As a customer first strategist (hopefully just like you), I spend a lot of my time searching how to better measure customer centricity for my clients. I also do a lot of analyses on what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand exactly the solutions customers need, desire and dream of having.
My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend! However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.
Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look up the term, you get redirected to customer satisfaction! Try it for yourself and see.
My other go-to source for definitions is businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:
“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”
It then goes on to say
“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”
Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:
- a positive customer experience
- adds value to a company
- enables differentiation
This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:
- A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is an incredibly valuable benefit for a brand.
- Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics about this in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience.”
- The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you stand out? By your customer care, that’s how and knowing what your customers really want . It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. You can read a summary of this and more in the summary report of the American Express research.
I would also add that what customers really want today is a seamless experience from pre- to post- purchase, as well as from on to offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction and build loyalty.
Find out how good you are at customer centricity. Take the quiz now.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND UNDERSTANDING
There is no denying that customer centricity is important. However some companies are (too?) slow to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:
- It is now proven that it is important for the business, so what is stopping companies from quickly adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. It’s no longer (just) about product performance.
- Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today.
- Customer service is confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but they should be looking not just to satisfy them but to delight them too!
As mentioned before, the research that prompted this post was a google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest. I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends.
However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below with service in green, care in blue, satisfaction in red and understanding in yellow)
These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!
How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Apparently not.
And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer centricity. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. What do you think?
To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days. So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.
According to the latest report from The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries.
This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised. However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, but most other industries continue to ignore what their customers really want. You can see the Infographic overview above; click on it to see the full-sized original.
I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found more than two million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. Again, extremely worrying.
According to the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) August 2019 report, customer satisfaction is once again on the decline in the USA.
As mentioned in their press release accompanying the Q2 2019 results "With few exceptions, the rate of growth in consumer spending – which accounts for almost 70% of GDP – has declined since 2016. ACSI is still below its high watermark from 2017, yet GDP growth has, by and large, increased over the same time periods."
“This is untenable in the long run,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI Founder and Chairman. “It’s also untenable for customer satisfaction to weaken and for consumer spending to strengthen in the long run. But that’s what happened in the second quarter of 2019.”
The UK is showing a similar negative trend. The UKCSI is currently 77.1 (out of 100), 0.8 points lower than a year ago. This is the fourth consecutive, though small, drop in customer satisfaction since July 2017, when the index score was 78.2. This has no doubt also been negatively impacted by the Brexit vote and ongoing struggle to negotiate terms with the EU.
THE KEY TAKEAWAYS
So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their level of satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:
- Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to satisfy, but ideally delight.
- Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation.
- Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer.
- Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most industries, especially when customers are becoming increasingly demanding.
- Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
- A positive customer experience increases loyalty and advocacy.
- Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.
In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver delight, will see their reputation improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy.
Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want answers to their questions and criticisms. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, their country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.
So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below.
You can no longer wait! You’re getting left behind by your competitors who are taking action today! If you need help in catalysing your organisation in customer centricity and aligning your business to what your customers really want, C3Centricity provides 1-Day training on many relevant topics. See more and download the summary brochures HERE.
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More than one year after the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, I wondered what has changed. And more importantly, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship whilst also respecting it.
Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. A recent article on Business2Community by Owen Ray said that
“The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”
If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.
Companies who are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Too many businesses ask too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes.
I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.
1. Ask Permission to Gather Information
This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t subscribe! You too?
Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for. Not only should you ask for consent; if you are not in direct personal contact, but connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.
Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers. It also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.
2. There Must be Mutual Benefit
When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them in return immediately. This can be as simple as offering coupons for your products, some valuable information not easily available elsewhere, a free guide or e-book on a relevant topic, or special privileges such as club membership or express shipping. Something that shows them that they were right to agree and that you value their information.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm them by asking everything in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, you can complete the information you require through several contacts with the same customer.
This also has the added advantage of keeping the conversation more frequent than it might otherwise have been. Ask just enough to be able to identify your priority metrics and then refine your understanding of them as you gather more information.Your objective should be to build a long-term relationship with your customers, so don't gather more information than you can immediately use. #CEX #CRM #CustomerService #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet
3. Make them Feel Special
More and more CPG companies and brands now offer a loyalty program, especially to their higher-value consumers. These provide more targeted privileges and even give the opportunity to preview new communications or product concepts. In general customers love to give feedback and it has the benefit of building a closer tie to the brand as they feel ownership of those launched.
This is probably one of the more intimate and bigger win-win relationships that can be developed with your customer. But it does take a dedicated team within the company to manage such a club, as these customers are naturally the most demanding for services and constant information updates. So only set one up when you know you can satisfy their needs, as otherwise they can feel frustrated when they perceive they are not getting the attention they think they deserve.
Over the past couple of years, we have started to see new types of member offers. Sephora launched a members-only social platform, which encourages shoppers to share beauty tips and advice, and to comment about any new products bought, not just those from their stores.
Nike has taken things to the extreme by opening an entire members-only store concept, Nike Live, in Los Angeles.
Both of these provide exceptional recognition to their members, making them feel a part of an exclusive program, which is exactly what they are!
4. Keep the Relationship Fresh
Once you start building the relationship with your customers, you must continue to interest them by offering news, information, photos, videos or articles of interest. This can be quite a strain on internal resources, so you may want to (also) consider including user generated content (UGC) on your website.
Not only does this ensure continuously updated content, but also involves the customer in what is shown, so that it remains relevant and of interest to them. People love to post and comment, so include message boards, tip sharing platforms or photo albums, whatever is relevant to your targeted customers.
Beauty, fashion and petcare brands were amongst the first to make use of UGC, as they are in very visual industries. Who doesn’t want to share a photo of themselves when they are looking especially beautiful, or show how cute their cat or dog is?
One great example comes from L’Oreal. Their DermaBlendPro brand encouraged users to share photos or videos of how the brand had transformed their look, by hiding disfiguration or tattoos. They clearly understood that happy customers make the best brand ambassadors, and this was clearly proven by the thousands of entries and immense buzz the brand received on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.
5. Ask their Advice - Frequently
For your customers to appreciate how much you value them and their business, involve them in it, by asking for feedback on how you are doing. If you have new ideas or plans, share details with them or enable them to vote for new flavors, concepts or advertising ideas.
You can also enable them to preview the ads or products before everyone else, but do make sure you provide them with some great information about it too, so that they can share it with their friends and family members. This will make them feel like the special and valued customer they are, and also help you spread the word - for free!
6. Always Offer a Simple Way Out
Once you have made the connection with your customers, recognize that they might change their minds at any time and want to unsubscribe from your club or mailing list. Make this as quick, simple and pain free as possible. This shows respect for your customer and their time, and also enables them to leave with a positive opinion of you and the brand. You never know, they might change their minds and stay after all, or come back again in the near future.
From making the unsubscribe link in tiny font to pale and almost illegible, to using button colours to mislead, many brands think that this will stop people from unsubscribing. It may, but it is more likely just to irritate them and label your communications as spam.
Even large companies get this wrong. Apple may provide full details of all the different ways to connect on their contact page, but it is laid out in an overwhelming block of text that is so off putting I doubt anyone hunts to find the information they need.
Another example used by Swiss airlines and their parent company Lufthansa almost had me agreeing to give all my information, not just the necessary data to make my experience more comfortable. Their coloured button draws the eye and without reading you could end up making the same mistake I almost did.
With so much choice available to customers today, it is our responsibility to build an engaging and respectful relationship with them. If there is no trust, there may soon be no sales!
What other ways do you show respect for your customers? Please share your best examples below. Of course, if you have come across a bad example that frustrated that, then please share it too. Let's name and shame!
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One of the most frequent questions I get asked by my clients is how they can improve their innovation.
Whether they are large or small, global or local, they all want to their new products and services to be more successful. And the answer I give them to this question every single time is simple; start with the customer!
Many companies create great new products and services – from their perspective at least – but they fail miserably! They then ask me if I can help them to improve their innovations and identify why this happened. Of course, I do help them, but I also suggest that next time it would be better if they called me before they started innovating! In a failure situation, it is almost always due to an outdated innovation process in which the customer has not been involved.
I know it can be difficult to innovate in this new age of technology, but it remains vital for growth. And Switzerland remains one of the most innovative countries in the world. In both the GII (WIPO Global Innovation Index and Bloomberg Index Switzerland appears in the top five. I think this is why I regularly get invited to run workshops on the topic around the world.
China is an innovation hot-house
China, excluding Hong Kong, joined the top 20 most innovative countries in the WIPO global innovation index for the first time in 2018. This is because they no longer rely on cost-effective manufacturing alone. They also applied for more patents than the next two countries, the United States and Japan, combined! This clearly shows that China is improving ideation as well as their innovation process. But they know they must do even more. To become a truly competitive nation, they have to better understand their target customers, especially their growing middle and higher-income residents, who continue to prefer primarily imported Western brands.
Let me share with you a few of the ideas that I spoke about during my recent visit there. They may also deliver more successful innovation for your organisation too.
Innovation is essential
Most companies innovate from an internal technical and skills-based foundation. It doesn’t usually work very well, if at all. In fact, according to Nielsen, IRI, Fortune and many others, it is estimated that between 85% and 95% of new consumer products in the US fail. In Europe, it’s just as bad, with only 25% of new consumer products being still available on shelf just twelve months after launch! And less than half that number by the end of the second year.
With such disastrous results, you might wonder why companies continue to innovate. Well there are three main reasons why they do:
- It keeps brands fresh. Brands which innovate have something new to share with current and potential clients. We have come to expect it. What excites today, is normal tomorrow and then just boring after that. We have gotten accustomed to regular updates and constant new choices.
- It encourages switching. If brands and options remain the same, people would only switch if they became dissatisfied and the cost of switching was low. Since product performances are so similar in many categories today, new variants and offers suggest differentiation. The brand appears more vibrant and people like that.
- It revives brands through excitement and buzz. In today’s connected world, this is vital. People learn about brands as much from friends and family as through advertising. And they trust the former more than the latter, even if some of these “friends” are virtual ones they’ve never met. According to Nielsen’s report ” Global Trust in Advertising” more than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) others’ opinions posted online.
Renovate your innovation process
It still surprises me that companies continue to use the same innovation process as they've always done, when their failure rate remains so high. Today's digital environment needs a whole new approach.
The old process often looks something like the diagram on the right. Is that what yours looks like? In fact, is your process a funnel? If so, then you're facing at least two problems:
1. That it is a funnel. This process is linear, with a beginning and an end. It assumes that there is only one “winner” from all the ideation and brainstorming. And it also supposes that only one concept developed from that “winning” idea will succeed.
But what if all your ideas are great? You would be throwing away all but one of them! Or suppose that they are all “losers” and you launch the least “awful” amongst them? There must be a better way, no?
Even IDEO’s iterative process still assumes “winners”, because they quickly move from brainstorming to prototyping and testing with customers. At least they do suggest co-creating with customers, which is a positive element of their process and it is great fun to do – from my own experiences. But as I said, there is a better way.
2. That it doesn’t include the customer. How can you have any chance of innovating for your customers if you don’t include them? You are relying on your own perspective to make choices. Are you the typical consumer for whom you are innovating? Probably not. So why are you taking decisions based on your own opinions and those of your colleagues? They're pretty irrelevant if you think about it!
The second diagram on the right is the type of NPD process that I encourage my clients to use. It is, of course, always adapted to their own specific needs and based upon their current process to speed adoption and change.
The major difference from most current innovation processes that my clients have shared with me, is that it is a virtuous circle. It starts and ends with opportunity identification, in other words with the customer and insight. This, of course, means that we must know and understand our customers deeply.
Know your target audience intimately
We all think we know our customers, don't we? But in most cases this is not strictly true. At least, we don't know them as deeply as we should or could. One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating.One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. #Marketing #Brand #Innovation Click To Tweet
The first thing I ask my clients to complete, and regular readers will know it well, is the 4W™ Template of the “who”, “what”, where” and most importantly of all, the “why” of their target audience. Often times they struggle with the last “W”. If you want to try it for yourself, check out our detailed post on it “How well do you know your customers?”
