Friday, October 8, 2010

Metaphors to sell by

Over the last 18 months have you stopped and noticed how often the news' media brings up how one party or the other has availed itself of an advisor, a word-smithing advisor, who can teach that Party's spokespeople how to achieve its ends through language, through choosing "words that work."

Now stop for a second and think back to all those "lessons" you've been given over the years telling you what to say under what circumstances in order to break down any possible existing or lingering resistance when it comes to your trying to sell something to a potential, existing, or former customer. In other words, how to sell.

Were the words you were taught to use in order to be a better salesman "words that work"? And, did they work long term allowing you to achieve loyal, raving customers, or were they transactional wins that left you having to start from scratch each time you dealt with this buyer? Is there even the possibility that such a difference might exist?

Now stop and think about it for a minute. Have you stopped recently; listened to the language of your sales force and its leaders? How do they frame the exchange of value - product, services, information, etc - that takes place between your company and your intended customers?

(Another complementary issue to contemplate is the fact that the language used by sales, by marketing, your call center personnel, and the other functional areas that are customer-facing may not be the same).

The evidence likely will point to the use of rational argument and battle metaphors. If that is the case, does the language we use when talking about customers, prospects, and our slice of the pie undermine our long-term effectiveness and hurt our ability to form long-term, loyal relationships?

Is the language , the metaphors we use when we sell, unwittingly obscuring a self-reinforcing attitude and set of behaviors that is hurting our long term customer retention efforts?

Are we phrasing our marketing efforts as "campaigns" - miniature battles? When we "penetrate" an account are we blasting through the ramparts in order to take prisoners? and so on.

If we are seeking loyal relationships with our best, core customers, what language should we use, what metaphors should we sell by?

Cognitive scientists such as George Lakoff argue strongly that our metaphors are embodied. Does such embodiment insist that the net new creation of metaphors is highly unlikely, nearly impossible? Let us know your thoughts and let's explore this together.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A 2010 Loyalty CRM Strategy Roadmap, prt 2

A Strategist’s Business Issues

A strategy can only be executed with focus and choice. It must operate with , what Rich Horwath in Deep-Dive calls, “the discipline to intelligently allocate … resources.” Whether the resource is time, money, or people, the optimal allocation of resources is a critical issue, a critical challenge, for almost every business organization that wants to execute its strategy successfully. Since no enterprise has unlimited resources, it is worth investigating how customer relationship marketing models can provide a critical key to unlock the answer to this problem.

In no functional area of business is this resource allocation problem more true than in sales, marketing, and servicing customers and/or prospects – a market-coverage model, if you will. In fact, the search for the optimal allocation of resources in these functional areas is something akin to the search for the Holy Grail.

In business-to-business marketing (B2B) the characteristics of the target customer group can commonly be depicted visually as the familiar pyramid. Largest accounts on top, smallest on the bottom. The shared, common problem of a target universe, the pyramid graphically shows how, in most mature, competitive industries, the sales function (together with service and product marketing) is faced with:

· Price and margin pressure at the top of the pyramid, where the size of the targeted accounts is the largest

· Margin (cost-to-serve) pressures at the bottom of the pyramid, where the largest number of accounts exist

· An eventual overabundance of competition – once all your competitors realize where you are making your money - in the middle, where the most profit is initially available

· A shrinking middle layer

More than a decade ago Adrian Slywotzky suggested in an article that we elevate sales to a strategic boardroom issue. There never has been a more critical time for many businesses to recommit to elevate Loyalty and CRM to the boardroom level.

I do not presuppose a cookie-cutter approach. But, simplistically, I do believe that building a strategic roadmap for CRM in 2010 should be much like the childhood dot-to-dot challenges, which captivated our imaginations for hours. Especially if we guide our thoughts with the words of philosopher, Jacques Derrida, namely “that the answer is always already there.” In other words, through analysis, diagnosis, business intelligence, customer insight, we can uncover the “dots” that we need to connect in order to drive our Loyalty CRM Strategy towards success. Loyalty CRM: doing business with the right core customer. The roadmap requires discipline, focus, choice, and selectivity. Customer insight, business intelligence, process optimization, communications, and training are the primary ingredients the relationship marketing executive adds to the traditional 5 Forces analysis. Judicious use of these tools together with our marketing imaginations will allow us to uncover the roadmap for our particular company and target universe.

