Category Archives: marketing

Today’s Customer Wants to Go Fast

Today's Customer Wants to Go Fast

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Customers don’t want to wait. Specifically, they don’t want you to waste their time. If you do make them wait, you risk losing them. Making your customers wait sends the message that you don’t respect them or their time.

Jay Baer, a customer experience and marketing expert, proves this in his latest study, The Time to Win, which measures the impact of speed and responsiveness on customer experience and loyalty.

Just how important is speed? Consider these findings from Baer’s report:

  • Two-thirds of customers say speed is as important as price.
  • More than half of the customers surveyed hired the first business to respond to their requests, even if it was more expensive.
  • Half of all customers will not wait more than three minutes in a store.

I had a chance to interview Baer on Amazing Business Radio, where he shared some important insights that should be considered. Here are six of my favorites, followed by my commentary:

  • Speed is the most important component of customer experience and the only one that never pauses or goes backward – Calling it the most important component of the customer experience is bold, but consider a key finding from the report: 50% of customers are less likely to spend money with a business that takes longer to respond than they expect. Baer says, “Customers’ expectations for speed and responsiveness escalate every year without fail.”
  • Everyone has the same amount of time, 1,440 minutes a day, and there is nothing we can do to get more – Time is the same for everyone. Nobody gets more than anyone else. It has nothing to do with being rich, poor, young or old. And once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Starting with that premise, business leaders should ask themselves, “What can we do to make sure we’re not to blame for wasting our customers’ time?”
  • Age makes a difference – In our interview, I was surprised when Baer shared the generations that were most and least patient. I would have thought Baby Boomers (the older generation) would have been more patient, but I was wrong. Gen-Z is the most patient generation. Boomers are the least patient. The point is to know your customers. Who do you cater to? Understand the demographics and improve your response time accordingly.
  • The first company that responds to a customer has an incredible advantage – If your company is the first to respond, you could win the customer’s business, regardless of price. Specifically, 53% of consumers hired the first business that responded to them. Customers want to make decisions and move on. If you give them what they want, they can skip the hassle and time of comparing all the competition.
  • Fast response impacts your bottom line – Just as customer service and convenience make price less relevant, so does quick response or fast service. The research found that customers would pay an average of 19% more for “always immediate service,” which includes no waiting in line, not waiting on hold, etc. In other words, customers put a premium on speed. It’s about convenience. Furthermore, 27% of customers are more likely to spend money when the brand responds faster than expected.
  • Right now is not really right now – As customers’ expectations and their need for speed increase, the concept of “right now” can seem daunting. According to Baer, the concept of “right now” is the optimal amount of elapsed time in every customer interaction throughout the entire customer journey. If that sounds technical, here’s a simpler way of putting it: “Right now” is simply slightly faster than the customer expected.

With only 1,440 minutes available each day, customers want to devote as few minutes as possible to waiting, as Baer’s research proves. This is so important that people will pay more for it. The security lines in airports are perfect examples of this. If you’ve taken a flight in a major U.S. airport, you’ll notice three lines to get through security. The TSA security line is for most passengers. This is free. Then there is TSA PreCheck. For a small investment of $78 (which covers you for five years), you can get pre-qualified to use a shorter line where you don’t have to take your computer out of your bag, take off your shoes, and more. And for a bit more money, you can sign up for CLEAR, which allows you to jump to the front of the TSA lines.

Baer’s research makes an important point. If you want a competitive edge in business, respect your customer’s time. Don’t make them wait. Respond quickly to their questions, requests, and problems. Find ways to incorporate speed into your customer experience and you’ll reap the benefits of returning customers who spend more and say, “I’ll be back!”

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Startups Must Be Where Their Customers Are

Startups Must Be Where Their Customers Are

GUEST POST from Steve Blank

“A CEO running a B-to-B startup needs to live in the city where their business is – or else they’ll never scale.”

I was having breakfast with Erin, an ex-student, just off a red-eye flight from New York. She’s built a 65-person startup selling enterprise software to the financial services industry. Erin had previously worked in New York for one of those companies and had a stellar reputation in the industry. As one would expect, with banks and hedge funds as customers, the majority were based in the New York metropolitan area.

Where Are Your Biggest Business Deals?

Looking a bit bleary-eyed, Erin explained, “Customers love our product, and I think we’ve found product/market fit. I personally sold the first big deals and hired the VP of sales who’s building the sales team in our New York office. They’re growing the number of accounts and the deal size, but it feels like we’re incrementally growing a small business, not heading for exponential growth. I know the opportunity is much bigger, but I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong.”

