Strategic planning is essential for preparedness

How to Prepare Business for Anything. Five Actions You Can Take Now.

I’m writing the first draft of this post in my condo on Miami Beach. We’re under a hurricane warning for Matthew, due to make landfall tonight. The bands of wind and rain started sweeping across the area from late this morning. This gave us a taste of what is expected to come, multiplied by three!

With the power sure to go out at some point, I’m charging all my devices. When the TV and air conditioning go out, at least I can continue to work – today. Tomorrow is another day. 

The only issue I’ve had so far is trying to find a secure place for my rental car. The management of the building I am staying in gave me two choices. I could either leave it in the lower garage which they know will flood. Or I could risk parking it in the street, where it is likely to get damaged by flying debris. They said it was my choice to decide which risk I wanted to take! I chose instead to drive it to a nearby hotel that had higher-level parking available.

I wanted to share my current, or by the time you read this my recent past situation, as it was the inspiration for this post. The topic I am referring to is how to prepare business for anything that life may throw our way.

How would your business cope if a hurricane or other significant event happened? Here are some of the things I saw in Miami over the past couple of days. Hopefully, they will give you some food for thought and ideas on what you yourself might do to be better prepared.


1. ASK EMPLOYEES TO HELP. The local supermarket chain, Publix, asked some of its employees who were off, to return to work. They knew there would be a last-minute rush of clients for all those forgotten items. My early-morning visit certainly proved them right.

If you know that your business will be impacted by an event, whether positively or negatively, then you need to start by preparing your staff. In the case of the hurricane, Publix knew there would be the need for more staff before it hit. They called those on their day off and asked them to help with the surge in visits that morning. They then gave everyone the day off the following day, when they knew their outlets would close.

What events may impact your business and how would your staff needs, or theirs, change? Adverse weather conditions? Then allow staff to stay and work from home if they prefer to do so. A terrorist attack on your offices or a threat made to your business? Work with local police and follow their guidance. In the case of immediate danger, get everyone out and moved to a secure location.

Time taken now to consider all possible scenarios will put you in a strong situation should any of them occur. You will be able to react immediately and not lose time in discussing your options when time is at a premium.


2. ORDER EXTRA QUANTITIES OF ESSENTIAL GOODS. Two days before the hurricane struck, I went to Walmart, only to find that they had already run out of water. However, just down the road, another supermarket had plenty of water. Clearly, their managers had been better prepared, or perhaps people had just gone for the “obvious” solution to their needs.

Sometimes in only takes a little thought to find a better answer to the problem. In my case, like thousands before me, I had thought that bigger was better. It wasn’t. By going to a smaller outlet off the beaten track, I found all the water I needed and a pleasant and quiet environment in which to do my shopping.

When planning your response to events, don’t take your first idea as the only one, or even the best one. Brainstorm alternatives and then analyse what the best solution would be for each circumstance. For more on responding to terrorist attacks in particular, read “Prepare for Anything: How to Build an Actionable Incident Response and Recovery Strategy” by CBIZ.


3. PLAN FOR THE WORST BUT HOPE FOR THE BEST. I like this statement from Florida’s Governor Rick Scott during Thursday morning’s briefing. It was comforting to hear such words on the morning the hurricane was due to hit. Unfortunately, he became ever more negative during the day, mentioning that “There will be deaths” which no-one wants to hear. Luckily he was proven wrong at least in Miami, perhaps because we all did what he asked us to do and stayed inside and off the roads. The city was a ghost town by lunchtime on Thursday. That was even scarier than the hurricane itself, the eye of which ended up missing us altogether.

I believe most businesses plan for the best and hope the worst doesn’t arrive. It would be far better to prepare for many of the worst possible scenarios – well in advance. If laws were passed banning certain ingredients which you use in your products, do you have a possible replacement for each? Suppose consumers reject or demand certain business practices, how would you respond? What about your government adding mandatory practices or behaviours for your industry, could you accommodate them, both physically and financially?


4. DO WHAT YOU CAN DO. Tolls were suspended on all South Florida highways where evacuation was recommended or ordered. This made the traffic flow smoother and gave families one less thing to worry about. In disaster areas, it’s not uncommon to see local businesses donating food, water, blankets, shelter or other items. It’s not their “job” to do so, but the best organisations feel involved in the events impacting their local community, on whom their businesses depend. It is both generous and admirable to see companies doing this – especially those which don’t turn it into a PR campaign!

What would the communities in which you have your offices, need the most in times of strife? Budget for such support every year, even if such events are rare. Better to have some extra budget at the end of the year, than to be in the position of being unable to help your local customers when they are most in need.


5. EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES DEMAND EXCEPTIONAL DECISIONS. There were queues for petrol at every gas station yesterday and again this morning. Luckily the petrol suppliers had organised for delivery lorries to constantly do their rounds to deliver to all the stations several times during the day. I know that it meant extra sales for them too, but it took quick decisions and organisation to satisfy the significant increase in demand. Remember people were buying not only for their cars, but also for their home generators.

Would you be able to ramp up the manufacture of your product within mere hours or would it take days? What would it take to have sufficient supplies in stock to increase your production at short-notice? You may decide not to do so, but with the opportunity for increased sales, you should at least consider your options.

This sort of situation not only arises during external events, it could also result from one of your competitors having a product recall. While I’m sure you wouldn’t wish this on them, it does give you the opportunity to step up and help your category customers by providing them with a replacement product. And it could perhaps also help you to convert a few customers from your competitor as well.


