Posts Tagged ‘products’

7 Key Strategies for designing an Analysis based Company

by Linda Williams on February 16, 2011

In today’s fast changing environment being an analysis based company is critical to survival and profitability. Different industries will have different needs for analysis but there are some key components of an analytical strategy that are foundational to the majority of businesses. Here are the top 7 strategies for designing an Analytical Strategy:

  1. Taking an existing business model and innovating against it: Some of the most successful companies over the last decade have been innovators in their space: Netflix, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Priceline. Each took an existing model and made compelling technological and structural changes. This model can be used by other sectors to take advantage of emerging trends and technologies.
  2. Keeping aware of changes in the technical environment and quickly growing your offerings to take advantage of newly emerging trends: The pace of technological change has been steadily increasing and businesses that miss these trends miss opportunities to thrive. For example, Netflix moved from postal delivery of movies to downloads on laptops and WII based systems and now is moving into offering content on iPhones and iPads. Its competitors are scrambling to catch up as evidenced by Blockbuster’s recent filing for bankruptcy.
  3. Developing an easy interface for customers, customizable to their interests: Customers have come to expect near instant response to changing orders, tracking, and complaints. Using technology is part of this equation but it should also include value- added services such as presenting relevant suggestions on what else they may find valuable either in products or shipping options. This is seen in the use by Amazon and Netflix of making recommendations or suggestions for new orders given past orders.
  4. Focusing on listening to the customer to develop and improve your service; capitalize on complaints customers have with your competitors: One of the key differentiators for companies is their real (or perceived) focus on the customer. People have come to expect superior service and are quick to go to a competitor when they don’t get it. It is critical to develop robust customer service capabilities for handling questions, complaints, and surveying customers on speed of delivery. Social media blogs are now an expected forum for customers to use to exchange ideas and suggestions.
  5. Offering a variety of service plans/products at several price points: This feature was a key to Netflix’s initial strategy which was to get customers to try their new delivery service – who can’t afford $4.99 per month. Then there is a simple upgrade plan with many levels that is flexible to meet anyone’s needs. Again, the pricing plans are very customer focused. This same approach could be used for pricing services for a support service giving various price points each with a higher level of services.
  6. Designing logistics so as to ensure cost effective, fast delivery: Logistics are pivotal to any business providing a product especially as the business expands internationally. Any product business must be able to deliver their goods/services in a timeframe that not only meets their customer’s needs but exceeds them.
  7. Having a data-driven culture that supports your strategy, direction, and profitability: Successful companies rely on using data-driven information to strengthen their product offerings and emerge ahead of the competition. This includes being able to identify top purchasers based on profitability, sales by market segment, or potential. Having a robust marketing analytics program has now become indispensible to providing valuable insight to drive the company’s strategy, direction, and profitability.

In summary, the increasingly competitive environment makes it critical to gain the advantages that an analytically focused strategy can give to your company’s success

Should you satisfy your customers?

by Vijay Peduru on November 24, 2010

Almost every business book talks about satisfying the customer.  Every business guru touts this.  But no one seems to be asking the question – If we satisfy the customer, how will he keep coming back? He may be satisfied at that moment and you are happy that he is ecstatic about your service and it ends there.

Satisfied Customer – A Problem?

Everyone knows that it is easier to have recurring revenue (an existing customer) than generate a new revenue stream (from a new customer). The question though is – How do we handle this if the customer is already satisfied? One might wonder why this is a problem. Think about it – A customer who is satisfied over a long period of time slowly loses the value of what s/he is getting as it starts appearing like anyone can do it – in other words, the bar that you set becomes the standard and hence, the value erodes.

Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction Cycle

Great marketers have known this for a long time. Just like in a good movie, the director cycles through a satisfaction/dissatisfaction cycle working with our emotions – one needs to take the customer through cycles of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the product and/or service. And yes, the honesty of this post makes it edgy!

Humans naturally crave for new and scarce things.  If we look at Apple, they release a new product with some features which  are not so great… like the  camera in iPhone 3G. People are a little dissatisfied with these features and start to talk about these and eagerly await for improved features.  When apple release a newer product, they surpass the expectations like the camera in iPhone 4G.  Lot of iPhone 3G users will naturally buy the new iPhone 4G.

