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

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

5

Fake-Book-BoundDuring a recent “Creating Strategic Impact” workshop, I had the attendees (who were all from one company) form smaller groups to identify potential disruptive competitive threats in their technology industry.

Talking in advance with the client organization’s president, he said his people might struggle with this strategic thinking exercise since they hadn’t previously addressed competitive threats this way.

The One Strategic Truth You Must Never Forget

One group had a participant who quickly completed the first part of the strategic thinking exercise, listing three clear customer benefits his company delivered.

But then instead of identifying companies who might offer any one of those benefits individually, he put a big, bold imaginary circle around those three customer benefits. This quickly dead-ended the strategic thinking exercise as he claimed NO competitor could come to the market with all those benefits. As a result, he reaffirmed his belief that his company had few, if any, disruptive competitive threats.

The other participants in his small group perceived the flaw and tried to help him see the error in his perspective. I too tried to redirect him, pointing out that truly disruptive competitive threats targeting his company weren’t  going to show up nice bows around all three benefits his company delivered.

In fact, very real disruptive competitive threats might appear offering only ONE of those benefits, with little concern for the other two. This new disruptive force would win business with a different approach, different strategies, and different perceptions about what is important to my client’s customers.

Because it was a workshop format, there was no opportunity to spend any more time with this individual to see if he was finally persuaded about competitive threats or not. But whether he was or wasn’t, I suspect many of us, even though we know better, fall into the same trap.

Disruptive Competitive Threats

Let’s state it again so we can all be clear: the disruptive force in your industry isn’t going to show up looking like your brand and offering the same complete set of benefits.

The disruptive force may have only a vague resemblance to your brand and what you do, and win business because it sees the rules of competition and success very differently than your brand does.

That’s why so many companies who TRY reinventing themselves and staying successful fail. They have WAY TOO MUCH invested in every part of their status quo (and likely antiquated) views of the world. Unwilling to blow themselves up because they have too big a stake in what has existed for a long time and persists to today, some other brand with an insightful view of tomorrow is more than happy to do the work for them.

Think about it this way: No matter how much you might hope it might be different, you can’t have archaic and eat it too. Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

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

 

                                                                                     Affiliate Links

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1

Picking up on the competitor strategy theme from the start of the week, I combed the Brainzooming archives to share a variety of competitor strategy ideas we have covered.

82 Competitor Strategy Ideas to Improve Your Competitive Success

Competitive-GorillaHere is a handy summary of 82 competitor strategy tools, questions, and ideas you can use to hone your competitive success now and in the future:

Going on the Attack for Competitive Success

Playing Defense with Your Competitor Strategy

There should be at least a few ideas you can start applying right away to go after that 400 pound competitor gorilla in the room and improve your brand’s competitive success! – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

                                                                                     Affiliate Links

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

3

DHL-FasterNot every disruptive marketing tactic in a competitor strategy has to be an industry-changing move by a non-traditional competitor against a stagnant old-line competitor. 

Sometimes disruptive marketing might simply involve one behemoth beating up on another one in an unusual way – even through a prank.

A video appearing online last week is an intriguing example of competitor strategy involving disruptive marketing although, according to some reports, it is a prank of a prank.

Disruptive Marketing Pranks

The original video “suggests” that courier DHL shipped several boxes via its competitors, including UPS and TNT. At pickup, each package initially appeared to be black, allegedly from being covered in “temperature-activated ink” that was chilled before shipping. As the boxes warmed during transport, the black disappeared to reveal a prank message on the difficult-to-deliver boxes. DHL (or its agency or some other third party) videoed delivery of the boxes to hard-to-find addresses to create the video shared here.

At the time this is being originally published, there are questions about whether DHL was involved in the prank.

Quite honestly, having competed against DHL where they directly used our company’s name (along with reference to the UPS Brown campaign) in a print ad, I would not put this past them. But whether DHL was involved originally or not, it is still a trigger for strategic thinking about going after a competitor in an unusual way.

Another thing interesting about this example is that from a US perspective, this looks like a small, potentially disruptive competitor (DHL) going after a huge industry leader (UPS).

