VisionEdge Marketing Improving and Proving Your Marketing Mon, 22 Jun 2020 22:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What's Your Edge is a series of VisionEdge Marketing podcasts dedicated to helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you. Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President clean Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President (Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President) ©VisionEdge Marketing Helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers. VisionEdge Marketing's_Your_Edge_Podcast.png TV-G Austin, Texas 72123593 The Sweet Spot is at the Intersection of Pain and Passion Tue, 16 Jun 2020 13:45:35 +0000 Passion and Pain Points. Which should you exploit to effectively position your business? The sweet spot is to match positioning at the intersection of pain and passion points.

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Position Intersection

Finding the intersection of Passion and Pain could expand your organization’s marketing potential. It has long been held that a company’s or product’s success depends on the ability to identify and position it against a customer pain point – a specific problem current and prospective customers experience. There are various ways to unearth these pain points, like conducting customer research, to help select which are most relevant and compelling for each segment we intend to pursue. Research helps us discover pain points that are financial, such as the need for reducing costs or lowering total cost of ownership. Or, these pain points have to do with productivity (desire to produce more, faster or cheaper) or process (improving operational efficiencies or customer service quality).

Larry Samuel, founder of AmeriCulture and author of Passion Points: Turning Consumer Passion into Marketing Opportunity, suggests that passion points are as important as pain points when it comes to positioning.  A passion point speaks to what excites customers and includes causes they care about personally and activities and experiences they prioritize in their everyday life. We have seen a surge in positioning around social responsibility, sustainability, and other causes.  CMOs like Raja Rajamannar of MasterCard frequently speak on positioning against passion points. They create consumer engagement, develop competitive advantage, and build the brand.

Should you focus on pain points or passion points? There are experts on both sides of the discussion and good arguments for one over the other. We tend to agree with Tim Ellis, CMO of the NFL, that the sweet spot is to match positioning at the intersection of pain and passion points.

How to Identify a Pain or Passion Point 

If this concept resonates with you, your next step is to identify both your customers’ pain and passion points.  Revealing these often takes qualitative and quantitative research.  Because pain and passion points are highly subjective, we recommend beginning with methods such as in-depth interviews or focus groups.

Most companies are familiar with designing research to reveal pain points. The objective is to understand the problem, how big it is, and how important it is to resolve it. Ask questions designed to surface pain points, such as:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What eats up your lunch time?
  • What is the biggest obstacle hindering your success?

And follow up with questions like

  • How does this problem impact your company’s success?
  • What would be the value to your company of solving this problem?
  • What steps have you taken or would you be willing to take to resolve this, and what keeps you from taking these steps?

Apply the same approach to tease out passion points.  The objective for questions is to understand what energizes and drives the company.  Some potential questions might include:

  • What charities or extracurricular programs does your company financially support and why do you allocate company dollars to these?
  • If your company could be remembered for three things, what would you want them to be?
  • If you were to encourage your employees to volunteer their time, which organizations would you want them to consider?
  • What is one sentence that you would write to define your company?

The Overlap is the Foundation for Your Positioning Statement 

Once you complete the research, analyze the data and look for patterns that identify synergies between the pain and passion points. Notice patterns that align and connect problems with aspirations, then answer the question of how your company or product addresses these. The intersection between the pain points, the passion points, and your solution is the sweet spot for your positioning statement.

With this information you can craft several insightful statements. Be sure to test these with customers.  Customer advisory boards can provide a good vehicle for testing and refining positioning statements. Once you have your positioning formulated, you can build out a message map.  Keep in mind that you want messaging that encompasses both the pain and passion points.  As you build out your personas you can select which of these to amplify.

In today’s customer-centric environment, success in positioning requires focus on the overlap between the customer’s problem and their aspirations.  Research that investigates both is an invaluable tool that will provide directional guidance.  If your firm does not possess the knowledge or resources to conduct a proper research study, outsource the project to a company like us that specializes in primary market research.


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Are You Setting Yourself Up to Be a Commodity? | What’s Your Edge? Tue, 09 Jun 2020 13:45:03 +0000 How to use service as a differentiator to create a competitive advantage, improve customer retention and avoid becoming a commodity.

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In this episode of What’s Your Edge, we’re going to explore whether your customer service is helping you avoid becoming a commodity.

When I was a young girl, no matter what part of town we were in, my mom always went to the same service station for gas.  In those days, service stations had service attendants who put gas in your tank, checked your oil and tires, made sure you had antifreeze in the winter and solution for your windshield wipers.  I asked her once why we always went to this specific gas station.  Her answer was simple. She said, “I trust them to make sure the car is in good working order. They make sure we’re safe.”  Once service attendants were no longer employed my mom no longer seemed choosy about where we stopped for gas.  There were stations on nearly every corner and she picked the one with the cheapest price and easiest to pull into.  Whether planned or not, by removing the service attendants from the gas station the company had cut the connection to the customer. As a result, they began the quick slide to becoming a commodity.