The cycle continues…

Listen to the Customer

Sometimes, when we release new models or new software, the customer is already satisfied with the product and does not want the new product. Lots of sales people work on convincing the customer by telling them the new features. They somehow want to convince the customer to buy the product. Instead, they should sit and listen to the customer and should discover  pain points for the customer. Most of the times the customer does not see it as a pain, but if you can see it and show him how bad it is (make him dissatisfied) and then show him how the new product will alleviate this pain – he is most likely to buy it.  The key is to know… that the customer is sometimes blind to the pain and we have to bring it forth for him. In the case of IPhone 3G, a lot of people are satisfied with the camera, but when they see other people telling how bad it is compared to the iPhone 4G, they realize that what they have is not good enough and want to get the new iPhone 4G!

Flexible Focus #28: The Principle of Innovation

by William Reed on November 18, 2010

When it comes to innovation, for the vast majority hindsight is 20/20. “Why didn’t I think of that?” These are the famous last words of those who wonder why someone else always beats them to it with a new innovative product or solution. The reason is simple. Innovation is an intuitive process, and unless you tap into intuitive thinking, it is most likely to escape you.

Intuitive thinkers are comfortable in the world of ambiguity and possibilities, and tend to be quite good at connecting the dots which others never seem to notice. Intuitive thinkers are constantly discovering and creating new constellations, while non-intuitive thinkers stick with the familiar constellations. This changes of course, when a previously unknown constellation becomes known. After a new product, such as the iPad comes on the scene, it isn’t long before a host of imitators follow in hot pursuit.

You don’t have to look back too many years to see that at any period of history, even among experts what passed for common sense was completely overturned by new insights and innovations. Read a few quotes of the things people said when making Bad Predictions. Particularly in the area of telecommunications, computers, and transportation, where innovative technology has transformed our world, time and again expertise comes with an expiration date.

Innovation is about foresight, not hindsight. How then can we develop the ability to see clearly through the clouds, and use flexible focus to master the Principle of Innovation?

Desire to discover

The motive power of the innovative mind is curiosity, the desire to discover what is beyond the obvious. Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher whose thesis was that change was a central principle of the universe, spoke as a true innovator in saying that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

This applies even when there is no obvious tangible treasure to be gained. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest innovative geniuses of all time, was so fascinated with cloud patterns, moving water, and even the patterns of stains on a wall, that he recorded them in sketches and wrote extensively about the patterns of nature in his notebooks.

Progress in learning a foreign language or musical instrument depends on intense curiosity to explore deeper, without which the process of practice would be tedious and tiresome. When a Japanese calligrapher was asked what motivated him to keep on practicing, seemingly surprised by the question, he responded that it was a continuous process of surprise and discovery. To a curious mind, practice is its own reward.

Inside, outside, and beyond the box

In Japan, the process of innovation actually begins with mastering an established pattern. This is true in all of the traditional arts and crafts, and each school starts by teaching the well-established master patterns. However, at some point students are expected to break from the pattern and explore variations on the master theme. Ultimately, the process of mastery involves freedom to improvise. Known as 守破離 (shū ha ri), the literal translation of the characters is defend-break-leave, as in defend the pattern, break free, leave behind.

This approach to innovation involves thinking inside, outside, and beyond the box. The Mandala Chart is practically designed for this purpose, which is excellent training for flexible focus.

Wealth Dynamics Square

Learning from the Wealth Dynamics Square

The Wealth Dynamics Square shown here was developed by Roger J. Hamilton, to graphically represent how the 8 personality profiles are positioned on the vertical axis of Intuition vs Timing, and the horizontal axis of Extrovert vs Introvert. These are terms originally developed by Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology.

The Wealth Dynamics Square in effect is a Mandala divided into four triangles and eight profile points. As a navigational compass for entrepreneurs it is unsurpassed.

In this diagram the intuitive process of Innovation takes place in the green triangle at the top of the square. This is DYNAMO energy, represented in Chinese philosophy by the element of Wood, with growth in the Spring season. The three profiles across the top of the square are MECHANIC (山 mountain ), CREATOR (天 heaven ), and STAR (雷 lightning ), all of which represent mystery and high places, the dwelling place of innovation.

