Category Archives: General Observations

Customer Experience? Customer Engagement? Just do it!

To positively experience something OR to engage with something:

Are they any different?

Speaking to another marketing-industry friend recently, we joked about the overuse of the words: customer engagement and customer experience. The word engagement implies a deeper connection with the customer although the two of us agreed that every experience can make a lasting impact on ones’ choices and impressions.

  • Just do it.
  • Make me buy your product.
  • Make me use your service.
  • Make me smile.
  • Make me say “Thank you so much for making this happen for me.”

Here are a few simple examples.

Walking back to the office one afternoon, I passed this Starbucks promotion. Looking to bring patrons back into the store for a mid-afternoon energy boost, the offer plays to one’s earlier purchase and reinforces Starbucks position as an all-day food source.  The price point for the treat equates to a chocolate bar. Having been in the store earlier in the day, you would know that the breakfast crowd paid 3-4 times that price. (And, to those snickering, let’s assume that the product freshness is intact.) starbucksMake me buy your product. 

Our family does not own a car and we become weekly rental customers during the summer. blue carFinding myself in Boston with a customer service problem involving a car picked up at the local Boston airport, I first called the Executive Member Customer Service center. Fail. Then I called our local rental site hoping that they would help. Fail. A direct FB message resolved the problem in one hour.
All four components of that experience made an impression on me.

Make me want to use your services.

This photo was taken at a marketing conference about a year ago. infographicThe artist was quick, creative and able to distill key points into a visually appropriate sequence. Looking at the info-graphic, like watching a twitter feed at a conference, served to reinforce my own learning while the visual format highlighted nuances in the presentation.

The multi-sensory experience made me smile. 

Walking around Manhattan during the bewitching hour of the mid-afternoon school dismissals, can be most entertaining. The other day, I literally stopped and turned around as I heard the voice of a very young child telling his mother that he splattered paint in class similar to the Jackson Pollack style of painting. It was not surprising when the child then went on to ask his mom about her email follow ups to confirm his weekly play dates.

As a mom, I was mighty impressed with the school’s ability to engage this very bright young child. I could almost hear the mom saying to herself:

“Thank you (school and teachers) for making this love of learning happen for my child.” 

Customer Experience. Customer Engagement. Whatever you call it. Just make it positively – memorable.

 

 

Originally posted for MENG on Feb 20. 2015: Customer Experience? Customer Engagement? Just Do It? http://ow.ly/JjYLb by @sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing

I Went to School….#agreesharon

 

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

       Let me know what you think.

Pre-School_GraduationImagine you are having one of those exploratory networking conversations with someone….both participants have a solid 20 years of professional work experience. One person kicks off the introduction by saying: Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I went to school….

Really! With twenty years of work experience…why would you begin the conversation with your school history? Keep in mind: (1) We do not share an alma mata and (2) You did not recently acquire a new credential in your industry or in a new industry.

Why would someone set the tone with this introductory statement?

Encouraging or Discouraging??

#agreesharon

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

With the Rio Olympic games in play, I found myself reading both current and historical articles about the event. Is the expression “You do not Win Silver….You Lose Gold” helpful to the competitive mindset or an insult to anyone other than he/she placing first?

medals

 

Have you made anyone feel that 2nd or 3rd place was not good enough? More importantly, did it provide any positive impact on the outcome?

Bubble in the Starched Shirt

#agreesharon

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

Walking by one of the fancier, established NYC hotels, I watched the starched shirt doormen assisting the well-dressed and casually-dressed hotel guests alike. The doormen juggled their assistance with the luggage, the hailing of the taxis and the requests for directions with never-ending smiles and cool composure.

So it is not surprising when I took a moment to pause because out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the clean cut doorman having a moment of rest —- and blowing a big bubble gum bubble covering up the bottom quarter of his face. Really??!!! Not quite the class act hoped for by the hotel management.

little boy blowing a bubble

And a good reminder that we all sometimes do things that are best done when not in the public spotlight.