Not long ago I had the privilege of serving on a panel for an ISBM townhall meeting on this very topic of retaining customer connections. During this townhall, we were all figuring out how to connect remotely whether for work or learning.  As part of the discussion, several people mentioned how they were automating various experiences, such as factory tours. As I listened to how people were automating their customer processes, the gas station story popped into my head. I wondered how many of these companies were setting themselves up to eventually becoming a commodity.

Stay Close to Your Customers

Whether good times or bad, we should all heed Alexa Von Tobel’s advice about staying close to our customers.  As more and more organizations try to keep up with the latest tech trend and increase their focus on digital channels, human to human contact is on the verge of extinction. In fact, according to a report by PwC, a staggering 59% of consumers feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience.  A significant part of customer experience is about increasing human contact between your brand, your company, and your customers.

Studies suggest that no matter what the channel, people want to know there is a real person on the other end. Someone who can assist them properly. That same PwC report found that people want more human contact in the future, not less.  75% of all consumers want technology to be used primarily as a method of facilitating human communication.  In a survey about improving business processes, the improvement customers requested the most was better human service. This is particularly important when a customer has a complaint or query that needs to be dealt with.

customer service

Joey Coleman, a customer experience expert, claims that customer experience is “the last great differentiator.” Why? Because price and product can be imitated. Unlike price and product which can be copied, every company can individually design its customer experience.  Ron Kaufman another customer service expert, believes that service is the “DNA” that permeates everything a company does and ultimately determines whether your organization becomes a provider of choice.  This means that customer experience and customer service are no longer merely support functions.  Service especially has become a feature in its own right.

How to Make Customer Service Your Differentiator

We agree.  If you want to create a competitive advantage and improve customer retention, then increase your focus on customer service. Leveraging customer service as a differentiator will require you to truly know your customers. Thinking back to my mom’s gas station, they knew her name and our names, they knew when they last checked all the car’s vitals and when it was last serviced.  Remember, every customer interaction matters and serves as a moment of truth. These attendants used every interaction to demonstrate their expertise, build credibility and value.  And they always went the extra mile. How well do you create value for your customers?  Are you like the service station attendant and proactive in taking care of the customer and anticipating their needs?

The attendants clearly had a process for how they serviced the vehicle.  Make sure you have well-defined customer service, support and success processes.  Take the time to follow up after you resolving a service issue.

In the end, the key is to engage with your customers how they prefer and not what’s easiest for you.

Take care before your company moves to automate more services as a method of replacing human contact. In nearly every study this has actually shown to have a negative impact on customer experience. Do so at the risk of putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.  Avoid becoming a commodity. Use your technology to improve your productivity and the experience your customers have not to replace human interaction. Not sure whether your human interactions are measuring up?  Let’s explore how you can find out.

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How to Know When It’s Time to Make a Strategic Pivot Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:45:57 +0000 Use these five questions to determine whether pivots you made should be integrated permanently into your business strategy.

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Business Pivot

Triggering and unplanned events, like the healthcare crisis, occur. In some instances, we can mobilize and marshal on. Other times, we may find that moving forward requires a strategic business pivot. What does it mean to pivot? In basketball, a pivot maintains your position while creating a new angle of attack. When applied to business, this term has come to reflect the need to look for new options, move in a different direction, or to make a shift.  Once made, ask whether a strategic pivot should remain a part of your business strategy.

Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup, defines a business pivot as a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.” Pivots do not need to be drastic. Making adjustments to messaging to communicate more clearly or employing different channels can be a pivot. Sometimes a pivot has strategic implications, such as shifting focus to different segments and verticals or completely changing channel partners.

Should Pivots Made During a Crisis be Permanent?

During a crisis, when a pivot is necessary to survive, speed is of the essence. In such circumstances, pivot as quickly as you can to avoid wasting more time, energy, and resources, especially cash. When employing strategic pivots, it is essential to determine if the pivot provides an opportunity to thrive and is aligned with your vision and mission. This requires taking the time to ask at least five questions about the changes you’ve made to address the crisis to determine if they warrant a permanent pivot.

Do any of the changes we made during the crisis….

  1. Help us be more effective?
  2. Help us be more efficient?
  3. Improve our ability to deliver more customer value?
  4. Create a competitive advantage?
  5. Boost productivity?

If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, then it may make sense to make the shift permanent.

A Change in Perspective Can Inspire a Strategic Pivot

The thing about unplanned events is they often alter our perspective. A change in perspective can be an unexpected silver lining. Take a moment to step back and consider how your perspective has changed. What that might mean for your next move? For example, the coronavirus has changed companies’ perspectives about remote work and different ways to engage the customer.

Strategic Pivot

A crisis might force an innovation in terms of how you modify services and products to support customers better. For example, a salon here in Austin contacted customers in isolation during the health crisis. They announced a product package for covering roots. It contained the salon’s personal hair color formula, a bowl, gloves, and an applicator for $30.00. The product was a huge hit because the owner recognized that she could provide something of value outside the normal salon setting. Necessity, being the “mother of invention,” sparked the product idea applicable for customers who have long absences from home. Pivots present growth opportunities. How can you use unforeseen circumstance to make your customer interactions more valuable and create new streams of revenue?

