Three Little Questions

I had the pleasure of speaking at two excellent conferences last week.  The first was the Merlin Lecture to a hundred or so alumni of The Marketing Academy at the Fallon agency’s great offices just off Oxford Street.  The second was to members of the London region of the CIM alongside Anthony Thomson, Chairman of Metro Bank. (well worth listening to Anthony speak about the Metro Bank story if you get the chance – inspirational and exciting stuff).

The theme of both presentations was the critical role of marketing in delivering powerful customer experiences.  To cut a long story short, I suggested that all CMOs and CEOs should ask 3 questions about their customer experience…they’re the questions we encourage all our clients to ask.     

1.       “What do we know about our customers that our competitors don’t know?”

 I was once asked this when I was CMO of Hilton International and it stopped me in my tracks as I stared at the latest pile of research reports and performance stats.  The premise being that the same old research is likely to generate products & services that are very similar to those being churned out by everyone else.  Of course, expecting the skies to open and a deep voice to tell us the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is bit unrealistic.  But revisiting an often repetitive cycle of research to ask “what we could do differently?”, “how could we dig deeper?”, “are we asking the right questions of the right people in the right way?”, and crucially, “how could we use this information better”?, can produce some real breakthroughs.

 2.       “What experience are we delivering that’s different and better than the competition?” 

 We tend to get so embroiled in fighting our day to day battles that we forget to stand back and see ourselves as our customers see us.  Let’s be honest…if we can’t articulate what would persuade a potential customer to walk, drive or click past the rest to get to us, then they probably don’t know either.   We’re in the business of influencing choice.  Surely that means we have to offer something that’s Different, in a way that’s Relevant and therefore Preferred over the competition?  Getting  answers to this question usually means mapping or modelling the customer experience, figuring out which touch points are the real deal breakers & hero makers and understanding just how well we perform in these areas.  Oh yes, and then doing something about it.  Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy!

 3.       “What capabilities does our organisation possess that our competitors do not?”      

 Of course, our newly found insight and blueprint for a ground breaking customer experience doesn’t amount to a ‘hill of beans’ if our organisation can’t deliver it consistently.  Do we have the resources, skills and drive to get the job done?  Is everyone aligned behind a shared vision and do they understand what they actually have to do?  Are all the key players (starting with the board or leadership team) pulling in the same direction?   Is training activity focussed on developing the skills needed to deliver the required experience and have the commercial departments figured out how to make money from all this effort?   

 These are crucial questions that in my experience can often produce rather uncomfortable silences and much sipping of tea. ABCG specialises in helping clients find the answers. If you’d like to find out how, give me a call for a coffee and I’ll take you through our 360° Brand Health Check .

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