But that’s not the global picture.

DHL is part of Deutsche Post DHL (which is the German Post Office), the world’s largest courier company. So instead of the little guy engaging in disruptive marketing against the big guy, this would be the biggest guy slapping around a couple of enormous, but still smaller competitors.

Having been in the transportation industry, the delivery side of a prank like this (again, if it is real) would be the least of the concerns for UPS and the other competitor involved. The bigger issue would be the complaints about these boxes that would not move through competitors’ conveyor systems, likely necessitating one-off handling as they started revealing their messages!

Would this fit your competitor strategy?

What do you think?

Would you ever prank your competitor and stick it in the brand’s face like this? Have you already done it? And does the strategy matter based on whether you are the big player or small player in your market? Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

                                                                                     Affiliate Links

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1

Grand-Canyon-SkywalkSuppose you have brand strategy responsibility to showcase an industrial brand’s identity.

What can you do to create stronger identity and a cool factor for a brand that may be a component of another product or brand?

Showcase Industrial Brand Identity and Coolness in B2B Brand Strategy

Here are three paths any industrial, business-to-business, or ingredient brand marketer should consider. All were highlighted at the Content Marketing World Manufacturing Summit where I spoke on creativity and content marketing in September.

1. Bringing the Consumer Feel to Industrial Brand Strategy

One theme throughout the Manufacturing Summit was “people” are making decisions in B2B markets. That means there is no reason to automatically walk away from brand strategy tools consumer marketers use, including (as spelled out by Kathy Button Bell, CMO at Emerson Electric):

  • Bright colors
  • Lights
  • Sounds
  • Fresh faces
  • Smiles
  • Vibrant culture

These all make industrial companies more interesting to the PEOPLE. And as a tweet during the conference noted, there are no regulations within any industry mandating boring, self-centered, overly-formal, or stuffy content.

One idea this created for me was plotting industrial brands based on how ubiquitous they are vs. how “sexy” they are. Would any brands be in the upper right quadrant? And if not, how could and would an industrial brand benefit from moving there?

2. Finding the Cool in an Industrial Brand Identity

If you’re directing social media strategy for an industrial brand, how do you get to the “cool” factor in your brand?

At Lincoln Electric, Craig Coffey, U.S. Marketing Communications Manager at the welding equipment brand found the brand’s cool in realizing it “joins metal with fire. That’s cool!”

It’s easy, however, in an experienced B2B company to lose a sense of coolness and simply think about what the brand does to perform daily as devoid of any “cool” factor. Yet finding the “cool” in a B2B brand is the primary hope for generating audience interest. In discussing content successes at Lincoln Electric, Coffey pointed to several success factors helping to tell a cool story:

  • A rich brand history
  • Ambitious goals to reach audiences in new, meaningful ways
  • Open-minded leadership
  • A willingness to invest in marketing

An exercise The Brainzooming Group developed based on this conversation is a set of strategic thinking questions to help experienced people reimagine the “coolness” in a B2B brand they long ago stopped seeing as intriguing.

3. Showcase an Industrial Brand through Its Customers

To generalize one of Craig Coffey’s comments, “No one will ever care more about what your product does than you do.” The goal then becomes getting people to care about what your product enables them to do. But how do you build brand identity and awareness for an industrial brand that is better known based on the customers who use it than for what it does?

These situations create an opportunity to put customers front and center in brand stories, letting happy customers talk about what the brand enables them to do.

For Lincoln Electric, this thinking led to telling customers’ stories that are positioned not as “by” Lincoln Electric, but where the brand is instead “with” customers.

For a great story where the product is in the background yet its importance is unquestioned, check out this Lincoln Electric video. As I tweeted during Crag’s presentation, when you’re 4,000 feet over the Grand Canyon walking on a glass bridge, you want your welds to be DAMN good!

Ultimately brands can find it challenging to downplay their own products in the interests of playing up other engaging elements, but Lincoln Electric shows it can be a smart brand strategy to do so. Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Seth Godin wrote a post last week that seemed to be the inverse of his book, “The Dip.”  (Affiliate Link)

PeakWhile “The Dip” was about the deep trough that can take place right before things take off (or don’t), this new blog post called “The Moderation Glitch” was about “The Peak.”