So these were just a few of my observations here in Miami this week, and the relevant learnings that I wanted to share. How have you planned to prepare business for future opportunities and threats? What situations have you already reviewed and which of the others that I have mentioned have you forgotten to consider?

Please share your plans and also your experiences below. Or feel free to comment about other situations where you need help to plan for different future scenarios. I am sure other readers here will be happy to help, as much as I am.

If you haven’t yet done much in terms of preparing your business for potential future events then contact us and let’s discuss your situation. I know we can help, together with our exceptional partners in future scenario visualisation, to get the whole organisation behind the preparation.  

Marketing 5Ps to be replaced by the 7Qs

Are You Still Using The Marketing 5Ps? Move To The Improved 7Qs.

Now you can LISTEN to the post HERE as well as on iTunes – Subscribe & Follow today!

Marketing is a great profession. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career. From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They’re always watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising.

For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun. I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on many occasions. So does all that hard work pay off? Not always in my opinion. And why? Because marketers don’t always ask the right questions!

If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with them is that when you find an issue with one of them that needs attention, you know the “what” but not the “how”.

So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each question explains not only what to check, but why. And if you can’t immediately answer any of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!


Q1. Who are your customers?

01E-Your customersThe first “P” stands for people and often that is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.

Instead, ask yourself who your customers are. I don’t mean just their demographics. I mean who they really are; what, where and how they use or consume your brand. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble. See “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona.


Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully, you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? And it’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change.

Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinion, needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends and technologies on your customers’ behaviours? Do you know how these changes may alter your market in five, ten or even twenty years from now?

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Sony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumers’ demand for home delivery.

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (>>Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already prepared for?


Q3. What does your brand stand for?

32D-Stretch brands across categoriesI don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does it align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow the developments in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact your brand’s image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (>>Tweet this<<)

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family-oriented and fun, casual dining.”
  • Bic disposable pens, lighters and razors offer “high-quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”


Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices? Even if you work in marketing and not sales, understanding weekly, monthly and annual trends all mean increased understanding of your customers and their differences.

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (>>Tweet this<<) Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.


Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or to distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does your brand’s value compare to its current price? Incorrect pricing could mean that you are leaving money on the table!

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value of it, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.

Either way, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (>>Tweet this<<)


Q6. Are you using the right channels for your communications?

36C-Communicate with customersMany marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.

Wasting money with outdated media plans and channels no longer used by your customers is still one of the biggest challenges of marketing. Make sure it’s not yours.

For a fun piece on the topic, check out “10 Signs Your CEO Has an Outdated View of Marketing‘ on Hubspot.


Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary?

Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

For more details on image analysis check out the section in Denyse’s latest book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time.” It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’s marketeers by none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s CEO!

So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the marketing 5Ps. What do you think? Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not give the 7Qs a try? They will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.

If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. I’d love to hear your own ideas and success stories.


Training for everyone

New Thinking, New Ideas, New Successes!

Things have been pretty hectic for me these past few weeks. As you read this, I am in New York presenting at the CASRO Technology and Innovation Event, 6th to 7th June. If you’re attending the event, please stop me and say “HI”; it would be awesome to meet some of my Amercian readers!

I then head down to Miami where I am guest lecturer of an Executive MBA course at Miami University. The following week I fly back up to Atlanta to speak and chair a session at IIeX-NA from 13th to 15th June.

If you’ve never been to an IIeX Insight Innovation Exchange event, then you’ve missed a really exciting conference. It’s run like a multi-channel TED event, where most of the presentations are just 15 minutes long. You are never bored and can learn and experience things you can’t find elsewhere. And if you want to learn even more, there are also longer workshop-style talks on a multitude of topics.

There’s still time to attend and using my special speaker discount code (SPEAKER20) you’ll get a very generous 20% off the full price! If you do attend, don’t forget to stop me and say “HI”.    

I’m Taking a Marketing Course!

As if the preparation for all these events wasn’t enough, I also started a marketing course a couple of months ago. You might wonder why I decided to do that when I spend my life advising others on their marketing. The reason is that we are never experts in every area and as we say in Switzerland

“The cobbler’s children don’t wear shoes”.

In other words, we never seem to have the time to do what we help others to do. So true don’t you think?

The decision to invest in myself has been one of the best I’ve made in recent years, as it will simplify my day-to-day work. After all, they do say

“You have to spend time to save time”!

The best part of the program is that I now have someone telling me what to do and prioritising the steps in relaunching my website. There will also be some exciting new offers for you, my dear reader, like the webinar series I mentioned a while back.

During the weekly videos of each module of the course, I’m  getting exposed to many alternative platforms, systems and tools from the ones I already know. So it’s also making me a better digital marketer from which my clients will then benefit. A true win-win investment.

I now have someone telling me what to do and prioritising next steps. I’m also getting exposed to many alternative platforms, systems and tools from the ones I already know, so it’s also making me a better digital marketer for my clients. A true win-win investment.

Time for You to Learn Something New?

This has been a rather long introduction to say that I believe we should all invest in ourselves, every year. Attending workshops and conferences, hiring a coach, or asking someone to give us training on a topic are all excellent ways to invest wisely in ourselves. However, we can so easily get caught up in our day-to-day work, that we forget to do so, especially as we progress in our careers. I have always said that for me:

“A day without learning is a day without living”

But with so many years’ experience, I tended to limit myself to workshops and conferences. As a result, I never really challenged myself by opening my processes and tools to an external perspective. My marketing course is certainly making me feel very uncomfortable, but I am growing as a result.