Erin continued, “My investors are starting to get impatient. They’re comparing us to another startup in our space that’s growing much faster. My VP of Sales and I are running as fast as we can, but I’ve been around long enough to know I might be the ex-CEO if we can’t scale.”

While Erin’s main sales office is in New York, next to her major prospects and customers, Erin’s company was headquartered in Silicon Valley, down the street from where we were having breakfast. During the Covid pandemic, most of her engineering team worked remotely. Her inside sales team (Sales Development and Business Development reps) used email, phone, social media and Zoom for prospecting and generating leads. At the same time, her account executives were able to use Zoom for sales calls and close and grow business virtually.

There’s a Pattern Here

Over breakfast, I listened to Erin describe what at first seemed like a series of disconnected events.

First, a new competitor started up. Initially, she wasn’t concerned as the competitor’s product had only a subset of the features that Erin’s company did. However, the competitor’s headquarters was based in New York, and their VP of Sales and CEO were now meeting face-to-face with customers, most of whom had returned to their offices. While Erin’s New York-based account execs were selling to the middle tier management of organizations, the CEO of her competitor had developed relationships with the exec staff of potential customers. She lamented, “We’ve lost a couple of deals because we were selling at the wrong level.”

Second, Erin’s VP of sales had just bought a condo in Miami to be next to her aging parents, so she was commuting to NY four days a week and managing the sales force from Miami when she wasn’t in New York. Erin sighed, “She’s as exhausted as I am flying up and down the East Coast.”

Third, Erin’s account execs were running into the typical organizational speedbumps and roadblocks that closing big deals often encounter. However, solving them via email, Zoom and once-a-month fly-in meetings wasn’t the same as the NY account execs being able to say, “Hey, our VP of Sales and CEO are just down the street. Can we all grab a quick coffee and talk this over?” Issues that could have been solved casually and quickly ballooned into ones that took more work and sometimes a plane trip for her VP of Sales or Erin to solve.

By the time we had finished breakfast it was clear to me that Erin was the one putting obstacles in front of her path to scale. Here’s what I observed and suggested.

Keep Your Eye on The Prize

While Erin had sold the first deals herself, she needed to consider whether each deal happened because as CEO, she could call on the company’s engineers to pivot the product. Were the account execs in New York trying to execute a sales model that wasn’t yet repeatable and scalable without the founder’s intervention? Had a repeatable and scalable sales process truly been validated? Or did each sale require a heroic effort?

Next, setting up their New York office without Erin or her VP of Sales physically living in New York might have worked during Covid but was now holding her company back. At this phase of her company the goal of the office shouldn’t be to add new accounts incrementally – but should be how to scale – repeatably. Hiring account execs in an office in New York let Erin believe that she had a tested, validated, and repeatable sales playbook that could rapidly scale the business. The reality was that without her and the VP of Sales living and breathing the business in New York, they were trying to scale a startup remotely.

Her early customers told Erin that her company had built a series of truly disruptive financial service products. But now, the company was in a different phase – it needed to build and grow the business exponentially. And in this phase, her focus as a CEO needed to change – from searching for product/market fit to driving exponential growth.

Driving Exponential Growth

Exponential Growth Requires Relentless Execution

Because most of her company’s customers were concentrated in a single city, Erin and her VP of Sales needed to be there – not visiting in a hotel room. I suggested that:

  • Erin had to quickly decide if she wanted to be the one to scale the business. If not, her investors were going to find someone who could.
  • If so, she needed to realize that she had missed an important transition in her company. In a high-dollar B-to-B business, building and scaling sales can’t be done remotely. And she was losing ground every day. Her New York office needed a footprint larger than she was. It needed business development and marketing people rapidly creating demand.
  • Her VP of Sales might be wonderful, but with the all the travel the company is only getting her half-time. Erin needs a full-time head of sales in New York. Time to have a difficult conversation.
  • Because she was behind, Erin needed to rent an apartment in New York for a year, and spend the next six months there and at least two weeks a month after that. Her goal was to:
    1. Validate that there was a repeatable sales process. It not, build one
    2. Build a New York office that could create a sales and marketing footprint without her presence. Only then could she cut back her time in the City.
  • Finally, she needed to consider that if her customers were primarily in New York and the engineers were working remotely, why weren’t the company headquarters in New York?

I Hate New York

As we dug into these issues, I was pretty surprised to hear her say, “I spent a big part of my career in New York. I thought coming out to Stanford and the West Coast meant I could leave the bureaucracy of large companies and that culture behind. Covid let me do that for a few years. I guess now I’m just avoiding jumping back into an environment I thought I had left.”