Lesson reiterated……Someone is Always Looking. LOL

Leadership in a Crazy World

True to the theme of his new book, 64 shots : Leadership in a Crazy World, Kevin Roberts, leadership expert and Saatchi and Saatchi Chairman walked on stage and proceeded to punch out a series of anecdotes about leadership that were relevant and important for all generations. Moderating the conversation was Alexis Glick. The event, held on Wednesday June 15, was created and hosted by The Academi of Life and held at The Center for Social Innovation. Listening to the conversation, one could not help but sit on the edge of their seat, reflecting a similar stance Kevin took as he spoke about Leadership in a Crazy World.

So, why now? What is different about today’s leadership requirements?

Instant. Constant. Connected. Three words describing today environment where “the medium is the consumer” and measurements of success are correlated to the speed at which you learn, fail and fix. The military coined the term VUCA to describe a methodology that goes beyond strategy to real time situation management. In military terms, the acronym stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. For Roberts, the business leadership definition of VUCA is Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy (as in one person with one idea can change the world) and Astounding (as in speed). To both the military leaders and the business leaders, the message is blunt: Stop strategizing and assessing what actions to take. Be ready to do it NOW.

June 15 shirley moultonEveryone, Everyone, Everyone Needs a Plan
We are all quick to help and to advise others. However, critical to a leaders’ ability to lead others is the development of their own plan. Doing that means:
What is your one-word equity? Bruce Springsteen is The Boss. What is your essence?
When are you at your best? Variables might include time of day, environment, and available resources.
• What will you never do? Things are instant, constant and connected. What if something changes faster than planned; what was “reasonable” before may no longer be reasonable now.
What is your five-year dream? The next five years only happen once.
List three challenges that you will hold yourself accountable for over the next 12 months.

Kevin signed copies of his book while participants discussed their favorite anecdotes. For those who want to do it again, Alexis put the conversation on Periscope. Find it here. Join the conversation and let us know which leadership advice makes the most sense to your situation.

The Ongoing Conversation Needed with Performance Management

How does the performance management system tie to the needs of the business and how does individual performance get measured at the business dashboard level?

This question provided the big picture challenge addressed at the March 22 NYHRPS Forum facilitated by Dr. Anna Tavis. While previous practice sought to replicate the GE methodology, it is no longer the gold standard for management and leadership. Rather today’s leaders have become fast, lean machines that try something and test it on the go.

Intrigued by the case studies presented by Dr. Tavis, NYHRPS members wanted to continue the dialogue with specific action items that they could take back to their offices. And so, on May 3, NYHRPS Board Member Deb Seidman facilitated a Mastermind Group amongst a small group of members who had participated in the earlier Performance Management discussion. Participants brought case studies that reflected their current work. As a Mastermind group, questions were posed and advice was given, allowing the NYHRPS member to leave with an agenda that they could develop in their own organization.

Cultural Changes at the Grassroots Level will Impact the Success of a New Performance Appraisal System

While a wide range of questions came up during the discussion, case study conversations focused on three specific themes across organizations
• How does a small company take the best of the processes followed in a large enterprise while keeping its entrepreneurial spirit and nimbleness?
• How do you create of a culture of feedback at a grass-roots level?
• How do you create a common line of sight across organizational and personal missions…..so as to improve performance and achieve common goals?

With Forum participants representing both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, Dr. Tavis asked:
• How do employee motivations differ in for-profit vs a non-profit entity?
• If nonprofits are mission driven, what does the concept of top down goal setting look like?
• Is a bottom up approach to goal setting more applicable to the non-profit where grass-roots programs and local area relationships are critical in meeting the organizational objectives?

One group considered what they would do if they were starting a performance system from a clean slate. Lessons learned from previous discussions provided the important anchors for building a new system or revising one in place.
• First and foremost end with a positive impact on the business strategy
• Focus on a simple method to identify good performers
• Create a culture of constructive feedback to accelerate and sustain high performance
• Get buy-in by incorporating the employee perspective
• Include customization for significant groups by division, generations, etc.