This Seth Godin post discussed the challenge of knowing when the marginal benefits from your strategy peak and additional incremental efforts will yield negative rates of incremental benefit.

As is frequently the case, the blog post was more about pointing out a problem than how to do something about it. In fact, Seth Godin offered little in the way of even knowing WHEN you hit the peak.

That’s where this piece comes in.

While we don’t have the answer to WHEN the peak happens for your brand, his article got me thinking about questions you should be asking to better understand your peak as early as possible so you can take appropriate strategic action.

6 Strategic Thinking Questions for “The Moderation Glitch”

So from the Brainzooming strategic thinking R&D Lab, here are six strategic thinking questions to aid in estimating the potential timing of the peak Seth Godin identifies and who might help anticipate its arrival.

Gauging the Peak’s Timing

  • How long do customers in your market typically stick with something before moving to the next new thing? Cut that number by 1/3 or by 1/2 – or maybe 3/4 to get a sense of when you should start looking for the peak.
  • How long do you need your current strategic direction to work before you’d be okay with it falling apart on you since you’ll be doing something better already?

Use the answers to these two strategic thinking questions to estimate the initial timing expectations for when the peak may appear.

Identifying Your Strategic Guides

  • Whose sense of fatigue with this strategy will be the best indicator that it’s “enough” – whether it’s enough in the opinion of your customers, your organization, or someone else?
  • Will your salespeople or Finance people first know that things aren’t as good as they have been – or will it be your market research people or someone else?
  • Who understands the leading indicators in your business?
  • Who in your organization isn’t so enamored with the current strategic direction that they are willing to step away from it before everyone else in order to start thinking about the NEXT strategic direction?

Based on answers to these strategic thinking questions, you can identify the canaries in YOUR coalmine – those individuals who will sense a problem before anyone else does.

It’s impossible in one article to figure out your peak moment (or peak period). In just a few moments, however, you can document a better sense of your timing and the canaries who will signal it’s too late WHEN it’s too late, as opposed to AFTER it is too late. – Mike Brown

 

       (Affiliate Link)

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

2

I saved the October 2013 issue of Fast Company, its 10th annual innovation by design issue, from the recycle bin when my wife we de-cluttering for me. To justify saving the innovation by design issue from recycling oblivion, I combed through the brand profile articles in the innovation by design section to identify these fourteen strategic thinking questions as innovation starters for 2014.

Strategic-QuestionsYou can use these strategic thinking questions as inspiration for taking advantage of innovation and change, addressing change challenges, and shoring up your brand’s customer experience.

Creating Innovation and Change

  • After you’ve identified the absolutely essential elements of your brand, how can you start changing all the other elements right away?
  • What might be the place or way you start every new initiative so they are all solidly grounded in your brand?
  • How can you more aggressively prototype the huge change you need to start making right away?
  • What can you change that, if it didn’t work, could be completely restored to how it was before?
  • How about expecting everyone in your organization to create something new and improved EVERY day?

Addressing Change Challenges

  • Who in your organization is obsessed with problem solving, and what are you doing to keep them busy solving problems for clients?
  • If you’re trying to inject new thinking into an old organization, what is the senior leader in charge of innovation doing to morph corporate oldsters into new thinkers?
  • What ways can you track things people originally hated about the new big change that they now love – so you can use it to sell-in the NEXT big change?
  • How can you deliberately move the “How do we build it?” question until later in the innovation process?

Improving a Brand’s Customer Experience

  • What are the two next-most detailed questions you can explore about your brand’s customer experience?
  • How are you determining the “ooh and ahh” moments of your new ideas before and after you introduce them?
  • In what ways are you figuring out what you need to deliver to customer’s in the future beyond asking them – since they likely don’t know what they are going to need?
  • How are you improving your ability to prioritize and align disparate innovation processes in different parts of your organization so they maximize value for customers?
  • If you considered everything you have accomplished so far as “day one,” where could you be at the end of “day two”?  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading