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The most important strategic thinking question a brand can ask itself is, “What matters?”

The most important strategic thinking question an individual can ask himself or herself is also, “What matters?”

While it may be an easy or a difficult question to answer for you, it isn’t the only question you have to address.

BStrategic Thinking Question - What Mattersecause after you articulate what matters, you’ll need to translate your answer into actions – whether organizational or personal. When you KNOW and can SAY what matters, the answer should dramatically shape what actions you DO or DON’T DO from that point forward. Your answer should translate into clearly doing more of some things and less of other things because of what matters to you.

Maybe you can’t figure out what matters all at once. Over time, though, if something really does matter to you, what you do (and what you don’t do) should be in increasingly distinct and more in alignment all the time with what matters.

It’s all about a question prompting answers, and then turning into behaviors. That’s where you really prove out what matters and doesn’t. – 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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Organizational-Body-Language-Creating-Strategic-Impact

Original Image by: steffne | Source: photocase.com

Working on new material for a presentation on Creating Strategic Impact to the MAGNET Global Advertising Agency group, I began thinking about “organizational body language.” This was triggered also by a conversation with a potential client last week. Its staff is reading certain ideas into the collective behaviors of its management team that aren’t intended or productive.

Body language is typically thought of as the non-verbal cues an individual makes both deliberately and unconsciously that signal underlying perceptions. Organizations, however, which are filled with individuals, can do the same thing.

What Is Your Organizational Body Language Saying?

Your organizational body language can come from the individual or collective behaviors of your senior leadership team. It may be a more encompassing behavior ingrained into your entire organization. While organizational body language is evident inside an organization, it can also speak volumes to outside audiences, including competition.

Based on typical meanings behind individual body language, here are ways organization’s exhibit similar sentiments – whether positive or negative – through organizational body language.

Positive Organizational Body Language

  • Anticipation: Management becoming more visible to front line employees
  • Confidence: Celebrates accomplishments
  • Evaluation, Thinking: Lots of people and office lights staying on after hours
  • Genuine: Embracing new thinking and ideas
  • In decision making mode: Lots of drop-by discussions from senior managers
  • Interest: It’s easy to secure meetings and resources for a particular initiative
  • Openness: Management accepts and answers tough questions
  • Readiness: The organization actively trains its people
  • Relaxed: Incorporates humor into formal and informal communication
  • Self-assured: Communicating performance numbers and setting clearly understood incentive structures

Negative Organizational Body Language

Is organizational body language slowing creating strategic impact?

If you’re part of the senior leadership team, are you sensitive to the organizational body language you and your peers are communicating?

Might it be the reason why your employees are forming perceptions contrary to all the messaging your organization is doing formally?

Could your organizational body language be standing the in the way of creating strategic impact you need right now?

If these questions hit home for you, let’s talk about how you can better gauge what you’re really communicating organizationally and better align your overall direction, messaging, and behaviors so you can be more effective in creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and collaborative skills in order to create strategic impact. 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.

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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle  got all ranted up by yesterday’s post. It highlighted the typically annoying customer experience strategy choices by car rental companies to try and aggressively upsell customers. Today, Woody offers his thoughts on what’s happening behind the scenes when brands go astray in such ways. Here’s Woody!

Customer Experience Strategy – The Universal Purpose of Business by Woody Bendle

Ranting-Woody-Bendle2Mike’s September 16, 2013 Brainzooming post on “Customer Experience Strategy – Annoying Car Rental Questions” really resonated with me.  Why?  Because stuff like that really drives me nuts!

Mike’s car rental experience in Cleveland provides such a clear (and unfortunately, not uncommon) example of a yet another company that has completely lost its way.  Companies like this have sold their soul to the almighty metric and profit gods and are needlessly tossing their valuable customers into the proverbial volcano!

OK, so maybe that was as little dramatic; but in my mind, there aren’t too many things much worse than a horrible customer experience!  When I hear about (or see for myself) experiences such as Mike’s, all I can do is shake my head and think, “Here’s yet another company that has lost sight of its true purpose.”

The Universal Purpose of Business

So here’s the deal, each and every one of us in business essentially has the same universal purpose:

To continuously pursue the creation of value (or utility) for our customers and/or consumers.

I know… this statement will likely get the “well duh!” award from many of you because it is sooooooo obvious.  But, if it is sooooooo obvious, why do sooooooo many companies seem to operate as if their mission is to do exactly the opposite?  Mind boggling isn’t it!  I know each one of you can name at least one company or organization that you feel is only in existence to drive you nuts.

Here’s another way to put this universal purpose of business in perspective.  Can you think of any legal business where this statement won’t work?  I can’t.

