2

Someone asked me earlier this year if I had simply gone to a facilitation training class, swiped the content, renamed it Brainzooming, and opened up shop.

My answer was an emphatic, “Definitely not!”

What has become the Brainzooming methodology developed from a wide variety of sources.  It evolved into a tested approach for developing strategy that takes full advantage of the diverse inspirations from which its strategic thinking exercises originated.

I was reminded of the diversity of influences we incorporated while creating the Strategic Thinking Fake Book for a recent Creating Strategic Impact workshop.

diverse

In the workshop, we covered twelve different strategic thinking exercises in two hours. Revisiting the twelve strategic thinking exercises presented in the workshop, the inspirations are all over the place:

  • A Fortune 500 CFO
  • A strategic thinking book
  • An advertising agency
  • A poster from a poster shop in New Orleans
  • A strategic mentor
  • A magazine ad
  • My own thinking about anticipating disruptive competitors
  • A different advertising agency
  • My own thinking about social media networks
  • Lateral thinking principles
  • Helping a co-worker try to think differently about a business situation
  • An innovation consultant

The lesson here is there are great strategic thinking examples all around you.

Focus less on business gurus who get written up all the time in magazines and online. Their lessons are broadcast so broadly, there are many people trying to mimic them.

Look instead for the great lessons where perhaps YOU were the only person ever exposed to them who recognized them as strategic thinking lessons.

Those are the ones you can adapt and do something with to really set yourself apart.   – Mike Brown

 

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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1

Data-savvy marketing & innovation expert, Woody Bendle takes a look in this guest post at the relationship between customer centricity and growth, or more specifically the lack of both among a select group of traditional retailers.

And just so you know, beyond being a fantastic resource on brand strategy and innovation, Woody has set a new high bar for guest contributors at Brainzooming. He delivered this most recent guest blog post along with a slab of his homebbqed ribs! So, for all the people who send us emails about wanting to guest post with “incredible, unique content,” the question is, “How good are you at grilling?”

Now, here’s Woody!  

 

Brand Strategy – Customer Centricity and Growth by Woody Bendle

Many of America’s largest retailers recently reported financial results falling short of analysts’ (and undoubtedly their own) expectations.  The table below recaps the highlights (or low lights) among select national retailers.

Retail-Q1-2014

Many of them attributed this winter’s unusually cold weather and continuing economic struggles among core customers for their economic shortfalls.  But digging deeper into their numbers shows more to the story. Many of America’s largest retailers are finding it much harder to generate profitable growth in the traditional manner, which has been opening stores in new (domestic and international) markets, expanding product assortments, and becoming more effective and efficient through operational and executional improvements.  Or as I like to say, just getting bigger and better.

The graphic below, which I use when discussing business growth strategy, illustrates the concept of growing a business is pretty straight forward. As the businesses above demonstrated this past quarter, however, it isn’t always easy.

Growth-Framework

To grow any business, you have four options:

  1. Get existing customers to buy more of current products or services
  2. Get new customers (i.e., in different markets) to buy current products or services
  3. Develop or find new products or services for existing customers
  4. Develop or find new products or services for entirely new customers

For roughly fifty years, growth path for nearly all of the retailers above has focused on cells A, B, and to some extent C (i.e.,  Walmart and Target expansions into grocery).  For much of this time, most of these businesses have had incredible success, but growth has become harder the past several years.

What’s changed?

Two things that are fundamentally different about today’s business environment:

1. Market power has shifted away from many businesses to the consumer, due to radical decreases in the costs associated with information and geography.

The internet and mobile technologies have greatly improved the consumer’s ability to be better informed (about alternatives and competitive prices globally) and have enabled disruptive businesses to emerge (i.e., amazon.com – note its 26% growth in North America this past quarter). These have diminished the need for customers to travel to a physical store to make a purchase.

2. The great recession fundamentally changed the consumer mindset, resulting in a “new normal” in consumer behavior.

This is best summed up by The Future’s Company:“Consumers everywhere … are working from a new orientation about what they want and how they buy… [They] are now battle hardened, having found ways to survive and even thrive on the new opportunities a more competitive market has yielded.”

The result is the traditional path to growth – getting bigger and/or getting better – is nearing its limit for many businesses.  This necessitates businesses rethinking their growth strategies, with adopting customer-centric business practices as one avenue for new growth!