We lingered over coffee as I suggested it was time for her to take stock of what’s next. She had something rare – a services company that provided real value with products that early customers loved. Her staff didn’t think they were joining a small business, neither did her investors. If she wasn’t prepared to build something to its potential, what was her next move?

Lessons Learned

  • For a startup, the next step after finding product/market fit is finding a repeatable and scalable sales process
  • This requires a transition to the relentless execution of creating demand and exponentially growing sales
  • If your customers are concentrated in a city or region, you need to be where your customers are
  • The CEO needs to lead this growth focus
  • And then hand it off to a team equally capable and committed

The full article originally appeared on Steve Blank’s blog

Image credits: Pixabay, Steve Blank

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Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022After a week of torrid voting and much passionate support, along with a lot of gut-wrenching consideration and jostling during the judging round, I am proud to announce your Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022:

  1. Robyn Bolton
    Robyn BoltonRobyn M. Bolton works with leaders of mid and large sized companies to use innovation to repeatably and sustainably grow their businesses.

  2. Janet Sernack
    Janet SernackJanet Sernack is the Founder and CEO of ImagineNation™ which provides innovation consulting services to help organizations adapt, innovate and grow through disruption by challenging businesses to be, think and act differently to co-create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.

  3. Greg Satell
    Greg SatellGreg Satell is a popular speaker and consultant. His first book, Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age, was selected as one of the best business books in 2017. Follow his blog at Digital Tonto or on Twitter @Digital Tonto.

  4. Mike Shipulski
    Mike ShipulskiMike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

  5. Braden Kelley
    Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Human-Centered Experience, Innovation and Transformation consultant at HCL Technologies, a popular innovation speaker, workshop leader, and creator of the Human-Centered Change™ methodology. He is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons and Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

  6. Teresa Spangler
    Teresa SpanglerTeresa Spangler is the CEO of PlazaBridge Group has been a driving force behind innovation and growth for more than 30 years. Today, she wears multiple hats as a social entrepreneur, innovation expert, growth strategist, author and speaker (not to mention mother, wife, band-leader and so much more). She is especially passionate about helping CEOs understand and value the role human capital plays in innovation, and the impact that innovation has on humanity; in our ever-increasing artificial/cyber world.

  7. Douglas Ferguson
    Douglas FergusonDouglas Ferguson is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist. He is the founder and president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based change agency that helps enterprises spark, accelerate, and sustain innovation. He specializes in helping teams work better together through participatory decision making and design inspired facilitation techniques.

  8. John Bessant
    John BessantJohn Bessant has been active in research, teaching, and consulting in technology and innovation management for over 25 years. Today, he is Chair in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Research Director, at Exeter University. In 2003, he was awarded a Fellowship with the Advanced Institute for Management Research and was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Management. He has acted as advisor to various national governments and international bodies including the United Nations, The World Bank, and the OECD. John has authored many books including Managing innovation and High Involvement Innovation (Wiley). Follow @johnbessant

  9. Shep Hyken
    Shep HykenShep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

  10. Pete Foley
    A twenty-five year Procter & Gamble veteran, Pete has spent the last 8+ years applying insights from psychology and behavioral science to innovation, product design, and brand communication. He spent 17 years as a serial innovator, creating novel products, perfume delivery systems, cleaning technologies, devices and many other consumer-centric innovations, resulting in well over 100 granted or published patents. Find him at pete.mindmatters@gmail.com

  11. Build a common language of innovation on your team


  12. Geoffrey A. Moore
    Geoffrey MooreGeoffrey A. Moore is an author, speaker and business advisor to many of the leading companies in the high-tech sector, including Cisco, Cognizant, Compuware, HP, Microsoft, SAP, and Yahoo! Best known for Crossing the Chasm and Zone to Win with the latest book being The Infinite Staircase. Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners. Chairman Emeritus Chasm Group & Chasm Institute

  13. Soren Kaplan
    Soren KaplanSoren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

  14. Steve Blank
    Steve BlankSteve Blank is an Adjunct Professor at Stanford and Senior Fellow for Innovation at Columbia University. He has been described as the Father of Modern Entrepreneurship, credited with launching the Lean Startup movement that changed how startups are built; how entrepreneurship is taught; how science is commercialized, and how companies and the government innovate.

  15. Arlen Meyers
    Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, an instructor at the University of Colorado-Denver Business School and cofounding President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameyers/

  16. Jesse Nieminen
    Jesse NieminenJesse Nieminen is the Co-founder and Chairman at Viima, the best way to collect and develop ideas. Viima’s innovation management software is already loved by thousands of organizations all the way to the Global Fortune 500. He’s passionate about helping leaders drive innovation in their organizations and frequently writes on the topic, usually in Viima’s blog.

