
This week I want to share some ideas with you that were prompted by a client’s question. I was recently asked about brand portfolio management and what to do to ensure that a company is correctly differentiating its offers. This question was in reference to the service industry, which is arguably more challenging since there are no physical products, but the basic requirements remain the same.
Brand portfolio strategies are an essential prerequisite for the long-term success of multi-brand companies. It is vital for these organisations to consider not only external but also internal competitors.
According to marketing theory, there are two types of brand portfolio models, the house of brands and branded property. The House of Brands model refers to a portfolio where brands have different names across categories. Most of the major consumer goods companies use this model. The advantage of this model is that since the brands are independent, the failure of any single one of them has little impact on the others.
The Branded Property model uses one brand across all categories. Virgin is a good example of this, with its airline, media and train companies all being similarly identified. The advantage of this model is that positive images of one benefit all categories; however a negative publicity or event will also have a direct impact on all brands within the family.
Interestingly, both Unilever and P&G have been placing more emphasis on the company brand associated with their brands in recent years. This move followed a ruthless culling of both their portfolios of brands, from thous ands down to mere hundreds. The addition of the corporate name has come at a time of decreasing consumer trust in brands, which is certainly not helped by the growing adoption of private label, including those from discounters such as Lidl and Aldi.
Even though these two portfolio models exist, in reality firms tend to use components of both models together in their brand portfolio strategy.
For any company which has more than one or two brands, it is important to regularly review their portfolio strategy; here are some thoughts to help:
Two rules of portfolio creation
There are two basic principles for the design of a successful brand portfolio. The first is to maximise market coverage, so that no potential customers are being ignored. And second, to minimise the overlap between the company’s brands, so they aren’t directly competing with each other and trying to attract the same customers. If you can achieve both of these then your brand portfolio will have a solid foundation.
Identify the category
Surprisingly many don’t do this first essential step and end up with a sub-optimal strategy; let me explain why. Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink and think you are in competition with other carbonated soft drinks. Consumers on the other h and see your brand as being in a larger category of soft drinks which also includes fresh fruit juices, because your product contains juice as well as being carbonated.
If you didn’t know this, you would not only miss out on identifying your true market potential, but may even alienate current users through inappropriate communications. It is essential to ask consumers about the category in which you are competing; a simple brand or pack sort is a great exercise for this.
Identify the category “need states”
Need states are the intersection between what customers want and how they satisfy this need. Although many marketers think about need states from time to time, most define their brands by consumer demographics or product attributes. This can lead to brand overlap and cannibalization.
Although the exercise of identifying needs states can be a challenge, the results can often identify new ways for existing brands to compete. It can identify “white spots” in the market as well as significant overlaps, even between brands from the same company, which is clearly undesirable. Once found, both situations can be addressed, offering the potential for significant growth, often without the need for new brand launches.
Identify the brand roles
Not all brands in your portfolio will be of equal value to the organisation. The Boston Consulting Group’s growth /share matrix is still one of the best and simplest tools for identifying those worth investing in, despite having been introduced as long ago as 1968. Since it is well-known and hopefully understood I won’t go into more detail here, but those interested in knowing more can read about it in a recent article by its creator Bruce Hendersen here.
Differentiate your brands
Once the category and need states have been identified, and the current brand role is plotted, it is important to differentiate and communicate these differences to customers. Articulating each brand’s target market and value proposition will also support a review of future challenges and responses in advance of them happening.
Hopefully this short post has given you some food for thought on your own brand portfolio strategy. What you would add?
C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and BCG in this post.
There have been many attempts to dethrone the blond supermodel doll Barbie over her fifty plus years of existence, mostly without much success. The latest endeavour (named Lammilly, after her creator) is different in that Nickolay Lamm is going after co-funding and has already achieved over $350,000 in just a few days according to the website.
This interesting addition to the “Anti-Barbies” story prompted a number of questions in my head:
Is it wise to go after a declining segment?
What was wrong with Barbie’s customer satisfaction?
Who is the target for this new doll? Child, adult, collector?
Why now, after so many previous unsuccessful attempts at dethroning Barbie?
Those questions and various discussions on FaceBook then got me thinking more generally about innovation and how companies have adapted their processes (or not) to today’s connected world. So here are my thoughts on how NOT to innovate:
1. Change the colour, perfume or taste of your current product and then charge more.
This is what Pepsi did when launching Pepsi Crystal: it lasted less than a year. Interestingly this is also what Apple just did with its iPhone 5C, except it charged less. Again it is already being discounted at Walmart because of disappointing sales, which might just be a good thing for Apple in the long run. Sales of the 5S remain buoyant and any damage to the corporate image caused by the cheaper 5C should hopefully be significantly reduced.
