I am acutely aware this blog is going to start off sounding a little pompous … but here goes anyway. I have set myself a personal objective of improving my chess skills. My computer keeps beating me. I have, at least, figured out how to prolong the games, but in reality I am no more offensively successful than I was a year or so ago. This is frustrating, so I have retreated to test and learn (I am a direct marketer after all) and doing a bit of research to improve my strategies.
I was surprised to see in my research a lot of similar quotes to those I see in relation to marketing strategy – Sun Tzu & Eisenhower featuring strongly. So with progress on chess being difficult, I wandered off down a more comfortable road of looking at marketing strategy. Everything I started to read was very clearly rooted in the learnings of the past and is for the most part grounded in the same strategy development I learned early on in my marketing career.
It strikes me that it have become a little unfashionable in business to devote enough time to do some of the old school strategic planning, perhaps assuming that the new media opportunities, the new generations of x and y, mobile devices etc mean the old skills and approach are no longer meaningful, or that we have too little time to do the detail.
I think that is a mistake.
A strategy is not ‘in year’ it has to have a longer relevance.
Marketing strategy and planning still needs, in my view, to reflect two distinctly different phases : Thinking and then Action.
My use of “Offensive” earlier was intentional – my thoughts on developing marketing strategy are influenced by Davidson’s Offensive Marketing and is guided in delivery by MacDonald’s Marketing plans (you can tell I am the age I am !) and more recently has been inspired by Peter Fisk and his work on customer propositions. I will use my blog over the next few weeks to share my own views on how this works for me.
My starting point is always a belief that you need to look inside and outside and do some detailed thinking about what your strategy should be before leaping into delivery.
I will call this thinking stage the Customer Review. But even before that step I believe you have to be clear what your overall business vision or long-term objective is. If that is unclear then the development of marketing strategies that are effective is going to be down to luck not judgement. Let’s assume we have that clear vision expressed, or even better that Marketing have been asked to develop it based on Customer Insight already !
This is the grunt work. The building of the concrete foundations in 7 stages;
- Customer insight
- The marketplace
- Critique the current strategy
- Identify and critique your enemies
- Critique your current/planned offer in detail: Product / Service / Channel
- Pricing Review
- Establish Customer Insight
- To understand who the customer is in the market you are in
- To understand their needs, wants, desires and dissatisfactions
- To understand their scale and how this shows in segments
- To understand growth and decline in the marketplace by segment
- To understand what drives purchase, retention, apathy
- To understand what and who they believe meets their needs now .. and how .. and where … and when ..
- To understand their value to your brand
- If you have a preferred segmentation already, then map it and show movements; growth, decline, size, profitability – in short mine the data to understand the mapping – sense checking its continued validity as you go
- Talk to customers, and more importantly LISTEN to them. This need not be expensive research, think about using the communications you have already and ask pointed questions you have thought about. Pay attention to recording answers. If you can afford a ‘Usage and Attitudes’ Survey then do one – gain attitudinal as well as more tangible insight. But in most cases there is plenty of research in the business so collate it – borrow a room and create a customer wall/data-room – live and breathe it. It’s especially important to understand how customers use what they already have bought from you, is it as you expected? Remember Lucozade !
- I like to use boxy charts to identify basic needs/wants – then map outliers over this; variations by age, demographic, life-stage etc
- Use publicly available insight – sign up for a few white-papers & use the research conducted by the likes of the IDM, DMA, ISBA, Thinkbox, MMC, Google etc. And remember to ask your agencies & business partners what they have available that you can use
- Talk to the people who talk to customers – a rich vein for feedback on customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Your front line staff will know what drives customers to leave/join the brand first hand
- Review customer complaints
- Review Ombudsman rulings – mine the data that identifies the causes of dissatisfaction amongst customers
- Pay particular attention to loyalty – what makes advocates for your brand – use your management information to establish the lifetime value of your customers based on price elasticity and include cross fertilisation of products. Do some modeling of loyal customers to determine the financial impact of what an increase in loyalty will deliver vs acquiring new customers
- Document their responsiveness to media types/channels and compare to their attitudinal assessment of channels. Ask them how much a USP or differentiation matters vs relevance and brand appeal vs cost
- Finally – if you get the chance to do some research think about asking harder questions than normal … try some value engineering; Establishing how much ‘value’ a customer puts on say, great customer service vs good customer service, is really informative in developing your proposition. It drives investment decisions and informs/creates customer focussed strategies Use a 2×2 matrix of Value (high/low) and Cost to deliver (high/low) – simple and easy to understand priorities. You will need to have at least a high level view of your customer journeys by channel to truly leverage this insight
- The simple pay-off of a rich understanding of customers is a strategy based upon what they will respond to/buy/keep not one that is grounded in what you as the brand owner think they want.
- This moves you significantly to a customer pull model rather than a product push model and will validate your ‘value’ assumptions, ready for financial planning later
This is the very start of the ‘thinking’ phase for me. And the most interesting.
I hope you find my thoughts useful … let me know what you think as always, leave me a comment or two
Part 2 on developing market place insight to follow next week.
24 March 2013