This approach requires cooperation and coordination across the entire company and your “value chain”. As a Loyalty focused CRM strategist you can create great synergy and operational effectiveness to your Loyalty CRM Strategy by applying the models of customer relationship marketing and knowledge management together with a modified activity-based look at resource allocation – your customers as a portfolio to be managed.

The Thesis for identifying the 2010 Loyalty CRM Strategist’s Roadmap

The planning tools, operational models, feedback loops, and performance metrics of relationship marketing are templates that create optimal resource allocation and coverage models. What follows is a guideline for optimizing the allocation of resources, together with the attendant analysis and implementation.

Why do we need a roadmap?

In order to “keep our eye on the ball”, in order to maintain focus on the desired end-state of our strategy, is the simple answer. The 3 primary results executives should expect from a well executed, loyalty-focused CRM Strategy are: Increased sales Effectiveness and Efficiency; Increased Customer/Employee Satisfaction; Decreased cost-to-serve

In addition to the three key very desirable outcomes that result from a well-executed customer relationship marketing competence, other implicit problems can be remedied:

· Increased sales, both volume, margin, and breadth of offerings

· Increased service levels

· Increased customer and employee knowledge sharing

· Increased customer and employee retention

· Customizable coverage

· Faster product introduction, i.e., speed to market

· More controlled management of product migration by targeted segment

· Decreased cost of doing business as a percentage of sales, i.e., sales expense to revenue ratio (E:R)

Customers as “a portfolio of assets”

We live and work in a time in which each of us faces allocation constraints pertaining to use of money, time, and people. Furthermore, the competitive arena we operate in is wholly unlike that of just a few years ago. We have a rare opportunity in today’s struggling economy if we are disciplined in our choices, focus, and resource investment/deployment.

Consider this quandary: If you have limited resources, where do you invest them, and how, in order to maximize your return? Professor Len Schlesinger – who brought “us” the Service-Profit Chain – used to lecture using a 3 X 3 matrix:


Down the left side: LARGE MEDIUM SMALL

Using this simple framework, that he called “the Marketing Optimization Model”, Professor Schlesinger would challenge his audience and students to solve the problem all strategists face, the resource investment and allocation dilemma. While a 9-box matrix perhaps overly simplifies the coverage and investment challenge, it gets the CRM strategist thinking in the right general areas.

Our customers represent a portfolio of assets that we must proactively manage in order to maximize shareholder and stakeholder value. A complementary truth is that virtually every organization has limited resources. So it is vitally important to invest those limited resource in direct proportion to the return we expect to receive from our investment in our primary assets - our customers.

The marketer’s Holy Grail is to get the right message, product, and/or service to the right person, at the right time, in the format that customers have indicated they prefer. In fact, this is the primary goal of an optimal allocation model.

An optimal coverage model would also:

· Support a retention – and loyalty-focused, customer-based business design

· Make effective use of the organization’s limited resources

· Make investment decisions based on reciprocal commitment or mutual interdependence of your Ideal, Best customer and channel partners

· Establish integration and synergy across the three functional areas responsible for servicing the customers: i.e., product marketing, sales, and customer service.

Stepping Back: there are two reasons that customer relationship Marketing is so powerful when implemented properly. First, the firm focuses on acquiring the Ideal, best customer, and, second, the company manages its customers as a portfolio of assets – investing its limited resources proportionately to the level of commitment that customers and prospects make to the organization.

My contention is that there is a fairly well-defined path the enterprise can take when analyzing and assessing its allocation challenges. This path is mapped out through the use of the tools, templates, and planning by the insightful, analytical, data-based, relationship marketer.

Resource allocation must also bring to bear the relationship marketer’s theories about managing the point of contact, managing the customer across their lifecycle of interactions with the company, managing the value of the customer portfolio, and managing knowledge across the company and across the value chain. Fred Reichheld called it “the customer corridor: it is really mapping the touch-points between your firm, your target universe and customers, as well as your value chain members. In today’s 24/7, always-on, flat-world seemingly driven by social media, just mapping these touch points and then aligning your company for total cooperation and coordination across the value chain is an immense undertaking. Creating the graphic, however, will serve as a powerful icon inside your firm and will illuminate the challenge of resource allocation relative to your customers’ lifecycle relationship with your firm.

