Your comapny's customer centric journey

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<<)

or

“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.

 

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.

Success is just the start of the road

Why Success is the Start & Not your Journey’s End

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.

The new marketing man is a brand manager

Are P&G Right to End Marketing?

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion around P&G’s decision to change marketing into brand management.

The consumer products world closely watches whenever P&G announces changes, whether to their strategy, marketing or in this case their organisational structure. As this AdAge article (herementions “P&G seems well out in front of the rest of the marketing world — or what used to be known as the marketing world — on this”.

As businesses have become more social, there have been a lot of articles about marketing. Some have spoken about the need for marketing and IT to get together, if not even merge in some way (See this Forbes article). Others have proclaimed the end of the CMO’s position altogether, including the infamous piece by IMD’s President Dominique Turpin “The CMO is Dead ..… Welcome to the CCO. Then there have been even more articles challenging marketing to show their worth and suggesting metrics to prove their ROI (See Fournaise 2011 study of 600 CEOs or Forrester’s Marketing Performance Management Survey).

The fact that there have been so many different pieces on the topic over the last year or so, suggests to me that marketing is still vital for and extremely attractive to business, but that it is in desperate need of reinventing itself. I believe this is behind P&G’s move.

At the end of last year I wrote a post proposing what I thought would and wouldn’t change and what needs to. Six months on, in light of P&G’s announcement, I thought it useful to review my list:

What will change

  • Marketing can no longer work alone in a silo; it needs to become more collaborative and more commercial or business oriented. It can no longer remain fuzzy and hide behind claims that its ROI is difficult to measure.
  • Understanding customer service opportunitiesThe sales funnel will be (has already been) replaced by the purchase decision journey, which will be a multi-layered, flexible representation of the route to purchase. For more on this, read “How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Customer Loyalty”.
  • Advertising and messaging TO the customer will be replaced by valuable information made available FOR the customer. In line with the longer sales journey and multiple online consultations, communication will become more informative, more useful, more timely.
  • Local will no longer be geographic but “Native”. Whether it’s language, habits or interests, customers will be targeted on their similarities that will rarely, if ever, include geographical proximity.
  • Mobile web consulting will become the norm, so brand sites need to become adaptive. Content will aim to inform, educate and entertain first and foremost, rather than sell, and websites will become flexible and adaptive to the differing screens and customer needs.

What won’t change

  • The customer is still the king, but content joins the ranks in almost equal position, needing more respect and value, and less commoditisation. For a great post on this read “5 Ways Content Marketing Must Change in 2014”.
  • Recommendations will remain a vital part of choice and decision-making, but they will no longer come from just friends and family. They will come from organised collection – think TripAdvisor or Angie’s List – or from (self) proclaimed experts through their Blog posts and faithful followers.
  • Customer (consumer) understanding remains vital and in fact the need for understanding will even increase as customers will be in constant evolution.

What must change

  • We are all swamped with messages and information and yet – perhaps because of this – our attention span is declining. Messaging must become shorter and simpler as people use headlines to decide whether or not to stick around.
  • In addition to the increased need for informative content, it will need to engage as well as (or is it more than?) inform. Storytelling will become an essential skill for marketers, both internally and externally.
  • Wearable technology will totally change our where and when decisions of messaging. The customer will not only be in charge of what messages are received but when to be “visible” to receive them.
  • The old marketing funnel to advocacyHaving changed the sales funnel to a path to purchase, the usual loyalty funnel no longer works. The simple path from awareness to loyalty will be replaced by a constant and consistent battle for trust. What’s more it will never be truly “won” as customers continue to be fascinated by novelty.
  • Marketing can no longer depend on creativity alone. It won’t be enough, as if it ever was, and marketers will need to get (even more?) comfortable with their BigData and its usage.
  • Customer understanding will come from multiple sources and market researchers will become understanding analysts responsible for turning the unstoppable flow of information into the organisation, into palatable morsels of digestible stories.