Even with this template completed, you still have to go further. Optimal understanding comes from regular connection. Our customers are changing - fast - so we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of the market. Yesterday’s information is not much use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow.Yesterday’s information is not much use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow. #CustomerUnderstanding #CustomerInformation #CustomerData Click To Tweet
During my talk at Shanghai’s ECUST University, someone asked me how we can be better prepared for the future. I love the question, as it enables me to speak about another of my passions, that of scenario planning.
Change happens, and especially rapidly in fast developing markets such as China. My recommendation to the student was to not rely on trends alone. They are uncompetitive. To gain an advantage over the competition, you need to develop trends into plausible future scenarios. If you are interested in learning more, then do check out our post “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything“.
Knowing why your customers do what they do, buy what they buy and consume what they consume, and then watching and listening to them to understand even better, will put you in the best possible position for improving ideation and innovation. But there’s still more you can do.
Increase your external partnerships
As mentioned above, many companies still rely on their own technology and skills to innovate. However, while technology can certainly help deliver improved benefits, it is usually not sufficient. In many areas, companies need to collaborate with others who are more specialised in certain areas.
Joint ventures and partnerships are also useful for developing new products and services more quickly. You don’t need to build the needed skills internally and you can rely on the immediate support of external experts. Whether you team up with another corporation or a university is up to you, as long as you recognise your need for additional support. If you rely totally on your internal knowledge for improving ideation and innovation, you are unlikely to find those breakthrough ideas most companies are searching for.
There are many examples of large consumer goods companies partnering with external experts. The Laboratoires Innéov was a joint venture in nutritional cosmetics between L’Oréal and Nestlé, although the relationship ended in 2015. Nestle also created Cereal Partners Worldwide as a joint venture with General Mills and Beverage Partners Worldwide with Coca-Cola.
Procter & Gamble and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced the creation of a joint venture in consumer healthcare in 2011. The newly named PGT Healthcare partnership with president Tom Finn has since negotiated tens of JV’s, partnerships and strategic alliances.
Expand your business model
Another external lever from which more and more companies are benefiting today is a change in their business model. Take the food industry. It is moving from basic nutrition into health and wellness, and could become a direct competitor to the pharmaceutical industry as it develops more nutraceuticals.
Pharma, on the other hand, is moving from sickness to wellness, from treatments to prevention.
And what about telecoms? They now make almost as much money selling geo-localisation data as they do from providing communication services.
Or how about Google moving into cars, solar panels and most recently travel with its Trips App? Through the analysis of their customers’ searches, Google can identify those of us who are looking to travel, those interested in buying a new car or in using taxi services. Google knows more about us today than we know ourselves! And that is both exciting and frightening.
Harness emotional benefits
Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones.Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones. #Emotions #Benefits #Functional #Brand #Marketing Click To Tweet
Apple used to be a great innovator. In the past few years, I feel they have been relying too much on their technical expertise. The launches of their iPhone 7, 8 and X and the new Mac Book laptops were all less successful than their previous launches. While none are real flops, they failed to ignite excitement in their potential customers.
There have been numerous posts on why Apple is failing at innovating today. One article in the HBR by Steve Blank stated that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
“… suggested execution executives as their successors. They confused world-class execution with the passion for product and customers, and market insight. Yet history has shown us that these two talents are not the same. For long-term survival in markets that change rapidly, one is far more important than the other.”
Another article in Business Insider by Julie Bort concludes by saying
“Microsoft is now officially more innovative than Apple”
based upon Tweets of the events. But Microsoft too failed when Bill Gates handed the company leadership over to Steve Ballmer. For 14 years Ballmer successfully ran the business from a financial perspective. He tripled sales and doubled profits. But he didn’t set the company up for long-term survival. In early 2014, Satya Nadella took over and made some radical changes which focused the company on mobile and the cloud (Azure). This freed Microsoft to become more innovative again and the result is already showing.You can never go wrong if you start from your customers’ perspective and connect emotionally with them. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Business Click To Tweet
Develop insights as a company
Some managers think that insight is just another word for market research. They’re wrong, but perhaps you too see it in this way?
Market research is a great source of information, but for insight, you have to integrate multiple sources of information. It is rare for a single project to provide a deep insight. This comes from truly understanding the customer and that takes time. It takes data and information, turned into knowledge and then understanding to develop real insight.Knowing your customers is insufficient to develop insight unless you understand what it all means to them. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Insight #MRX Click To Tweet
The full development process, such as the example given on the right, takes time and people, ideally with differing perspectives. It takes a detailed understanding of the target audience, their needs and desires so that you can resonate emotionally with them.
Many organisations work with human truths to help in identifying a concept that will resonate emotionally. These are usually based on basic human needs, which cut across cultures. This makes them particularly useful for regional and global brands.
During my different talks, I share many examples and case studies, but one which my audiences usually find particularly fascinating is the insight both Unilever’s Omo and Nestle’s Nido have used. The insight is based on the human truth that “All parents want their children to grow up happy and healthy”. The insight they then developed, which is as equally relevant for washing powder as it is for infant formula is “I want my child to experience everything life has to offer, even if it means getting dirty”. What is particularly interesting in this example is that both companies have been able to use the same human truth and insight but make it relevant for each of their categories.
My recommendation, therefore, if you are struggling to develop insight, is to analyse your competitors or the brands targeting a similar audience. If you can identify on what human truth and insight their message is based, you may be able to use it too.
These are just a few of the many ideas which I shared with enthusiastic audiences wherever I speak about innovation around the world. It is clear that both entrepreneurs and corporate executives in China are particularly keen to improve their innovation. They are also thirsty for support in further improving their ideation. For this reason, I believe they will continue to top the nations in patent applications for many years to come.
Therefore, it is vital that we supposed "developed" nations support our entrepreneurs and creative executives to stay in the race. Unless we do so, we could see China dominate new products and services in the future, as they have dominated manufacturing in the past.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on the race for innovation.
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Your brand is not what you think it is! It is what your customers think it is; its brand image, personality and its value to them.
I was lecturing at Miami University a while back on brand image and personality. These are two vital elements of branding. They need to be clear and consistently represented in all your communications.
If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find the following article both interesting and valuable.
Why we Buy Brands
According to Wikipedia, a brand is:
“a set of marketing and communications methods that help to distinguish a company from competition and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.”
Although this definition in my opinion, is a little sterile for something as exciting as branding, I do like that it mentions customers. However, for me, a brand is created in both the minds and hearts of its customers.
There has been so much said about the importance of emotions and resonating with the customer, that we should no longer forget them. And this is where image and personality play vital roles. They are both more or less created in the heart, rather than in the mind of the customer.
We often buy brands without even knowing ourselves why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy.We often buy brands without even knowing ourselves why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage… Click To Tweet
A brand is made up of a number of components, with which people learn to identify and recognise it. These include its logo, colour, pack, shape, taste, aroma, sounds and feel. There may also be other things which are directly associated with the brand, such as a celebrity, an event or a cause it supports.
A brand needs to have a clear image, personality and equity in the minds of its customers. These come as the result of these branding elements as well as the customer’s own personal experience with it.
All these factors must be respected in order to build a strong brand with which customers can identify themselves. If they’re not, then the brand is at risk of not developing correctly, or even worse, of becoming just a commodity.
It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. And then, of course, to follow it over time through regular measurement.It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity Click To Tweet
A brand is associated with many statements or attributes. These are what current and potential customers think or feel about it. They may have resulted from exposure to its communications, as well as from their own personal experiences.
These elements are usually grouped into three types: the rational / functional benefits, the subjective / emotional elements and the cultural / relational factors.
The third group was added by David Armano of Edelman Digital almost ten years ago. I like his additional idea because the relationships a brand builds with its customers have become vitally important in today’s world of social media. I have noticed that he recently started referring to these as societal rather than relational, in line with today’s more usual vocabulary.
- Rational / Functional benefits include things on which most people would agree and recognise. For example being crunchy, colourful, available everywhere or delivered in a glass bottle.
- Emotional / Subjective elements are those which vary between customers and their own, personal appreciation of the brand. These might include good value for money, better quality, or gives the best service.
- Cultural / Relational (Societal) factors are those associated with a brand’s trust and responsibility. Customers today are increasingly interested in how a brand or corporation addresses its use of resources and whether or not they are sustainable and ecological. Brands also depend on recommendations from others, so word of mouth, especially online, has become a vital additional source of reputation. The attributes measured could include trustworthy, a brand I’d recommend or cares about its customers.
The Power of a Three-legged Brand
David Armano showed that incorporating all three elements into a brand’s image results in a stronger brand. It is much more likely to have a better performance than those brands which don’t include the societal elements.
He reported that it is in recommendations and sharing brand content that the most positive impact can be found today.
Customers are also more likely to share their personal information with the brand and to buy it more often. Both of these actions demonstrate an increase in trust, a precursor to both loyalty and advocacy.
One further impact of trust is that it results in customers defending the brand. This is a wonderful support to have in a world where everything is known at the click of a button. A brand which has the trust of its customers will be more often forgiven for the occasional mishap.
You can read more about Edelman’s Brandshare Study in the slideshow “How brands and people create a value exchange.”
Measuring Brand Image
I am often surprised by the lack of understanding about how to measure brand image when I work on branding issues with clients. Even large companies don’t do a good job of it in general. And some have never even measured it, preferring financial to customer metrics to manage their businesses.Even large companies don't do a good job of measuring brand image. And some have never even measured it, preferring financial to customer metrics to manage their businesses. Click To Tweet
Others measure too frequently, in the hope that their latest advertising campaign has had the desired impact. This is rarely the case, as images take time to change.
Another problem I find with many clients when I first start working with them, is that the choice of attributes is often sub-optimal, to be polite. The factors included should be selected to cover all the main elements of your desired image as well as that of the competition.
I have often seen clients happy that they are scoring better than their competitors. However, when I examine their metrics I find that they are missing those which would better represent their competitors’ brands. No wonder they are doing well!
A further mistake I encounter is trying to measure advertising slogans. While it is important to understand whether your message is heard and understood, this should not be done in a brand image survey. Advertising slogans should be evaluated through a communications test.
Brand Personality & Values
Brands have personalities, just like people. It was Schwartz who first identified the ten human values which make up our personalities. They are important to understand, especially for regional and global brands, because they cut across cultures.
Our values also determine our behaviour. Plato identified the typical patterns of human behaviour, which he called archetypes. The Swiss psychologist Jung then used this concept in his theory of the human psyche. But it wasn’t until Margaret Mark that they were first correlated with brands in her excellent book “The Hero and the Outlaw.”
The twelve archetypes are illustrated above, together with some sample adjectives to describe them. It is important to understand how customers see your brand. Do you know?
The image on the right shows examples of brands with each of the twelve personalities. Where would you place your own brand?
The personality of your brand should resonate with your customers, either because they are similar, or because they provide the dream lifestyle your customers desire.
Either way, it is essential to understand what role your brand is playing.It is essential to understand the personality of your brand and what role it is playing. #brand #marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity #Personality Click To Tweet
The personality of your brand should resonate with your customers, either because they are similar, or because they provide the image your customers desire. Either way, it is essential to understand what role your brand is playing.
Brands can represent any of the twelve archetypes, which are usually divided into four subgroups, as follows:
- Stability, control: Caregiver, Ruler, Creator
- Risk, achievement: Hero, Rebel, Magician
- Belonging: Lover, Jester, Everyman
- Learning, freedom: Innocent, Sage, Explorer
As the diagram above shows, there is no ideal archetype and brands can successfully grow by representing any of them. What is vital is that the archetype is portrayed consistently across all communications and visualisations.
Need help with your own brand building?
Examples of Strong Brand Images & Personalities
During my lecture at the University of Miami, I shared many examples of brand images and personalities. These included showing how some brands have successfully managed to change theirs.
Two of the brands we discussed were Axe and Old Spice because they have gone through some interesting evolutions over the years. Most recently it even appears that they are overtly challenging each other through their advertising.
Take a look at the ads below and see if you can identify the archetypes before continuing to read the post.
AXE: This Unilever brand has been portrayed as the Lover, the Hero and most recently as the Everyman. Here are a couple of their ads to show the transition from Hero (Fireman) to Everyman (Find your magic).