Growth through Customer Centricity

Something fascinating about the Strategic Business Growth Framework is the customer/consumer is actually present in every cell.  Through my own consumer experiences, however, it doesn’t often feel like many businesses realize this.  How many of you have heard a store associate say something like, “I don’t know how I’m going to get my job done with all of these customers in here”?

Many businesses are either product or operationally focused.  Nearly every decision they make starts with what they sell (or plan on selling), or how they go about doing what they do.  These businesses put what they do and how they do it in front of whom they do it for.

This is a primary reason why it has taken so long for many traditional businesses to embrace fully integrated multi-channel or omni-channel practices.  While most understand it makes sense to the consumer, they haven’t figured out how to make it make (financial) sense given what they already do, how they currently do it, and how they currently measure all of it.

A customer centric business, however, thinks exactly opposite.  Its decisions start with the customer. Activities (and incentives) are aligned to profitably deliver goods or services maximizing value for customers – and, in turn, their shareholders.  Once they identify an opportunity to create more net value over time, they systematically figure it out, sometimes at the expense (temporarily or permanently) of existing business.

It’s all about creating new customer and shareholder value!

The Next Customer Centricity Step Is Yours

My intent is to shine a light on a different path, not provide the playbook for becoming a customer centric organization.

If you want to become more customer centric, here are eleven questions to help decide if customer centricity is right for you and to help on your journey:

  1. Why do my customers come to us vs. the competition?
  2. What value do we provide to our customers today?
  3. What are all our customers’ needs?
  4. Have our customers’ needs changed? How and why?
  5. What customer needs do we currently meet / exceed today?
  6. How well are all of their needs being met by the marketplace today?
  7. Are there new competitors who are satisfying some of our customers’ needs in a different way?
  8. What can we do better (or differently) to uniquely meet and exceed those needs today and tomorrow?
  9. What else can we do to create even more value for our customers?
  10. Are we willing to put customer’s interests at the center of our decisions and processes?
  11. How much are we willing to change?  Really?

And as you answer question 11, don’t confuse how much change you are willing to undergo with how much that change is noticed by customers and whether they value it.

Those are three separate questions for all you operationally focused people. There’s no “extra credit for efficiency” in trying to answer them all together. To the contrary, you’ll definitely be penalized for thinking efficiency at the expense of thinking about your customer! Woody Bendle

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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14

Since our start, publishing five times a week (with rare exceptions) has been part of the Brainzooming blog brand. Frequent blog publishing is integral to The Brainzooming Group business-building strategy and consistent with multiple elements of our brand experience.

The priority on daily blog publishing is dropping on the importance list for now, however.

A Change in Our Brainzooming Blog Publishing Brand Promise

My wife had surgery last Thursday and has several months of recuperation (and related physical limitations) ahead of her. I’ll be more heavily involved in taking care of her, and neither one of us is completely sure what this means yet. She has done pretty well during these first days, but I do realize that making sure she’s taken care of will require more time and have a dramatic impact on my attention through the summer months.

trike-cube

With that new priority and the importance of making sure The Brainzooming Group business keeps flourishing, the place daily blogging fits within our business strategy and priorities changes.

As a result, we’re going to move to not publishing on Fridays through at least July. There may also be other weekdays in the coming months where there won’t be a Brainzooming blog.

Trust me; I realize that’s NOT the end of the world for any of you.

But for as many people who tell me they can’t possibly read the Brainzooming blog five days a week, I have others tell me its daily appearance gets it more attention than other content they could read. As a result, I don’t make this change lightly.

From a strategic standpoint, we still stand behind the business-building benefits of frequent blog publishing. We’ve reached a great stage with our website, however, where evergreen content typically generates 90% of daily website traffic for The Brainzooming Group. As a result, we feel comfortable in dialing back blogging frequency with minimal near-term impacts.

Maybe we’ll never miss an extra day. Maybe if we do miss a day, you won’t notice right away.

But for those that do notice, we wanted you to know what was going on, and to thank you for your continued readership! You’ll never know how much I appreciate it! – Mike Brown

 

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to evaluate your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of a social media strategy with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4

If you use a social media agency to create your brand’s social content, they won’t want you to read this, but who cares.