The Wealth Dynamics profile is not a point, but rather a shape crossing each of the four triangles in a radar graph. The profile of each person contains a percentage of each of the four energies, DYNAMO, BLAZE, TEMPO, and STEEL, and the person’s profile type is determined by the one that has the largest area in the graph. For more information on how to interpret the Wealth Dynamics Square, visit the Find Your Flow page on my website.

Learn from the Masters of Innovation

Though quite different in style, each of the profiles in the DYNAMO energy range has a special talent when it comes to the process of innovation.

CREATOR is the purest form of this energy, and famous Creators include Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo, is an excellent resource available for people in any profile to learn from one of the undisputed masters of innovation. Carmine Gallo has been interviewed extensively about this book, as well as the preceding volume, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Innovators lead, imitators follow. Jobs himself described imitators as being like “Someone who’s not cool trying to be cool. Painful to watch.”

According to Gallo, the Seven Principles of Innovation are:

  1. Do what You Love
  2. Put a Dent in the Universe
  3. Kick-Start Your Brain
  4. Sell Dreams, Not Products
  5. Say No to 1,000 Things
  6. Create Insanely Great Experiences
  7. Master the Message

And he illustrates these not just with the achievements of Steve Jobs, but with other companies which have also mastered the process. Gallo gives us seven principles. Why not eight? Use your imagination to fill in the eighth principle as your own creative motto, whatever phrase triggers the creative process for you. You can download an INNOVATE LIKE STEVE JOBS Mandala to get started, but get the book to keep going.

Take a master for your mentor. Just remember to emulate, not imitate

Should your experiences bringing products to market or providing services be added to the director’s cut of Jurassic Park?  Do critics and competition surround your brainchild like a pack of hungry raptors?  At the same time do you have to fight to maintain your position in the organizational herd?

Business, like nature, can be uncompromising in its response to your product and services. Provide what is needed and you live to see another day and get the opportunity to move your business forward. Take too big of a misstep and your business can be crippled or killed.

Darwin offers guidance in seeking opportunity, surviving, growing and thriving in a hostile environment. We will look at a tip to implement that guidance – feature management. We will also look at three signs indicating the odds of survival are decreasing.

Darwin

Darwin observed species adapting best to an environment without destroying it would have the best chance to survive. This includes dealing with threats as well as capitalizing on opportunities. This adaptation includes changing traits (evolving) as the environment changes along with predators and prey. The term he coined is “natural selection“. Without the forces of natural selection genetic drift sets in and the species risks evolving to a dead-end position. The dodo bird is a good example.

Feature management reflects natural selection with products and product development. On the other hand, genetic drift occurs in the presence of:

  • Customer’s gold plating of requirements;
  • Team’s gold plating of requirements;
  • Feature creep

Natural Selection: Feature Management

Feature management chooses among all the possibilities and selects a set of features which, when turned into a product, will meet a customer’s needs within the prescribed limits of time, and budget.

For long-term relationships product development and/or the definition of services includes the client’s need to survive, grow, and thrive. The best relationships are symbiotic with both you and the client benefiting from the product or service.

Genetic Drift

Genetic drift in product development is movement into a spot outside the boundaries set by the market. The product is essentially isolated and dies.

Customer’s Gold Plating of Products

Gold plating takes specifications beyond what is required. I experienced customer gold plating with the use of robotics in vehicle manufacturing. The client firm’s management style was heavy-handed. Being the person who was the source of a design failure would have major negative repercussions. So, a weld seam that was adequate at 1/8” width grew to 3/8” as it progressed through the client’s internal design approval process. This occurred with almost every aspect of the vehicle and the design mushroomed. The cost and time to produce increased. A competitor was able to grab market share with a vehicle of equal performance but a much lower cost- and time to produce.

Team’s Gold Plating of Products

This is typified by the engineer with a solution looking for a problem. The product is viewed as an opportunity to showcase capability that is above-and-beyond what the competition can do but has no real value in terms of enhanced performance for the customer. Again, the cost- and time to develop can increase to the point that the product or service is no longer competitive for its market niche.

Feature Creep

Apple’s Copland operating system is a good example. It suffered from second-system effect and became bloated. It also suffered from mismanagement in terms of what it would take to propel Apple out of a niche position and back  to that of a major player.