2. Organise an innovation team and provide them with a separate office, ideally far away from the current business.
If this is how you are set up internally, get the team back into talking distance with the rest of the business. Rather than stimulating creativity as it has been claimed to do, by being separated from everyday business concerns, it actually alienates everyone else to innovation and decreases overall creativity.
3. Make sure R&D heads up innovation so your new products can make use of your technical know-how and skills.
Whilst this may result in technically improved products, they are all too often not in line with consumer current needs or future desires. Your research people need to connect with your potential customers regularly so they can be tuned into customers’ wants and current frustrations. Wouldn’t you rather have your R&D developing new products that practically sold themselves? As Peter Drucker said “… know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (>>Tweet this<<). If R&D are in constant contact with your customers, they will always have them in mind when planning their product development.
4. Don’t let people from outside the organisation work on innovation; prefer well-established thinkers from within the organisation, preferably with more than ten to twenty years in the company.
This often happens as the result of a naïve manager lacking the required confidence to accept criticism, to challenge the status quo and to get out of their comfort zone. No person, let alone an organisation, can be an expert in every area. Why not take full advantage of external expertise to catalyse innovation? It’s certainly faster than learning and training the required new skills internally. Just think about how many major Fortune 500 companies have joint ventures: they know something about reaping the benefits of collaboration for a win-win to grow their businesses.
5. Only move an innovation concept forward when it is finalised and everyone in the company agrees with its potential.
If you wait for complete agreement on a new concept, you will never launch any new product. Rather than looking for total buy-in from everyone, accept the proof of a well-documented justification; if it looks and feels right you can learn from in-market measurement once launched to make adjustments. This is the approach often used by many successful hi-tech companies including Apple. Become a beta tester but make sure you fail fast and learn fast (>>Tweet this<<).
6. Follow a well-tested established process for concept development. Take time to ensure everything is working perfectly before launching.
Rigid processes and creativity rarely go together (>>Tweet this<<). Rather than working step-by-step through a st andardised process every time, accept that your approach can and should be adapted to the concept as well as market needs.
Some argue that the more ideas you have the better the winning concept. I personally think that massive numbers of ideas merely dilute both thinking and action. I recommend working through a few potential “promising concepts” with some target customers, to refine and develop the winner. I have found this approach to lead more consistently to a winning concept that customers would buy, as well as far more quickly than any st andard funnel process of proliferation and elimination.
7. Never use social media or test amongst consumers who are outside the control of the organisation, so competition doesn’t learn about what you are developing.
As with no. 4 above, this situation often arises from less experienced managers afraid of being found lacking in creativity. In reality, competition often knows far more about an organisation’s innovations than the majority of its employees do. Therefore test and learn, then test and learn some more, whilst of course making reasonable efforts to reduce any confidentiality risks involved.
8. Never share ideas with anyone outside the innovation team to avoid leaks.
As mentioned in no. 2 above, everyone can be creative and have great, innovative ideas. It therefore makes no sense at all to limit accepted creativity to one team alone. Whilst it is important to have an innovation lead team, all employees should feel encouraged to bring their ideas to the attention of the business. After all, we are all consumers.
9. Only innovate products and services similar to those in which you are already an expert.
This is not innovation, this is renovation. As with no. 1 above, it is unlikely to provide significant growth for a business, but it can satisfy consumer dem ands for novelty until such time as your disruptive innovation is ready. Never accept renovations as a replacement for true innovation. (>>Tweet this<<)
10. Don’t think too far ahead; after all, the world is moving so fast that we don’t know what the future will look like.
Whilst it’s true that the world is moving forever faster, this actually makes forward thinking vital not impossible. My recommendation is to develop future scenarios to challenge the organisation to think through a number of “what if” scenarios so that the business is prepared for multiple opportunities and risks.
These are my ten mistakes that even the best companies make sometimes in innovation. Are you guilty of any of them? Hopefully these ideas will provide you with food for thought as well as possible solutions.
C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime, PepsiCo and Apple in this post.
Last month I invited readers to share some of the problems and challenges they need to address in 2014. I offered a free consultation to one lucky winner who asked the most interesting question, which could also be of interest for me to answer for other readers.