Your Social Media Agency Doesn’t Want You Reading This

Last week, I was getting my hair cut at the barber shop I’ve been going to for five years. I go there because the owner is focused on creating a cool, high service environment, there is reasonable stability among its employees, and it is close by.

Business seemed slow, and the conversation between the person who cuts my hair and another long-time employee turned to social media, in part, because they know I do “something with social media strategy.” Talking about the social media agency the owner hired to create social media content, they expressed their frustration over what was being posted on Facebook.

The big complaint was the posts either weren’t accurate (i.e., on how frequently to get a haircut) or seemed odd (a Jim Morrison quote about haircuts and mistakes).

I quickly started looking at the Facebook page. I subscribe to it, but hadn’t noticed ANY of the updates from the place’s page (I know, surprise, surprise).

The problem was clear in an instant.

On the surface, the content was VERY much in category. There was an Earth Day post of a guy whose hair and beard were green. There are quotes and pictures related to men’s’ haircuts and shaves.

Those all make sense.

Nothing on the Facebook page, however, related to the barber shop’s brand experience, personality, or people – all the things that set it apart and turn people into loyal customers.

It was if the new social media agency simply posted generic content on men’s haircuts without any other thought about how the brand related to the content. The social media agency has gone the easy route (creating external relevance) without doing the hard part of content marketing – appropriately integrating the brand so there’s a reason for current or prospective customers to care about the content in any meaningful way.

Great-Content

What Social Media Strategy Includes

This gap between content and a meaningful brand connection is common. It’s why we advocate developing a content strategy implementing the right mix of:

  • Your audience’s interests
  • Intriguing content
  • The appropriate level of brand presence.

There’s no one answer that works for all brands or even all content a brand creates.

It doesn’t work, however, to just see what your competitors are doing and launch into content marketing or simply start sharing content about what you do. If a social media agency advocates sharing content right way and figuring out the right mix later (if ever), you’ll just be wasting time/effort/money and probably making a BIG mistake that could cost your brand even more.

If this is the path you are one and want to see just how far your social media agency has led you astray, download our social media strategy diagnostics eBook and find out for yourself.

You’ll quickly realize the difference it would make to work with a partner who understands both brand strategy AND social media strategy.

That combination turns social sharing into business results. - Mike Brown

 

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of a social media strategy with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2

Do you know how to tell a great campfire story?

11 Ways to Tell a Great Campfire Story

Campfire-Story

Based on various sources, here are eleven ways to tell a great campfire story:

  1. Sincerely enjoy and revel in creating and sharing your story
  2. Make the story easy for the audience to understand
  3. Choose a story based on the audiences experience, interests, and closeness to the storyteller
  4. Introduce local flavor and personal touches into the story
  5. Avoid bogging down in unnecessary information or pointless tangents, but do emphasize thought- and emotion-triggering details
  6. Bring originality to your story if it’s a familiar one
  7. Heighten the sense of anticipation by departing from the typical, i.e. start the story in the middle
  8. Cater to the audience’s emotions and senses to create engagement
  9. Have a strong sense of where you are headed with the story
  10. Don’t tell the story too fast or too slow
  11. Create a connection with the audience, including by asking open-ended questions to engage the audience and create involvement

By now, you may be wondering why we’re thinking about ways to tell a great campfire story.

Blogging for Business and a Great Campfire Story

The connection between business blogging and campfire stories is this: When I conduct blogging for business workshops, I counsel business executives and marketing communications professionals to view a brand’s blog as its “campfire.”

Don’t buy it?

Revisit the eleven ways to tell a great campfire story and substitute “blog” for “story.” Suddenly, these tips lead you to crate stories when you are blogging for business that are better than most of you see, especially among business-to-business brand blogs.

One other point to drive home why you’d be better served to think about telling “campfire” stories instead of the standard corporate fare around your business blog?

Nobody tells boring corporate press releases as campfire stories. In fact, as SmallBusinessTalent.com host Stephen Lahey put it, “People crumple up corporate press releases and use them TO START campfires!”

And that, my friends, says it all! - Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s wonderful to feature four important brand strategy questions from customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle. In the course of his typical daily routine, Woody has a more than healthy commute by Kansas City standards. Woody texted me about this brand strategy lesson on the way home one recent evening and followed it up the next day with this post reminding those responsible for brand strategy to think about what will happen when our ideas actually meet up with customers. Here’s Woody!

woody-bendleBrand Strategy – When “Good Enough” Isn’t by Woody Bendle

“The enemy of the good is great.”