How your customers react to the strategic pivots you make during a crisis provides tremendous insight into whether a shift is warranted and should be permanent. For example, SaaS companies that find their conversions from free trials to paid subscriptions to be lower than projected should investigate whether there is an experience issue. Customers are sending a message worth listening to that suggests a business pivot is in order.

Whether implementing a strategic pivot as a result of a crisis or because you feel your company is in a rut, give it serious consideration before either writing it off or making it permanent. Make sure the pivot presents opportunities to create more customer value and a stronger competitive advantage, as well as aligning with your organization’s goals for the big picture. Need help evaluating your next step? We’re here for you.

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How to Seek Out Customer Complaints to Support Growth Tue, 26 May 2020 13:45:28 +0000 Customer complaints provide valuable data. So, what do you do to surface unvoiced complaints? Here are some strategies to get you started.

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Voice of customer data and research are critical in a competitive environment that emphasizes customer experience and success.  Many organizations conduct satisfaction studies as part of this process. We’ve yet to meet a company that hasn’t had dissatisfied customers and customers who have complained. You’re probably familiar with the phrase by John Lydgate, a 15th century English monk, who said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” There will be unsatisfied customers. It is inevitable. Much has been written on how to handle these situations

Customer complaints provide valuable data.  So, what do you do to surface unvoiced complaints? There are more of these than you may realize. A study by 1st Financial Training Services found that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however, 91% of those will simply leave and never come back. According to Lee Resource, for every customer that complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent. Silent in terms of telling you, but not necessarily silent when it comes to telling others. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience; around 13% tell more than 20 people, which leads to damaged reputations and loss of potential customers and revenue.

There are a variety of reasons customers remain silent. According to a study by the Rockefeller Corporation, 68% of customers will leave a company because they believe that their complaint will fall on deaf ears – you don’t care about them. Others find the process of making a complaint burdensome, if there is even a process.

Perhaps you’re thinking: we ask our customers for feedback all the time. But are those customer studies you’re fielding truly seeking out complaints? If so, perhaps you ask these three common questions.

  1. On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?
  2. How would you rate your last experience with us?
  3. If you could change one thing about our product/service, what would it be?

These may be useful questions, but they do not encourage customers to complain. It is our contention that there is merit in actually encouraging your customers to complain and making it easy for them to do so.

Be Direct to Field Useful Complaints

How you ask for complaints and the questions you use will affect your ability to collect the right data. If you’re just starting this type of effort, we recommend beginning with a direct method.

Direct methods include traditional approaches, such as using third parties to conduct customer interviews and integrating questions into your customer success initiative processes. The key to a direct method is to develop a set of questions that help you acquire constructive information from the complaints. Some potential question topics to consider include:

  • What is/are the thing(s) that frustrate(s) you most when working with us?
  • What is one thing you wish we did better?
  • What is one thing you wish we didn’t do?
  • What is one thing your favorite supplier does that you wish we did?

It is important to set up these processes and pose these questions in a way that encourages people to answer. If this isn’t something you know how to do well, seek outside expertise. As you begin to collect this information, you can refine the questions to support more indirect methods of data collection, such as an anonymous pop-up for customers who are logged into their account.

Give some thought in advance to how you plan to organize and analyze the data and set up your data collection processes accordingly. Establish categories of complaints. Employ root cause analysis techniques for the complaints that are the most common and have the most significant implications on customer experience, satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

How to Accept and Apply Customer Complaint Data

Now that you’ve collected the data, organized it, and completed a root cause analysis, what you do with the information you’ve gathered matters. Determine how to resolve the complaints and address the causes accordingly. This could require changes in processes, policies, product functionality, etc.

Communicate back. If you’ve gone to the effort to ask customers to complain and they’ve gone to the effort to complain, close the loop. Share key findings and which complaints you intend to address, when, and how. Once a complaint has been resolved, share this information as well.

Customer success and experience are vital to long term sustainable growth. Customer-centric companies employ a process for seeking out complaints and see this as an opportunity to challenge the status quo and improve business processes, products, and service quality. Such improvements can help you create competitive advantages and opportunities that reduce churn, eliminate break points, increase share of wallet, improve share of preference, and identify opportunities for growth.

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Unlock the Power and Value of Upstream and Downstream Marketing Tue, 19 May 2020 13:45:24 +0000 Upstream and downstream marketing are both essential in motivating customers to adopt existing products & services.

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Upstream and Downstream Marketing

Companies and marketers have invested heavily in becoming very proficient at downstream marketing – email marketing, SEO, landing pages, events, content and so on. And without a doubt downstream requires solid skills. Imagine however that you’re a good competitive runner – you’ve worked hard on your pace, improving you stride and addressing your form. Come the day of an off-track race, it will all be for naught if you head in the wrong direction or make a wrong turn. This is the power and value of the upstream.

Define Your Strategy

Upstream marketing serves as the strategic process of identifying & fulfilling customer needs. Good competitive racers check out the course in advance to get a sense of the terrain and curves and turns. They may even run it. I know I usually do. These runners invest in creating a competitive advance. Competitive runners also know which races are best suited to them, for example are they better at hill or flatland running. In the business world, we’re always looking for how we can create at competitive advantage based on the value we deliver and the value customers require. This type of thinking and planning fall into the realm of the upstream.