Although I didn’t predict P&G’s change, it does in fact address most of the above, by combining four functions under the new title of Brand Management: brand management (formerly known as marketing), consumer and marketing knowledge (their name for market research), communications and design. At least by combining these groups under a single leader they will be forced to work less in silos and there should be more and better collaboration. Only time will tell if this move will be successful.

Do you think P&G’s change is the right move? Will you consider doing something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are, or aspire to the “old” CMO or marketing roles. 

If you need help in adapting to the new world of marketing, why not work with one of the new breed of marketers? Someone who combines cultural sensitivity with creativity and technical know-how; a catalyst for the change your organisation needs. Contact us here and let’s discuss your needs.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

How to reverse trend and meet your marketing plan

Why Most Marketing Plans Fail & 9 Ways to Succeed with Yours

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 brand slide so much that you are actually losing share! Brand 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 brand’s growth is slowing? This happens in the normal life-cycle of a brand, 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 brand. 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.

Declining image

As mentioned above, your brand image will start to weaken before market share is affected (>>Tweet this<<), so in theory you still have time to prevent significant share loss. But you must act now! It is more effective to review your image ratings by experience group, to see what you need to do to recover lapsed users or convert more trialists. In my experience the answers should be clear from a regularly run and thoughtfully analysed brand image study using a well-developed attribute list.

Losing consumer trust

This is a serious issue. (as if the others aren’t!) Trust in companies and brands is what enables consumers to forgive mistakes or accept higher prices. (>>Tweet this<<) And it tips the balance in your favour in product comparability when performances are similar. Trust is a complex principle built out of a number of influencing factors, such as integrity, reliance, confidence, quality and worthiness. Which of these has resulted in your consumers’ loss of trust? Once identified, you will need to review how you can influence it. It will take time – sometimes a lot of time – to change perceptions.

Inconsistent communications

Since most companies have one product manager or group in charge of each brand, this shouldn’t happen and yet it still does. Multiple suppliers with differing interpretations of the brand 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 brand, they can switch without too much thought. In fact your brand is no longer a brand, it’s a commodity! It needs to stand 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 brand 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 brand hierarchy

Your line extensions are like family members. There should be a well-defined parent brand 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 brand, 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-brand descriptions and design become quickly obvious. Make the changes needed to get the family back in line.

Lack of (the right) social media presence

I couldn’t end this list without including social media and the internet as this is where most consumer product brands “live” today. (>>Tweet this<<)It is not enough to launch a website and Facebook page for every brand and promotion. Living is the operative word here, so it’s much better to have one site that is regularly updated than tens that are visited by twenty people a month (and yes I’ve found that in many major CPGs in the past). Also make sure that your tone online fits your tone offline and portrays the same personality. Social media is not new media, it’s just another channel, so it must fit into your overall communication’s strategy.

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.

Boss takes decision

Four Tough but Essential Decisions Every Business Leader Must Make: Who, What, Why & How?

“Why do I have to do it?” That was what my friend’s daughter provocatively asked him recently. She didn’t want to do something he had requested of her and like many kids was now questioning his reasoning as well as his authority.

This happens in the work environment too. When you are the boss, your team members are likely to sometimes ask you a similar question. And whilst it may be done less bluntly, they will still be questioning your reasoning and authority.

Last week I spoke about honesty in the workplace and it caused a lot of discussion online and in various LinkedIn groups. This week I want to speak about the difficult decisions we, as leaders, are sometimes forced to take.

Organisational structure

Individuals are all too often promoted for good performance in their current positions and not for their people-management skills or because their abilities are suited to the future positions. This is coined the “Peter Principle” in management theory, named after Laurence J. Peter. His book on the topic, co-authored with Raymond Hull, suggests that people tend to get promoted until they reach their “position of incompetence”. In fact it has been shown that CEOs who fail are quite often found to have made poor people choices  that they have then been unsuccessful in dealing with appropriately.  (>>Tweet this<<)

True leaders accept mistakes, both theirs and their teams, and personally own their bad decisions. However, that doesn’t just mean firing the under-performing employee. It also means firing someone that doesn’t “deserve” to be fired, just because your priorities have changed. It also means taking the time to explain why; no hiding behind HR to do the dirty work or just handing over the official letters in silence. Taking the responsibility of one’s acts can sometimes be painful, but that’s what distinguishes a true manager.