In particular, note the shower sequence at the end of the second Axe commercial (a slight - or is it a sly - dig at Old Spice?) and the heroic fire demonstration in the Old Spice ad!
OLD SPICE: This P&G brand has been portrayed as the Explorer, Everyman (The Man Your Man Could Smell Like) and most recently as the Rebel (Rocket Car) - or is it, Hero? Let me know which you think in the comments below.
As I did for Axe, I've selected an older and a more modern example of their campaigns, so you can compare the change of approach.
I am looking forward to seeing how these two ad campaigns continue to develop. It is clear that Unilever and P&G are closely following and perhaps even being inspired by each other. Those are two of the actions of great marketers.
Finally, I couldn't leave the topic of personalities without mentioning Apple. Often seen as the Creator archetype, Apple went as far as to visualise their persona and personality in their "Get a Mac" campaign. (see example from AdAge below)
The ads featured two men, called Mac and PC, comparing their functionalities. The campaign ran from 2006 to 2009 and was a hilarious success, positively impacting the Mac's image. In the ads, they describe themselves as:
Mac: Cool, trendy, young, friendly, casual, reliable, fast and looking for fun.
PC: Boring, formal, cold, old, unreliable, slow, not inspiring.
Which two archetypes do they suggest? Answers in the comments below, please.
A brand's equity is the value of the brand in the eyes of its customers It is the power it has derived from the goodwill and recognition that it has earned over time.
A strong brand equity comes from the development of a robust image and personality. Both of these need to be reinforced by every advertisement, message and promotion that the brand produces. Consistency is vital to growing a strong equity.
The results of this consistency will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than your competitors.
Steadiness is vital to growing a strong equity. The results of being consistent will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than its competitors.
Brand Equity Studies
The importance of a brand's equity is clearly indicated by the many different sources of regional and global brand equity rankings published each year.
The two most well known, Interbrand and Millward Brown's BrandZ, have slightly different algorithms and therefore results, but both include financial as well as consumer metrics.
Interbrand's model has three key components:
- analysis of its financial performance
- analysis of the role the brand plays in purchase decisions
- analysis of the brand’s competitive strength.
Together with extensive desk research and an expert panel assessment, Interbrand also includes data from Reuters, Datamonitor and media platform Twitter.
Millward Brown's BrandZ
BrandZ, on the other hand, uses a mixture of financial information and customer surveys. Their proprietary research covers 3mio consumers and 100,000 brands in more than 50 markets. They too measure three things:
- How “meaningful” the brand is, its appeal & ability to generate “love” and meet the consumer’s expectations and needs.
- How “different” it is, what unique features it may have and its ability to “set the trends” for consumers.
- How “salient” the brand is, whether it springs to mind as the consumer’s brand of choice.
BrandZ's 2016 results showed Google overtaking Apple as the most valuable brand in the world. However, in 2019 Amazon has leapfrogged the competition to be crowned the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand for 2019, breaking Apple and Google’s 12 year hold on the top spot.
So there you have it. All the major points a marketer should know about brand image, equity, personalities and archetypes.
A marketer's role is primarily to defend and grow its brand's image and equity through a strong personality and consistent communications. If you are not succeeding in all areas then you are almost certainly challenged by weakening sales.
Brand image usually declines before sales do, so it is an invaluable measure of your brand's health. If you would like to learn more about measuring and analysing brand image, there are several chapters dedicated to the topic in my book "Winning Customer Centricity".
Don't forget to add your answers to the couple of questions I asked in the article in the comments below. Let me know what you think about defending brand image and growing equity. And I'd love to hear about your own brand's archetype and whether you had trouble in defining it.
This post uses images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity". You can download the first three chapters for free HERE.
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Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?
If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.
If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.
People don’t read instructions
We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.
If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned. I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.
In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.
As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.
People do look at packs
Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.
It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.
Here are a few examples I have come across recently:
Nestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.
What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.
Juvena of Switzerland: The short message to “Enjoy the smoothness” on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.
Juvena of Switzerland: The short message to “Enjoy the smoothness” on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.
Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.
Yucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.
Yucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.
The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.
While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that’s what I call impact!
Pringles have done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.
Pringles have done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.
They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.
Heinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing – and reading.
A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change – of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?
These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.
People are willing to help you
Creative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.
What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it’s fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.
Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.
We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.
Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn’t you agree?
For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/training
This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.
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One of the best ways to a deeper understanding of your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately too often an under-utilised tool of marketers.
It is, therefore, understandable that so many companies run to conduct market research, usually a qualitative study, as a first step to improved customer understanding. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to watch the interviews or group discussions. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good. Let me explain.
Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? You are then irritated that you “wasted” money on the project aren’t you? Well, this may actually be as a result of your very own selective listening and interpretation. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. There was so much more you could have understood if only you knew how to listen.
True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an infrequent observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this more effectively.
Make customer observation everyone’s job
There are many, many opportunities for every employee in a company to come into contact with the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by listening to calls at the care centre, reading blogs and message boards, or participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling or market research.
Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, this needs to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as explained below.
If you’d like to run more successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help. Please contact me for more on our 1-Day training sessions.
Customer observation is not as easy as it looks!
There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the Awareness Test and try it for yourself.
In the exercise, people are asked to count the number of passes made by the team in white, so that is what the observer will concentrate on. In the background a man dressed as a bear, moon-walks his way across the screen, but most people are oblivious to the fact. They are so busy looking for the answer to the question, that they miss this significant event in the short video.
Exactly the same can happen when people watch customers. They are so concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs, that they miss a lot of what is actually going on.Marketers observing customers all too often miss a lot of what is happening because they are concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs. #Marketing #Observation Click To Tweet
If they were to actually listen objectively, they might hear something new. And this might lead them to a significant breakthrough in customer understanding.
For this reason, it is essential to run a careful briefing session before every observation exercise. This way people go into it with their eyes and brains fully open. Your Insight team can manage this in most cases, but to summarise what needs to be covered, I have listed below the five rules of observation.
The five rules of customer observation
1. ORDINARY: Look for the ordinary not the extraordinary, but do note the things that surprise. These can challenge our preconceptions and help us to keep an open mind. Identify also the details of the ordinary event, things that were never noticed or thought about before.
You may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer opportunities to increase satisfaction, either by resolving them or by developing a new product or service.When observing your customers, you may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer new opportunities to increase satisfaction. #marketing #brand #Observation Click To Tweet
2. ATTENTIVE: Be careful to record only what you see and hear. Don’t start analysing what you think is going on or you will certainly miss something.
If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every company participant.If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every colleague who is participating. #brand #Marketing #observation Click To Tweet
One person should lead the session, one could take notes and one can actively observe and perhaps take pictures. With these different roles covered, the discussion after the event will be much richer and more complete.
3. ACCURATE & OBJECTIVE: This is the reason why you need to remain attentive, so you get an accurate record of what is happening. Keep notes of what your see, when, where, and how people behave.
If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on.If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on. #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet
It is also important not to react openly to what you see or hear. Pay particular attention to your body language. Keep asking yourself (at least at first) why? Even if something appears obvious, the reason may not be what you think it is. So keep asking this vital question.
This form of iterative investigating is often referred to as the ” Five Whys“. The technique involves asking the question a minimum of five times to ensure you cover every angle.
4. TIMING: Observe and understand what is going on before and after the event, as well as during the event you are observing itself. The event needs to be put into the context of time and place within a person’s lifestyle and habits. This is the only way to understand its relevance.
Also, be patient as people often change behaviour when being watched, at least to start with. Give them a chance to relax and feel comfortable with being observed. Insight colleagues will certainly have mentioned at some point that in qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up!In qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up! A gold mine! #CEX #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet
5. DEBRIEF & ANALYSIS: Observation is most valuable if it is completed by an immediate debriefing session. Observers can together share, ask questions and start to analyse what they have seen and heard.
This is important if several groups have been following similar events such as shopping, leisure-time activities or food preparation, but with different respondents.
Of course, the immediate debrief does not preclude a more in-depth exchange and analysis the next day. It is amazing what additional understanding comes from “sleeping on it.”
These five points should ensure that everyone enjoys participating in these customer connection sessions. Both you and your customers will benefit from the experience and a maximum number of ideas and learnings will be gathered.
One last point for International organisations; be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture (>>Tweet this<<) where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. What is appropriate in one culture may be offensive or irrelevant in another.In international work, be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. #CEX #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet
Checking things out with the locals before going into the field can save a lot of embarrassment – or worse! It is also useful to have local members help in the analysis of what was seen and heard, so that the correct interpretation is made.
If you have run observation or connection sessions and have learned something additional, please share your experiences. I answer all notes and questions personally, usually within a few hours.
For more ideas on getting closer to your customer, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/. If you would like support in setting up connection sessions with your own customers I would love to help you get the most out of them. Just contact me contact me here.
This post uses images from Denyse’s book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Business – One Day at a Time.“
This post has been regularly updated and expanded since it was first published on C3Centricity. It remains one of our most popular posts years later.
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Consultants get contacted for all sorts of – admittedly sometimes strange – requests for support from their clients.
However, when I get several people asking for help in the same area, I know something important is happening in the marketplace.
This is exactly what happened to me last month. The topic? Business Growth.
Most marketers will soon be leaving on their annual vacation and are realising just how little time they will have left to meet them when they return. Their brands have not performed as well as they had hoped this year and they are looking for a solution – fast!
No less than two of my current clients and four new companies have asked me for support in growing their businesses in just the past month! In particular, they have all said that one or more of their brands is stable – to be polite – and that they want to reverse the trend. Is this your situation too? If so, then I have a useful 7-step process that will bring rapid, if not instant change.
How to Stop a Declining Brand
OK, let’s get straight to the point with the most painful of situations first, that of a declining brand. A few years ago I wrote a popular post about using brand image metrics to understand what is happening with a brand and how to identify the best actions to take.
It is called “How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye.” I highly recommend reading it now, for a short but in-depth understanding of all the information that can be gleaned from a simple brand image study.
Almost all brands use their own brand image data in a very basic way, but there is so much more that can be done with the information, even without harnessing AI to do it for you!
In the above post I speak about the different kinds of attributes that should be measured and how to find them. They must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely:
- Rational, functional benefits
- Emotional, subjective benefits
- Relational, cultural benefits
Brand image attributes must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely Rational, functional benefits; Emotional, subjective benefits; and Relational, cultural benefits. Do yours? #Insight #MRX #Marketing #Brand Click To Tweet
However, what is even more important is how you analyse the data once you have it. I suggest looking at, as a minimum:
- Total and splits by demographics – gender, age, location etc
- Segments as you have defined them – attitudes, values, motivations etc
- Steps of the customer journey – aware, consider, try etc
There are many other analyses I use when working with my clients. Let me know if you need some help in getting more value from your own brand image metrics, I’d love to help.
Changes in your Brand image are just one of the things that you should look at when you are trying to understand why your business is flat, or even worse, declining. It's one of the best kept secrets to brand growth!
Let's now look at some of the others.
The Typical MBA Five Steps to Brand Building
Most MBA students are taught a five-step process for brand building, at least in theory anyway. They are:
- Describe: This is done through a product's logo as well as its description on packs and other communications' material. A successful brand will describe what it is through a consistent look, feel, tone, colours, symbols and messaging. This then builds to its brand equity which forms in the minds of customers both current and potential.
- Position: A brand needs to differentiate itself from its competition with some unique value. This can be done through its packaging, colour, aroma, distribution or another element that can set it apart. Using them to position the brand will provide customers with a reason to believe and to buy.
- Promote: Promotion can take numerous forms and channels, such as video, social media, TVCs (Television & Cinema), print ads or online advertising. It can include straightforward advertising and promotions, but also customer reviews, retail offers, websites etc. All of these will increase the brand's awareness, hopefully spontaneous recall, as well as improved perception.
- Personalise: Several books have been written about people "loving" brands. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, building strong loyalty and a solid fan base is important. With so much choice available today, personalisation and individualisation have become essential characteristics in many categories. They make people feel closer to the brand through increased resonance and a perception of importance. These are two of the essential ingredients that build fans / followers.