Another interesting moment in the conversation focused on finding champions to support those spearheading the organizational changes. Both the General Counsel and the Marketing teams were singled out as strong partners.
The Mastermind meeting structure was a new format for the Forum Committee. It brought nuances to the meeting that can only be discovered when individuals share the specifics of their individual stories in the spirit of trust, confidentiality and peer advisement. The Forum Committee thanks both Anna and Debbie for their contributions in facilitating these programs and to our participants who came prepared to share and to learn.

A recap from the March 22 discussion can be found here.

NYHRPS Break-Through Innovation Series of Forums provides a platform to discuss emerging issues among thought leaders, peers and HR decision makers in intimate settings limited to 15 participants and 2-3 experts.

What Can HR Do To Prepare Leaders For A Rapidly Globalizing World?

NYHRPS, the NY Chapter of HR| People & Strategy, hosted a membership group of some 15 executives on March 24 to discuss best practices and viewpoints around global leadership development. Citing recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, facilitator Patrick Wilkinson framed the conversation with references to the significant leadership changes taking place at organizations like Prudential, Credit Suisse  and other Fortune 500 firms. Participants commented on the importance of such pivotal management placements not only at the helm, but on the Board level and within the middle-management ranks. Other participants expressed concern with the development of global leaders when attitudes around diversity and inclusion at the local level remain a challenge for many.

What capabilities will our future leaders need to be successful in tomorrow’s global environment?

While many at the table have held global positions and lived abroad, there was concurrence  regarding  the difference between leading globally through an internalized  understanding of the local area cultures vs. leading a global organization though the lens of one’s own home country. Ex-pat assignments are often short-term and executives live in ex-pat compounds vs. living within the communities of their staff or customers. Not only do they miss the enculturation needed to broaden their perspectives, but they also fail to learn how to make decisions based on the political, economic, and social factors that affect business in these foreign markets.

This being the case, how does one identify and develop those who can truly lead in unfamiliar environments where subtleties in one’s backgrounds are not always obvious –and can bring enormous implications to management style and perspective?

agility

Does living abroad make one a global leader? Can global leadership be learned?

Here our participants had mixed opinions:

  • There are many ways to promote a global mindset, even while in the U.S. (For example: Be part of a cross functional or global virtual team, read world news, read world history to understand the culture, visit ethnic communities.).
  • Short term assignments, affectionately coined “professional management tourism” do not guarantee agile global leadership ability.
  • Some around the table felt that “global mobility” was a mandatory requirement for senior leadership opportunities.

In the development of agile, global leaders, what role can Human Capital Leadership play in ensuring that those who “get it” or have the ability to develop “a global mindset” are identified, coached and placed in situations where they can indeed thrive?

A pre-read article from Accenture Strategy titled “Leadership Imperatives for an Agile Business” outlined the three dominant themes that define effective leaders who are creating and enabling agile business environments. These themes were:

  • Vision and strategy: Defining short-term needs and long-term perspectives in a manner that accommodates being reactive to immediate events while being thoughtful to emerging trends. This is best accomplished by inviting those “outside of the mainstream “to the management meetings.
  • The relationship between leaders and followers: To manage through uncertainty, leadership traits must be developed across all levels of the organization – not just within the senior most management ranks.
  • Driving results: A flexible operating model requires ongoing clarification and reinforcement of expectations, roles and responsibilities.

What is the appropriate definition of “Fit”?

This research study, like the other articles that we read in preparation for the Forum defines logical, measurable actions that are being used to build the nimbleness demonstrated in today’s most agile organizations. However, it is here, that our group paused to acknowledge a viable reason why these programs are finding inconsistent success. Specifically, the reason is Human Behavior.