Specifically, there is a spectrum, or “continuum of relevant customer contact activities,” that needs to be mapped to create an optimal and effective resource allocation model.

The first step many organizations will need to undertake is to conduct an audit of their marketing, sales, and customer service activities so as to surface the key interdependencies between them, as well as with site logistics. Think of it as “the programming” phase of dealing with an architect. The Master Builder will want to know how you want to live and function in the new space. The audit seeks to:

· Make visible and apparent where integration between the functional areas is necessary

· Make apparent where non-discretionary accountability must reside

· Revisit the current account selection process

· Revisit key account management practices

· Objectively verify whether an account is relationship – or transaction-oriented

· Assess the skills, training, and behavioral components of the relevant customer contact people in each of the functional areas

· Assess degree of cooperative, cross-functional teamwork along with supporting account planning, communications, and contact management tools

The Determinants

What is needed is a framework for determining how to allocate resources. There are a great many steps involved, yet, in some ways, creating this framework is much like connecting the dots.

A 2010 Strategy Roadmap for CRM, prt. 1

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000201 EndHTML:0000025000 StartFragment:0000004291 EndFragment:0000024964 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/admin/Desktop/2010%20Strategy%20Roadmap%20for%20CRM%20pt1.doc

2010 Strategy Roadmap for CRM, part 1.

Strategy is choice. Choice tied directly to Mission, Vision, Values, and Purpose. Choice, Selection, Focus and Differentiation are critical components to any successful strategy.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is a strategy based on customer focus, on customer knowledge, and on delighting the customer. CRM is real-time, actionable, customer knowledge management. The best CRM approaches are holistic, involving all facets of your business and demonstrating accountability for results. CRM becomes a guiding philosophy and framework for doing business and includes:

• differentiating and optimizing the customer experience
• building customer knowledge to provide value to both the customer and your business
• taking a portfolio management approach to customers –investing in direct proportion to the expected return from each customer, while realizing that not every customer is worth keeping!
• delivering “value “ as defined by the customer - at each point in the customer’s lifecycle and with all of your customer contacts

The single most important set of decisions any business-to-business enterprise can make are those involving selection - of the products and services you will provide, of the customers for whom you will provide them, and of the channels through which you will market them, of the strategy to differentiate your offerings from your competitors.

Sadly, “something like 90% of companies fail to execute strategies effectively.” Often, the failure to realize a strategy success results from taking your eye off the ball. (In other words, something came up and we paid more attention to that blip than to the strategy). Successful strategy execution will/should allow your business to create a sustainable competitive advantage, to optimize its market-coverage models, to optimize its customer portfolio, to anticipate the shifting nature of value, and to realize loyal customers.

One primary constraint to successful execution of your strategy is that virtually every organization has limited resources: time, people, and resources. Choice, focus, and selection are critical. With today’s business intelligence tools, your firm can easily achieve Optimization of the marketplace coverage models - sales, customer service, marketing and channels. The models and tools of the eCRM practitioner provide almost a dot-to-dot like template with which to assure coverage optimization and hence optimal use of the firm’s limited resources.

A second realization we must still embrace is that no company can be all things to all people. Your customers represent a portfolio of assets that must be proactively managed in order to maximize shareholder and stakeholder value. As strategists we believe that our best customer investment and market strategy would be to invest our limited resources in direct proportion to the expected return on investment

Again, choice, selection, focus, and purpose must serve as constant monitors. While CRM “implementations” still fail – at disappointing level - to achieve what executives expect, It’s no longer a secret, the evidence is compelling and is well documented, both at the academic level and in practice. A strategy of Enterprise-wide Customer Relationship Management – when successfully implemented , whether in the clouds or on-premise- can achieve impressive results.