The best way to deal with genetic drift is to review all work in terms of the boundaries set by a clear functional specification, time limits, and money limits. For more on this refer back to the “Project” post in this series.

This concludes the first, seven-part series on change management. If you are as fascinated with this material and care to comment or would like more information on change management contact me at gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.

Sex appeal in Social Media

by Deepika Bajaj on November 19, 2009

Marketers have long used sex appeal to market their products. There’s no denying that visual cues have been used for many successful advertising campaigns.

Take a look at these two videos, first one produced by Apple. You’ve probably already seen it on TV.

Watch for how it has a unique sex appeal — the choice of song and the dance moves and think whether you would be more prone to purchase the product…

For some of you – Your ROCK STAR imagination kicked into overdrive with this commercial, and you were identifying with your wild side…

Here is the second video, which got a lot of attention on Doritos “Create your own ads” contest.

The “Checkout Girl” spot was a great way to showcase all the flavors and even slides in comments on each. It’s nice that they didn’t use a skinny model as the checkout girl. This is a very original and professional looking spot and gets better and better until the crammed-in “obligatory crunch bite.”

For some of you, you wanted to be that guy in the line…

If a picture in traditional advertising was a thousand words, you can imagine the power of video…the sex appeal lies in how close you get to act on your intent to purchase…ARE You READY to BUY?


Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual

by Tanmay Vora on November 18, 2009

Welcome to the eighth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first seven posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality

#QUALITYtweet The best practices are contextual – they

worked well for someone in a given context. Are you

applying them in the right context?

Imagine a doctor prescribing a standard medicine based on common symptoms without carefully analyzing other ailments and patient history. A doctor knows the best medicine to cure a particular ailment, but he would look at a patient’s context and then decide if the “best medicine” is really best for a particular patient.

Process managers play a role of doctors for the organizations. They have to identify all possible problems (symptoms) and then suggest a solution (medicine). Best medicines for different types of ailments are termed as “best practices” in business.

Best practices are a set of processes that, in a given context, have the best likelihood of delivering quality products or services. In equation of context identification, some of the variables are:

  • Your goals as an organization
  • Market segment you operate in
  • Your target customers
  • Nature of your product / services
  • Types of customer you already serve
  • Team capabilities and internal alignment
  • Management commitment and sponsorship to improvement initiatives
  • External market pressures (e.g. recession)

The list can go on. Best practices often tend to ignore these variables because they worked in past for someone in a particular context. Their context may be different, but never a static one. Implementing best practice without considering organization’s context is like prescribing a standard medicine without looking into symptoms. Both can be equally dangerous!

So how are best practices useful? Studying best practices can give you some very useful insights on possible solutions for your business challenge. They offer alternative perspectives on ideas that can minimize your risks.

For process improvement experts, having access to best practices can be their biggest asset. But their ability to apply those best practices in an organization’s context is absolutely mandatory for success. As a professional, there is no fun in having a best practice for everything and a solution for nothing!

As an organization, you can leverage best practices by carefully studying them and mapping with your unique business challenges. For this, improvement managers need to understand nuts and bolts of business. Once the context is understood, best practices can become your best guide so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Depending on context, you can either implement a best practice as it is or select portions of a best practice that can be most useful for your context.

Simply believing that a best practice will work for you just because it worked for someone else in the past and applying them in vacuum can harm you more than it can help.

There are no silver-bullets in business and things like context and innovation does play a huge role. As one of the Dilbert comic says – “If everyone is doing it, best practices is the same thing as mediocre”.

Branding – What’s your brand promise?

by Laura Lowell on October 2, 2009

brand promiseIn research conducted for my upcoming book ’42 Rules to build Your Brand and Your Business’ respondents clearly indicated that what affected their perception of a brand were visibility, authenticity and honesty of the brand.  Ok, great…what does this mean to someone trying to build a business and establish their brand? Or what does it mean to a company with an established brand trying to break into a new market with little brand recognition?  You may be surprised to hear me say (or type) that it means the same thing in both situations.