  17. Alain Thys
    Alain ThysAs an experience architect, Alain helps leaders craft customer, employee and shareholder experiences for profit, reinvention and transformation. He does this through his personal consultancy Alain Thys & Co as well as the transformative venture studio Agents of A.W.E. Together with his teams, Alain has influenced the experience of over 500 million customers and 350,000 employees. Follow his blog or connect on Linkedin.

  18. David Burkus
    David BurkusDr. David Burkus is an organizational psychologist and best-selling author. Recognized as one of the world’s leading business thinkers, his forward-thinking ideas and books are helping leaders and teams do their best work ever. David is the author of five books about business and leadership and he’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, CNN, the BBC, NPR, and more. A former business school professor turned sought-after international speaker, he’s worked with organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

  19. Diana Porumboiu
    Diana PorumboiuDiana heads marketing at Viima, the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software in the world, and has a passion for innovation, and for genuine, valuable content that creates long-lasting impact. Her combination of creativity, strategic thinking and curiosity has helped organisations grow their online presence through strategic campaigns, community management and engaging content.

  20. Art Inteligencia
    Art InteligenciaArt Inteligencia is the lead futurist at Inteligencia Ltd. He is passionate about content creation and thinks about it as more science than art. Art travels the world at the speed of light, over mountains and under oceans. His favorite numbers are one and zero.

  21. Howard Tiersky
    Howard TierskyHoward Tiersky is an inspiring and passionate speaker, the Founder and CEO of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, innovation consultant, serial entrepreneur, and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. IDG named him one of the “10 Digital Transformation Influencers to Follow Today”, and Enterprise Management 360 named Howard “One of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers That Will Change Your World.”

  22. Accelerate your change and transformation success


  23. Paul Sloane
    Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

  24. Bruce Fairley
    Bruce FairleyBruce Fairley is the CEO and Founder of The Narrative Group, a firm dedicated to helping C-Suite executives build enterprise value. Through smart, human-powered digital transformation, Bruce optimizes the business-technology relationship. His innovative profit over pitfalls approach and customized programs are part of Bruce’s mission to build sustainable ‘best-future’ outcomes for visionary leaders. Having spearheaded large scale change initiatives across four continents, he and his skilled, diverse team elevate process, culture, and the bottom line for medium to large firms worldwide.

  25. Patricia Salamone
    Patricia SalamonePatricia Salamone is a career strategist having worked across the financial services, CPG, media and telecom sectors – seeking resonance with every problem she is hired to solve. Patricia sees innovation through the lens of human need, framing what is to be solved not through the problem at hand, but rather the mystery to be unraveled. Patricia is currently an Account Strategist at Gongos, Inc.

  26. Dainora Jociute
    Dainora JociuteDainora (a.k.a. Dee) creates customer-centric content at Viima. Viima is the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software in the world. Passionate about environmental issues, Dee writes about sustainable innovation hoping to save the world – one article at the time.

  27. Dean and Linda Anderson
    Dean and Linda AndersonDr. Dean Anderson and Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson lead BeingFirst, a consultancy focused on educating the marketplace about what’s possible in personal, organizational and community transformation and how to achieve them. Each has been advising clients and training professionals for more than 40 years.

  28. Brian Miller
    Brian MillerBrian Miller is the senior VP, strategic development, at BMNT Inc., an internationally recognized innovation consultancy and early-stage enterprise accelerator that is changing the future of public service innovation.

  29. Phil McKinney
    Phil McKinneyPhil McKinney is the Author of “Beyond The Obvious”​, Host of the Killer Innovations Podcast and Syndicated Radio Show, a Keynote Speaker, President & CEO CableLabs and an Innovation Mentor and Coach.

  30. Tom Stafford
    Tom StaffordTom Stafford studies learning and decision making. His main focus is the movement system – the idea being that if we can understand the intelligence of simple actions we will have an excellent handle on intelligence more generally. His research looks at simple decision making, and simple skill learning, using measures of behaviour informed by the computational, robotics and neuroscience work done in the wider group.

  31. Ralph Christian Ohr
    Ralph OhrDr. Ralph-Christian Ohr has extensive experience in product/innovation management for international technology-based companies. His particular interest is targeted at the intersection of organizational and human innovation capabilities. You can follow him on Twitter @Ralph_Ohr.

  32. Jeffrey Phillips
    Jeffrey Phillips has over 15 years of experience leading innovation in Fortune 500 companies, federal government agencies and non-profits. He is experienced in innovation strategy, defining and implementing front end processes, tools and teams and leading innovation projects. He is the author of Relentless Innovation and OutManeuver. Jeffrey writes the popular Innovate on Purpose blog. Follow him @ovoinnovation

  33. Get the Change Planning Toolkit


  34. Shilpi Kumar
    Shilpi KumarShilpi Kumar an inquisitive researcher, designer, strategist and an educator with over 15 years of experience, who truly believes that we can design a better world by understanding human behavior. I work with organizations to identify strategic opportunities and offer user-centric solutions.