- Evaluate: This is in fact both the last and first step to successful brand building. It is important that a company keeps on monitoring and reviewing the performance of its products, services and brands. Hence evaluation & review of a brand is an essential element of brand building.
While these five steps aren't wrong, I believe that we can all do a whole lot better. As I said above, this is the theory, but I imagine that you are an expert or at least a professional, who already understands just how much effort goes into brand building. There are far more than these five simple steps!The MBA five steps to brand building are insufficient! They miss the customer. Here are the improved 7-steps. #Brand #Marketing #BrandBuilding Click To Tweet
When I realised that there is a lot missing from this standard list, I decided to expand it, but not too much so it remains manageable. However, my clients get a far more detailed process, as I am sure you can imagine. (Contact me to learn more)
Did you notice that the MBA list is all about the product or service, and that there is nothing mentioned about the customer or consumer? Big mistake!
So here is my process for brand building, a shortened version of the one I use when working with my clients. It succeeds whether your brand is a product or service, new or established, local or global. Take a look and let me know what you think. Is there something important I have forgotten that you do? Let me know in the comments and I'll send you a free copy of my book "Secrets to Brand Building."
My 7 Secrets to Business Growth
1. Gather as much information as you can about the brand
You already have far more information than you realise! Start by gathering as much information as you can find and bring it all together.
In addition to brand image and equity measurements, you need trend information on shares, distribution, stock levels, customer penetration and profiles. Look for changes in the trends and identify where and when they happened. The why will come later.
This first analysis is the equivalent to an autopsy after death - but hopefully you are reacting long before your brand is on life-support!
2. Identify the category in which you are playing.
This is the category from the customers' perspective, not the industry definition your business association or retail audit supplier uses. Talk to customers if you can, or watch and listen to discussions on social media.
These exchanges will often mention comparable brands, suggestions for switching etc. All this will provide a better indication of the category than your industry knowledge sources ever will.
3. Understand your customers and talk to them - a lot!
I already mentioned speaking with your customers to understand the category you are in. But I want you to make a habit of speaking to your customers - both current and potential - on a weekly, and ideally daily basis.
For a simple start, set up Google alerts for your brand, category and customer groups, so you are following what is happening on the web. If you haven't already done this, stop reading and do that NOW! It's that important.
If you are a regular follower of this blog, then you will know that we promote - and our clients heavily use - C3Centricity's 4W™ Template to store everything we know about our customers. You can download a free workbook including the template HERE.
4. Define your USP and desired image
Now you know the category in which you are competing and what customers want, verify whether your brand has a USP (Unique selling proposition) and an appropriate image and equity.
The description of your brand should include functional, emotional and societal benefits as mentioned above. To learn more about identifying these, and how to measure all aspects of your brand image, personality and equity, read "Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know."
5. Develop a Big Idea on which to communicate
Once you have your USP it's time to develop a big idea on which to communicate it. Big Ideas should be based on a relevant insight about your customers. (You do have one don't you?)
For an improved process that delivers truly actionable insights, please check out"Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation)." This post details the exact process my clients use to develop insights they can easily and quickly harness to develop their own Big Idea with their advertising agency.
Here are a few examples; the first two are interesting in that two brands in different categories have used the exact same insight to come up with their own Big Ideas :
- Persil. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Dirt is Good.
- Nido. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Let them grow, let them go.
- Mastercard. Insight - “Life isn’t about what I buy, but about the relationships I have with the people I care about, and the special moments that I can share with them.” Big Idea - Mastercard helps you deliver priceless experiences.
- Jillz. Insight - "I want to drink alcohol on a night out, but I don’t like beer, and wine is too variable in quality." Big Idea - A fresh drink from the tap for elegant women.
- Philadelphia soft cheese. Insight - "Food is delicious, but I don’t want to get fat (Butter vs Cream Cheese) Big Idea: Indulge your desire with less calories.
Hopefully these examples have inspired you to review the insight and big idea for your own brand. If you think you have a great example why not share it below?
6. Promote the brand where and when your customers are
This is the step that seems to be difficult for so many brands. They think that by advertising on digital media they will get their message across. But there are (at least) two things wrong with this approach.
Firstly, are your target customers actually online and if so, where? Pinterest may be perfect for a fashion or cosmetic brand but not for many other industries. The graph below show the usage by demographics for the US market. Perhaps you should take a look at your own statistics to check that social media and particularly the current channels you are using, are optimal for your brand?
7. Measure your success
Peter Drucker was so right when he said:
“What gets measured gets managed.”
So you clearly have to measure what you have been doing, so you understand what is working and what is not. But what metrics should you choose?
The data you should be following will help you to assess whether or not you are meeting the objectives for your brands. Therefore start by looking at what you were planning to improve and then choose the appropriate metrics to follow the changes you made.
I would also recommend this short read: "How to choose your KPIs."
So you've gone through all seven steps and your brand is showing signs of stabilising if not actually declining. Great! So what's next? Well you start by prioritising the actions you need to take to correct the weaknesses you have found. Define the tactics and strategies you will need and put your action plan into effect.
Then? Well, you start at step 1 and go through the process again! You see brand building is a never ending virtuous circle.
If you have specific questions relating to any of the seven steps, or if some other area of brand building is challenging you at the moment, then why not book a complementary advisory session? I love to help and that one call could solve your issue immediately, so why wait in torment? Be confident that we can quickly move your business forward together!
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Every industry strives to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore in many company objectives. Unfortunately it rarely goes beyond the theory in many organisations, so I decided to help out with these six suggestions.
Hospitality is perhaps one of the most visible industries where customer satisfaction, or lack of, is quickly shared with the world. It is true that without satisfaction, customers will not return to a hotel or restaurant. And they will almost certainly share their (bad) experiences with anyone who will listen.
Hospitality is also one of the industries that receives the most comments online, thanks to TripAdvisor and other booking sites. There is no hiding from their clients for hospitality! While I empathise, it’s not all bad news. This is because it also means that great service will also be more quickly seen online. Therefore you can make changes and see the results almost immediately, or at least far quicker than in most other businesses.
However, despite this, I believe that the hospitality industry has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG). In fact most other industries could benefit from taking a look at some of CPG’s best-in-class processes.
Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart. They are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer. However, as the world changes, customer demands do too and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these requirements in order to ensure continued growth.
#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE
There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationships. Whilst I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Be honest, other than the popular book that started talking about brand love, who wants to have a relationship with a brand?!
Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. They become involved and interested in the brand, the product, their website, even their communications. Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this. You should also check out another post entitles “Increasing Impact & Engagement through Advertising Testing.”
#2. Build relationships with strangers
Whilst the hospitality industry has been based on serving and satisfying its guests, in today’s connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but who could potentially become clients. These might be the friends of current guests, which for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract.
This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to share them with their friends on Facebook. This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging these potential clients, since they probably have similar lifestyles to their current guests.
User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. Research from Forbes shows that 81% of consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts.
For some great examples of successful UGC campaigns, I highly recommend checking out this article on Wedevs. You may also want to read “The Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation.”
#3. Value is more important than price
Having additional control in their lives today means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their peers influence their decisions more than does traditional marketing.
The internet enables them to compare offers, so they are less interested in bundled propositions, preferring to decide what is best value for them personally for each element. Several brands have understood this and now offer the customer the possibility to define their own, personal bundle of options. Liberty Mutual is one such example of this.
According to research by Walker, 86% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a better experience. So don’t get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you.
To learn more about pricing and value check out “Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay.”
#4. Renovation is more than for buildings
Most CPG companies have targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner by building on their individual talents and enable them to develop better products and services.
For hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; the Art Series Hotels are another. Check out the latter’s recent ad to understand better how they excel at understanding their guests: Art Series Overstay Checkout, or why not review the picture posted on MayaKoba’s Facebook page?
If you want more ideas on innovating, then read “A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation.”
#5. Loyalty is never really won
One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer demands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today.
To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.
#6. Dialogue, don’t just communicate
In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want a say in what they buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints. According to a recent Edison Research, 20% expect a company to answer to their social media posts within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means 24/7 monitoring for all organisations if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers.
These are just six of the many ideas I shared during a presentation I gave to the faculty of a world- renowned hospitality school. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, I am happy to share it. Just email me with your details and what your biggest business challenge is currently in adopting a customer first strategy.
Are you too struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information about our services and training courses, or contact us here.
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How hard is it to write a marketing plan? After all, every marketer writes one every year, so how difficult can it be, right?
Well, writing a marketing plan isn’t hard at all, but writing a winning plan is very difficult. And time consuming. And getting it approved by your executive board is perhaps the most challenging part of all.
Management are renowned in most organisations for “innocently” posing questions when passing marketers in the corridor or while socialising at a company event. Answer the CEO’s questions to their satisfaction and you will stand out from the crowd. 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 8 actionable tips on how to write a winning marketing plan, so you can answer any question your CEO or boss asks you. The simple rule is to NEVER say you don’t know, but also to never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither 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’S CUSTOMERS?
There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona or avatar) 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.
Once you’ve checked out the above article, why not also download our 4W™ template? It will help you put everything in one place so it is always handy.
GOOD 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?
Besides having an average lifetime value in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your brand. This information will come from certain attributes in your brand image study, such as “worth the price”, “more valuable than other brands” or “is worth paying more for.” The summary results of your brand image study should always be included in your winning marketing plan.
Just make sure that when you quote such statistics, that you compare them to the competition. Rather than saying “56% of category users think we offer great value for money”, say “more than a half of category users think we provide better value than the competition.” Your boss will always ask for more detailed information if needed.
GOOD ANSWERS: 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 than that.
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. Your response 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.
GOOD 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 TT%.
4. HOW MUCH WILL WE SELL; WHAT MARKET SHARE ARE WE EXPECTING THIS YEAR?
Your boss will almost certainly remember your brand’s market share from your marketing plan. So when he asks this question he is probably looking for more than just a number.
You could of course just give him that number, but why not use the attention you’ve got by adding something impressive to the story? Comments about how your brand is growing compared to category growth or your main competitors, puts the numbers immediately into perspective. It also helps the boss to better understand the numbers.
GOOD ANSWER: We’re expecting a RR% growth this year to UUU unit sales. This will be the highest rate in the category, so our share will increase by PP points to MM% market share. These will be the best results we have achieved in over ten years – or some such comment to add value to the numbers.
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. Speak about the objectives behind the launches and any new theme or direction the brand is taking.
For instance, are you moving to more low fat, organic, natural, or sustainable sources? Sharing the objectives behind your plans for the brand will show the solid foundation you have for your launches and the decisions you have made.
GOOD ANSWER: We will be launching CC new variants in our new organic range, which we expect to add MM% points to our total market share. We will also be eliminating FF units that are not delivering on expectations and contain too much sugar for today’s customer preferences.
6. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT OUR 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 and shown in your marketing plan. 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?
However if this is a new initiative for your business, then you will want to take the opportunity to show how you and your brand are playing their part in supporting this important company initiative.
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. After all, when you write your marketing plan you will add a lot of information about your brand and also its main competitors – or at least I hope so!
Therefore respond with a simple summary of a few current metrics of your brand in comparison to two or three of your major competitors. The manager will then clarify if he was thinking of a specific topic and you can then answer with a little more precision.
Make use of this question to share any particularly tough market conditions you are facing of which your boss / CEO may not be intimately aware. This is a great opportunity to pre warn them should your brand be struggling to meet the objectives laid out in the agreed marketing plan.
8. HOW’S OUR DISTRIBUTION DOING THESE DAYS?
A simple summary of outlets in which we have gained or lost distribution 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.
If on the other hand, you are having difficult discussions with an important chain or outlet group, then that too deserves a mention. Perhaps your boss has some useful contacts or ideas to help. Marketers are nervous about sharing their challenges, but pre warning them of market situations that are negatively impacting your brand are definitely worth mentioning before the situation become serious.
So there you have them. Eight of the most common questions top management asks of marketers. As you can see, the answers I’ve suggested are short and simple.
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 short, precise answers whenever possible.
Do you frequently get asked other questions not mentioned here? Then add them in the comments below. Also, if you have a better way of responding to any of the above questions, I’d love to read those too.
If you’d like your team to be better prepared for “awkward” questions from management, why not ask for one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions?