  • As the pace of change continues to accelerate, the requirements needed in the talent pool change — often being defined in real-time.
  • The infamous theory that you hire talent based on “fit” needs to be critically re-assessed. “Fit is the enemy of innovation”; Fit implies status quo by today’s definition. Transformation comes from radical thinkers who thrive on “smart” change. Innovation and fit should be viewed as one’s ability to change the thinking of others through smart, data-grounded ideas for improvements.
  • Hiring managers need to look at how best to bring talent into the organization that will bring provocative thinking to the table and be rewarded for doing so. In some circles, “failing fast” is the norm and sequential learning takes place exponentially as leaders build upon test and lean scenarios.
  • Herein lays the core of the conundrum: People often hire people who remind them of themselves (consciously or unconsciously). Companies frequently exit-out employees (purposely or subtly) who do not fit the culture.

As a result of this, companies ensure that the drive for fit–the survival of the out of the box thinkers — does not take place. One could say that some companies are weeding out their very best talent; the very opposite of the original intention.

To change this, we need to develop a tolerance and objectivity in seeing the value that non-conformists bring to the corporate future.

  • Organizations like Google, Apple and Amazon seem to know how to do this. While these companies were developed in a ‘new age based on new rules”…….is that really an excuse for the older, established enterprises that are struggling to transform their agility. Really now: Is legacy an excuse for stagnancy? Blockbuster Video. Eastman Kodak. General Motors. See a trend?
  • One participant asked: Do some companies have cultures that are so insular and idiosyncratic that they won’t develop a global mindset? Another person asked if a political change is required first?

Is agility a learned process or a culture? ballerina

Agile leadership is a priority for companies of all sizes and industries. Our Forum included commentary on mid-sized markets, as well as the non-profit sector.

As I wrote this post-event article for NYHRPS, I found this article from Marketing Profs, a leading resource for marketing executives. Four Steps to Creating an Agile Marketing Culture, does not address global issues however it certainly resonates with the conversation around our table.

……” companies often put in place a process, or a set of processes, to address agility instead of taking the time to work on building the culture required to achieve agility and sustain it—What does an agile culture look like?

  • People work across functions and silos to collaborate in self-organizing teams.
  • Decision-making is empowered, and it happens as close to the work as possible.
  • Teams are trusted to experiment, to take initiative, and to even fail as long as they learn.
  • Work is done in short, active cycles of prioritize-test-learn, prioritize-test-learn, and so on.
  • The customer is at the center of decision-making.” Within this context, we refer to the customer of the corporation (Pepsi drinkers, car buyers, and consumer checking account-holders) vs. the (internal) customer to the HR functions (the Business team or the C-suite).

Agile leadership. Global leadership development. None of it matters if it is not directly linked to the business strategy of the organization. And, if the business strategy of the organization includes a global presence, then agility, nimbleness and “the embracement of different becomes expected”.

Are you giving fair consideration to individuals who do not present a traditional fit? Are you creating a tolerant environment for those who represent a diverse profile to the situation? The global organizations that succeed will; and, they are getting ahead of the game by doing these things right now.

Congratulations and appreciation to all who participated in this Forum.

This article was shared on the NYHRPS website on April 10, 2015

Article Written By Sharon Lewis.

The NYHRPS Global Leadership Development Forum Team includes: Sharon Lewis, Laura Mindek, Laura Petersen, Bruce Segall and Patrick Wilkinson.

Get Real! Purpose + Calling + Balance

The New York Human Resources People and Strategy Group recently hosted an insightful presentation featuring social entrepreneur Aaron Hurst.

In this interactive and provocative session, Aaron presented his concept of a “Purpose Economy”, in which purpose will replace information as the dominant economic driver. Embedded in this new definition of purpose are the concepts of:
• Choice
• Calling
• Self-awareness

The desire for purpose, calling or self-fulfillment is not new. However in today’s society which allows 24/7 connectivity, availability and choice…… the boundaries between our work and personal lives is often non-existent. The concept of work: life balance has become a concept of work: life integration. The premise of seeing one’s act of labor as fulfilling and satisfying —regardless of the role one plays in the world of work—- provides the consistency that allows us to thrive in everything that we do.