Ultimately, the key is to have a defined brand promise – what is it that your brand stands for?  Based on this you can then begin to prioritize your strategies and define your tactics accordingly.  I have seen, over and over again, where companies jump into the tactics with out understanding how they fit, or don’t fit, into the bigger picture.  For example, I once worked on a brand re-design project with a major high-tech computer manufacturer.  We had a well established brand and were trying to reposition it within the confines of the overall product portfolio.  Plus, we wanted to target a new demographic audience.  Off we went to the branding agency who created several different graphic treatments.  We reviewed them and made changes and came up with what we thought was a brilliant idea – very “off the wall”, especially for this company – but the new demographic “would be drawn to it” we explained to senior management who were having heart palpitations at the very thought of it.  Picture this…a gorilla sitting on top of a PC. Something was definitely “off”, and it turned out… it was us!

This project never saw the light of day…why?  We completely forgot the established brand promise we had been making, and continued to make, to the market.  This design had nothing to do with the real world – it was graphically outstanding and visually compelling, but who cares?  It didn’t relate at all to our brand promise.

So how do you start defining your brand promise? Here’s a list of questions to ask:

  • What does the company stands for? 
  • What is the single most important thing that the organization promises to deliver to its customers?
  • How do you want customers to feel about your organization after interacting with you?
  • What is it that the organization wants its brand to be known for?
  • What unique value to you deliver to customers?

Make sure you have agreement across the company – whether it is large or small.  People should be excited about this.  They should be able to rally around this promise and use it to make appropriate business decisions.  If not, then you still have some work to do.  But, I guarantee you, it’s well worth it.

No one wants to see your Demo

by Wayne Turmel on September 21, 2009

dreamstime_9754785I have bad news for anyone who does product demos over the web: No one wants to see them. Seriously. Once you realize that it will be much easier to sell your software.

To clarify: They might have signed up for a demo OR they might have clicked a box on your website asking you to please schedule them for one OR they might have even agreed to watch it to learn what you’ve got, but they probably “want” to see it like you “want” to go to the bank on a long-weekend Friday. The point is: Yes, it does serve an important function but it’s no one’s idea of fun.

Understanding what customers want in a demo is critical in changing the demos from time-consuming events that are a necessary part of the sales process to a step in a shortened sales cycle that helps customers get on with their lives and makes them glad they met you.

Here are some tips – I apologize for any hurt feelings:

  • Customers have only one question on their mind- “Can this thing solve my current business problem?. If the answer is yes, you’re on your way to a sale, if it’s no, don’t waste their (and your) valuable time. Ask plenty of questions before you start presenting, even if it means you never get to actually demo the product. And don’t take all day getting to the stuff they care about or you’ll lose them.
  • Buyers don’t care how cool your technology is This one is a little hard to take, especially since many of us doing demos built the products in question and are quite impressed with it ourselves. The genius of your algorithm or the glory of your GUI means nothing if it doesn’t help the customer in some way: either it helps  them generate more revenue, lower their cost or simply makes their job easier. Lots of us like to show off all the features because it’s “value added”. Since it’s not valuable unless the customer says it really is, in most of the cases it’s really “time added”, and not “value added”.
  • Don’t talk like a programmer Odds are that early in the sales cycle the person watching the demo is not as technically adept as you are. They are probably not even IT people – they’re in Finance, or Sales or even HR- whichever group is actually going to use it.  Use a “programmer-to-mortal” dictionary if you have to and use their language not yours.
  • They need to know you understand their issues Two things will help put them at ease.
    • Tell success stories that relate to their business. If they’re a small business, don’t just tell them IBM uses your product and loves it (they’ll think you’re too complicated and expensive). Conversely if you’re selling to a big enterprise, don’t just tell them about the little company that uses it (you won’t scale to their needs). Make your success stories relevant to their business.
    • Use their examples. If they are in HR, show them how to do the task they need done. Don’t use a sales example to the IT group. And if they call it a “screen” instead of an “interface”, you can too.

    No one signs up for a web demo with a Slurpee ,a  jumbo bag of popcorn and a comfy chair. They want their questions answered, their problem solved and their lives back. You probably have better things to do, too.  Stop treating demos as presentations and more like sales calls and you’ll go a long way in achieving the purpose of the demo!


    Wayne Turmel PicThis article is contributed by Wayne Turmel, the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings and the host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast. You can follow him on twitter at @greatwebmeeting.