This post is adapted from an article which first appeared on C3Centricity in 2014. See the original.
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In most countries, the Police have a love / hate relationship with their population. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be adopting a customer first strategy in Switzerland!
Let me explain. They have recently introduced many new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town in Switzerland. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why they are so effective. They are customer centric. They have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share this story here.
One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many countries, is because of their speed radars.
Whether they are permanent fixtures as on the right, or temporary ones, we all dislike the flash that tells us it’s too late, that we’ve been “caught.”
We then wait a few days, to weeks or even months, naively hoping that it wasn’t our car that was flashed. But eventually the letter arrives asking us to pay a fine.
I think the worst of them all are the laser guns that the Police have been using for many years now. We don’t even know we’ve been flashed until the communication arrives at our home, or we are pulled up a few hundred meters down the road.
The relatively new types of radar that are being introduced in my home area don’t flash either. But that’s because we never get “caught” as such.
You see they measure our speed and give us immediate feedback. Take a look at the photo on the right; I’m sure you’ve seen such installations before.
Now if we make the assumption that all four types of equipment are to get road users to decrease their speed in critical areas – and not just to gather money as I’ve heard suggested – then the results must vary widely.
So let me share my thoughts from the perspective of a customer first strategy champion.
Everyone quickly knows where these are located. In fact, in some countries there are warning signs and they are actually highlighted on the GPS mapping system you may have in your car.
In some places the permanent radars are not always functioning, as the cameras inside them are rotated between installations. It is therefore not possible to know which radars are active and which aren’t. The Police then get a multiple deterrent effect, beyond the number of cameras they have purchased.
What I have observed with these radars is the following behaviour. The traffic is rolling along “normally” and then everyone brakes hard just in time to pass the radar below the speed limit. They then speed up again to continue along the road.
This phenomenon is in fact well known by the Police. They sometimes add a second, mobile radar a few hundred meters down from the permanent one, to catch those who are once again speeding!
Even the warning signs, as on the right, don’t have much impact on drivers and the speed limitation is quickly forgotten.
Whether they get caught with the first or second radar, the impact on the end customer, the driver, will be the same.
They feel angry and frustrated, which makes them less attentive, and may result in them driving more erratically. They may even speed up feeling that now they have been caught, there is nothing more to lose!
Not good for the driver nor the Police’s objective of maintaining a slower, safer speed in the vicinity. Clearly not a part of a customer first strategy!
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Temporary radars are similar to the permanent ones, but it usually takes a day or two for people to become aware of them. Their reactions will then be similar to the permanent radars, with the slowing down and speeding up of their driving behaviour.
This is not good for traffic fluidity, nor for slowing it down. And the drivers’ reactions if flashed will be just the same. Again not good for anyone and clearly not a demonstration of a customer first strategy.
Laser speed guns
These are probably the most hated by drivers. They have no knowledge of where they are, nor even that they have been flashed. It could be argued that they are therefore not a deterrent to speeding, but a pure money-making exercise for the Police.
I admit that the Police do tend to stand in certain places where speeding is a common occurrence. Knowledgeable, local drivers look out for them when approaching the areas and adapt their speed accordingly. But overall they are not really a device to deter speeding and therefore the associated sentiments are very negative. Once again this type of radar would not be used if the Police have adopted a customer first strategy.
The speed radar that prompted this post measures your speed but then immediately gives you feedback. You are rewarded with a happy green smiley if you are within the speed limit. Or a red frown with a message to slow down if you are speeding.
I have witnessed people approaching these devices and slowing down whether or not they are speeding. And they don’t speed up after they have passed them either. How’s that for positive influence?
Also, if the drivers are like me, they also get a feel-good feeling for being congratulated for not speeding. I find these by far the most efficient at controlling traffic speed and fluidity, but of course the Police don’t get any money.
What about your business?
So what does this example have to do with your own customer first strategy? Everything. Because my question to you, as it is to the Police, is what do you really want for your business?
In their case, I am assuming they want to reduce the speed of drivers in certain areas. In this case, the customer-centric approach, which has by far the most success at slowing drivers down to within the speed limit, is the information panel. If that is their objective, then the Police in every country should adopt these new style radars.
But I think that if those who consider speed checks to be a mere money-making operation are right, then the Police will continue to use one of their other options. But they must then accept the negative consequences on so many levels.
So what do you yourself want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices where you know your customers wouldn’t approve.
Half filled packaging – gone. False claims and promises – deleted. Getting credit card details for free trials in the hope customers will forget to cancel and you can automatically charge them for a service that haven’t specifically requested. Not any longer! These all might get you that first sale but you won’t get a loyal customer.
And you? What do you want your customers to think and feel about your brand? What are the objectives you have for your business and customers? These questions are only a small part of the second step of our highly successful 7-step insight development process called CatSight™. If you’d like to know more about it, or get trained in insight-development, or adopting a customer first strategy, just let me know – I’m only a call away.
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I presented last week at an exciting, forward-looking conference in Fort Lauderdale, USA. It was ITEXPO, a successful conference celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year! The huge turnout of thousands clearly shows the value that both attendees and exhibitors get from it.
This year the programme included a new stream, the Future of Work and that was the one in which I was invited to speak. Before summarising what I presented, I’d like to share some of the ideas and takeaways that I discovered about digital marketing and the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning).
From text to voice:
Most of us have grown up with text communication, but Gen Z, those born after 1996, are more comfortable with voice. They are less formal but far more impatient than previous generations.
They expect Alexa, Siri, Cortana and similar voice-activated personal assistants to be available whenever they have a question. With this type of search expansion into daily life, being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough. You have to be the number one answer to their questions!Being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough; you have to be the number one answer in this voice-activated, personal assistant supported world we live in. Click To Tweet
AI is not one technology:
Despite what digital marketers may have hoped, AI is not the solution to all our problems. It is simply a series of technologies addressing various current and future customer needs.
Unlike normal analytical processes, using AI needs developers and users to start with the end in sight. Knowing what we are looking for, rather than waiting to see what the analysis brings us, needs a very different thought process. The questions asked become as important as the answers received, if not even more so. Therefore it is advisable to make them the best you can possibly ask. Your digital marketing has everything to gain and nothing to lose.
AI is far from 100% accurate:
AI is still in its infancy, despite great leaps forward in some areas in the past year or so. For example, language translation is still far from accurate today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Anything that moves us toward increased customer satisfaction from our digital marketing efforts is great. However, we must understand their limitations and not be fixated on perfection.
One of the biggest challenges is siloed data – still! It is easy to see that the more information sources we integrate, the more accurate our platforms are likely to be. But until we finally break down our internal silos AI will not be able to deliver to its full potential.
Taking the robots out of humans:
Robots are not new. Henry Ford was one of the first to realise the advantage of taking robots out of humans. In other words, gatting machines to do the boring, repetitive tasks done until then by people.
Today we need to consider the digital workforce as also an HR challenge and not (just) a technical one. Humans are not upskilling and progressing as fast as robots are. This is the real cause of any work losses that may happen as automation rolls out.
The future of work
Now that I’ve touched on the elephant in the closet, that everyone is secretly scared about, that of job losses, let’s talk about employment. The future is not so much about replacing workers, as in expanding and amplifying their work through the use of AI.
The future will be a world of work plus AI, not work minus AI. When, not if, robots take on many of our current tasks, humans will need to supplement their knowledge with soft skills, ones that AI can’t replicate, at least for now. This is why I, like many others, refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence.AI should refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence. We are not replacing people but increasing their capacities in many areas. #AI #Digital #Intelligence Click To Tweet
One area that will certainly need a tremendous amount of human input is in speech analytics. You probably don’t realise it, unless you’ve learnt another language or two, but speech has an enormous diversity in the ways to say the same thing. Just ask any owner of Alexa, Siri or Cortana! Sometimes their responses are hilarious, at least at first, but these quickly become irritating and frustrating, when you can’t make yourself understood.
If robots are to understand humans, then these alternative expressions need to be programmed in, before being understood. Although machine learning may speed our progress, the foundations must be identified and created by humans.
AI and care centers
Most businesses have customer service departments and many are jumping on the bandwagon of requesting AI. However most don’t really know why they need it! The case for AI has to be put into terms of its business impact and relevance in order to be valued beyond mere “modernisation.” Just ask anyone who has chatted with a bot or gone round in circles on self-service phone lines! So many corporations today have increased their technology but have not improved their customers’ satisfaction.
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AI is already proving to be of great value in following and analysing customer service connections. A supervisor can’t listen in or read every exchange, but AI can. However, as previously mentioned, understanding speech is still in its infancy, especially when it comes to sentiment. An agent will quickly sense when something is wrong or an answer is unsatisfactory, even when the customer is saying everything is alright.
The customer journey that led to the connection, is just as important as the call itself. This is where total integration of all touchpoints is vital. The customer already sees them as such, but most companies do not. This leads to irritation when a customer must repeat their details and experiences with each new customer service agent.
It could be so easily eliminated, by simply integrating multiple data sources and then assessing the customer’s “effort” in getting the answers they are looking for. The greater the effort has been, the quicker a solution should be found.
I believe that not taking the customer’s perspective here is the root cause of this less than satisfactory situation today. Once again, adopting a customer first strategy is the answer. If you would like help with this or don’t know how customer centric you are today, why not contact C3Centricity and complete our complementary C3C Evaluator™?I believe that not taking the customer's perspective is the root cause of many less than satisfactory situations. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet
Customers in developed markets already have far more interaction with AI than they probably realise. However, when developing chatbots it is important to allow for far more variation than we are aware of. The challenge is not only understanding the variations in vocabulary mentioned previously, but also colloquialisms, spelling mistakes, acronyms and alternative expressions.
Therefore, instead of aiming for perfection, by brainstorming all possible variants, our time is better spent in identifying the 20% of variations that cover 80% of the cases. Ideally we should first collect information and then analyse what the company is likely to receive most of the time. Perfection is once again the enemy in progressing the use of chatbots.
We also need to be transparent about when chatbots are being used. It may be a good idea to make them respond in a friendly way, but pretending to actually be a human is not a good idea. Customers will eventually understand that they are exchanging with a chatbot when the responses they are getting do not meet their expectations.
AI and taking digital marketing to the next level
After all these intriguing sessions, it was my turn to speak. Luckily I was taking a far more practical approach to digital marketing, AI and ML, which I am happy to say was met with enthusiasm. The audience were fascinated with my hands-on perspective and had loads of questions and comments at the end of my talk.
I would be delighted to share my slides with any reader who would be interested in seeing them, but to summarise my main points:
- Digital marketing has made our communications’ media choice even more challenging. There are far more channels than ever, many being used concurrently, especially by the under 35’s (for example TV and the internet).
- There are more brands vying for space online. The relative cheapness of advertising on the internet means that those that didn’t have access to traditional media because of their high costs can now communicate.
- Customers are more demanding and expect real-time responses to their questions, and ever shorter delivery times for purchased goods.
- AI and ML can improve digital marketing through predictive intelligence, content curation / creation, dynamic pricing, and especially by improving the customers’ overall experiences.
- Digital is best used as an amplifier of traditional media, and when connections need to be more individualised, relevant and timely. This is not always the case, so choose wisely.
It is exciting times for marketing with all the opportunities that technology, AI and ML offer us. However, we are still faced with many of the same challenges we always have been. Essentials such as knowing and understanding our customers more deeply, and removing the siloed information hubs within organisation, remain critical.
Without finding solutions to these, digital marketing will perhaps be cheaper in terms of investment, but could become a more costly exercise and no more effective. What do you think?
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If you commission or conduct market research, then this post is a must-read. It shares ten important reasons I have learned over the years for NOT doing research, but which are unfortunately still prevalent today. Which, if any, are you guilty of? Leave your comments below – I dare you!
#1. WHEN THE ISSUE / OPPORTUNITY IS NOT CLEAR AND THE OBJECTIVES ARE NOT WELL DEFINED
Most organisations will have a briefing of some sort, written or oral, for each piece of research that is required. It usually includes the background to and the objectives of the project. These should be specified in terms of the opportunity or issue identified, as well as the relevant information and data already gathered and analysed.