The most easily measurable results include:

· Increased sales Effectiveness and Efficiency

· Increased Customer/Employee Satisfaction

· Decreased cost-to-serve

In fact, there are 8 benefits. The EIGHT BENEFITS of successful CRM implementations are well documented. With a well-executed strategic CRM program, you can experience and measure:

1. Increased sales
2. Increased profitability
3. Greater product penetration
4. Growth in customer satisfaction and loyalty
5. Increased employee satisfaction
6. Decreased cost-to-serve
7. Increased retention of the existing customer base during times of economic uncertainty.
8. Increased likelihood of new customer acquisition

These maxims are independent of the enabling technology. Successful strategy implementation has more to do with aligning people, processes, and information (yes, data) to the mission/vision/values/ & purpose of the business, to the strategy, than with what software package or cloud-computing platform chosen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Help! how do you talk to your Waldorf 8th grader about "Food, Inc."?

[As I sat and tried to collect a few thoughts before writing this posting, I began to wonder whether there is something of Horace's "The City Mouse and The Country Mouse" underlying the American debate about food and agriculture].

Last week my 8th grade Waldorf educated daughter, Isabella, and her class sat through Food, Inc. As it's viewing did for so many adult audiences, the movie hit a nerve with her and her classmates. And, as I try to sift through her questions and emotional reaction to the questions raised by the book, I am forced to re-examine certain questions and decisions I have made myself.

I had spent the last year researching the emotional fall-out, and rising criticism that has pummeled the GMO movement (Monsanto in particular), the poultry, cattle, and hog industries. I thought I could sit with my 13 year old and learn a lot from that conversation.
Her first 3 remarks were along the lines of "I'm never eating chicken again" and "why does Monsanto fight with farmers" and "what if Monsanto has it wrong"?
I have written about how destructive the rhetoric and "the noise of the special-interest groups", calling for a return to civility, for using "words that work", and for creating metaphors that move us towards civility once again. My personal library has grown to include numerous studies about seeds, the climate, soil use, tillage practices, and the future. Every author has an answer or a gripe, or some combination of both.
Sadly, I do not have "the answer".
Perhaps there is not one, single answer. In fact, how could there be just one answer!?

I have come to realize, however, that the underlying complexity of safe food production and of how American Agriculture feeds, clothes, and supplies the world is not as widely understood as we Americans need. Moreover, i've also come to realize that this subject matter: feeding and clothing the world safely - will only grow in importance as the planet races to embrace 9 Billion people by 2050. We need to talk about food production and future without all the rancor that controlled the health care debate.

To begin to grasp the complexity of the questions surrounding food production, safety, and availability, I encourage everyone to adopt Peter Senge's view of systems (c.f., Fifth Discipline) so as to begin to understand that whatever changes we make in one area necessarily have an impact on another area of the system.

Tonight is Jamie Oliver night at my house: my daughters' choice of programming!
So : what did you tell your teenager after s/he saw Food Inc. ?
Did, in fact, s/he see it? Did it cause a visceral reaction?

Monday, March 1, 2010

CRM: it still is not a package or cloud Solution!

Effective CRM initiatives have yielded a gold-mine of profits, customer information, and competitive advantage. Yet, even a decade and 1/2 after CRM entered our business vocabulary, fewer companies succeed than fail. The artistry, the magic in successful CRM and Customer Experience Management comes from your company's ability to transform the data into relevant and valuable information, and then to again turn that information into actionable knowledge - again relevant, timely, and of value at each point across the customer corridor - a value that changes with each transaction or touch.

Sadly, many CRM & CEM initiatives have failed to achieve the "results" or the ROI that the sponsoring executives were told to expect. More alarming to me, however, is the fact that Customer Relationship and Customer Experience Management initiatives are believed to be technology plays: technology or package or cloud-computing solutions.

The failure to achieve ROI or to have "expectations" met could in fact be a result of failing to realize that CRM is not a package solution!

Loyalty-based, Customer Relationship Management is a strategy based on customer focus, on customer knowledge, and on delighting the customer. CRM is real-time, actionable, customer knowledge management. The best CRM approaches are holistic, involving all facets of your business and demonstrating accountability for results.
CRM becomes a guiding philosophy and framework for doing business.