Portfolio management

In the garden, you keep your plants healthy by regularly trimming them. You remove the dead wood and cut back the longer stems so the plant will bush out and have more new growth and flowers. The same is true in business.

Both P&G and Unilever have done some radical pruning of their brands over the years. P&G has around 300 brands today, a third less than just a decade ago. And Unilever continues to frequently reduce the number of its stock-keeping units (SKUs). Since introducing its “Path to Growth” initiative almost fifteen years ago, the number of its brands has been culled from 1,600 down to just 400.

Retail organisations are no longer willing to offer increased space for ever-expanding numbers of brands and variants. This is especially true in recent years with the start of a clear increase in the numbers of supermarket chains offering smaller stores. Therefore it makes sense to regularly review your own portfolio and cut the “long tail” of slowest movers. The “Pareto Principle” or 80-20 rule helps a lot to make these difficult decisions.

People management

Most major organisations go through periods of growth followed by times of headcount reduction. These latter cutbacks often result in emotional pain for many of the previously loyal employees, and often for the staff who remain too. You would think that someone would notice these cycles and come out with a better way of managing a workforce.

Personnel cuts are usually claimed to be for cost-cutting reasons, but are all too often followed by new hiring initiatives within months if not even weeks of the event! Now I understand that staffing needs change and new projects may require new skills. But I blame management for being short-sighted when they make such layoffs. Whilst a business needs a core of different staff functions, the requirements of short-term projects should be met with temporary hires. This will avoid the costly practices of first hiring and then firing staff shortly afterwards.

Luckily young professionals are looking for more freedom in their careers today than my security-seeking generation ever were. Therefore why not identify your own staffing cycles and take advantage of this trend to find alternative ways of meeting temporary skill requirements?

Resource allocation

Almost every department must occasionally defend both its headcount and its budget. Whilst intellectually we may understand that we can’t have it all, we still complain when seeing others getting more than they need (or deserve?).

Unfortunately too many businesses set their goals by looking in the rear-view mirror (>>Tweet this<<), rather than by contemplating plausible future scenarios. Basing tomorrow’s needs on what was done last year, or worse still on what competition did, guarantees that budgets will not be available where they are most needed. If however resources are managed from the top down, in line with company rather than personal objectives, the business is more likely to get to where it is headed. How do you manage yours?

These four decisions are amongst the most difficult a leader will ever have to make. To summarise, they cover the who, what, why and how you run your business. It is in making these tough decisions that leaders prove why they are where they are. What decisions have you found the toughest to make in your own career and why?

You are fired if you can't answer marketing question

8 Things CEOs might question about your Marketing Plan: And how to Answer them

All marketers create a marketing plan and work to achieve the growth mentioned in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop the plan, and even more to get it approved by management.

The annual parade of brand-plan presentations is a reality in most companies. Marketers all breathe a sigh of relief when it is over and they can get back to their beloved day jobs, that of supporting their brands.

Worried marketer answering a marketing question

However, management doesn’t always allow a marketer to get off that easily. They can just as easily spring an “innocent” question when passing them in the corridor or socialising at a company event. If you can answer the CEOs question to their satisfaction, you will shine in their eyes. Provide an incomplete or worse still no answer, and they might wonder if it isn’t time to restructure the marketing group.


So, here are eight of the most likely questions a CEO may ask and how you should answer. NEVER say you don’t know, but also never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither response will win you brownie points. Make sure you have an answer like those proposed below and your name might just be on the next list of promotions.

1. Who are our brand customers?

There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona) of a typical user, in the same way as you would describe a friend. See “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers” for further details on what you should already know about your customer.