If the briefing doesn’t include these basic elements, it might mean that someone wants to know or understand something and just thought research could quickly provide them with the answers. Wrong! The best studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge and past research findings.The best MR studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge & past research findings. #MRX #CustomerUnderstanding Click To Tweet
#2. WHEN THE COST WOULD EXCEED THE VALUE OF DOING THE RESEARCH
Following on from the above point, when requesting a study, if the objectives are well defined, then the decisions and actions resulting from the findings should be clear. If they are, then the expected benefit of the information to be gathered will be evident.
Thinking about how you will use the data and information gathered is one of the best ways to estimate the true value of a piece of research. If the decisions and actions to be taken cannot be clearly expressed, then the research results will be just “nice to know” and not “need to know”. It also suggests that the objectives have not been well defined and I would suggest you revise them before continuing.
#3. WHEN THE BUDGET IS TOO SMALL TO DO AN ADEQUATE JOB
Most agencies would agree that clients often want a top-class work, but at a lower price than it would cost. Some clients even make a point of negotiating all prices downwards on principle. But this is a bad and futile habit. Their reputation soon goes before them. Agencies will then start adding an amount that they will remove in answering the client’s request for a cost reduction. If an agency is to become a true partner then transparency is one of the foundations, in both directions.
A second example of this aspect of cost is when a client wants to do research but doesn’t have an adequate budget to cover it. They may be tempted to request something “quick and dirty”. My recommendation to any agency who received such a request would always be to refuse to get involved. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well, and a good agency will always work with the client to accommodate their needs as best they can within the budget available.
You have heard, I am sure, that any project has three parameters: price, speed and quality. You can have two but never all three – yes even in today’s digital age where some agencies may claim that you can have all three!
#4. WHEN TIME IS AN ENEMY
How many times have you been asked to run a research project, but in fact the requestor is actually in need of the results – now?! As already mentioned in #3 if a study is worth organising, it is worth executing to the best of our abilities.
If the person requesting the project is unable to give you the time you need to run it, then simply refuse! However, today there are many ways to reduce the time needed to run a study. We can use panels, the web, or reduce the sample size or number of groups / regions covered. The best projects are developed as a win/win, with client and agency working together to deliver the highest quality results within the available resources of both time and money.
One of the biggest frustrations I remember having when I worked in market research, was a delay in the delivery of materials to be tested. Even when they turned up days or even weeks late, we were still expected to deliver results and recommendations on the originally agreed date! I know it is hard to refuse, but the briefing document should shield market researchers from exactly these situations. Timings should be shown from delivery of materials and not the date the brief is sent. Make sure yours do and you should avoid most such problems.
#5. WHEN CONDUCTING THE STUDY WOULD “TIP OFF” THE COMPETITION
This is a difficult situation to be in, as it is often a real worry of management, especially when conducting market research on innovation projects. Whilst it is a very valid concern, a lot can be done to limit the risk, although it cannot honestly be completely eliminated.
There is an interesting perception in many industries, that most major companies are working on very similar developments within a similar time scale. Therefore, competition is not likely to be surprised if they learn about your own efforts. The most important thing to do to reduce the risk of tipping off the competition, is to ensure that people who work, or have friends or family members working in relevant professions and positions, are eliminated at the start of the research. However, I myself know what is behind this question, so will often “lie” in order to learn something new, so be warned!
If it is vital that your development remains secret, then either run research amongst your own employees, which may bias the results, or just don’t conduct market research.
#6. WHEN FINDINGS WOULD NOT BE ACTIONABLE
If the information will be “nice to know” but will not be actioned, (and I have seen many of those in my career!) then you shouldn’t be running the project. This can happen when the objectives are not well defined, or when action needs to be taken for a brand, but no one knows what to do.
Running a research project will certainly get people active, but not necessarily moving forward in a relevant way. It will also delay the required situation analysis that would be far more beneficial.
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#7. WHEN MARKET RESEARCH IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED
This situation can arise when a researcher is relatively young in his or her career and doesn’t feel confident enough to refuse a project. It can also be linked to a half-hidden requirement from management concerning the outcome as well. This puts the researcher in the difficult situation of working on a project that will be ignored if it doesn’t confirm the boss’s opinion.
In these situations it is vital to agree upfront what actions will be taken based on the outcome. In fact this is a good idea for all projects; review possible outcomes before the market research is conducted and evaluate the consequent actions that should be taken. They might not be firmly agreed, but at least everyone will have had the chance to review possible outcomes and think about their consequences, before the results are presented. It will hopefully open peoples’ minds and if this is not the case, well the project should not be run.
As mentioned before, your briefing document is your best ally, this time in preventing political market research projects.Your Market Research briefing document is your best ally. #MRX #MarketResearch Click To Tweet
#8. WHEN WHAT IS TO BE MEASURED CHANGES ONLY SLOWLY – OR TOO FAST
Everyone today understands the importance of measuring brand image, to understand what their customers’ perceptions are of their offer and how it differs from the desired image. In most industries, images change slowly, much more slowly than marketers would like to see. Unless there is a significant change in the market such as a powerful new competitor or communications drive, bi-annual or at most annual metrics are sufficient.
The same would apply to usage and habits in a market where very little is happening and customers rarely switch brands or segments. In most of these cases, market research run in the last few months can often be sufficient for most assessments of issues and opportunities.
However, there are also situations where habits are changing almost daily, such as in a heavily discounted or promoted category. In these cases, it is best to run a continuous measurement and present rolling averages. Or another solution would be to measure at the same time each year, accepting that the metrics will be just a “snapshot” of the market at the time of the fieldwork and will have already changed by the time the results are delivered. In such situations, following the trends and any changes from one period to the next becomes more important than the actual level at the time of measurement.
#9. WHEN THE INFORMATION PROVIDER / INSTITUTE IS NOT “OK”
Many market research agencies have been around a long time and have built up solid reputations for high class, accurate data and information gathering. Newer agencies can be faced with a hard struggle to gain market share and a few are tempted to “cut corners” in order to offer cheaper prices or shorter timings.
I remember once discovering that an agency had in fact only run half the agreed number of interviews for which we had paid, and had then “weighted” every answer in the database during its analysis to show a larger base size. Unfortunately for the agency, we asked for the weighted and unweighted base sizes. This is always recommended to ensure there are not skews in the sub-samples or oversized weightings made.
It is obvious that when budgets are tight or timings are too short, neither MR agencies not MR departments should be tempted to meet the demands of management by resorting to such practices.
#10. WHEN THE INFORMATION ALREADY EXISTS
This is linked to #1; all projects should start with a detailed situation analysis. While conducting it, review all current knowledge, information and understanding about the category and market. In some cases it can just be due to laziness that a new study is asked, rather than taking the time to review the results of all previous surveys and analyses.
Unfortunately not all MR suppliers will advise clients that the project has already been recently conducted. I remember once getting very angry when I learned that one agency was conducting three almost identical research projects for different departments of the company for which I worked. Needless to stay I stopped all three projects and asked them to come up with one study that covered all three objectives. This they did quite easily, but they found it hard to accept that I had just slashed their budget in half!
This completes my list of the ten reasons NOT to conduct market research. If you check them before commissioning any work, it will ensure that resources are used correctly. Both client and agency will be happy with the outcome and everyone wins.
Do you have another point you think should be on the list? Then please share it below.
Be a Star! Please forward this post to all your colleagues and followers online who you think could benefit.
If you are struggling with your own market research (department) then we should talk. Check out our relevant 1-Day Catalyst Training Courses or book time directly in my calendar so we can discuss your opportunities for improvement: https://calendly.com/denysedd
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Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and goes viral on social media. These usually happen when an organisation does not adopt a customer first strategy.
Almost every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why?
A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think one reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. Or perhaps it’s because they have hesitated starting and now feel left behind; they just don’t know where to begin. What do you think? If your in one of those situations, then help is at hand. Read on for some of the most useful tips I’ve seen on the topic of adopting a customer first strategy.A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet
REASONS TO ADOPT A CUSTOMER FIRST STRATEGY
There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the most noteworthy numbers I found during my research online; if you are still not sure it’s worth it this data will convince you:
- 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. (Source: CEI Survey)
- 74% of consumers have spent more due to good customer service (Source: Entechus.com)
- 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. (Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
- By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. (Source: Customers 2020 Report)
- A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. (Source: Bain & Co)
Those are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding yours back from investing in your customers rather than (just) in the products and services you offer?
I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started to adopt a customer first strategy. NO more excuses! This has to be (one of) your organisation’s top priorities!It’s time every CEO started to adopt a customer first strategy. NO more excuses! This has to be (one of) your organisations top priorities! #CustomerFirst #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet
If you’re ready to put your customers first, sign up to watch my Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement, to Grow your Business Faster. You will immediately make noticeable progress.
MARKETING IS TOO BUSY BUILDING BRANDS
With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.
However, an analysis by IBM on some research carried out in the UK by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers are feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that “only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.”
According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)
It surprises me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:
“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”
Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they (also) used it to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, no?
Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 1.0% in 2017, down from a 2.2% growth the previous year, the first “significant” increase recorded in the previous five years!
Compare this to the more than 4% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.
But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. (OnBrand Magazine study) In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.
However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart Survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than a half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!
So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?
MARKET RESEARCH IS SEEN AS A COST, NOT AN INVESTMENT
Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.
I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.
This was confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, most researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.
It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer first strategy in many organisations.
CUSTOMER SERVICES ARE SEEN AS COMPLAINT HANDLERS
When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!
I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this negative image at that time. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make changes.
You only have to take a look at companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first: Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.
An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten customer service and customer experience trends for 2017” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that “According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”
The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. Although it is a couple of years old now, the conclusions are still just as valid. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:
- In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
- CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
- The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
- Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
- This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%
Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer-first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then it’s time to identify the priority changes needed through our proprietary C3C Evaluator tool. Complete it now and then book a free half-hour strategy session so we can go through the results together.
This post is based upon and is an updated version of one first published on C3Centricity in 2016.
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I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a couple of years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer. They weren’t speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and comfortable with data. They were referring to the growing need for marketers to stand up to the challenge of taking local brands global. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.
In this networked world, more and more successful local brands are attempting global roll-outs. What does it take to repeat the success you’ve had at market level, when you launch globally? Here are my five rules to fortune:
1. Understand the Market
This is the basis of any new product launch and applies just as well to global rollouts as it does to local brand developments. Today’s consumers are demanding, so find out as much as possible about them. Understand their rational needs but also their emotional desires, even if they don’t openly articulate them.
For global rollouts, an additional information concerning the comparison of similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets must also be considered. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t developed future scenarios, as I recommend here.
Let’s look at some of the latest trends which are growing across regions today.
- I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get answers as well as making use of visual search that enables them to buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea Place offers shoppers the possibility to snap and then see an article in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings, before you purchase it.
- Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.
- Join the Club! Another use of personalised data is in providing privileged services – at a price. This idea is used for the regular delivery of razor blades and tampons, as well as for personalised exercise routines and menus. Consumers are happy to join a “club” to pass on mundane tasks to a (virtual) assistant to make their lives simpler. Some successful examples of these include Dollar Shave Club, Freda, and Amazon Dash buttons.
2. Understand the Customers
What does the product stand for in the eyes and minds of your customers? Do those in the new market have the same sensitivities as the ones in the local market where your product has met with success? Will the consumers in the new target market perceive the same benefits in the same way?
If not, is this really a potential market, or are you just rolling-out there due to geographic proximity? I am still amazed how many organisations base their roll-out strategy on geography rather than the customer! Big error!
Examples of such disasters include:
- Kellogg’s Cornflakes launch into India. It failed because they ignored the Indian habit of having a boiled & sweetened milk rather than using cold milk for their cereals, so the flakes went soggy.
- P&G’s Pampers was launched in Japan with the image of a stork which confused consumers. Whereas a stork is fabled to bring babies to parents in the west, this is not the case in Japan.
- Mitsubishi (Pajero), Mazda (LaPuta) and Chevrolet (Nova) all had issues when rolling out their cars into Spanish speaking countries. Had they bothered to check the meaning of the model names in the local language, they would have avoided the negative connotations and the need to change their names after launch.