Many organisations rely on internal training alone, so they find themselves in exactly the same situation as I was until recently. They never challenge their current thoughts and processes. This can be even worse in large corporations where the vast majority of employees “grew up” in the company, remaining tens of years in exactly the same environment – think P&G or Nestle. While this may indicate a great company, which I’m sure both are, it can result in a self-perpetuating belief that they are the best, in everything.


Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Therefore, this week I am challenging you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. (>>Tweet this<<) I want you to expose your ideas and thinking to others, both inside and outside your company. Share your thoughts with people you don’t normally talk to. Ask their opinion about a question that you are finding difficult to answer.

You don’t have to take their advice, but just getting a different perspective can be extremely helpful in making your own mind clearer about what you should do. In the same way as “sleeping on it” often brings a solution in the morning, asking for differing views can help us to be sure about our own perspective.

I have just updated the C³Centricity training offers based upon my recent work with clients all over the world. These are the courses I now offer, all available as one and two-day sessions:

  • I2A – Insight to Action: Tired of not turning information and knowledge into understanding and insight? This one-day or two-day course will take you from what is an insight, to how do you uncover them and then how to action them to grow your business.
  • I2I – Insight with Impact: Often market research and insight specialists are not very good at sharing everything they learn about the market and its customers. This course takes them on a journey to increased impact and visibility, to ensure the business optimally benefits from its information investments.
  • N³ – Next Generation Insights: Are you concerned that your definition and development process of insights may need updating? This course will take your team through an analysis of your current process. Together, we will then optimise and update those parts that are not state-of-the-art and work on a real case from one of your current challenges.
  • M³ – More Meaningful Market Research: When was the last time you reviewed your MR toolbox? There are many exciting new technologies and processes which can bring increased learnings about your customers. This course will also help you to identify the best KPIs to follow your business, as well as support you in renegotiating your ongoing contracts with suppliers.
  • C³ – Consistent, Creative Communications: Advertising campaigns are often developed in the same way and tested with outdated processes and metrics. With more communications moving to digital, a new approach is necessary. This course helps you to identify and prioritise the most relevant channels for your messages, as well as to measure the changes in your brand’s image, rationally, emotionally and culturally.
  • I³ – Immediately Improved Innovation: Expand your innovations beyond your current technical skills. Incorporate new levers and prioritise changes in your NPD processes and tools for more successful innovations.
  • S³ – Strategy and Sensitivity with Scenarios: Open your business to new ways of developing vision and strategy. Become proactive through effective scenario planning and get prepared for all possible future opportunities and risks.
  • B³ – Boosting Bolder Business: Identify the blockages in making needed changes within your organisation. Develop and successfully implement appropriate strategies and plans to catalyse your transformation.

Don’t these courses sound great? I am so excited to be able to offer them to companies around the world, no matter what the industry in which you may work. Being customer centric means the ideas and tools are relevant no matter what your challenges are and my vast global experience ensures a knowledgeable adaptation to your specific and cultural needs.

And don’t forget, if you would like to get a new perspective on something, I’m always ready to jump on a call to discuss with you. C³Centricity offers short, sharp catalyst sessions of a few hours to a full day or more. Perhaps this is exactly what you or your team need to move forward?

Challenge yourself to be comfortable with getting uncomfortable – it won’t last long before you are once again at ease, but in a bigger, brighter and better environment!


The marketing priorities for 2016

Five Marketing Priorities for 2016

We’re halfway through the information gathering of our survey on the topics that interest you most. If you haven’t yet completed the six questions, then please do so HERE before the end of February. There are FIVE free consultations up for grabs.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the results to date are showing, so here are the top five demands in terms of both articles and webinar requests:

  1. Storytelling

  2. Increasing my impact on the business

  3. Developing better business strategies and vision

  4. Developing more actionable insights

  5. Segmentation and consumer targeting

Any of these surprise you? Do you have different priorities? If so, then please add your request in the comments below, or complete the survey so that we can work on the most important topics for YOU! In the meantime, here are some thoughts on these five areas, on which we have already written some very popular posts:

#1 Storytelling

Storytelling in businessWe all know the importance of engaging our audiences, whether they are our customers, colleagues or bosses. Humans love stories and retain the information shown much more easily if shared through a story.

The post “Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story” remains one of the most popular on this topic and we will be expanding and turning it into a webinar in the near future. If you would like to be invited to this webinar, then please leave your name below in the comments below, mentioning the webinar(s) that is /are of most interest to you.

#2 Increasing my business impact

Market research & Insight's new role is customer centricity championWe all work to make a difference; for ourselves, our families and hopefully our customers and brands too. However, we all believe that we could do more and have more impact on the business if only we were given more freedom or more resources. (>>Tweet this<<)

The post “Try a new perspective on Business Intelligence; how to have more impact and answers” covered a few ideas about how to increase influence and hence impact within our organisations. Although it is on business intelligence, most of the ideas covered are relevant for marketing, market research and, in fact, most positions in large organisations. And don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a webinar on the topic.

#3 Developing better vision and strategy

Business vision and strategyThe popularity of this topic came as a surprise to me, as they are the very core of setting up a successful business. However, it is also exciting to see so many people looking for support in improving their own vision and strategies.

For me, the interest in this topic also suggests that many of you realize that your own are not as customer-centric as they could be. One of the most read posts on the topic was “Brand strategy, vision and planning; when did you last review yours?” published at the beginning of last year. Check it out for a clear plan of all the essential elements you need to consider when looking to update your own strategy and vision. As before, don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a webinar on the topic.