Successful CRM practitioners anchor the initiative in their strategy, as well as in their mission, vision and values not in the package, or point-, solution they choose.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Market-at-risk Analysis

The Quality movement in the US came to the forefront in the mid-80's. Satisfaction and loyalty became the next banners brought into the battle. Today it appears as though satisfaction and loyalty have slipped to a lower focus of attention. Corporate social responsibility, corporate reputation, and customer experience management are more "top-of-mind" than at any time in my career.
Yes, customer satisfaction is still important. In fact a new "standard" for reporting satisfaction has emerged. Borne from Fred Reichheld's ground-breaking studies while at Harvard, Net Promoter can be a powerful tool and quite a number of firms have chosen Net Promoter as their scoring mechanism.

If you want to find out exactly where to concentrate your efforts to improve and or fix issues ready to your company's product, delivery, and service issues: Market-at-risk analysis is the way to go!
Developed by John Goodman and brought to the marketplace and placed under its scrutiny and spot-light by TARP (quality firm, not asset relief), Market-at-risk analysis allows your firm to stack rank the 10 or so top reasons why customers will not buy from you or why they won't refer or why they will DEFECT as soon as they can.
Stack ranking by economic impact caused to your business : fix it and win big!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Customer Selection: strategy as choice

Selection, Not Tunnel Vision
Social media reinforces what B2B marketers have long known.
Targeted communications to select customers can create an
on-going dialogue, grow into deeper conversation, create bonds between
customer and dealer and company, and affect a conversation to loyalty.

It has been our experience that, by looking at proper customer
selection, effective data-based, loyalty-focused, business-to-business
marketers escape the kind of tunnel vision that results in
traditional mass-media attempts to send one watered-down
message to an entire, undifferentiated universe. Instead, they find
that they are able to invest more budget in highly targeted
communications to the segments most likely to become loyal
These companies have the tools to become more active relationship
managers with both dealers and end-users. They educate their
organizations about the needs of individual segments, continually
enhance the delivery of products and services, develop targeted
offers more likely to draw a response, and better allocate resources
in the design of sales territories.
And, since they’re talking to each customer’s specific concerns, a
dialog is established; relationships are formed; satisfaction, growth
and profits follow; and, with them employee performance and
morale are increased — reinforcing the feedback loop that leads to
a sustainable competitive advantage.

Mapping touch points: How complex is your B2B customer decision process?

Your customer-buying decision: how complex is it?

The CFO of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national recently told me that his #1 objective was to simplify & reduce the complexity of his business. Another Chief Strategy Officer wonders how his customer, colleagues, and competitors can absorb and intelligently make use of the complex technology that now seems to control his marketspace. If our leaders feel some “pain” relative to complexity, does this complexity affect our customers’ experiences? And, how does this product/service/technology complexity affect buying decisions?

How does the complexity differ or change when we move from B2C to the B2B world? And, how does social media alter the decision making and the customer insight?

In the B2C world, Apple seems to have mastered the complexity / simplicity challenge in all that it does: computers, phones, iPods, and iTunes. Think about the last time you visited the iTunes store. Apple’s customer experience management process is the ne plus ultra of complexity made simple, made seamless, and made to create satisfied, loyal advocates of its customers. And, with today’s launch of the iPad, Apple seems to have done it again.

While automation or technology exists to assist with this exercise, we suggest an approach based upon mapping – actually identifying on paper – how, when, and why - a customer (or, prospect, etc.) comes in contact with your company, its products, services, and performance issues. It’s an approach that has been around for a while, and it also is one called out in the recent book Answering the Ultimate Question, (cf., pp. 97 ff.) from the founding partners of Satmetrics.

When was the last time that you mapped the various touch-points, and life-cycle progressions, that your company has with its customers? There are two famous articles that readily come to mind. “Staple yourself to an order” was perhaps the first to treat the subject. Fred Reichheld’s “customer corridor” (in The Loyalty Effect, pgs. 201-203) may have been the next significant, and the more famous, exposition. My sense is that “practitioners” have gotten better over the last 20 years in understanding their customers’ buying behaviors. But in today’s world of social media’s strong incursion seamlessly coupled with multiple buying and communications channels, companies must master mapping their customer experiences if they are to provide outstanding customer experience and relationship management solutions.

We’d love to hear back from those of you who have starting their customer mapping work. Once the mapping is done, however, there will be work to do! Cooperation and coordination across all functional areas will become even more vital for the company that wants to demonstrate that it truly is customer-focused and customer-based.