We could have all sorts of fun speculating and debating why or how organizations allow (or perhaps even incentivize) such horrible customer experiences; but more likely than not, the real reason will boil down to something along the lines of having a corporate culture that no longer truly lives and breathes the universal purpose of business.

Four Critical Customer Experience Strategy Questions for Customer Value-Driven Organizations

Look, let’s admit it – business is hard; and there is absolutely nothing in the universal purpose of business statement that makes it any easier.  And, if it were easy, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much!  But if you want to stay in, and profitably grow your business, do yourself a favor; step back every once in a while and take a good look at all of the different ways your customers interact with your organization and/or brand.  As you are doing this, ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Is what I’m doing creating value for my customers?
  2. Is it really?
  3. What value am I actually creating?
  4. How might I create even more value for my customers?

The key when you are doing this is to answer these questions from your customers’ perspectives and not your own.  Better yet, find one of your better customers that you really trust, buy them a cup of coffee and let them answer these questions for you!  It might be the most rewarding cup of coffee you’ve had in a long time! 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.

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Customer experience and innovation expert Woody Bendle  is here on the Brainzooming blog to share a great approach for recycling the customer feedback program data that’s sitting in organizations with incredible innovation potential . . . for those who are savvy enough to take advantage of it. Here’s Woody!

Recycling Customer Feedback Program Data for Innovation by Woody Bendle

Recycling Customer Feedback DataDoes your organization have a Customer Experience Management (CEM) program?  Are you currently measuring and monitoring Customer Satisfaction (CSat)? Do you have a customer support center receiving and responding to customer feedback through phone calls, emails and letters?  Do you have a Facebook fan page where customer feedback comes via posts about themselves and your company?  Do you have customers talking about you on Twitter or on blogs?

If you said yes to any of these customer feedback scenarios, you’re probably already holding the keys to your company’s next innovation opportunity!

Intrigued?

Many of you have likely made substantial investments in obtaining, monitoring and leveraging customer feedback through CEM, CRM or CSat programs.  Each customer feedback program can create tremendous value for your organization by providing timely and actionable consumer insights related to your customers’ interactions with your associates and brand.

But what you might not realize is that this exact same customer feedback data can be leveraged for innovation.

Innovation is the process of creating new (and differentiated) customer value in the marketplace, which can create a sustainable competitive advantage.  This process has three phases (Identify, Innovate, and Implement) and each phase has three steps:

The most critical step in the innovation process is identifying unmet or under-served consumer needs.  Unfortunately however, this is where so many innovation efforts go awry – that is, right at the very beginning!  And let me tell you, when you screw up the beginning, it’s pretty much all down hill from there.

Do you realize that 80%+ of all new products launched each year fail?  This is beyond absurd; it is down right irresponsible and completely unnecessary!  The reason for this massive failure rate is because organizations either don’t understand the importance of addressing unmet consumer needs or they simply don’t care to take the time to identify their customers’ unmet or underserved needs.   And this where your existing CEM, CRM and C-Sat customer feedback program comes into play.

It’s all about customer needs!

Let’s face it – the only reason your customers interact with your organization is because you satisfy one or more of their needs in some capacity.  By interacting with you, your customers are able to get through their day a little better than if they hadn’t (or at least that’s how you ought to be thinking about it).  And, when they reach out to your organization (either directly through you customer support center or your CSat program), they’re likely doing so because you have either exceeded, or have fallen short of satisfying one or more of their needs.  And while nobody likes to hear about how they’ve frustrated or disappointed customers, it is precisely in those circumstances that you need to pay closer attention because:

  1. They wouldn’t be sharing their opinions with you if they didn’t have a need that they were hoping you could or would satisfy (or satisfy better)
  2. They wouldn’t bother telling you what they thought if it were easy to get that need satisfied elsewhere, and
  3. They wouldn’t waste their time taking a survey or sending you an email if they didn’t care about the relationship they have with your organization.

It’s for all of these reasons that you should view your customer feedback system and data as a valuable innovation asset!

So while many of you are sitting on this incredible innovation asset, I’m guessing few of you have spent much time thinking about how to mine it for product, service and/or process innovation opportunities.  The good news is that you already have a ton of hugely valuable customer feedback data; and getting this data in the first place is the hardest and most expensive part!  With just a little additional effort, and perhaps some additional technology, you will find you are much closer to your next innovation opportunity than you realize.

In order to begin recycling customer feedback program data for innovation opportunities, you’ll want to employ a process where you:

8 Telltale Customer Feedback Phrases Identifying Unmet Customer Needs

To help kick-start your efforts, here are eight telltale phrases you will commonly encounter when customers are telling you how your organization is not adequately meeting their needs:

  1. Why is it that…?
  2. This is ridiculous…
  3. I don’t understand why…
  4. You would think that…
  5. How come every time I…?
  6. How am I supposed to…?
  7. I wish that…
  8. It’d be nice if…

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of phrases you’ll encounter once you begin mining and recycling customer feedback data for innovation opportunities, I’m betting you’ll be surprised by how often you actually encounter each of these phrases once you start digging in!  And hopefully, I’ve encouraged you to begin digging!