#4 Segmentation and customer targeting

SegmentationChoosing a group of customers to target is an essential basis for successfully meeting and even surpassing their needs. (>>Tweet this<<) Taking all category users and segmenting them into smaller groups which are more coherent will enable you to better meet the desires of one section of users more completely than if you tried to target everyone. As the infamous quote by John Lydgate says:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

I have often heard excuses for not running a segmentation because the product / service is new, or that the cost is too high. The first is not valid, since (pre) launch is the best time to identify exactly who you want to please. And the second isn’t any more valid since segmentation can be done for little or no cost until such time as funds are available.

If you want to know more about segmentation, then read “How to segment for actionability and success” which was published a couple of years ago, but still gets hundreds of reads, as it is one of the fundamentals of good customer-centric marketing. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to one of the forthcoming webinars on the topic.

#5 Developing more actionable insights

Good market research brief leads to good MRInsights are the holy grail of marketing (>>Tweet this<<); the prize we are all searching for which will make our brands grow and our customers delighted. The problem I have found in running workshops on the topic around the world is that many companies work with information and then jump straight to action before the insight has been developed.

Now I know that insights take time and energy to develop, but they are another of the fundamentals of good brand management. Every brand should have (at least) one insight on which it is based and around which its brand purpose and communications are built. Without this, the brand is likely to jump from one positioning to another with every change in marketer or advertising agency.

I have written many posts on different aspects of insight development, but the most popular by far is “How the best marketers are getting deeper insights” which was published at the end of last year. Please leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a future webinar on developing actionable insights.

The survey on the blog post and webinar topics is open until the end of this month, so you still have time to respond and add other topics – AND to win one of the FIVE FREE consultations that are up for grabs. If you would be interested in joining a webinar on any of these topics then please add a comment below. We will be sending invitations out shortly.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe featured image comes from Microsoft Office images. This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

Customer service

How a Company Reacts to a Crisis Says a Lot About its Customer Centricity

In the UK, there was a recent, highly publicised significant and sustained cyber-attack on the Telecom company Talk Talk’s website.

According to the news as I write this, it seems that a fifteen (!!!) year old Irish lad and a 16-year-old Brit may be responsible. They might have been able to steal information such as names, addresses, passwords and other personal information including bank details. The phone and broadband provider, which has over four million customers in the UK, said that this information “could have been accessed, but credit and debit card numbers had not been stolen”. This was later corrected and Talk Talk admitted that such sensitive financial information had also been obtained.

When the news first broke, Talk Talk tried to play it down. When people requested to cancel their contract, they were told they would be hit with a hefty £200 cancellation fee! That’s really adding insult to injury isn’t it?

As a result of the ensuing outcry, they later amended their position, saying that they would only waive termination fees for customers wanting to end their contracts if money is stolen from them. The local Consumer group Which? called the offer the “bare minimum”.

“In the unlikely event that money is stolen from a customer’s bank account as a direct result of the cyber-attack [rather than as a result of any other information given out by a customer], then as a gesture of goodwill, on a case-by-case basis, we will waive termination fees,” the company said on its website.

Am I dreaming? Goodwill gesture?!! My brother is one of their soon to be ex-clients and I, therefore, followed the handling of the whole case with interest.

What Talk Talk did was ignore their customers’ feelings. As a result, they are provoking their customers to cancel their contracts as soon as they come up for renewal. That is certainly what my brother will do. If on the other hand, they had said that people had up to a month, or three or six months, to cancel their contract if they so desired, then I’m sure that many would have waited before taking such a rash decision.

That would have given them time to calm down, and they might even have forgotten or forgiven the incident by the time their contract came up for renewal. By forcing people to stay, they are also forcing people to leave just as soon as is legally possible. This is just another example of a short-term gain for a long-term pain / loss.

As if that isn’t enough, reporters facing imminent deadlines, will often go with what (little) information they have about the situation. They can’t wait hours or days for the company to craft an appropriate response that will assure that its image remains intact. As a result, damage is done incredibly quickly to a business as well as to its image when such incidents are handled badly. A good reason for organisations to be prepared for any and all eventualities, by using scenario planning. See “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything” for more on this topic.


What Talk Talk should have done

As all good crisis managers know, what Talk Talk should have done is to follow best practice procedures. When a crisis happens especially when it directly involves the customer:

  1. Admit the problem.
  2. Detail exactly what has happened.
  3. Say what you are doing to put it right.
  4. Empathise with customers and offer a solution.
  5. Explain what you will do so it doesn’t happen again.

These five simple steps are known by all PR professionals and yet when a crisis happens the reaction from so many companies appears panicked and chaotic. It is as if knowing what to do doesn’t ensure a company does what needs to be done. (>>Tweet this<<) In this case, it doesn’t even look like Talk Talk has thought through and prepared for such an eventuality – even though this isn’t the first time it has happened to them! Being prepared is half the battle. (>>Tweet this<<)


Learning from Mistakes

According to an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, this is Talk Talk’s third major security breach in the past year! When asked whether such sensitive financial information was encrypted, Talk Talk’s CEO, Dido Harding, said: “The awful truth is, I don’t know”. What is shocking is not only that it has happened before – several times – but that the head of the organisation has not taken steps to ensure such gaps in her organisation’s security were corrected.

Every business and every person makes mistakes occasionally. It’s what we do after making a mistake that makes the difference. As Bruce Lee is famously quoted as saying Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” (>>Tweet this<<) 

Excellent leaders and great businesses admit their mistakes quickly and with courage. They see them as a chance to learn and to grow, rather than as an excuse for ignorance and denial. As a recent article in Forbes mentions, “A company in crisis is an opportunity for change”. (>>Tweet this<<) A business should take both short-term and long-term actions as quickly as possible. Doing nothing is the worst reaction to a crisis, as it opens the way for even greater criticism and exaggeration. As already mentioned, journalists love a good story and if you don’t provide it, they will create it with what they’ve got.

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them” Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel

Being Customer Centric

I spoke about customer centricity in the title because I believe that companies who are thinking customer first, will react appropriately in a crisis. Taking the customers’ perspective will mean that they will do what’s best for their clients first and foremost. They will address the issue for their good, and only then address it internally. Therefore, all businesses which are in the habit of thinking customer first are more likely to do the right thing first.

There are many organisations that have reacted inappropriately in a crisis and their business has suffered, in some cases to the point of closure. Another recent crisis, that of Volkswagen, highlights just how far a company will go to win the approval of its clients. It shows that although they may have understood the importance of their customers, in this case at least, they exaggerated and lied to win their approval. Both such practices will almost always be discovered sooner or later because too many people are involved in keeping secrets. Customer centricity may not be easy, but it’s the right way to conduct business in today’s informed world.

When faced with a crisis, a customer-centric business follows the 5-step process mentioned above, to empathetically respond first to its clients, and then to the press and relevant authorities. It’s a clear sign that the organisation has the right priorities.

If you’d like a useful checklist about what to do in a crisis, I highly recommend the one which Forbes published a few months ago in their article “You have 15 minutes to respond to a crisis; A checklist of Dos and Don’ts.”

Have you prepared several future scenarios to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges your organisation may follow? If not, then let’s discuss possible solutions. Contact me today here.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. The Audiobook version, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, was published last week.

Smart people will become more customer centric and analytical

Market Research, Business Intelligence & Big Data: Have we Forgotten about Human Data?

The annual pilgrimage to the ESOMAR Conference took place last week in Dublin. I heard that there was much discussion, both on and off the stage, about Big Data and the future of market research. Hopefully, the whole profession will get behind one initiative, instead of each individually trying to “solve world peace” on their own!

This week sees the second Swiss BI-Day taking place in Geneva and there will no doubt be similar discussions about Big Data and the future of Business Intelligence.

It appears that Big Data is not just a buzzword or a commodity that has been likened to oil; it has become the centre of a power struggle between different industries. Many professionals seem to be vying for the right to call themselves “THE Big Data experts”.

This got me thinking about the future of data analysis in general and the business usage of Big Data more specifically. There seems to be no stopping the inflow of information into organisations these days, whether gathered through market research, which is proportionally becoming smaller by the day, or from the smartphones, wearables and RFID chips, that get added to every conceivable article, more generally referred to as the IoT (Internet of Things). Who will, and how are we to better manage it all? That is the question that needs answering – soon! (>>Tweet this<<)

Data Science Central published an interesting article earlier this year called “The Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used Today To Change Our World”. Already being a few months old probably makes it a little out-of-date, in this fast changing world we live in, but I think it still makes fascinating reading. It summarises ten ways that data is being used:

  1. Understanding and Targeting Customers
  2. Understanding and Optimizing Business Processes
  3. Personal Quantification and Performance Optimization
  4. Improving Healthcare and Public Health
  5. Improving Sports Performance
  6. Improving Science and Research
  7. Optimizing Machine and Device Performance
  8. Improving Security and Law Enforcement
  9. Improving and Optimizing Cities and Countries
  10. Financial Trading

Many of these are not new in terms of data usage nor business analysis. What is new, is that the data analysis is mostly becoming automated and in real-time. In addition, the first and second items, which were largely the domains of market research and business intelligence, are now moving more into the hands of IT and the data scientists. Is this a good or bad thing?

Another article posted on Data Informed a few months after the above one, talks about The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today and succinctly summarises some of the dynamic uses of data today. The author of both pieces, Bernard Marr, wrote that “This isn’t all the stuff of science fiction or futurism. Because the technology for big data is advancing so rapidly, rules, regulations, and best practices can’t keep up.” He gives five examples of where data analysis raises certain ethical questions:

  1. Predictive policing. In February 2014, the Chicago Police Department sent uniformed officers to make “custom notification visits to individuals whom they had identified, using a computer generated list, as likely to commit a crime in the future. Just one step towards the “Minority Report”?
  2. Hiring algorithms. Companies are using computerized learning systems to filter and hire job applicants. For example, some of these algorithms have found that, statistically, people with shorter commutes are more likely to stay in a job longer, so the application asks, “How long is your commute?” Statistically, these considerations may be accurate, but are they fair?
  3. Marketers target vulnerable individuals. Data brokers have begun selling reports that specifically highlight and target financially vulnerable individuals. For example, a data broker might provide a report on retirees with little or no savings to a company providing reverse mortgages, high-cost loans, or other financially risky products. Would we want our own families targeted in this way?
  4. Driving analysis devices may put you in the wrong insurance category. Since 2011, car insurance companies like Progressive and Axa, have offered a small device you can install in your car to analyze your driving habits and hopefully get you a better rate. But some of the criteria for these lower rates are inherently discriminatory. For example, insurance companies like drivers who stay off the roads late at night and don’t spend much time in their cars, but poorer people are more likely to work the late shift and to have longer commutes to work — both of which would be strikes against them when it comes to calculating their auto insurance rates.
  5. Walmart and Target determine your life insurance rates. OK, not directly, but Deloitte has developed an algorithm, based on “non-traditional third-party sources” that can predict your life expectancy from your buying habits. They claim that they can accurately predict if people have any one of 17 diseases, including diabetes, tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression, by analyzing their buying habits.