3. Position Based on a Human Truth
One of the similarities that brings all consumers together is their basic human needs. Think parenting and wanting the best for your children, used by many, many brands, including Nestlé’s Nido and Unilever’s Omo / Persil.
Or what about women and their frustration with not being considered as beautiful as the retouched models in their magazines, which is very successfully used by Unilever’s Dove?
And how about men and their need to charm women, to affirm themselves, that is used by Lynx / Axe from – you’ve guessed it – Unilever, again. (They really do know their consumers better than any other brand builder today!)
Human Truths or Needs are used the world over and form the basis of many very successful roll-out communication strategies. So before you dream of taking your local brand’s success to global stardom, think about what human truth you are using to build it. If you can’t identify it, there is a far lesser chance of your repeating its local success in other markets.
4. Can You Use Your Local Heritage?
Many countries and regions have strong, stereotyped images that can play to inherent qualities associated with certain product categories coming from them. Examples of these include French perfume, Swiss watches, Russian Vodka, Italian fashion, German or American cars and Japanese technology.
If your brand has a strong positive association with local tradition or nationality, then make use of it. Even if consumers in the new market may be less aware, authenticity and tradition are strong current sensitivities on which you can build your brand in new markets. (Just make sure you check trend levels of them before choosing the new countries for rollout!)
5. Understand the Category
As I mentioned above, many companies get their rollout strategy wrong by looking at geographical proximity, rather than the closeness of the customers’ social sensitivities in them. Just because countries are geographically close, doesn’t mean their populations are similar when it comes to category image and usage.
When planning product roll-outs, also consider how alike the customers are in terms of usage and behaviour, as well as the category trends. By doing this, you are more likely to better prioritize the markets most open to the local brand’s product launch.
One Final Idea
I’d like to end with a final comment on global roll-outs. C3Centricity’s partner PhaseOne, wrote a guest post for us on the risks of implementing a global creative strategy. As communication experts, PhaseOne knows what it takes to succeed in engaging customers across the globe. The article makes a great complement to this post and you can read it here: “Why Implementing Global Creative is Risky”
Many companies have effectively rolled-out local brand successes to other countries in the region, if not the world. But many more have failed. What would you add to the list to increase the odds in favour of a regional or global roll-out? I would love to read your own thoughts in the comments below.
If you would like to know more about improving your branding and communications, then please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com
C3Centricity uses images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity.”
This post has been adapted and updated from ones which were first publicised on C3Centricity Dimensions in 2012 and 2013.
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If you work in consumer goods you probably think you have nothing to learn from healthcare, right? After all, you have consumers in your industry name and well healthcare’s reputation is not that great.
But think again. I was recently in a clinic for surgery and was surprised by how customer (patient) centric they are.
I remind my clients that exceptional customer service examples can come from anywhere! So they keep their eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. Do you? If not, then these lessons will come as your wake-up call so you start opening your eyes to new possibilities. Do this every day and your business will only get better.
Before I give you the lessons I learned, I think I owe you a little background to what led up to this list.
I had been suffering from a bad back for a while. Unfortunately, not so unusual for those of us who spend too many hours at our desks. However, one morning I tried to get out of bed and fainted as an explosive pain shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!
Now living alone I realised that this was serious as I couldn’t move. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. I ended up spending a night in a local University Hospital for the first time in my adult life.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs because my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.
All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily have never been a patient, at least until now.
As you probably know, actually becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective, is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand them. How often do you do it? Ever?!! You really should, because you’re missing out on a valuable – and free – experience.
Perhaps surprisingly, this incident showed me that many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.
So here are my seven learnings about customer service excellence:
1. Introduce yourself
Every time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. Over the course of the days I spent at the hospital and then the clinic, I saw many different doctors, nurses. cleaners, waiters etc. I appreciated that they themselves always started by introducing themselves and stating what their responsibility was in caring for me.
How you can apply this idea: In business, we often forget to introduce people in meetings and when we do, we forget to explain their responsibilities, why they are there.
Perhaps if we did this, there would be far fewer people in meetings, as only those with a real reason to be involved would attend! That already is a time and money-saving idea. But there are even more applications of this idea when it comes to our customers.
Direct contacts with customers, whether by phone, email, chat, social media or in person, deserve the same detailed introduction. This moves the connection from a somewhat cold, professional exchange, to something far more friendly and personal, if not actually personalised.
I often wonder how we so easily forget that customer service is after all just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit. Is that how your own customer care centre exchanges feel? If not, how about making them friendlier?How do we so easily forget that customer service is just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit? #CEX #CRM #CustomerService Click To Tweet
2. Confirm that you know me
Although I myself saw many different specialists in the university hospital, it made no difference to how I was treated. I felt comfortable that my details had been transferred between the staff members, so they didn’t have to ask me to repeatedly explain what had happened. They also always started by checking my name, to make sure they were speaking with the right person.
How you can apply this idea: While I accept that checking names and wearing wristbands are essential in a medical environment, most businesses could benefit from confirming who their customers are too.
Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company needs to immediately recognise a (returning) customer.Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company must immediately recognise a (returning) customer. #Customer #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet
Have you ever been frustrated when calling back a company only to be asked to explain who you are and why you’re calling? I know I have. It always makes me feel that the organisation doesn’t really care about me. And with automation systems easily available today, there is no excuse for this sort of lack of knowledge.
Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. In fact, this is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future.Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. This is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future. #BigData #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet
3. Ask if I am happy/comfortable
Whatever the reason was for the medical practitioner to see me, they always asked if I was comfortable. They openly encouraged me to share any negative thoughts, feelings or sensations I was experiencing.
How you can apply this idea: Do you encourage critique of your ideas from your colleagues? It takes a strong and confident person to constantly put themselves up for criticism. Too many people look (only) for positive support when asking for opinions, rather than a truly constructive assessment.
Many years ago, one of my first bosses mentioned that when he asked for opinions in a meeting, it was me he listened to the most. Why? Well, not because I knew more than my colleagues. No; it was because I said what I really thought, not what I believed he wanted to hear. Although he didn’t always agree with what I said, he knew that what I said was what I was truly feeling.
Over the years, I came to realise that he was one of a dying breed of true leaders. Many organisations today are political hothouses, where supporting the boss is the only way to keep one’s job!
I hope you are not in this situation because according to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you are in such a situation at the moment, my advice to you is to GET OUT NOW! You will more than likely end up leaving one way or the other, so why waste your time with a boss who lacks this essential leadership skill? You’ll get the support you deserve and more importantly need, to grow, elsewhere.According to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you're in such a situation today, my advice is to GET OUT NOW! #Leadership #EmployeeSatisfaction Click To Tweet
And what about your customers? Do you encourage them to share complaints and ideas? If not, why not? It’s much better to know what’s wrong and put it right quickly, than to continue in blissful ignorance until your customers leave because of it.
According to“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, you are unlikely to hear from more than just a fraction of dissatisfied customers. And most of those dissatisfied customers will never come back to you. Therefore it makes sense to not only pay attention to complaints but actively search them out – before they damage your business.
4. Ask if you can do more
As anyone who has been to the emergency room of a hospital knows, patience is important. You don’t get seen by order of arrival, but by the importance of your ailment. In other words, if your problem is not life-threatening, you will pass after the road accident, whose victim is more seriously injured. I know this and was happy to actually be left to “float” in a drug-induced relaxation between staff visits.
Whenever they woke me up to “check my vitals” or to inform me of the next tests or treatment planned, they always finished by asking if I had any questions or needed anything else. I was made to feel that nothing was too small or unimportant to them, if it made me feel more relaxed and comfortable.
How you can apply this idea: According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.”It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Click To Tweet
Business, therefore, can no longer afford to merely satisfy their customers, they need to delight them. Do you ask both yourself and your customers what more you can do for them? If you do, you might just find a new product or service concept that answers their desires and gets you ahead of the competition.
5. Don’t stop before the end
When I was admitted for surgery, I was told that the average stay was between 6 and 12 days in hospital. Having thought I was there for just a day or two, this came as quite a shock.
As my progress after the operation was good, I expected to leave the clinic within five days. (I always want to be better than average!) However, with the added complication of the torn ligaments in my ankle, the professor had other ideas. I ended up spending ten days there and was then on a month of complete bed rest before starting physio!
How you can apply this idea: As the well-known Napolean Hill quote goes
“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you’re one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming.Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you're one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming. So get active today! #Innovation #Ideation #Action Click To Tweet
Therefore don’t think your job is done when you’ve come up with an idea or two. You need to follow up to turn the ideas into actions.
Entrepreneurship is very popular today for both individuals and even within large corporations. However so many entrepreneurs try an idea and when it doesn’t immediately work, they give it up for a different one.
Yes, there have been many huge successes recently, but most “overnight” triumphs have come from years of just plain hard work and dedication.
Therefore, as they say “plan the work and work the plan.” Did you know that the origin of this quote is unsure, although it has been used by many people? These include Vince Lombardi, Margaret Thatcher, and even Victor Hugo. With such illustrious support, perhaps you could work your own plan a little better, no?Plan the work and work the plan. #Plan #Action #Learning Click To Tweet
But remember, today’s world is one of constant change, so even if you do plan, remember to also stay flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances of the market or your brand. And never totally give up your plan at the first sign of failure either. Just because one part of the plan didn’t work doesn’t warrant throwing out the whole thing.
6. Don’t wait until it’s urgent
As I tried to wean myself off the painkillers, I found myself alternating between extreme pain and none whatsoever. The carers told me that while it’s a good objective to reduce drug usage as quickly as possible, it is counter productive to not take painkillers when they’re needed.
By my deciding to “wait and see” if the pain got worse before asking for medication, I found that the drugs became less effective.
Small, slow steps work better than giant leaps in so many areas because they are sustainable. Think New Year’s resolutions, like crash diets, new fitness regimes, or changes in lifestyle habits. It’s the small, almost imperceptible changes that tend to last and lead to success.
How you can apply this idea: So many adjustments in business involve making significant changes, whether cultural or process-wise. As the well-known saying goes:
“The best way to eat an elephant is one slice at a time.”
Therefore when introducing large changes within your organisation, break them down into more “humanly” manageable steps. Want to make a radical change in one of your processes? It is often more effective to start by modifying the beginning and the end of the process. The middle steps then adapt automatically as new needs are identified.
For example, in updating your innovation process, start with better identifying the target customers and their needs. Then look how the launch will be rolled out and monitored amongst them. You will quickly realise that brainstorming in a vacuum or testing multiple concepts just before launch is no longer effective – if it ever was! These parts of the process will then be adapted to the new demands.
Time to revamp your own processes? Find out more about our I3: Improved Ideation and Innovation and other 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions HERE.
7. It all starts and ends with the customer
During my hospital and clinic stays I realised that the staff were there for me, not vice versa. I am extremely independent and had to learn to accept the help of others, even for some of the most intimate actions. It was “normal” for them, but not for me.
They recognised that and did everything they could to make me feel at ease. From being there just when I needed them, to eclipsing to leave me alone when I needed space. The staff knew and demonstrated that it was I who was important.
How you can apply this idea: Take a look at your website, your communications, your plans; do they all start and end with the customer?
Do you publish content your customers want to read, or just what you want to tell them? Does your contact information include every possible way a customer can connect with you or just a static form and drop-down menu?
Are your communications relevant and emotionally validating for your customers?
Do your plans mention the customer as often as the brand? Remember:
“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.”
Do they also show images of customers and include extensive knowledge and understanding about them?
If not, then perhaps you found inspiration for change in the above examples. Take one small step and make one of the changes mentioned; the benefits will be quick to appear.
For more ideas about improving your customer understanding, why not watch the FREE Customer Centricity Champions Webinar? It shares many tips, tools and templates to catalyse your business and improve your customer understanding immediately.
So there you have them. The seven lessons I learned about customer service excellence from a short stay in various hospitals. As you can see they are all relevant to almost any business environment and industry, whether B2B or B2C.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and also share what learnings you have yourself found from your own experiences. The world is full of inspiration if we just look more closely.
Need help in identifying, connecting and engaging the very best customers for your business? Let us help you catalyse your customer service excellence. Contact us here and don’t forget to check out our “Customer Centricity Champions Webinar.” Reserve your slot before you forget!
C3Centricity used images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity.”