  35. Robert B Tucker
    Robert TuckerRobert B. Tucker is the President of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.

  36. Norbert Majerus and George Taninecz
    Norbert Majerus and George TanineczNorbert Majerus is a popular keynote speaker and consultant. His latest book, Winning Innovation – How Innovation Excellence Propels an Industry Icon Toward Sustained Prosperity, is available now. Follow him on LinkedIn or visit leandriveninnovation.com. For more than 20 years, George, as president of George Taninecz Inc., has helped executives publish award-winning books that illustrate applications of lean thinking. He also supports companies and associations with white papers, articles, and case studies on the deployment of lean in manufacturing, healthcare, and other industries.

  37. Farnham Street
    Farnham StreetFarnham Street focuses on helping you master the best of what other people have already figured out.

  38. Scott Anthony
    Scott AnthonyScott Anthony is a strategic advisor, writer and speaker on topics of growth and innovation. He has been based in Singapore since 2010, and currently serves at the Managing Director of Innosight’s Asia-Pacific operations.

  39. Anthony Mills
    Anthony MillsAnthony Mills is the Founder & CEO of Legacy Innovation Group (www.legacyinnova.com), a world-leading strategic innovation consulting firm working with organizations all over the world. Anthony is also the Executive Director of GInI – Global Innovation Institute (www.gini.org), the world’s foremost certification, accreditation, and membership organization in the field of innovation. Anthony has advised leaders from around the world on how to successfully drive long-term growth and resilience through new innovation. Learn more at www.anthonymills.com. Anthony can be reached directly at anthony@anthonymills.com.

  40. Paul Hobcraft
    Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Follow @paul4innovating

  41. Jorge Barba
    Jorge BarbaJorge Barba is a strategist and entrepreneur, who helps companies build new puzzles using human skills. He is a global Innovation Insurgent and author of the innovation blog www.Game-Changer.net

  42. Nicholas Longrich
    Nicholas LongrichNicholas Longrich is a senior lecturer in evolutionary biology and paleontology at the University of Bath. He is interested in how and why the world is the way it is and studies dinosaurs, among other things—pterosaurs, fossil birds, lizards and snakes.

  43. Rachel Audige
    Rachel AudigeRachel Audige is an Innovation Architect who helps organisations embed inventive thinking as well as a certified Systematic Inventive Thinking Facilitator, based in Melbourne.

If your favorite didn’t make the list, then next year try to rally more votes for them or convince them to increase the quality and quantity of their contributions.

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Download PDF versions of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020, 2021 and 2022 lists here:


Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020 PDF . . . Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Happy New Year everyone!

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Winning in a Downturn Requires Delivering the Whole Product

Winning in a Downturn Requires Delivering the Whole Product

GUEST POST from Geoffrey A. Moore

In a downturn, everyone has to prioritize. For sales prospects, this means funding their most pressing needs first. For vendors who want to thrive, it means focusing on offers that match those needs, marketing that speaks to those needs, and sales coverage that is targeted specifically at winning those deals. And the key to winning is to deliver the whole product.

The whole product, as Ted Levitt taught us a generation ago, is the complete set of products and services needed to fulfill the compelling reason to buy for the target customer. In normal times, it is often OK to deliver most of the whole product, as either the customer or a channel partner will likely have resources and motive to fill in the rest. But in a downturn, not only are budgets scarce, so is expertise. Moreover, in a downturn, it is more critical than ever to deliver 100% on the promised outcome, as the customer is counting on that ROI to make their plans work.

Creating a bill of materials for your whole product is a straight exercise in design thinking. Just put yourself in the shoes of your target customer, get the compelling reason to buy square in your sights, and figure out what you would need to take that problem completely off the table. Once you have a draft, then test drive it with friendly prospects and let them show you all the things you missed. Take that input back to the team and construct a go-to-market offer that fills the bill, with every need taken care of. That’s what’s going to differentiate you from the competition. That’s what’s going to get you not only the sale but a radiating customer reference. That’s what’s going to let you thrive in a downturn.

Start-ups have an inherent advantage here over established enterprises because for them a single whole product focused on a single target market with an urgent use case is enough to get them across the chasm and into the mainstream market as a viable long-term player. But product managers in established enterprises can orchestrate the same play if they can garner executive support. The trick is to get the product team to prioritize some slightly off-road-map features, the service team to create a small corps of use-case experts, and the go-to-market team to field a dedicated target market initiative. The resources are always there to do this, but the inertial momentum of large enterprises works against such tightly focused efforts—hence the advantage to start-ups.