Marr starts this article by very briefly discussing privacy and inherent biases in data. I think these issues are far more urgent than deciding whether it is market research, business intelligence or data scientists that are in charge of the actual data analysis. Perhaps we all need to work together so that the “Human” side of data is not forgotten? After all, most data comes from people, is understood – if no longer strictly analysed – by people, for the benefit of people, to help change people’s behaviour. What do you think? Join the conversation and let your voice be heard. (I’ll be presenting this very topic at the Swiss BI-Day this coming Tuesday, so I do hope that you will pop by and listen)

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

Marketing, brand building & customer centricity

How to Fast-Start your Customer Centric Journey and Accelerate Ahead of Competition

Many of my clients tell me that they understand they should be paying more attention to their customers, but admit that they just don’t know where to start when it comes to becoming more customer centric.

I can empathise with them; the task may seem overwhelming at first. After all, it is not something that can be corrected by just starting a new project or taking a single action. It demands consistent effort over the longterm, to make an organisation truly customer centric. Here are a few of the ideas I give them at the start of their journey, taken from my latest book Winning Customer Centricity, now available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

As I am often quoted as saying:

“Customer Centricity is a Journey and not a Destination(>>Tweet this<<)

So where do you start?

The first action to take when turning around a product or service-based company is to start by thinking about how your organisation is currently working. What is its structure and what processes are used to develop your offers? It is only by understanding how your company functions, that you can identify the priority changes that need to be made. Therefore these are the first five things I suggest to do when starting on your own journey to improved customer centricity:

1. Identify a C-suite sponsor

Customers on the board with c-suiteEvery project needs a sponsor, but when it involves a major culture change, it must be sponsored at the very top, ideally by the CEO. (>>Tweet this<<) If this is not possible, the most customer – savvy executive should be the sponsor, whether that is the CMO or the SVP of marketing services or customer insight.

The initiative must be recognised as a priority company objective by everyone in the organisation, so the higher the level of the project sponsor is, the better it will be.

2. Make every employee aware of the priority initiative

Once you have a senior sponsor, the next step is to make everyone aware of the initiative. It always amazes me how many departmental projects go unnoticed by other groups within the same organisation. (>>Tweet this<<) In my consulting practice, I often uncover overlapping projects when I am invited to work with a client on a project. Perhaps this is because I work across departments and therefore don’t suffer from the silo effect impacting most employees. I also have the privilege of being able to ask “silly questions” which of course are never redundant.

In order to make all employees aware of the project, it must be mentioned at every opportunity. This means signing your emails with a suitable quote such as:

“We don’t pay your salaries, our customers do, every time they buy our product” (>>Tweet this<<)


“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers” (>>Tweet this<<)

You can also mention it in newsletters, on bulletin boards, or through internal memos, with clear explanations as to why it is important and how everyone is expected to participate. This alone will make the project stand out from the tens if not hundreds of other projects in your organization, which are most likely driven by a single department or group.

3. Identify your categories

Identify the category you are in This may seem strange to be asked to evaluate the categories in which you are active, but I am always surprised how many companies identify the category from a manufacturers perspective and not that of their customer. (>>Tweet this<<) For example a carbonated fruit juice could be seen by customers as being a part of carbonated soft drinks, of fruit juices, or in a completely new category of its own. It all depends on how they consume it.

Another example might be a dried soup mix, which customers may use to make soup, but also to make a sauce, to add taste to a casserole or dip, or to enhance the flavour of a dish made from scratch with fresh ingredients. In each case, the soup mix would be competing with products in those different categories, such as sauce mixes, flavour enhancers, and not just other (dried) soups.

4. Identify the category users

As you can imagine, if your product is being categorised in different product segments by consumers, then the users themselves will most likely differ. Taking the above example of dried soups, the category user might be:

  • Young singles – using the product to make a quick and easy soup
  • Mothers of teenage children – to make their sauces more flavourful
  • Couples – to add to their scratch cooking recipes

In each case the group of consumers have differing needs and therefore different segment descriptions. This is why understanding the category in which you are active and the customers of the sub-group that you are appealing to, is a vital first step to understanding your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

5. Choose your category segment

Choose your customer segmentAgain taking dried soups as our example, the description of your users will be very different depending upon how they use the product. The simple demographic breaks mentioned above would be insufficient to be able to get to know them well. The more descriptions you can add to these basic demographics, the more likely you are to understand and therefore delight your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

In C³Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to identify and store everything we know about category users. For more information on this useful template, see the post How well do you know your customers? or the Video series on YouTube. You can also download the free template in the Members area.