Upstream entails any work around defining your strategy, value proposition and positioning, directing the innovation process for long-term sustainable growth, developing segments, analyzing how customers use a product or service.

All programs you design and execute to bring your strategy to life, whether through tailored personalized account based marketing and/or outbound and inbound lead generation, that include tactics such advertising, promotion, SEO, brand building, event, influencer marketing, content marketing, social marketing are in the downstream. If you don’t get the upstream right, the downstream will be polluted.

Upstream and Downstream Marketing

Create Demand by Focusing on the Upstream

When you are working on creating Demand with a Capital D, you need to focus on the Upstream. When you’re working on creating demand as leadgen and account based marketing you are in the downstream. Of course the upstream and downstream complement one another. You may have some advantages by being familiar with a course before you run it, but to win you still need to be a good runner.

While Upstream defines your company’s value proposition; downstream supports your company’s value proposition. Upstream directs your innovation process to insure long-term sustainable growth. Downstream delivers programs to support the adoption of your products NOW. Data and analytics are needed in both. In the upstream, you need customer insights, competitive intelligence, data to support creating segmentation, personas and customer journey models. In the downstream, you use your data and analysis to address activities, touchpoints and channels.

Upstream and downstream answer different questions because they drive different but complementary decisions.  You will need measures and metrics for both as well. Category ownership, Customer lifetime value, Share of wallet are measures that indicate how well you tackled the upstream. Measures associated with engagement, influence and pipeline inform your downstream success.

Like competitive runners who consistently win, you need to leverage both the upstream and the downstream. High performing organizations invest in excelling at both.  Let’s talk about how you can become more proficient at the upstream and the downstream.

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How to Employ the Power of the Debrief Process Tue, 12 May 2020 13:45:58 +0000 Debriefing serves as an opportunity to evaluate performance, optimize strategies, and revise processes. Derive more from the debrief with these 4 steps.

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You’re probably familiar with the concept of the post-game analysis. A post-game analysis is part of the debrief process that serves as an opportunity to evaluate performance, identify opportunities for improvement, optimize strategies, and revise processes if necessary. The debrief can be used to analyze and improve any effort – the launch of a new product, the implementation of a new customer process, the execution of a major event or following a crisis.

The Heart and Soul of the Debrief Process

Good debriefs start long before the actual debrief meeting. You will derive more from the debrief if you take the following four steps:


  1. Schedule the debrief ahead of time. When preparing for an important event, such as a product launch, execution of a customer or industry event, etc. schedule the debrief for the first business day after the event. There should also be a debrief after you have data to determine the actual results of the event. For an unexpected crisis, make it a point to communicate that there will be a debrief and what specific outcomes will signal its timing. For example, as we move through the recent health emergency, conversations around how to reopen communities and industries serve as a signal to schedule the debrief.
  2. Identify who will lead the debrief. Designate who will lead the debrief in advance and clarify that this person owns the debrief process. For example, the customer success director might be designated to lead the debrief of the annual user event. We recommend you have a documented process map for the debrief. Some key elements of the process the lead can facilitate are creating the agenda and meeting objectives, managing the meeting logistics and participants, facilitating the meeting, and the post-meeting action plan and follow-up.
  3. Conduct the debrief. Create structure by focusing on the purpose of the initiative, the expected results, and the actual results. Debriefs should at a minimum identify and analyze:
    1. lessons learned, what went well, and what were the break points
    2. specific processes that worked and which ones need improvement. To illustrate this idea, we can again look to the corona virus and the protocols many organizations put in place “on the fly” to support remote communication and collaboration. Some organizations didn’t have processes to guide their actions or the existing ones fell short. For example, financial institutions have processes in place to support customer communication, but many of these organizations struggled with communicating about the payroll protection program (PPP) and working with commercial customers at the local level. The were process gaps between the corporate entities, the branch personnel on the ground, and the customers.
    3. new actions that were employed and decisions about whether these should become a permanent part of the process going forward. Some organizations leveraged agile processes such as sprints to support work. Many may decide to keep this process going forward.
    4. what new tools, systems, skills, expertise, and experience are needed to improve performance
    5. which “players” rose to the challenge and which ones need to make improvements
    6. performance results against the expected results. This suggests that there was a performance target at the outset, such as a number of conversations that will emerge as a result of producing or participating in a major event, or the number of people who will trial a new product within some period of time upon its release.
    7. what actions you will take to as a result of the debrief, and who owns the action and the timing for implementation. Determine whether upcoming efforts need to be adjusted based on your findings.
  4. Document the post-game analysis and action plan. Upon completion of the debrief meeting, the debrief lead should summarize the analysis and action plan in writing. The debrief lead should follow up with anyone who owns a post-event action step to ensure all action steps are completed. We recommend that you create a template for the debrief summary and action plan.

How to Look Back to Move Forward

In the world of sports, games are recorded. These recordings are a vital part of the post-game analysis because they provide valuable data. In the business world, we don’t typically have a recording as a reference, therefore, we need to bring other data to the debrief to support the review. Before going to the debrief, identify the data you will need to support the post-game analysis, such as the expected versus actual results, timing, and revenue.