Whole product delivery has been greatly advanced by two seminal developments in the software world in this century. The first is the SaaS business model, especially when augmented by managed services. This transfers a large portion of success responsibility from the customer to the vendor. The second is the emergence of telemetry data processed by AI and ML. This allows service providers to get better and better at delivering customer success.

One company I am on the board of illustrates these advantages to a T. WorkFusion, experts in Intelligent Robotic Automation, no longer offer high-tech projects to early adopting visionaries. Instead, they supply digital workers to financial services companies needing to staff their regulatory compliance functions in a time of staff attrition (the job really is not that much fun) and high demand (the crooks are out in force). The point is, their digital workers do not just automate a task—they act like real colleagues who do the work and deliver the needed results. You can fund them out of the IT budget, of course, but you can also fund them out of your HR headcount (and they are a lot cheaper, don’t mind coming to the office, and actually appear to enjoy their work—certainly the people that program them do).

The key takeaway here is that downturns create new, pressing needs that prospects will prioritize over their traditional budget spend. These are problems that are both urgent and important—real threats that need to be addressed quickly and efficiently. To thrive in a downturn, you need to detect these opportunities quickly and pivot to meet them head on and let the other chips fall where they may.

That’s what I think. What do you think?

Image Credit: Pexels

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Forbidden Truth About Innovation

Forbidden Truth About Innovation

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

If you heard it once, you heard it a thousand times:

  • Big companies can’t innovate
  • We need to innovate before we get too big and slow
  • Startups are innovative. Big companies are dinosaurs. They can’t innovate.

And yet you persevere because you know the truth:

Big companies CAN innovate.

They CHOOSE not to.

Using Innovation to drive growth is a choice.

Just like choosing to grow through acquisition or expansion into new markets is a choice.

All those choices are complex, uncertain, and risky. In fact:

Hold on. The odds of failure are the same!

All three growth drivers have similar failure rates, but no one says, “Big companies can’t acquire things” or “Big companies can’t expand into new markets.”

We expect big companies to engage in acquisitions and market expansion.

Failed acquisitions and market expansions prove us (or at least our expectations) wrong. Because we don’t like being wrong, we study our failures so that we can change, improve, and increase our odds of success next time.

We expect big companies to fail at innovation.

In this case, failure proves us right. We love being right, so we shrug and say, “Big companies can’t innovate.”

We let big companies off the hook.

Why are our expectations so different?

Since the dawn of commerce, businesses engaged in innovation, acquisitions, and market expansion. But innovation is different from M&A and market expansion in three fundamental ways:

  1. Innovation is “new” – Even though businesses have engaged in innovation, acquisitions, and market expansion since the very earliest days of commerce, innovation only recently became a topic worthy of discussion, study, and investment. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960s that Innovation was recognized as worthy of research and deliberate investment.
  2. Innovation starts small – Unlike acquisitions and new markets that can be easily sized and forecasted, in the early days of an innovation, it’s hard to know how big it could be.
  3. Innovation takes time – Innovation doesn’t come with a predictable launch date. Even its possible launch date is usually 3 to 5 years away, unlike acquisition closing dates that are often within a year.

What can we do about this?

We can’t change what innovation is (new, small, and slow at the start), but we can change our expectations.

  • Finish the sentence – “Big companies can’t innovate” absolves companies of the responsibility to make a good-faith effort to try to innovate by making their struggles an unavoidable consequence of their size. But it’s not inevitable, and continuing the sentence proves it. Saying “Big companies can’t innovate because…”  forces people to acknowledge the root causes of companies’ innovation struggles. In many ways, this was the great A-HA! of The Innovator’s Dilemma: Big companies can’t innovate because their focus on providing better (and more expensive) solutions to their best customers results in them ceding the low-end of the market and non-consumers to other companies.
  • Be honest – Once you’ve identified the root cause, you can choose to do something different (and get different results) or do everything the same (and get the same results). If you choose to keep doing the same things in the same ways, that’s fine. Own the decision.
  • Change your choice. Change your expectations – If you do choose to do things differently, address the root causes, and resolve the barriers, then walk the talk. Stop expecting innovation to fail and start expecting it to be as successful as your acquisition and market expansion efforts. Stop investing two people and $10 in innovation and start investing the same quantity and quality of resources as you invest and other growth efforts.
  • The first step in change is admitting that change is needed. When we accept that “big companies can’t innovate” simply because they’re big, we absolve them of their responsibility to follow through on proclamations and strategies about the importance of innovation as a strategic driver of growth.