Research has shown significant levels of employee disengagement and frustration. Further studies surmise that the disengaged workforce is less productive, less dependable, and less loyal to the work-team. Infusing the purpose approach into every aspect of our lives becomes critical. The concept starts with an attitude. Individually, we create purpose by choosing how to approach a job vs. only looking at the actual content of the job that we are doing.

Some industry articles attribute this shift in philosophy to the millennial; I think the fundamentals of the purpose concept have been percolating for a very long time. Our aging society, sandwich generations and millennial attitudes have allowed these frustrations to be channeled in a positive direction. As a member of the Boomer generation, I grappled with work: life balance as I entered my parenting years and was an active participant in remote work schedules, freelance contracts and career off-ramps. The Purpose Economy addresses the personal interests and demands of individuals by “allowing us to publicly balance our multiple obligations”.
balancing act photo
How can we combine passion and expertise consistency in our lives –vs. – looking to our volunteer work and hobbies to fill in these gaps? Does each of us have the ability to work with purpose and to live with purpose? Is this a learned activity? Will this increased awareness obligate everyone (the employers, the employees, the clients and the providers) to realize that work: life integration is reasonable and attainable? The answer is a definite YES!

Aaron shared four recommendations with the audience that can be viewed as opportunities for both the individual as well as the collective employer/work environment to support purpose-oriented activities. They are:

1. Develop individual self-awareness. As an employer, strive to assist your employees in building their self-awareness.
• Those who demonstrate calling in their daily lives see their actions as being bigger than them. They are motivated by the ability to impact others in positive ways. They are confident in their actions being consistent with their driving emotions.

2. Tailor your work to reflect the purpose(s) that motivate you. As an employer, allow the employee to tailor their work to boost their own sense of purpose.
• Doing this involves the deepening of relationships, defining opportunities for growth and maximizing the impact that someone can make in a situation.

3. Connect your personal purpose with your organizational purpose. As an employer, allow your employees to understand the impact of their labor on the bigger picture.
• People who behave from a position of purpose or calling see their efforts as providing positive growth. The power of continuous learning is important to all of us.

4. Celebrate and connect with others who share your approach to life. As an employer, create opportunities where individuals who share a common perspective can learn and grow together (This does not mean that they work together, Rather that they serve as motivators for each other.)
• I note that this example was given within the context of bringing people together who tested with similar purpose profiles. People with different functionalities and backgrounds were able to gain a new perspective on subjects that they had no understanding— when the sharing was made with someone else who shared a similar purpose-perspective. As a marketer, this reiterates the importance of the emotional connections that we create within all aspects of our lives.

May the spirit of purpose guide us successfully into a fulfilling 2015!great miinds quote

The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference

I was lucky enough to attend The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference delivered by conference logoThe Economist and further supported by MENG. The discussions surrounding big data, social networking and customer engagement crossed almost every industry. In this blog post, I will share twelve highlights from the March 2014 conference; they are in no particular order. For additional twitter streams, check out #BigRethink, @TheIdeasEconomy and @sharonlewisnyc.

1.Real Time Marketing
This is the Holy Grail that we marketers seek to achieve with confidence, reliability and available budget parameters. The concept behind achieving this is to set up multi-functional teams that are empowered to be spontaneous within a pre-determined set of boundaries. Huh?? Is this possible?
Yes. The example was the 2013 SuperBowl Dunk in the Dark Oreo campaign. With a zero media spend; one tweet generated 525 million media impressions.

2.Data Context: Opt-in May Still Need a Human Intervention to Avoid Bad Assumptions
At @1800Flowers, they do not assume that you send the same person a Valentines’ Day bouquet every year! In a similar vein, you cannot re-use the data that you collect for an arrangement being sent for a funeral or for condolence purposes. Enough Said!