Processes matter. Post-game analysis provides you with an opportunity to define, document, and refine your processes to stay competitive and optimize performance. Marc Hafner, CEO of Revionics nicely sums up the value of the debrief: “business organizations are successful because they’re willing to accept that they’re not perfect, go back and review what happened, make changes as necessary, and move on.“

Are you taking the opportunity to debrief after significant milestones in your organization’s operation? Do you need help deriving the relevant data from your post-game analysis? Let us help you look back to move forward.

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The Value of Investing in Customer Value Management Tue, 05 May 2020 13:45:00 +0000 Customer value management expands on customer relationship. Here’s how to create a customer value metric and reap the value of CVM.

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My very first business job was in the financial services industry. My title was customer relationship manager. This was long before the emergence of customer relationship management (CRM) tools.  My boss at the time was four decades ahead of the mainstream thinking articulated by Phil Kotler in his 2017 article, Customer Value Management, a company’s job is to create superior customer value in the mind of the customer.”  Looking back, I’d say a more accurate title would have been customer value manager because my job was less about the customer experience and increasing customer satisfaction and more about employing data to identify customers from whom we could create and extract more value. This is the focus of customer value management.

Peter C. Verhoef and Katherine N. Lemon, defines customer value management (CVM), as the optimization of the value of a company’s customer base. CVM expands on customer relationship management. CRM focuses on how a company manages the interaction with current and potential customers with an emphasis on developing long-term customer retention. Relationship management emphasizes satisfaction and uses measures such as NPS or Gallup’s customer engagement metric. CVM focuses on aspects of the relationship such as commitment and trust and seeks to use and analyze customer data explicitly to increase customer value. Gautam Mahajan, president of the Customer Value Foundation reinforces this idea when he says, “CVM focuses on creating value for customers.”

Move from relationship management to customer value management

Embrace and investi in customer value management

Many companies are embracing and investing in customer value management.  To achieve CVM, you must know what customers value, which can vary greatly among customer segments. You must discern what customers perceive as important, why they buy, why they prefer one company or product over another, and what benefits they believe the product or service delivers. An example of trying to surmise customer values can be illustrated in the traditional car purchase. If you’ve ever been in a conversation with a car salesperson, you may have heard this common question: “Which is more important to you, how much you pay a month or the loan rate?” Different customer segments value different benefits – such as return policies, warranties, service level, and as this example shows, financing options.

How to Create a Metric to Determine Customer Value

Customer value reflects the economic value of the customer relationship to your organization. To create and extract customer value you need to know what is truly important to the customer in the buying process, the relative importance of price and benefits, and the associated attributes in relation to the value you provide and the value you derive.

Customer value management relies heavily on data and analytics to build long-term relationships and expand share of wallet without increasing the cost of acquisition and cost to serve. You will need data related to value attributes, tenure, share of wallet, recency and frequency of purchase, cost to acquire, and cost to serve. Fortunately, advances in data management and analytics are making it possible for organizations of all sizes to cost-effectively acquire this data and employ it to measure customer value. To support this work, we’d recommend you classify your customer data into four different categories:

  1. Customer firmographic data (name, company, title, contact info, location info, industry, initial date of acquisition, etc.)
  2. Customer transaction data (recent purchases, frequency of purchases, products purchased, quantities, pricing info, etc.)
  3. Customer interaction/engagement data (behavioral data such as touches, channels, service tickets, content consumption info, etc.)
  4. Customer financial data (cost to acquire, lifetime value, profitability data, rate of consumption, etc.)

As you gain insight into what customers value, you can use this data to determine which customers are of the most value to your organization. Use the data to evaluate customers in terms of:

This type of analysis enables you to identify and decide which customers to invest in and how to allocate your budget across customer segments. You can also use this analysis to identify what services and capabilities your most profitable customers leverage. It will also help you reap the value of your investment in CVM. Armed with the data and analysis you can create a customer value metric. To create a customer value metric, check out this companion post on a measure that provide insight into customer value.  If you’re just getting started, a book I often recommend on the topic is Bradley Gales’ Managing Customer Value.

Customer Value Management as a Competitive Advantage

Every business must create value for customers to survive and thrive. When you see creating customer value strategically, you can develop the infrastructure, culture, strategies, and programs that optimize every opportunity to positively impact how customers perceive the value offered.

We can turn to three points emphasized by Art Weinstein in his book, Superior Customer Value: Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers, to ensure a company builds a competitive advantage in a climate where value reigns supreme:

  1. Design strategies that provide superior customer value.
  2. Focus on excellence. Customers will not pay more than a product is worth.
  3. Build a customer-centric culture throughout your organization and mandate providing outstanding customer value.
Use Customer Value Management to create a competitive advantage

The ability to determine and extract customer value is a competitive advantage.

Today’s customers are smart and have access to more information and choices than ever before. In such a market, your company must create maximum value and solve relevant problems. The ability to determine and extract customer value is a competitive advantage that reflects the degree to which your customers perceive your organization as more valuable than the alternatives. CVM helps you determine whether your brand is important to customers and what about it they value most. While customer value management requires a bit more effort than customer relationship management, it provides excellent guidance as to who and what to invest in.