Have you heard this expression before? 

If you haven’t, the sentiment behind this expression is this: If you are continually reluctant to move forward until you have something that is great or perfect, you might sometimes fail to make valuable progress by getting something out there that is pretty darned good – but not great.

In many situations, I wholeheartedly subscribe to this philosophy.

But, there are occasions when you absolutely need to be better than “good enough.”

One of those occasions involves your brand strategy and every time you are presenting your brand.

Brand Strategy Isn’t the Place for Good Enough

I recently pulled off the interstate to fuel up at a truck stop. As I was fueling, I happened to notice, for some reason, a display attached to the pump about never paying full price for gas again.

Shell-1

I really didn’t think too much about this display until I went around to the end of the pump to grab the squeegee and clean off my windshield. This is what I saw.

140410-Shell3

OOPS!

The original message that got my interest about never paying full price again didn’t come through on the Shell brochure holder.

There, thanks to the application holder lid’s placement, the “Never pay full price again” card became the “pay full price again” card.

I actually did a double-take, shook my head and wondered to myself if anyone had even thought about trying to stick some brochures in the holders to see what it looked like before they had a gazillion of them printed and sent all over the country. The sad thing is if they had just taken the two logos at the bottom of the brochure and moved them to the very top and shifted the rest of the content down,  the message would’ve been read very clearly.

Lessons learned, and it’s a great reminder that design and layout matters.

A Brand Strategy that is “Good Enough” Isn’t

I have no idea if anyone at Shell is even aware of this issue. It did, however, serve as a valuable reminder that every time you are putting your brand in the marketplace, you need to ask yourself several important brand strategy questions:

  1. What am I trying to convey / communicate about my brand or my brand’s promotion?
  2. Is the message clear and compelling – not to me but to the customer?
  3. How will the message be put in front of the customer?
  4. What exactly will the customer see, hear, think, and feel when my message is put in front of them?

And finally, as you are working through the above questions, you’d be well served to think like my Missouri neighbors and just say “Show-Me” a little more often. Woody Bendle

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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From the Road

From-The-RoadSome people have always had the EXACT same travel problem every time you see them. At some point, you realize it’s them, not the airline / car rental company / cabbie / hotel . . . I rented a car with 8 miles on it. That’s the runner up in my rental career next to a 3 miler in Orlando on the way to Daytona for a NASCAR race . . . At a sea food restaurant the other night, every painting in the place was of some boat, ocean, or river scene. And nearly everyone had lights behind the windows in the boat or lighthouse. You don’t see that every day . . . I’m not sure why it smells as if someone immediately behind me is eating a pot roast dinner on this plane.

Branding and Experience

I asked on the Delta Airlines Facebook page why they now call the Biscoff Cookies they serve simply “cookies.” They used to be called “Biscoff” by flight attendants. Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been a response . . . An intriguing, but untrackable customer service metric? The percent of times your employees refer to your brand in the first person versus the third person . . . Every time I see a happy, fun, engaging flight attendant I automatically assume they started at Southwest Airlines.

Talking Business

It’s great to talk shop with someone who does what you do. It’s even better to “ask shop.” Then you can just sit back and listen, and that’s where you get some great learning and new ideas . . . A cramped room can bring out the best questions and conversations with a presentation audience. When a room is too big, there’s too much space for staying aloof. Just the reverse is true for a strategy session . . . One warm-up exercise we use asks who people say you look like. I had NASCAR driver Tony Stewart’s doppelganger in a workshop, but didn’t have time to do the exercise and see if he hears that all the time.

Blogging

Being able to keep writing this blog post on my iPad while we land is a new great part of flying . . . Trying to beat my personal best of writing ten blog posts on a business trip from the East Coast to Kansas City. We’ll see how that goes . . . I don’t generally connect on LinkedIn with people I don’t “know” in some way. After accepting an invitation from someone locally who immediately sent a message for me to make time to learn about what she is doing, I remember why . . . I don’t “get” game apps like other people don’t “get” Twitter. I just don’t have the time . . . I’m cranking on blog posts recently because I’m avoiding getting tax stuff organized . . . These columns are the intersection of “Too long for Twitter” and “Too many for Facebook.” Thanks for indulging me. Mike Brown

 

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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