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How Can You Provide Better Services For Your Client? This is a great question isn’t it? It was asked recently on Quora and I answered it, as I do many posed on topics such as brand building and customer understanding.
But this question is I believe very different from most of those asked on Quora. That’s because it is one that every company, product, service and brand should be asking!
The answer is actually in the question itself if you look closely.
Provide Better Service
Firstly what is better service? Is your clients’ perspective the same as yours? And better than what or whom? Whenever a comparison is made it is vital to understand with what it is being compared.
To answer that, we need to understand what is important for customers. What is essential and can’t be forgotten, and what else would delight them and make them not just satisfied, but delighted and maybe even surprised. That’s a lot to ask I know, but even that is not enough!
We also need to ensure that we are better than our competitors, assuming that they are to what we are being compared. You’d be amazed how many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they are. We need to understand the exact category in which we are competing so that we can also identify the major competitors. Let me give you some examples.
Are dried packet soups competing with other dried packet soups? Or also with canned soups, or boxed soups, or homemade soups? Depending upon the answer to each of those questions, the competitive set is going to be vastly different.Depending upon the category you identify as being the one in which you are competing, your competitive set is going to be vastly different. Are you sure about yours? #Brand #Marketing #Competition Click To Tweet
Once you know with which other brands you are competing, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. You should be able to identify one thing at which you excel in order to have a reason for customers to buy your offer rather than a competitors.
Now it is obviously difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than every other competitor in the category in at least one area. That should be our USP or unique selling point. It should be what we are known for and hopefully also the reason people buy what we have to offer.
To identify this, we need to know our competitors very well and understand why their customers buy them rather than us. Is there anything about these customers that we could satisfy better than they are? Is there anything about our competitors that their customers are still dissatisfied about? Is there something we can offer that our competitors can’t? Then when we have found it (them), all we have to do is to make sure our current and potential customers know.
Here are some great examples:
TOMS: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One®
Target: Expect More. Pay Less.
Avis: (We’re number two.) We try harder.
- Southwest Airlines: We are the low-fare airline.
FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
M&Ms: The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
Domino’s Pizza: You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.
In most of these cases the USP has also become the brand and communication slogan. What others can you think of? Add them in the comments please.
Deep Customer Understanding
The second part of the question is answered by not just knowing but also deeply understanding our customers. By that I mean not just knowing their demographics – they are men 18 to 24, or housewives with young children at home, but a much deeper intimacy with them. I use what I call the 4Ws when learning about Group of customers. WHO they are;WHAT they buy, consumer, read, watch, surf etc,; WHERE they buy, consume, read, watch, surf etc; and most importantly of all WHY? Why do they choose the category, the brand, the pack size, the shop, the time, the location, their hobbies, etc?
Once you know who your customer is (and potentially too) and why they are buying your brand, you will know exactly what better service means for the. Then all you have to do is deliver – beyond their expectations. That is what makes better service great service.
Hopefully this short yet still detailed answer inspires you to now go out and do it for your brand. Enjoy the journey!
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All marketers know their marketing 5Ps, but how do you update your marketing when you adopt a customer first strategy? Here are some tips and ideas for you to adopt – or adapt.
This is the easiest of the marketing 5Ps for a customer centric organisation to adapt because a customer first strategy is all about your customers. However, in recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of employees, some even suggesting that they are more important than customers!
I discussed this in detail in a post a couple of months ago, called ” Customers Care About Products & Value, Not Employees.” Click the title link to read my perspective on this topic.
Personally, I believe that customers are your biggest asset, as they are the ones who pay your wages and make your business thrive. It, therefore, makes sense to know them intimately. If you have a different perspective I’d love to hear it; just add a comment below.
In C3Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to record and describe the customer personas of our clients’ brands.
If you still haven’t downloaded our FREE persona template, CLICK HERE to get your free copy and instructions.
In addition to knowing and describing your target customers in detail, the other tip I give when you want to update your marketing when you adopt a customer first strategy. is to start and end every meeting by asking the “magic question.” What is it? It is this: “what would your customers think about the decision you have just taken?”
This one simple idea is incredibly powerful in identifying actions which are not customer centric. I will give examples of these in the remaining 4Ps below.
So a customer-centric approach to your customers is both thinking about them in every action you take, as well as knowing them as deeply as you can and keeping this knowledge constantly updated.
This is often seen as the most important to address when you decide to update your marketing. After all it is what you are selling. It is also the one thing you think about day in and day out. But it’s not the most important in a customer centric organisation. Surprised?
Think about it for a second. Without knowing the P for people in great detail, you won’t be able to optimise your offer in terms of the other four Ps. That’s why it’s a customer first strategy that works better than any other.Without knowing the customer in great detail, you won't be able to optimise your offer of the other Marketing 5Ps Click To Tweet
Here are some examples of how companies realised they get their product wrong when adopting a customer first strategy and a couple of right actions for inspiration:
- WRONG! Any business that reduces pack content without informing its customers of it and the effective price increase. Read JD Roth’s “Hidden price increases at the grocery store” for more on this.
- WRONG! Exaggerated claims or twisting the numbers of contained calories by having unnatural serving sizes – seven potato chips anyone? Or saying a product is 95% fat-free, but it refers to the weight, not the calories! I once heard that everything written on the front of a pack is a lie!
Check this out with any pack and you’ll see what I mean; there’s sure to be something not strictly correct on it. Please share any funny or annoying examples you find in the comments below.
- WRONG! Making variant identification difficult for customers. Have you ever bought the wrong product because packs were the same colour and just the names changed? I know I have. Or tried to understand the differences between variants that have five or seven descriptors?
- WRONG! Running frequent product tests only comparing to the latest version. Although this is standard procedure, if you make regular tests for small changes which go unnoticed in the short term, they can amount to a big, noticeable change over the long term. Better to compare results also to past best ones than only using the current benchmark.
- WRONG! Any company that makes it difficult for its customers to use their product. Think large bags of pet food or kitchen rolls without easy-carry handles; salad sauce or shampoo bottles which are impossible to open with damp hands; sealed bags which split when opened and need to be stored in a different container.
- WRONG! Making pack or logo changes without finding what your customers like or dislike in the current one. Think about the much-publicised Tropicana disaster back in 2009, or the Gap logo change.
Or more recently the Coke holiday edition white can that consumers confused with the diet version, and were understandably disappointed when they realised they had bought the wrong variant.
- RIGHT! Taking the customers’ perspective when designing your packaging. Think deeply about how your customers will purchase, open and use your product. Don’t make them struggle in any way, whether to carry, open, close or store it.
- RIGHT! Working with your customers to perfect current and develop new products. This is by far the best way to guarantee that you stay connected to changing preferences.
- RIGHT! Be transparent, in your operations, your actions and your plans. If you aren’t, whatever you try to hide will eventually be uncovered and then made public on social media, probably with an accusation of unethical behaviour. United have discovered this many times.
A customer-centric approach to the product when you want to update your marketing is therefore once again thinking about your customers when developing it. And ideally actually involving them in your decision-making whenever possible.
Pricing in my opinion is the most difficult of the marketing 5Ps to get right, especially when updating your marketing when adopting a customer first strategy. You may think that a customer-first price is the lowest possible. It’s actually not! People estimate the value of products and services they purchase, based only in part upon its price.
For example, how many “cheap” products have you bought, perhaps on sale, only to wonder why you ever bought it when you were home? You’d bought on price alone, excited by what appeared to be a “good deal” and then realised your purchase didn’t meet your needs or desires when you contemplated it more rationally at home.
Research shows that customers value a better experience above price and it is expected to surpass both price and product by 2020.Customers value a better experience above price and it is expected to surpass both price and product by 2020 Click To Tweet
Retailers like Aldi and Lidl have used their pricing strategies to position themselves against more traditional competitors. In these new super-discounters, consumers accept limited choice for the sake of rock bottom prices. However, as they expand their offering to include more well-known brands, they have positioned themselves to appeal to a growing target of purchasers.
However, many manufacturers lose out as their margins are stripped to almost zero. This is why we are now seeing a slow realisation that there is a better way to do business than mere price cutting. Both retailers and manufacturers are adapting to new consumer demands of value and not just low prices.
Consumer goods companies, in particular, have for too long relied primarily on price promotions to meet their sales targets. Amazon has forced pricing down in most other categories because people now check online before buying in many categories. However, as Amazon starts trialling their Fresh online groceries and their bricks and mortar stores the whole world of retail is about to change forever.
As if lowered prices is not challenging enough, people expect to receive something for free in exchange for their personal information online. Data has become the trading currency between consumers and product or service providers. This has resulted in many companies even changing their business models. Just one example of this is telecom that has become geolocalization data providers to many other industries.Data has become the trading currency between consumers and product or service providers. #Data #Marketing #SMX #CEX Click To Tweet
A customer centric pricing strategy will enable businesses to continue to grow, by understanding how to fix pricing levels more carefully. Knowing the value of what you offer and the importance of brand or service will enable retailers and manufacturers alike to continue to thrive.
This is a major difficulty for every brand, especially if they have a lot of variants. The answer to improving your distribution is your customers – of course!
The more variants you have the more difficult it usually is to gain a wide distribution. If you know your customers as deeply as you should, then you will be able to identify their differences by region. You can then use these to make decisions about what to sell where.
Since most retailers provide limited shelf space to each manufacturer, it is best used by showcasing your top selling variants in that area, plus eventual new offers to test their acceptance.
Another “place” that it is important to understand today is social media. The Pew Research Center provides a 2016 US analysis of the major channels by demographics which is a great starting point. Ideally, you should know both where your customers are and when. That way you can be present when they are open to messaging. But more about that in the next topic.
This P is relatively easy for a brand to be customer centric. You just have to offer what your customers need, where and when they need it.To have customer-centric distribution, you just have to offer what your customers need, where & when they need it Click To Tweet
I know it’s easier said than done when you don’t have full control over your distribution. This is one reason why many manufacturers are now offering their products directly to their customers through online shops.
The change will certainly have a significant impact on retailers and it is only a question of time before they increase the prices of making goods available in physical stores. In so many categories today, outlets are mere showrooms for people to see before they buy – online.
As with place, knowing what messages your customers are interested in receiving from you and even more importantly where and when are one of the keys to successful communications.
Whether it is advertising, price promotions, social media sharing or other advertising activities, understanding your customers deeply is the other foundation of success.
An organisation which makes it difficult for customers to connect using their preferred channel is not customer-centric.An organisation which makes it difficult for customers to connect using their preferred channel is not customer-centric Click To Tweet
Take a look at your own website contact page. Does it include email, postal and street addresses? Does it have a telephone number or live chat option? It should.
But if not, then I bet it has a contact form with possibly a drop-down menu from which a customer chooses their reason for reaching out. You probably also ask them for all their details, while not providing them with yours. Definitely not fair play is it?
Another related area of promoting your brands is PR. Quickly owning up when you’ve made a mistake, rather than trying to hide it. This builds trust and customers will even forgive companies that do this. Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to your customers.
A customer-centric organisation provides their customers with valuable information where and when they need it. They also communicate in ways which enhance their relationship and shows they value their business. If things go wrong they own up quickly, inform the public, say how and why it happened and what they are doing to put things right. They then go on to do just that by taking the appropriate actions, all the while informing their customers of their progress.
Interested in updating your own Marketing 5Ps?
Check out our 1-Day Training courses and download the brochure for more details on each of them.
What Do You Think About Adopting a Customer First Strategy?
Did you notice that the new way of thinking about each of the Marketing 5Ps that I am suggesting involves the customer? Thinking and above all following a customer first strategy is the new marketing objective that gets results.Thinking and above all following a customer first strategy is the new marketing objective Click To Tweet
I believe that both manufacturers and customers will benefit from a customer-first strategy. In fact, research from both Forrester and Gartner has now proven this; customer-centric organisations grow seven times faster and are 60% more profitable. Makes you wonder why companies are not rushing to change, doesn’t it?
Marketers have been working with the marketing 5Ps (and 7Ps) for decades, so perhaps it’s time for an update. What do you think? Should they be translated into a more customer centric approach? What do you see are the major challenges in doing this? Why are some businesses still hesitating about moving to a customer-first strategy? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.