Customer value is not something you can create in one day. To sustain it, you need to combine service quality, product quality, and innovation into a strategy. Let’s chat today about how we can help.

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How to Move from a LeadGen Machine to Organic Growth Machine Tue, 21 Apr 2020 13:45:53 +0000 Organic growth should be a priority for every organization. Start with these 5 steps to create a Marketing organization that delivers on organic growth.

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You’ve probably read an article or two about these topics: turn your blog into a lead generation machine, turn your website into a lead generation machine, turn your content into a lead generation machine.  When you’re focused on sales NOW, it’s important to develop a sustainable lead generation (leadgen) machine so your company never suffers from a lack of sales activity.  But operating as a leadgen machine at the expense of, or as an alternative to, operating as an organic growth machine is a fatal mistake in the long-term.

Move from leadgen to growth

The focus of a leadgen machine is leads. The focus of a growth machine is growth.

Like many of you I’ve a few years under my belt around leadgen where my job was to produce a high quantity of quality leads that keep the sales pipeline full and moving.  For me, this work typically entailed identifying, connecting, and engaging with ideal customers who will benefit from your solutions and are cost-effective to acquire and serve.  Success depends on how well we understand the customer buying journey and buyer personas and then leveraging appropriate messaging, content, and channels. A critical step is to develop a lead scoring methodology in partnership with the Sales team so that sales-worthy and sales-ready opportunities are properly nurtured and forwarded. With testing and campaign performance data, we improve the process and hone the machine with an unabated focus on increasing the conversion rate along the stages of the buying journey, the win rate, and decreasing the sales cycle. Hence the increased investment in Martech tools designed to support the machine.

Leadgen is a relentless machine. And it is all about this month’s, this quarter’s, or, if you have a long sales cycle, this year’s deals. While growing your business takes a solid leadgen process and machine, to truly achieve organic growth you need a growth machine. What’s the difference?

One word. Focus. The focus of a leadgen machine is leads.  The focus of a growth machine is growth. When Marketing is a leadgen machine, every decision is about how to create more opportunities in the pipeline.  When Marketing is a growth machine, every decision, strategy, program, and tactic is about where to find and create long-term, sustainable, profitable growth.  While many of the same tools and channels, such as content, influencers, and events, are used in both, they are applied through a different lens in each.

How to Make Organic Growth a Priority

Organic growth is a valuable Key Performance Indicator (KPI). It reflects the rate a company expands through its own business activity. It requires companies to create competitive advantages, differentiate and innovate their product/service offerings, and home in on viable existing and new customer opportunities. In an environment where mergers and acquisitions have been prevalent, it is still vital to create organic growth in the company you buy or merge with.  McKinsey has explored the value of acquisitions and mergers and found that quite often companies do not realize enough value for the premium they paid.

Become an organic growth machine

Organic growth is a valuable Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

Quick and easy incremental opportunities, such as finding new customer groups, adding sales channels, and growing product line extensions are important initiatives, but this can lead to confusing the market and customers if there isn’t an overall growth strategy that crosses product and service lines and encompasses the entire business. Therefore, it’s understandable that every CEO we meet with says organic growth is a priority. (Check out the Ready, Set, Grow! CEO recordings for the CEO perspective on achieving organic growth.)

At VEM, we believe strongly in making organic growth a priority. Start with these five steps:

  • Define and build a culture that will help fuel growth. Companies with a culture oriented toward solving customer problems are more likely to succeed. Growth cultures are data- and performance-oriented because they are typically focused on results.
  • Identify the highest-potential opportunities. This requires looking for growth in the right places, which takes data. Use your resources to gather the data, and then create an appropriate strategy.
  • Set growth performance targets. For your growth machine to be successful, you need to be clear about what growth means and how you want to pursue it. Monitor progress against the strategy and targets and adjust accordingly.
  • Establish a growth fund. Growth takes investment. If organic growth is truly important, set aside the budget line item to make it happen.
  • Implement growth-oriented processes. These processes should enable you to grow revenue quickly and define how you will go to market, how you will engage and attend to customers, and how you will produce and deliver solutions that solve customer problems.
5 Steps to becoming a growth machine

Start with these 5 steps to move from primarily a lead machine to a growth machine.

While there is no single secret to facilitating growth in your field, to achieve it you need to have validated that there is a market problem that your product/service solves in a compelling and meaningful way. Growth is a mindset and takes deliberate action. It also requires that you are willing to take risks. To grow you will have to experiment and venture outside your comfort zone. Such unfamiliar territory might include testing new channels and routes to market. Be adamant and passionate about data, which helps you to know what to do and how to change. Use what you’ve learned, both what’s worked and what hasn’t, to accelerate your efforts.

Looking for more idea for how to transform your organization into a growth machine? Read our new book Fast-Track Your Business: A Customer-Centric Approach to Accelerate Market Growth.