So what are you waiting for?  Let’s get innovating! 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.

 

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I participated in a panel discussion last week with a sizeable group of Kansas Citians exploring ideas on current and future trends shaping social media strategy and integrated marketing communications. The recap of the entire conversation is in the October 2013 edition of Ingram’s Magazine.

Ingrams-SocMed-Panel

Photo by Patrick Padley, www.patrickpadley.com

Social Media Strategy Changes

The first question, which went to each participant, seemed sensible enough to start a social media strategy conversation: “What do you see as the most significant changes in social media technologies, applications, and uses over the next 1 to 2 years?”

Maybe surprisingly, those types of future-looking, change-predicting questions aren’t ones I spend much time thinking about on a regular basis.

In developing strategy (social media strategy or otherwise), our initial perspective is typically not what the next change or new big thing will be. Instead, in developing a solid strategic foundation, we begin by addressing what WON’T change in the near term.

While you need to anticipate changes (and, based on your business, actually create changes), we find it makes the most strategic sense to start with what you can depend on, plan for, and know you can implement successfully for an extended period of time. This is especially true for many of the clients we work with on social media strategy. Most aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) chasing the newest thing. Many organizations simply need to get started sharing stories and valuable insights through social channels without worrying about implementing a presence on the newest social network.

The Place of Sameness and Change in Social Media Strategy

So how did I answer the opening question?

I answered “abstractly,” at least according to discussion moderator Neal Sharma! My answer address both something that I don’t think will change AND a point of change brands, organizations, and governments should pay attention to in social networks.

My answer was to watch “borders” for changes and new developments.

I referenced the impact in Egypt several years ago of Twitter. With Twitter becoming a significant communication channel in the Egyptian revolution, it was the first time that many in the public became aware of the potential impact of social networks. In the instance of Egypt, political borders were breached because of social networks. The result was that people outside Egypt who might never have ANY idea about what people in Egypt were thinking or doing, now had vital insights into the issues and sentiment of the people inside the country’s borders.

This isn’t the only type of border social networks can change dramatically. Social networks also have the potential to profoundly change familial, organizational, supply chain, societal, geographic, philosophical, intellectual, and many other types of borders as well.

As I answered Neal’s question, the key is looking at any situation where someone can say, “We’re over here, and you are over there.” Wherever this type of definitive separation is in place, consider yourself warned: social networks have the potential to change, blow up, rearrange, revisit, and re-establish (or not) the borders that exist between two groups.

And while that dynamic won’t change in the next 18 to 24 months, its constancy means you’ll see many changes across borders during this same time period.

I guess it was kind of an abstract answer.

Your thoughts on what will change in social media strategy?

What do you think will be the changes in social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! – Mike Brown

 

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Both J.C.Penney and Barnes & Noble were back in the business news last week with more stories of corporate tribulation for each.

The general pattern for both brand strategy dilemmas goes something like this:

  • Brand is sliding downward
  • A new person is brought in to hatch a new big idea and lead the new brand strategy and direction
  • New person tries to put the new direction in place
  • New direction doesn’t reverse the slide and makes the slide worse
  • New guy is out amid even more confusion about the brand strategy and direction
  • Board brings back the old person to get the brand out of the mess that the old guy created / let happen in the first place

A couple of quick brand strategy lessons emerge for me.

WSJ-Covers

Brand Strategy Lesson 1 – Ideas are easy, answers are hard

Ideas are easy.

With some focus and using the right creative thinking exercises, you can produce many ideas in a relatively short time. When we facilitate a brand strategy or new product creative thinking session, we often call these “possibilities” because they are so young and fresh and devoid of analysis, it’s tough to say they are “ideas.” They may just be fragments of someone’s thinking. With more work they can become ideas and concepts, but call them what you will, they are relatively easy to generate.

Real business answers, however, are hard.

We’re talking about ideas that turn into answers that successfully change the course of a business, particularly one that’s failing – those are hard. Because to become a successful answer, the idea SHOULD stand up to a rigor that’s nearly impossible to survive:

  • Analysis
  • Prioritization
  • Resource decisions
  • Tests for strategic fit
  • Customer research
  • Testing and piloting
  • Scenario planning
  • Determinations about related critical success factors
  • Technical analysis
  • Development

All that, plus the idea has to be introduced at the right time strategically by an organization with the experience and wherewithal to pull it off. It has to be resourced adequately, successfully produced and marketed, effectively sold, and executed well so that it delivers value.