It’s time to acknowledge that innovation (or lack thereof) is a choice and expect companies to own that choice and act and invest accordingly.

After all, would it be great to stop persevering and start innovating?

Image credit: Pixabay

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Trader Joe’s Loyalty Program Has No Points or Perks

Trader Joe's Loyalty Program Has No Points or Perks

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

If you’ve shopped at a Trader Joe’s grocery store, you are familiar with their combination of high-quality products and a great customer experience delivered by friendly, helpful, knowledgeable employees, also known as teammates. The retailer has an incredibly loyal base of customers. Its loyalty program, if you want to call it that, has nothing to do with points or perks. There’s no loyalty card to punch. Its loyalty program is simply about creating enough value to turn a one-time customer into a loyal customer.

This type of loyalty is the envy of many retailers—and any other business with a formal “loyalty program.” It’s been my position that most loyalty programs aren’t really based on loyalty. They are marketing programs that drive repeat business. Often there are incentives such as points that accrue for free merchandise and discounts. Take the airlines, for example. Almost all have a frequent flier program that offers points/miles and perks to returning passengers. The more you fly, the closer you get to a free trip or a complimentary first-class upgrade. But what happens if the points and perks go away? Would the passenger still choose that airline? Or would they go with an airline that offers a lower price or a more convenient schedule?

True loyalty is about an emotional connection. The customer enjoys the experience, the products and the employees so much that they wouldn’t think of doing business elsewhere. And as a bonus, this level of loyalty makes price less relevant.

This is precisely what Trader Joe’s has done. Without the typical customer loyalty program, it has created an experience that drives repeat and loyal business. In a sense, it is a throwback to an era of simply taking care of the customer with a good, old-fashioned customer experience and product quality. Furthermore, they don’t participate in e-commerce and other shopping options that you might find at other grocery stores and retail outlets.

Is this type of loyalty sustainable? It’s worked in the past. It’s Trader Joe’s brand reputation. Will it take them into the future?

In a recent RetailWire article, experts weighed in on the question, “Will the lack of e-commerce, a loyalty program or discounts found at other grocers become bigger liabilities for the chain down the road?”

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData says, “The lack of e-commerce at Trader Joe’s may not be everyone’s preference. However, the proposition is so strong across so many attributes—value, quality, taste, uniqueness of offer—that most consumers are willing to overlook this and visit stores. This shows up in Trader Joe’s strong trading numbers over the past few years: it has gained market and shopper share.”

Bob Amster, principal at Retail Technology Group, says, “The store experience is the brand at Trader Joe’s. They are unequaled in their segment.”

George Anderson, editor-in-chief at RetailWire, weighs in with his comment, “Trader Joe’s rationale has been that it offers the lowest price possible to customers on a day-in and day-out basis and that added expenses such as loyalty programs will only drive prices up. The company counts on developing true loyalty with its customers, in the human sense, by offering products they value and backing them up with a no questions asked and no receipt required guarantee. It also excels at hiring people who are true brand ambassadors who customers value for their knowledge and willingness to help. If there was ever a retailer that didn’t need a loyalty program—Trader Joe’s is it.”

There are many more comments, and most of them reflect the views of the experts above.

Trader Joe’s is a benchmark of value that other retailers (not just grocers) should aspire to reach. They have good products, competitive pricing and incredible service. That keeps them in the game—and at the top of the game. And as for a loyalty program, Trader Joe’s already has one. It’s their customer experience. That’s what gets customers to say, “I’ll be back!”

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Seven Ways to Create Brand Recognition Learned from Benihana

Seven Ways to Create Brand Recognition Learned from Benihana

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

When you think of recognizable brands, companies like Coke, Apple, Amazon, and McDonald’s come to mind. It’s hard to imagine there is anyone who wouldn’t recognize the brand name or logo of these companies. Some of my clients have said something like, “If we could just get a fraction of that kind of recognition, it would be a huge accomplishment.” Well, meet Benihana. Yes, the restaurant chain known for chefs putting on amazing, entertaining cooking demonstrations at your table while they prepare your delicious meal.

Benihana is an American restaurant company founded by Hiroaki Aoki in New York City in 1964. Today, its 116 restaurants serve about 18 million guests each year, and according to CEO Tom Baldwin, Benihana has 90% brand recognition. That’s incredible. Think about this for a moment. McDonald’s, with almost 13,500 restaurants in the U.S. serving millions of people each day, has almost 100% brand recognition. Benihana, with just 116 restaurants, has 90% brand recognition.