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Improve Your Ability to Anticipate the Pitch- What’s Your Edge? Tue, 14 Apr 2020 17:00:31 +0000 To effectively use scenarios and incorporate them into your planning, you need to create a range of scenarios that cover the full range of possibilities.

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Welcome to What’s Your Edge – a series of VisionEdge Marketing podcasts dedicated to helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers.

If you’re familiar with baseball you know that there are various options the pitcher employs to confuse and defeat a hitter. Since I hail from a baseball town, I had the opportunity to learn about the twelve most common pitches at a young age. Sitting in the bleachers we’d keep an eye out for Fastballs such as Four-seam, Two-seam, Cutter, Splitter, and Forkball. And breaking balls such as Curveball, Slider, Slurve, and Screwball.

Each of these pitches has a slightly different velocity, trajectory, movement, hand position, wrist position and/or arm angle. Good pitchers “change-up” frequently to keep batters off their game. Hitters realize they need to be ready for any of these pitches or scenarios and become adept at reading and calling the pitch. In addition, good hitters prepare and practice for each possible pitch.

The fluid and dynamic nature of the market, customers, and competitors means business leaders and Marketing professionals need to be at the ready for any possible number of scenarios or pitches. This is the domain of scenario analysis and planning. Organizations use scenario analysis and planning to prepare for and manage market shifts, competitor moves, and changes in customer behavior.

Improve Your Ability: Simulate, Practice, and Plan

The Webster Dictionary defines a scenario as “an imagined sequence used to account for a possible course of action or events.” Scenario analysis is your ability to simulate and analyze potential scenarios for any given situation or event. That’s why batters head to the batting cage where they can simulate, practice and plan for the various pitches. Business leaders and Marketing professionals need to head to the whiteboard. Hitters come with bats. Business leaders and Marketing professionals come with data.

Just like a hitter, while might not be possible to anticipate and prepare for every scenario, in business, you will want to identify the ones that are most likely to occur and have a plan of action in place should the scenario come into play. This way, you can use scenarios to support real-time marketing.

The use of scenarios in the planning process is not new. It has been employed by companies since the 1970s. Why use them in your planning? Because scenarios help you understand the magnitude of a trend and the uncertainty of your environment. They provide a vehicle for developing a set of strategies that optimize your chances of success under all possible outcomes. When you incorporate scenarios into your planning you can explore the joint impact of various uncertainties, which stand side by side as equals. They allow you to change several variables simultaneously. They enable you to identify patterns and clusters among numerous possible outcomes.

Scenarios are applicable once you understand the problem you are trying to solve or the outcome you are trying to produce. You build the scenarios AFTER you identify the trends, forces, and uncertainties and BEFORE you develop your strategies.

Ready to Create Your Scenarios? Follow These 6 General Principles

To effectively use scenarios and incorporate them into your planning, you need to create a range of scenarios that cover the full range of possibilities. There is both an art and a science to creating scenarios.

Follow these general principles when creating your scenarios and selecting the ones you need to anticipate.

  1. Look for events that are certain or nearly certain to happen. Like pitches, while you cannot control what pitch the pitcher will choose, there are primarily a select number of common pitches. The same holds for the competitive arena of business. A competitor bringing a new product to market, a new competitor entering a market, market consolidations that might affect your customer based, new technologies that might woo your customers to switch, a shift in the political or economic environment,  a change in legislation, a supplier who cannot deliver, a partner whose defects are examples of common scenarios.
  2. Create scenarios that cover a broad range of outcomes. Define your scope and time frame for your scenarios. Ask what information would be of greatest value to the organization at what time-period down the road. It might help to look at the past and think about what you wish you had known then, that you know now. Clarify the key issues. Then identify the industry, political, economic, societal, technological, and legal trends that might affect these issues.
  3. Now you are ready to identify the key uncertainties, that is the what events, whose outcomes are uncertain, will significantly affect the issues you are concerned with and the relationships among these uncertainties. Keep the trends in mind. We recommend that you identify at least 3-5 critical uncertainties.
  4. You want to identify themes that are strategically relevant and then organize the possible outcomes and trends around them. If necessary, conduct research to flesh out the details and increase your understanding of the remaining scenarios. Develop at least four scenarios that address these uncertainties. Why four, so people don’t lean to the middle one.
  5. Organize all the possible scenarios from a high versus low probability and your degree of preparedness. Evaluate each scenario in terms of its likelihood within the time frame. A note of caution. Avoid selecting one or two scenarios immediately and discarding extreme scenarios as a waste because you don’t believe they can happen. Ignoring outer scenarios leaves you exposed to risk and implementing only moderate improvements. Sometimes the most interesting and insightful scenarios are the ones that at first seem the most unlikely. One useful method is to create a weighting scale to evaluate the probability and risk of each scenario. Use the scenarios with the highest probability weighting as your primary cases.
  6. Pick the scenario(s) you believe requires you to be better prepared and create a plan based on each scenario. Pitchers tend to throw more sliders and curves and make fewer change-ups when they have the platoon advantage (pitcher and hitter of the same hand). In any case, pitchers throw most fastballs (59% of pitches thrown) no matter what side of the plate the batter is standing on. Choose and plan for the most likely scenarios based on your analysis. Include clear contingencies if another scenario—or one that hasn’t been imagined—begins to emerge instead. Ensure that each scenario tells a story of how various elements might interact under which specific conditions. The scenarios you choose should help you develop a strategy portfolio, challenge your assumptions, stimulate internal discussion, and help you detect early warning signals.