These are the first five actions to take when starting out on your own journey to increased customer centricity. Getting the whole company and every employee in it, behind such an initiative, is the only way to make it happen. As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos is often quoted as saying:

“We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company”

Your customer centric journey starts with these first steps, and then it’s just a matter of knowing intimately the people you are hoping to satisfy and delight, and ideally surprise too. Have you already started your journey to Customer Centricity? If so, what has been your biggest challenge to date, and if you solved the issue, how did you do it? Others who are just starting on their journey would love to hear from you.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

Marketing quotes

What Great Leaders Know and More Importantly Do, and You Probably Don’t

I’d like to start this post with a bit of background. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from recording the audio version of my book Winning Customer Centricity, it’s that we should never stop learning and improving. In fact I am often quoted as saying:

“A day without learning, is a day without living” (>>Tweet this<<)

You’re probably asking yourself, as I myself did going into it, “How difficult is it to read out loud?” I went for my first day of recording with not much more preparation than getting my book printed off. What a mistake! Luckily we had technical problems and Tony Johnston, who is helping me with the project, decided to redo the first part again a week or so later.

That extra time gave me the chance to do two invaluable things. Firstly, to get some coaching from two incredibly talented – and patient! – actors, Pamela Salem and Michael O’Hagan. Secondly, to better prepare myself by reading the book out loud several times, and then marking it up with pauses, emphases and other notes, to make the recording more agreeable to the listener.

However, after successfully recording the first half of the book, I again fell back into my usual ways of presentation mode on the second day, and Tony once again, generously offered to re-record it. So I’m back with my dream team of coaches this week, doing some intensive voice training and exercises.

By now, you’re probably thinking “Nice story Denyse, but what does all of this have to do with me and my business?” Great question; let me answer it by simply saying “A lot!” Read on, to find my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter what area you work in.

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

It’s vital that we continuously strive to keep learning and challenging our every-day habits and behaviours. Lifelong training and learning should be everyone’s mantra. This has become increasingly important because technical advances are coming almost daily, so we need to constantly rethink the way we work, adapting and integrating those technologies which could improve our businesses.

Accepting help is a leadership style2. We should accept help. Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish, since we cannot be an expert in every area of business. In fact if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should be good at managing people first.

Great leaders understand this and surround themselves with experts in different areas where they may need support. Are you a great leader? (>>Tweet this<<) 

3. Practice really does make perfect. It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. We should always strive to be the best we can be. If this means that we have to practice our presentation ten times when all our colleagues only do it a couple of times, then so be it. We’re all different and perhaps they have a talent for speaking, or maybe they are just satisfied with a less polished performance than we are. We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves. (>>Tweet this<<)

Final check is worth it4. That final check is worth it. When I was learning to fly, my instructor never stopped reminding me that the pre-flight checks were vital to do thoroughly. He reminded me that once you’re in the air, it’s too late!

The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, like pilots do, and complete that final check thoroughly and completely. You can rarely recover from anything that’s missing once you’ve started, or if you can, it will take far more effort than making that final check before your event takes flight.

5. Accept defeat and mistakes. We all make mistakes sometimes and get defeated occasionally. We’re human after all. However, those mistakes and defeats are great teachers. If we learn and grow from them, then the pain involved should be short-lived, as we move on to bigger and better things. One of my favorite quotes from Edison is

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

View errors as opportunities to grow. In fact it’s those people who don’t, who make a real mistake, and a BIG one at that. Encourage the sharing of mistakes so that others won’t have to make the same ones in order to learn the lessons. A healthy business environment is one in which failure is celebrated as much as success.

Tony, a naturally positive person, reminded me of this after our first “disastrous” session. “Don’t dwell on past deceptions Denyse” he said “Think about what you learned, what actually developed your skills.” 

6. Honesty is always the best policy. Somehow honesty is rarely discussed these days and yet we all know that trust is one of the main reasons people do business with companies. Therefore it seems odd that we speak a lot about trust but not honesty. In today’s world of immediate sharing of experiences with the world, dishonest behaviour is quickly known. It is so much easier to be honest than to recover from an act that was not, and the trust built over the longterm will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishap that may occur. (>>Tweet this<<)

Customers in your vision7. Business isn’t only about millenials. Everyone is speaking about the Millenials these days; this is the generation, also known as “Gen Y” or “Generation Me”, generally accepted as having been born since 1980, after “Gen X.” While Millenials may be trendy, there are other groups which are arguably just as important to consider for a successful business. For example, this is an important year for the population in the US, because for the first time, there will be more Millenials than Baby Boomers, but also because the first Gen Xs will turn fifty.

A great article in TIME Magazine at the end of last year mentioned several key points that will impact businesses. While the article speaks primarily about the importance of Gen X, Baby Boomers are also important since they are usually a larger group in most developed countries and generally also richer. Another article about the over 50’s provides some interesting statistics on their size, wealth and spending, and shows how mature consumers are changing the landscape of the digital world we live in. I would add, not only digital, and encourage all companies to revise their vision with these in mind. Great leaders don’t just follow the latest fads and trends, they more often work with future scenario planning; you should too.

These are just a few of the ways the great leaders I have had the chance to meet and work with, make a real difference in their organisations. I hope you have been inspired to make a few changes in your own thinking.

If you have something to add please do leave a comment, the more challenging the better!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe images used in this post come from Denyse’s latest book Winning Customer Centricity, which is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in all good bookstores.

If you are not yet a C³C Member, sign up (for free) in the C3C Members area. You’ll get a discount code to buy the book, many useful templates from it, as well as case studies, videos and audio presentations to download.


Marketers need to show your customer care

No Trust without Respect: 7 Rules to Winning Customers

I got an email this week that was just so wrong I almost replied to it offering my help to the sender, as he clearly needed it.

