Customer Strategy – 50’s Style


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‘What you call ‘love’ was invented by guys like me. To sell Nylons’.

Mad Men makes hilarious viewing, not least because of the amusing juxtaposition between working in the 1960’s and the way we do business today. The attitudes to work, the relationships between men and women and the behaviours inside and outside the office are so outdated, it’s comical. At the same time, we are grateful that we don’t work in an environment where bullying, smoking and casual racism are par for the course.

However if you go to study an MBA, sit down to develop a market strategy or hire a consulting firm to address a customer issue, the chances are you will be using tools and techniques from the 1950s & 60s. This on its own may be no bad thing – many tools developed back then, such as Porter’s 5 Competitive Forces or Kotler’s 4Ps of Marketing, endure because they have not been improved upon. If nothing better comes along, then we should keep teaching and applying the models we know to work.

The question is, in a market where everyone has been applying the same tools and techniques for 60 years, how can anyone hope to differentiate? Are there any more strategic options or possible variations left to try? Chances are, there’s not. Companies are slowly catching on to this, and adding a new technique to the customer strategy toolkit – Innovation. However innovation and strategy make awkward bedfellows for many traditional practitioners. In their view, strategy is too complex to involve frontline colleagues, too confidential to involve customers and frankly too important to involve anyone but themselves. So while tools such as ideation, prototyping and iteration are gaining a foothold, they are being applied by the same old group of people to the same, tired ideas. Unsurprisingly, innovation has not produced a revolution in customer strategy.

Companies and industry analysts are recognising the need for radical, disruptive change, but have not embraced the basics of design thinking – ethnographic research, co-creating with customers, conceptual design and prototyping. Using these techniques can achieve amazing results:

  • Launching a new organisation in eight months;
  • Identifying winning products by launching multiple minimum viable offers to the market.
  • Improving sales and Net Promoter Scores by giving agents the time to listen to customers.

So for the companies willing to break the cycle and actually involve customers in the creation of its customer strategy, the rewards could be massive.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Smith
Colin Smith is a Manager at the Customer Experience Company in Sydney, Australia. He has 15 years experience working throughout Australia, Asia and Europe. Most recently Colin worked as a Principal Strategy Consultant for Huawei, China's biggest telecoms company based in their South China Head Office.


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