ANSWER: Our customers are middle-aged women, whose children are in their late teens or early twenties. She shops in local supermarkets and gets advice from  friends on Facebook, about the best brands to buy and what’s on offer. She’s been buying our brand for over two years because it satisfies her children’s hunger when they get in from playing sports. That makes them happy and she then feels proud of being a good Mum.

2. How much are our customers worth to us?

Marketing plan question about valueBesides having an average lifetime value in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your brand.

ANSWER: On average each customer spends about XXX (Dollars, Euros, Renminbi, Rupee, Real) each year on our brand, which is about YYY over ten years (lifetime value is rarely calculated further out than this). Our current average price in-store is ZZZ, but 70% of our customers thinks we’re actually worth more.

3. What return on our marketing budget are we getting?

Whilst ROI is not the best measure of marketing’s impact (see this Forbes article for more on that), you still need to answer the question. The answer to this could get very complex if you go into too much detail, so keep it simple. Say what your total budget is, how much you spend on advertising and promotions and what impact that has had on sales, in total. I know it takes a lot more than these two actions to impact sales, but as I said, keep it simple.

ANSWER: Our total budget is AAA of which BBB goes on communications and promotions. With our current sales growth of SSS, that works out at approximately TTT.

4. How much will we sell; what market share are we expecting this year?

You could give just one number in answer to this, but why not use the attention you’ve got by adding something impressive to the story?

ANSWER: We’re expecting a RRR% growth this year to UUU unit sales. This is the highest in the category so our share will increase by PPP points to MMM percent market share.

5. What are our innovation plans for the brand?

You could answer this with a long list of all the new SKUs you will launch but again use your time wisely by adding some understanding too.

ANSWER: We will be launching CCC new variants, which we expect to add MMM percentage points to our market share. We will also be eliminating FFF units that are not delivering on expectations.

6. What do we know about our carbon footprint?

Marketing question about brand carbon footprint

Questions around sustainability and sourcing tend to be raised in corporations which already have targets. If this is the case in your own company, then measurements are almost certainly already being taken. Therefore you just need to reply with the latest numbers.

But you can again use this exchange with top management to add how your customers feel about the question and all the efforts being made by the company – you do have that information too don’t you?

7. How’s the competition doing?

The answer to this question could cover a lot of topics: sales, market share, new launches, advertising, promotions or pricing. Respond with a simple summary of a few current metrics in comparison to two or three major competitors. The manager will then clarify if he was thinking of a specific topic and you can answer more precisely.

8. How’s our distribution doing these days?

A simple summary of outlets we have gained or lost is enough here, but why not add some detail about successful placement improvements too? That latest shelf redesign that has increased sales, or the fact that you have just been named category captain in a retail chain is definitely news worth sharing.

These are just eight of the most common questions top management asks of marketers. As you can see, the answers I’ve suggested are short. Especially when the question is posed outside the formal marketing plan presentation, the executive is probably looking not only for the information requested, but also to check that you have an excellent understanding of your brand. He wants to be assured that his business is in good hands. Prove it to him and also show your respect of his time, by giving a short, precise, answer whenever possible.

Do you frequently get asked other questions that I have forgotten? Do let me know. If you also have a better way of responding to any of the above questions, I’d love to hear those too.

If you’d like your team to be better prepared for “awkward” questions from management, why not ask for a 1-Day Catalyst session on marketing KPIs? No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft and Dreamstime in this post.

Checking the 7Ps of outstanding customer service

NEVER Succeed at Innovation: 10 Mistakes even Great Companies make

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.

Pepsi innovation of Crystal PepsiThis 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.

R&D needs to connect with customers for improved innovationWhilst 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 understand 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.

Apple still excels at innovation

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.

Standard innovation funnelRigid processes and creativity rarely go together (>>Tweet this<<). Rather than working step-by-step through a standardised 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 standard 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 demands 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.

Preparing future scenarios can speed innovation

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.