Marketing Futurology

The final stages of the Customer Review are vitally important and we have just one more to go before we start stitching things together.  If you remember, the first stage in developing a marketing strategy is thinking – which I call the Customer Review – and then we move into delivery.  We are now at the final step, 7 – Future proofing of the Customer Review.

  1. Customer insight ✓
  2. The marketplace ✓
  3. Critique the current strategy ✓
  4. Identify and critique your enemies ✓
  5. Critique your current/planned offer in detail: Product / Service / Channel ✓
  6. Pricing Review ✓
  7. Futurology
Futurist Cinema - Scarborough

Futurist Cinema – Scarborough – nice building !

(7) Futurology

This step is the final step in customer thinking and is in fact a sense check of the customer research and trends exhibited in your marketplace currently.  It requires you to think qualitatively and quantitatively.  It requires you to think forward 3+ years;

Purpose:

  • To give you confidence that your 1 to 3 year strategy is not going to hamper your next strategic step that takes you out to 5 years.
  • To make sure you are future proofing where you can.
  • To make sure you are labeling no regrets strategies and tactics clearly as ‘no regrets’ if you pursue tactics that contradict your 5 year view of trends and market/customer developments.

Process:

  • The first step is to review your products and channels for innovation in the marketplace.  You should have this information in your Marketplace attractiveness research that informed your early matrix.
  • A useful tip to pick up trends is to use some of the trend-spotting websites and email alerts.
  • Review the industry reports and the Annual Report and Accounts of your competitors/enemies and use logarithmic trend-lines on sales growth etc to forecast out.
  • Your IT department can be tasked with keeping you up to date on technology trends – ask them for a monthly or quarterly report.
  • Do the same with your media planners, creative agencies, email dispatchers and so on.
  • Utilise the delights of your Industry bodies, ISBA, DMA, IDM, etc as well  as your trade press and marketing press.
  • Using these free channels greatly reduces your costs and makes this futurology task as simple as mapping the trends.  But don’t be afraid to pay – I find eBenchmarkers historic assessment of web channel usage really helpful in informing my expectations of web and telephony 5+ years out as Insurance looks more and more like a digital channel, for example.

My sense is that the universe you need to map is helpfully covered by your PESTLE from the very early steps of the Customer Review – just don’t overlay the SWOT in this step – this is about drawing a picture.

I worked for a CEO who used a very simple tool that was an email from himself in the future to his current Exec team today:  He liked to use either a press release or a piece on the company on BBC.co.uk.  This works well and is a nice idea to engage the team.  Ask all of them to do this in isolation, and then to discuss why they have led on (usually) different things.

Finally don’t forget the Office for National Statistics if you are in the UK – a mine of census and other useful information.

The final step in this process is then to torture test the pictures you have drawn vs your emerging strategies i.e. does your channel pricing strategy look acceptable if you are seeking to retain customers for 4 to 6 years, but now can reasonably expect that channel to be radically more expensive and less used in 3 to 5 years time? Do you need different strategies and tactics to actively manage those customers you are recruiting now?

The hard part is making sure you have persona’s or pictures of how your customers will interact with you in 5 years time.  You might need to practice this, but Ad agencies are great at it, so use your retained agencies to help

Pay-offs:

  • You will have a clear view of future trends at a more granular and industry specific level than just, say, “we have an aging population”.  Which is helpful only if you have strategies to exploit or manage it.
  • You will have a list of some activities/strategies that when assessing for costs & effectiveness you know must be no regrets or not at all.
  • You will be able to demonstrate a longer term vision with customers, and with your members, or owners, or indeed shareholders.

Looking forward like this is enjoyable, try and use this as an opportunity to have a bit of fun with the team … I recently started a presentation with a view of what the makers of Space 1999 thought 1999 would look like when they created the show 20 years earlier – spectacularly wrong – but funny nonetheless.

That ends the Customer Review section … getting to the bones of your strategy.  You now have to make a coherent story from these parts to make your strategy come to life.

More of that next week though.  As ever if you have any comments or builds please post them.

Paul

02 May 2013

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