3. Our attention span has become so short that we do not take the required time to explore many worthwhile options. Here are two examples:
Remember the amount of time that what went into making a 30 second or 60 second commercial? Our requirements for immediate gratification (read: short attention spans), have further crept into the creative process. What happened to the evolution of an idea? Some speaker discussion suggested that similar to the final campaign, the creative process has become one that demands instant gratification. As such, we may be pre-maturely eliminating some great campaigns and bottom line results.

As it relates to getting the consumer to the action stage of the offer: @MaryKayUS spoke about a mobile – first strategy with the goal of accomplishing any action within two clicks. …. “Making it easy for the soccer mom en route to the practice field” to be productive……. @SherryAG That does sound pretty close to instant gratification!

4. We have too many channels of vertical expertise. This impacts our corporate structures and our recruitment efforts
Comments from the CMOS of Lowe’s and The Weather Company spoke to trying to break down the vertical channels of expertise. As an industry, we have already established many proven formulas for successful, relevant marketing. While the quantity of the messaging channels has changed, and the available channels for marketing have changed…… The principles of relevant messaging and singular focus to action have not changed.
A good marketer can learn the nuances of a unique communications channel; Good marketing skills are applicable across any vertical channel. Hence why do we suggest otherwise in our (formal and informal) recruitment and career development policies?

5. “Say what”…….Whose language are you speaking? Whose perspective are you sharing?
There was an “aha moment” when the McCann Truth Central story was shared about a focus group participant stating that they engage in low rates of text messaging. Further probing revealed that this young adult had some 300 text messages daily; another participant piped in to say that they wake up some mornings to 1000 messages on their phone. @McCannTruth @TruthLaura
Lesson reiterated: Perceptions are everything. Probe and define the perception from which one speaks!

6. Crisp, singular messaging is nothing new and should continue to be a mantra for good communications.
Remember the old adage for a good billboard ad: six words or less! Why do we act surprised when the role of crisp singular messaging is re-proven with each new communications channel that we invent?

7. Data Sharing and Privacy
There are conceptual lines that consumers use in determining how/when/what they share. Brands are starting to learn that consumers are more aware than ever that they are sharing and that when they do… “They want something back for it”. Many of the speakers noted that they have received customer complaints from those feeling that their data was not being maximized. Again, this creates a fine line in differentiating a personalized experience from a Yuk factor, also known as a “creepy factor”. The app for a healthier lifestyle called @Noom, spoke to their success in the creation of trusted on-line weight-loss support groups; Caesar’s Entertainment spoke about real time data updates regarding the preferences of their clientele.

8. Data Context, Data Filters and Timely Data vs Relevant Data
A real time, big picture challenge that continues to be tested by marketers are the models behind: How does a brand insert themselves into a conversation that is appropriate and relevant to the customer experience?
• Here is where mobile is changing the retail shopping experience.
• Here is where content is being taken to new levels of storytelling, relevancy and entertainment (interpreted as three distinct and intertwined objectives).
• Here is where the concept of “filter failure” needs to be fine-tuned for efficacy and relevancy.

9. Would this ad prompt someone to want to see the ad again?
It seems logical that re-watching an ad is an important criteria to wanting to share the ad, thereby allowing it to go viral. Music videos being replayed on YouTube are a great example. The “Lowe’s Fix in Six,” vine series offers simple, everyday improvements that could also fit into the category of a “want to replay it”. The Apple ads that speak to what you can do with an apple product were touted as another example.
It is hard to predict what will spark a viral reaction; it is easier to go with creating something that people simply want to see/hear/experience again.

10, Note-taking was visual and intrigued everyone in the audience. Take a look

11. Analysis Paralysis
With data exploding at unparalleled rates, projects quickly become so big that they are scary—even to the best minds in quantitative model development. The presenters advised that we all just get in there and start doing it — not everyone can have the big budgets, however everyone can create learning environments.

12. Funny Expression of the Day
The budgets available to test, measure and deliver were never stated during the conference. SVP and CMO of Frito-Lay North America enthusiastically shared some memorable experiential campaigns with the audience. And, with such stories, she had us all laughing with the expression: “The juice is worth the squeeze”.

In closing: I will paraphrase an organization that was not represented at the conference: “Ya gotta be in it to win it”

Wishing us all much positive learning in our campaign endeavors.

This blog originally posted in March 2014 through the mengonline.com community via http://mengonline.com/blog/2014/03/18/reflections-economists-big-rethink-360-cmo/

Ah-ha Moments for Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence can have a huge impact to the bottom line of a business. This knowledge comes in many forms, and ultimately, it is the application of human intelligence and human logic that reveals the value in the data, the trends and the inconsistencies.ahha moment lightbulb

With this in mind, the “aha” competitive intelligence moments will often reveal themselves where you least expect to uncover them. Here are some questions to help you find the “aha” in non-traditional places, creating competitive advantages for you and your organization:

1.     Does it really matter what the competition is doing?

Competitive Intelligence is not just about looking at what your industry competitors are doing; it is about seeing your business through a completely new set of eyes.

Better stated: The activity of your peers is only one part of the equation.  In fact, case studies show that many innovative breakthroughs came from non-industry competitors. Yes, know the industry competition and, do position yourself favorably. However, do not spend so much time on the competitor activities that you forget to focus on the activity of THE most important piece of the marketplace: the customer!

2.     Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

We know that every production line output includes first quality and imperfect items. Does your business allow you to develop a secondary distribution channel for the “seconds”? For example: “ding and dent sales” for furniture or appliances or consignment stores for manufacturers over-runs.

The lemonade concept has been successfully applied to situations where fixed costs render heavily discounted, last minute offers a preferable option for the business. Last minute vacation websites (think Travelocity, Cheap Tickets) alongside of theatre ticket offerings (think Play-by-Play and Theatre Mania in NYC)  have trained many consumers to plan these activities at the last minute, thereby allowing themselves  an experience that may otherwise be unaffordable.

3.     Do you have a diversified reading list?

We’ve all been trained to regularly read the daily newspapers and the industry journals for our business specialties. However, Best Practices are often industry-agnostic; can you imagine any call center manager disputing the value in real time call monitoring and feedback loops? Reading industry journals from any other industry but your own; reading political articles that you do not agree with and occasionally scanning a forever classic Dr. Seuss book….can move your mind into new directions and thought patterns that can impact your business?

4.     Does this really have to be a seasonal item?

Back in graduate school, I prepared an advertising campaign for matzo as an all year round cracker choice. Fast forward to today’s metropolitan grocer and you are likely to find boxes of matzo year-round. In a similar fashion, Gold’s Horseradish has created another category of condiments and eliminated horseradish as a seasonal product.

5.     How can you change consumer behaviors?

Slowly is the pessimist’s answer. By speaking to emotions is the more logical answer. Create a competitive advantage for yourself by focusing on the emotional level appeal.

Forget the product benefits – Focus on the storyline. This is another great example of seeing a situation through a different set of eyes. Madison Avenue examples of this:

  • Nike is not about shoes and running shorts. It is about a state of mind: Just Do It. Get out and exercise
  • The L’Oreal tagline” Because You’re worth it” moved the emphasis off of the products and onto the consumer. Yeah, I am worth it – I am beautiful
  • What if we could apply this to our children’s chore-list? Imagine: “A neat room is a higher test score”
  • Zappos is a customer service company…that happens to sell shoes!

SUMMARY:

Competitive intelligence is not just about looking at what your industry competitors are doing; it is about seeing your business through completely different sets of eyes.  And using these new and varied viewpoints to maximize opportunities.

 

Original posting: FIVE KEY Questions on Competitive Intelligence. New Places to find the “ah-ha” by @sharonlewisnyc #EQlist buff.ly/1gsE3Dz  via @CASUDI