Prepare for the Unexpected With Scenario Analysis

Creating scenarios helps you consider a range of possible outcomes and drivers of change. Like any good hitter, you want to be able to anticipate the next pitch. Scenarios analysis is a powerful tool for understanding potential situations and developing appropriate strategies. Agility requires that you have a strategy portfolio. Scenarios provide a means to have different strategies at the ready based on a set of possible realistic events. Scenarios protect against and enable you to challenge the status quo.  Scenario planning helps you anticipate, predict and adjust. Bring your data and head to the whiteboard to craft scenarios that will help you prepare for the unexpected. In this way, when you get up to bat, you’ll be far more ready for whatever pitch comes across the plate.

We hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? Helpful. What’s Your Edge? is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process, and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you.

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Revealing the Why Behind Poor Customer Experience Tue, 07 Apr 2020 13:45:45 +0000 What do you do when a customer experience issue persists and surfaces among a variety of customers? Use this process to find and stamp out the root cause.

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David Angelow, a colleague here in Austin, says “differentiating by experience is one of the most successful ways to create an advantage and put distance between your brand and that of your competitors.” A study by Forrester found that companies committed to customer experience (CX) have higher brand awareness, higher average order value, higher customer retention, higher return on spending, and higher customer satisfaction rates. So, when customer experience goes awry it can be extremely detrimental. In fact, Vision Critical estimates the overall impact of bad customer experiences in the United States alone is more than $537 billion per year.

Reveal the Root Cause

You need a process to find and stamp out the root of recurring customer experience problem.

It’s common for an organization to address customer experience failures as they occur. But what do you do when the issue persists and surfaces among a variety of customers? How do you escape the vicious cycle? You need a process to find and stamp out the root of the problem.

Pinpoint the Problems with Your Processes

A process known as 3X5Why that we used in my years at Motorola to address quality failures can also be applied to “breaks” in other areas, such as Marketing and Customer Service. The 3X5Why method is used to address non-conformance issues. To paraphrase supply chain expert John Casey, this is a method to identify causes and help you see issues that broadly affect the overall process. The benefit of this approach is that it changes your focus from reacting to individual issues, to fixing the processes that cause the break or failures.

The goal is to understand and tease out the root cause for three primary dimensions:

  • How did the problem occur? (“specific process break”)
  • How did the problem escape detection? (“detection failure”)
  • What occurred in the system that enabled the specific process break? (“system malfunction”)

For each of these three dimensions, sometimes referred to as “legs,” you employ a technique that repeats the question “Why?” As you ask “Why?” each time, you are creating a chain designed to lead you to the core reason for the problem.

For this approach to work, you need to keep the logic straight. One way to make sure the logic holds is to insert the word “therefore” into the chain. Starting with the last “Why?”– your fifth one – add the word “therefore” between each step (see the figure below). If the logic chain holds in reverse, then it is probably solid.

Ultimately your chain would look something like this:

Reveal Customer Experience Problems

Work the 3X5 Why Process in Both Directions to Identify the Root Cause of Persistent Customer Experience Issues

Make Customer Experiences Better With 3X5Why 

One concern we hear frequently is that there is “low conversion” from demo to purchase. Let’s use this simple example to illustrate how you might apply this process to address a customer experience issue.

The first “Why?” focuses on the specific process break. You might frame this question as: “Why are the conversions from demo to purchase so low?” Perhaps the reason is that the demo is too generic.

The natural next “Why?” might be: “Why don’t generic demos work?” This leads us to the answer: “The customer wants to be able to use their own data to demo the product.”

Next up: “Why do customers need their own data for the demo?” Continue in this fashion, answering each “Why” until you have teased out the root cause, and then make sure the logic chain works in reverse.

Then, you can tackle the remaining two legs and see what issues bubble to the surface. Such as:

  • Because demos are pre-canned, customers struggle to apply the demo to their specific situation.
  • This problem escaped detection because the belief was that pre-made demos are acceptable, but this doesn’t accurately reflect the customer buying process.
  • The push to have customers demo the product – the primary measure for opportunity qualification – allowed the problem to persist.
Root Cause of Poor Customer Experience

Stamp out the root cause of recurring customer experience issues.

Once you map this out, you can address each issue and make the necessary changes. Breakpoints such as this one can occur anywhere along the customer journey – at the early stages of contact and consideration and in the later stages such as renewal and adopting the next iteration of the product or a new service.

It may be necessary to patch a break quickly to address a specific customer issue, such as changing out a product at no cost or providing free technical support. However, if a break continues to occur across multiple customers, then it is important to understand the root cause on all three dimensions to keep the problem from persisting.

This process takes some discipline, but positive customer experiences are critical to retain customers, grow the value of customers, and increase your rate of referrals. Don’t have time, the experience or team members to tackle this process, contact us to learn how our proven processes can help you achieve your goals.




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