The email started, “Hello Deny, I will keep my introduction brief. I’m Scott XXX, CEO for YYY.” He was informing me about his company’s training offers, which he then went on to explain in excruciating detail! What was wrong with this email? Well a lot, for which I thank him, as it gives me a perfect example of what we need to do when looking to connect with our own current or potential customers:

  • My name is Denyse not Deny. If you are going to write to someone, get their name correct. This is the second time I have received a letter that was not correctly addressed this week! This attention to detail is absolutely essential, otherwise customers are likely to feel that you don’t care enough to get their name right, so why bother reading any more!
  • Scott started by saying he would keep the introduction short, but I could see from the length of the email that he hadn’t done this for the contents. I’ve noticed that when someone takes space to say he’s going to be short then it’s certain he won’t be! People are less patient today so delivering the goods as quickly as possible is the second business essential.
  • He is offering marketing training; I’m a customer centricity champion and know a lot about marketing. Clearly he didn’t segment his list and select the most relevant group to whom he offered the training. Relevance is the only way to be of benefit to customers.
  • The letter mentioned that “We proud to be partnering with …” No, that’s not an error on my part, it’s taken directly from the mail. I don’t know if Scott is non-mother-tongue English but if you’re selling professional services, you have to be professional. (>>Tweet this<<) I know I make mistakes too from time to time, but in a mailing going to hundreds or even thousands of people, it’s definitely worth getting a spelling and grammar check made.
  • Highlighted in the text is a bold claim that “Quite simply, our e-Learning curriculum will be the cost-effective way to build … skills, knowledge and capabilities.” My question is why? No mention of prices is given so why has he made such a claim? Today’s customers want proof not just thin claims and promises. (>>Tweet this<<) 
  • Towards the end of the email I am told that “This information is being shared with the understanding it will not be shared with others outside our consortium partnership team.” What? I’m not a partner and you’ve just shared it all with me! Is it supposed to make me feel special or threatened? Either way I’m not buying, sorry. We need to give something to our customers, be of value to them before asking for their collaboration and respect. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • The last sentence sums up all of these errors beautifully; “Deny, I look forward to further discussion and to understand your interest as a consortium partner.” As far as I know we haven’t had a discussion yet; YOU Scott have been talking AT me. We haven’t had any sort of engagement and I will definitely not be responding, as I have absolutely no interest in what you are trying to sell me.

To conclude, I’d like to thank Scott for this week’s Blog post topic and for these valuable lessons that I can now share with all my followers and readers. 

What should Scott have done?

To sum up the above seven learnings, when looking to engage potential customers and convince them to buy what you have to offer:

  1. Pay attention to details. We all like to think we’re different so treat your customer as an individual, not just a number or name on a list. And get the name right please!
  2. Fast is never fast enough, so if you promise fast or easy service then you have to deliver. Adding an example or proof of what you have already done in the past, will also help customers believe you can give it to them too.
  3. You can only attract customers by being relevant to their needs or desires. This means it is essential to segment your mailing list when identifying your target customers. If you try to attract everyone, you end up being too general and appealing to no-one.
  4.  You want to build a great reputation with your customers so decide on your personality and then fully support it. Fun, serious, professional or creative, choose how you want to be perceived and then live it and demonstrate it in everything you do.
  5. Stand by your claims and deliver on your promises. It’s a waste of money to make advertising claims that will not be met in the customer’s experience. You may get the first sell but there will be no repeat purchases, no loyalty. And you might also damage the company image too!
  6. To be valued you need to first give value. Respect and trust are built over time, not through one connection. Be patient and consistent and they will follow.
  7. Customers want connection and engagement. Whether it is online, on your website, your advertising or your CRM activities, share information the customer wants to hear, not (just) what you want to share. Listen more than you talk; that is the start of a discussion and relationship building.

Thanks to Scott, I was reminded of some of the essential rules of customer engagement. Hopefully I live them every day; at least I try really hard to do so.

Do you have examples where a brand has not respected you or one in which you lost trust because of their behaviour? If so, then I would love you to share them here.

If you are struggling to gain the respect and trust of your own customers then contact us for a short discussion on how we might help; I’m sure we can.

C³Centricity used an image in this post from Denyse’s forthcoming book Winning Customer Centricity out next month.

Brand Strategy & Vision

Brand Strategy, Vision & Planning: When did you Last Review Yours?

How do you develop your brand 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 brand 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 brand’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?

The 4 Ws of customer understanding

The 4 Ws of targeting

This 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.

A recent post on this topic will definitely help you get better and more precise at describing to whom you are selling your product or service, so do check it out.

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 brand image and equity review is essential for both new and existing brands. 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 understand, 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.

You might also have to check your corporate image if it is mentioned on the pack. Make sure its image is adding to and not negatively impacting your brand’s image. (>>Tweet this<<)

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 brand 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 brand 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 understanding 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 brand; or maybe you decide to expand distribution to better cover your weaker regions; or  maybe it’s time to launch a line extension or even a completely new brand. 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 brand. Often these have been developed with a view to the total business needs and then attributed to each brand or category in which the company is active. It is your job to review what is possible, not just what is demanded.

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 brand, then you can still review these three methods but you will use them to defend your share. For this you will need to understand 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 brand at the same time.
  • Is your brand seasonal or impacted by outside conditions? Weather, local celebrations, holidays or cultural habits can all impact demand for certain categories and brands.
  • Do your competitors have an identifiable planning that you can either interrupt or avoid?
  • What personality does your brand have? Your activities need to fit with your brand’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 brand.

Final thoughts

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 standard 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 brand 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 brand strategy, vision and plans, then please contact us here; we are sure we can help.

C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.