And those lists are simply surface level starts at what an idea has to survive to become a right answer.

A brand in trouble doesn’t just need an idea guy for a turnaround. A brand needs the RIGHT ANSWER guy at the RIGHT TIME.

And for both J.C. Penney and Barnes & Noble, it seems very possible that the time when even a PHENOMENALLY RIGHT ANSWER could make a difference is in the rear view mirror. When a brand misses the window for its right answer, no matter what the brand throws at the situation, it may very well be it’s going to fail. Maybe not right away, but it’s probable that no amount of executive chair swapping or brand strategy changing is EVER going to be the right answer anymore.

Brand Strategy Lesson 2 – The Devil You Know Isn’t Better Strategy

In both  of these brand strategy dilemmas, there’s a view that the former person is the right answer as a replacement, even though the brand declines started (or at least continued) on the former guy’s watch before the new guy failed to fix it.

The “devil you know” isn’t better strategy; it’s desperation strategy and smells of unfounded corporate nostalgia. While a board of directors may think “the devil you know” is an intriguing or viable idea, it’s tough to believe it will be the RIGHT answer.

See what I mean about ideas and right answers.

Because someone will ask . . .

The previous Brainzooming post was on seven solid lessons in the J.C. Penney social media strategy. So how do these two posts square with each other?

The social media moves J.C. Penney made are absolutely smart ones that any brand should consider. A great social media strategy, however, isn’t going to fix a shaky underlying brand strategy. It can enhance it, but it’s just one part of the brand, not the whole brand. – Mike Brown

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In July, Sean Ryan, Director – Social and Mobile at J.C. Penney spoke to the Social Media Club of Kansas City about the company’s social media efforts during a topsy-turvy period that’s been rocky again the past few weeks (but more on that tomorrow).

7 Success Factors from the J.C. Penney Social Media Strategy

Sean presented an insightful overview with real world examples of strategic concepts we view as integral to a brand’s successful social networking and content effort.

1. Create an audience persona as a focal point for social media content.

The audience persona of the “new” J.C. Penney (modeled after Tina Fey and others) helped focus the personality, voice, and editorial content decisions for the brand’s social media implementation. In Sean’s words, the Fey Roniston (as the persona was named) personality represented who the brand is, her voice is how the brand talks, and her sensibilities shape what subjects and events the brand covers.

Sean-Ryan-Visual-Resume2. Strong social media people represent a combination of business person and reporter.

Sean was a reporter in the first half of his career before transitioning to Target and then J.C. Penney. His career path suggests a strong social media profile: a reporter’s ability to ask questions and distill information along with a business person’s knowledge and sensibilities. Sean highlighted the two halves of his career with an intriguing concept: a one-slide, visual resume.

3. Reach into the organization to develop a social media editorial calendar.

Since many people outside Sean’s team (i.e., buyers for one) have early visibility and potential content on stories of interest to the brand’s fans, regularly reaching out for leads (as a reporter would) helps ensure timely, meaningful content on its social media editorial calendar.

4. Conduct weekly meetings with anyone touching the social strategy.

No one department “controls” all aspects of the social strategy so planned checkpoints among stakeholders enhance integration, provide visibility to developing stories, and ensure people with responsibility for key touchpoints are well-coordinated.

jcp-facebook5. Be willing to pick up your strategy and move it.

The original J.C. Penney Facebook page was mired in a seemingly unrecoverable Facebook Edgerank situation, savaged by fans complaining about the retailer and its Facebook content (which was being recycled from other media).  It was typical for negative Facebook fan actions (marking posts as spam, hiding some or all of the brand’s posts) to surpass positive actions (likes, shares, comments) on a regular basis. Rather than try to reverse the Facebook Edgerank perspective on its page, J.C. Penney moved its presence to a new Facebook page built around its updated strategy. The new Facebook page started demonstrating positive results immediately.

6. Build the trust needed to operate in social time.

When asked about differences in the review process for day-to-day vs. crisis communication-oriented social media, Sean said former CEO Ron Johnson commented that he trusted Sean’s team to edit and make solid decisions about what to share. This reflects a previous Brainzooming post on social networking critical success factors: real-time social media response depends on a level of trust from senior management in the judgment of those running the operation.

7. Produce weekly social media metrics linked to business performance.

If social media wants to be taken seriously as a business function, it has to deliver metrics at the pace the line organization does. It’s also imperative to provide a bridge to how social media contributes to making the numbers that move the business. One regular feedback loop among the J.C. Penney social media metrics involves reporting trending topics for marketing & merchandising to see what customers are talking about online. – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s social media strategy development workshops 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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