Well, the winner is Jean-Francois (JF) who has just started working with a start-up in the tech and app areas – I feel that’s more and more of us these days, don’t you? His question was:
“I would like to commercialize a new XXX; what would be the right approach to identify the consumer need and then the market potential, considering that the company has very limited financial resources?”
This is a great question and a reminder that not every organisation has access to large market research or marketing departments and extensive budgets. In fact, in many companies these roles are being h andled 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 it isn’t, I’m sure you will still find value from the ideas shared.
As I had promised, I gave Jean-Francois a one-on-one consultancy which ended up lasting several hours, as he had planned well for our session together. He also happens to be really passionate about his innovative idea, as well as in finding solutions to all his challenges.
The product JF and his team want to launch doesn’t exist on the market today, although there are some products which are unsuccessfully trying to address the perceived customer need. The proportion of product launches which fail every year is generally “accepted” to be about 95% – although why companies continue to accept such levels is beyond me! 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 in many areas today.
Let’s start by taking a look at some of the reasons new products fail and identify ways to reduce if not completely eliminate them for your next launch.
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. They are at best most likely to come up with renovations than true innovations. The solution is to introduce some creativity into the process, and why not include potential customers in the process too?
Meeting company quotas: It is surprising that with such miserable statistics concerning the likely success rate of new products, that so many companies – and which shockingly include many of the largest CPGs around – 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 failure! I believe it would be much better to seriously limit the levels of acceptance amongst all new product ideas proposed in any year, then only the best would get through.
Lack of customer underst anding: 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. No, I mean starting by looking at a customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. If you already have a new product idea, which was the case for JF, then consider how it would make the customer’s life easier or better. If it doesn’t, then you perhaps need to reassess its market appeal.
Lack of category underst anding: This follows on from customer underst anding, 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 competition.
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 if 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, since early-adopters will Tweet or leave comments on Facebook, Blogs or other social media platforms for all to see.
Not being sufficiently differentiated: Following on from living up to your promises, customers need a reason to change behaviours, and 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 – think Telecom, Banking, Hotels, Air travel or Insurance as some of the most typical examples of such industries. These businesses are in a constant battle to differentiate themselves and provide a real advantage to attract new customers.
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 not willing to invest the time and money in doing this, then you will undoubtedly fail to attract more than just a few customers who take the time to underst and what you are offering.
Pricing yourself out of the market: Here I’m not just speaking of pricing your product too high; being too low can also negatively impact your likely success. Underst anding how much potential customers value your offer to essential to the success of any product. Getting it wrong can result in lost revenue or worse a promotional spiral leading to br and hell (read more about this in “Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell“)
Inappropriate distribution: This can be the consequence of an incomplete underst anding 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 where and when your customer might buy it most? By reducing the effort necessary to change their habits and buy, you can attract more potential customers to at least try your new product.
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 conditioners included in the early 70’s, but they were a dramatic flop. Ten years later most personal care manufacturers offered these products, and were met with huge success, even if such products have gone out of fashion somewhat since then. It took Nespresso almost twenty years to become profitable and Philip Morris has needed similar levels of patience for their most infamous of br ands Marlboro, in many markets. If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision.
These are ten of the most common reasons for new product launch failure. Which do you think is most prevalent in your own company? What are you going to change to increase the success of your own new products? Is it some other reason altogether, that I’ve missed? Let me know and share your thoughts below.
Coming back to JF, most of our time together was spent discussing ways to collect information on many of the above points. As he has little budget for extensive market research, it was important for him to find other ways of gathering the much needed information and not to just bypass that stage; perhaps many people don’t bother to search out the information they need to truly assess the likely success of their new product, which would explain the high failure rate mentioned above.
By the end of my session with JF, he had a clear plan of action and I have since heard that he is progressing incredibly fast, so watch this space for an announcement concerning the launch of his new device.
I will be sharing the tips I gave him in a future blog post, but in the meantime feel free to continue sending me your own questions; I’m always ready to have a short Skype or phone call to assist you with your own marketing and innovation challenges.
I once read that training is only for animals, not for humans, and that I should be doing adult educating not giving training courses! However, whichever word you prefer to use, I hope that like me you enjoy both teaching and learning. One of my personal mantras is that:
“A day without learning is a day without living”
and I strive to find something new to appreciate every day.
Several of my major clients have recently asked me for help in improving their br and building efforts. Whilst this is certainly a good objective, I do wonder sometimes how many courses and workshops really make a difference to the way things are done. I am not dismissing workshops at all, in fact I regularly give training courses but I do underst and that it can be a challenge to share knowledge when facing a roomful of adults, peers, or even worse, bosses.
Adult learning is very different from teaching younger people in that by nature we are not as open to change, preferring to stay with our habits, even when we are shown that a new way of thinking or doing might be better. As if that isn’t bad enough, we also generally don’t like group-learning experiences led by a professional.
Since I know many of you get involved in adult training within your own organisations, I thought it would be useful for me to share some of my own learnings, to help you do it with even more success.
To quote one of my favourite masters, Confucius:
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I underst and”
Keeping this in mind and applying it to adult learning here are my 6 tips:
#1. Underst and the motivations of your audience
Adults usually have high, some may say unrealistice, expectations or courses, so it is important to clearly articulate and clarify objectives within the first hour. Collect and review them from all participants before you get into the content. Do this again at the end of the course to get agreement from everyone on whether or not they have been met. If people believe that they have been heard, they are much more likely to at least be open to considering the new ideas and processes you will share during the course.
Participants will also have many different reasons for attending a workshop or training session and you need to accept that perhaps very few will have actually chosen to be there. They might therefore resent their (m andatory) participation, have little if any interest in the topic you will be covering, and possible no respect for your own experience and knowledge, nor for the ideas you have to share. Whilst it is unlikely that you will make them all change their minds over the short duration of the course, it is critical that you become aware of these sentiments, as they will remain undercurrents whether you like it or not.
#2. Keep sessions very focused
The above mentioned (lack of) motivation will also mean that adult learners tend to be less interested in st andard courses, because they feel they are different from (superior to?) most of the other participants. They are more likely to prefer courses around one precise concept or idea, and which will focus specifically on the application of the tools and processes designed to respond to a relevant problem or opportunity.
It is therefore usually better to run a number of shorter one-topic sessions, than a week-long course covering several different ideas around a subject, if at all possible. These shorter session will most probably improve the likelihood of participants actually actioning their learnings afterwards. In addition, they will reduce, if not completely eliminate, the need for frequent interruptions or absences due to the dem ands of the every-day work environment. (C3Centricity runs 1-Day Catalyst training sessions; check them out HERE)
#3. Build new learning on top of known processes and tools
Participants will bring a large amount of their own experiences into the classroom, which can be a tremendous asset if you can tap into it. They will learn much better if you can engage them in dialogue. It will anyway be difficult to stop most of them from sharing their ideas and opinions, so it is better to control rather than trying to prevent them from doing so.
People are not naturally open to learning new tools, processes and ways of thinking, so you are likely to meet with more success if you base your new ideas on what is already known. Build and exp and on current processes, showing how the additions and changes will be more beneficial. Learning is a means to an end for adults, not an end in itself, as it is for most kids. Increasing or maintaining participants’ sense of self-esteem is a strong secondary motivator; adults can take errors very personally, so they tend to take fewer risks and push to defend known solutions rather than to try new approaches.
#4. Vary speed
Adults have a similarly short attention span to children, but not for the same reasons. Again whether due to a lack of willingness to consider different ways of working, or a (misplaced?) feeling of superiority, adults will want things to progress fast and will lose interest if the program is not presented at their own personally preferred rhythm.
For this reason you should vary the speed of sessions, covering some topics deeply and others more quickly and superficially. Don’t worry about missing in thoroughness though, as you can always go back to resume and deepen the topic later in the day or in a follow-up session should someone request it.
#5. Include breakout sessions
Another solution to this increased likelihood for boredom is to provide more frequent breakout sessions. Whereas in normal workshops a coffee / tea break is provided in addition to lunch, you should include more reasons to have people get up and move around. Use group breakout exercises, physical tasks, sortings, puzzles, Q&As and even exercise or races to get the juices flowing in mind and body and revitalise their enthusiasm.
#6. Contests and competitions
Adults are very competitive, especially when workshops are being run internally where people know each other, even if only by reputation. Being able to beat the boss or lead a team, make the learning even more enjoyable. The contests could be as simple as the exercises mentioned above, or a full blown case study to be completed during the workshop. And don’t forget the prizes; however small, people love surprises and adults in particular appreciate them, as they become a rare occasion as we grow older.
Following these six tips for improving your own training sessions should help you achieve even greater success and perhaps more importantly lead to increased enjoyment for both you and the participants.
Have I forgotten something? What other ideas do you have for making adult learning more enjoyable? I would love to hear about your own tricks and tips for improving the learning experience for us all.