How did they do it? The restaurant chain has never strayed from what brought its original success. It is not the neighborhood restaurant you go to every week. This “special occasion” restaurant is known for creating great guest memories, which is their motto.

At a recent meeting of general managers, Baldwin shared what has made the Benihana brand a success, and how it will continue to be even more successful in the future. These strategies are the “brand builders” that have helped make Benihana so recognizable and can do the same for you:

  1. A One-of-a-Kind Restaurant Platform. While there may be some competition in local markets, with 116 restaurants, it is the largest chain of its kind. If you’re not already, what could you do to become a one-of-a-kind brand? What makes you unique?
  2. Timeless Appeal that Transcends Generations. If you walk into a Benihana, you will see young and old. Families are there celebrating children’s and grandparents’ birthdays. There are couples, young and old, celebrating anniversaries. Companies host events for their employees and customers. There are no age boundaries at Benihana. While most companies don’t have such a wide customer base, you must understand who your customers are and create an experience that is both timely and timeless.
  3. An Exceptional Leadership Team, Culture and Infrastructure. Benihana has a system. They deliver a consistent and predictable experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a restaurant in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or any of the other 113 locations, you will have a similar experience. Its leadership team, from headquarters down to managers of each location, along with the culture and processes, ensures the same great memories are created regardless of location. With focused effort, any company can create a consistent experience that comes from a good system and the right culture.
  4. A Clean Environment. A guest can expect to have an excellent meal and a great experience in a spotless environment. This is an important point. While you may not want to eat off the floor of any restaurant, they do their best to make you feel as if you could. Cleanliness creates guest confidence. Anything less may send a negative message. For example, a dirty floor means the food might not be fresh. What’s your version of the dirty floor? What sends mixed or negative messages to your customers?
  5. The Kaizen Philosophy. It may not be a surprise that a Japanese restaurant chain embraces Kaizen, the Japanese business philosophy focused on continuous improvement. It is a strategy in which all employees work together to find new ways—large or small—to improve the process. The five principles of Kaizen include teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. The growth and innovations that Benihana has created come from its attention to Kaizen, a philosophy that can be embraced by any company.
  6. Engaging and Embracing the Community. Part of the Benihana company mission is to “engage and enhance the community.” How do you get involved with your community? More and more, customers are being drawn to companies that support what they believe in. It could be a cause in the local community or something as large as the sustainability of the environment. It’s about giving back.
  7. An Unparalleled Guest Experience. It’s all about the guest experience at Benihana. They relentlessly focus on creating great guest memories. They also recognize that the guest experience comes from the right employee experience. The strategy—and lesson—are simple. Focus on the employee and customer experiences. Create the experience that makes your customers say, “I’ll be back!” This is an appropriate strategy for every company—one you want all your customers to associate with your brand.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Are You Giving Your Customers Friction or Function?

Former VP Of Amazon Preaches a Frictionless Experience

Are You Giving Your Customers Friction or Function?

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Customers hate friction. They want easy, no hassle, low/no effort experiences. In short, they want convenience. Our 2022 customer experience research findings confirm:

  • 70% of customers would pay more if they knew they would receive a convenient experience.
  • 75% would switch to a competitor if they found it more convenient to do business with.
  • 68% of customers say that a convenient customer experience alone will make them come back to a brand or company.

Examples of friction include long wait times, difficulty finding contact information on a website, too many steps to make a purchase online and more. Frictionless is almost not noticed—until it is. At some point, customers realize how easy it is to do business with a company, and they like it. In fact, they like it so much, as the findings show, they will pay more and keep coming back.

There have been several books that focus on creating a frictionless, convenient experience. The first was The Effortless Experience by Matt Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick Delisi, which focused on the customer support experience. Then along came my book The Convenience Revolution, which included the entire customer experience, not just customer support. This was followed by a few more excellent contributions to the subject, the most recent being The Frictionless Organization by Bill Price and David Jaffe.

Bill Price was Amazon’s first global vice-president of customer service. When Jeff Bezos interviewed Price for the job in 1999, he asked Price what his philosophy was for running customer service. Price responded, “The best service is no service,” which became the title of his first book. Price believes that the best customer experience is to have everything set up so well that they don’t need to contact customer support.

Of course, that would be perfection, and perfection is not reality. Amazon may have perfectly executed on its side, but once the package leaves the Amazon warehouse, UPS, USPS, FedEx and other delivery companies take over. If they lose a package, who will the customer call? Amazon, of course. Even if it wasn’t Amazon’s fault, they still received the call and, of course, took ownership of the problem.

Price knows that a frictionless experience often goes unnoticed by the customer until they realize why they like doing business with that company or brand. But it does get noticed by the company providing the experience. It shows up in the form of higher customer satisfaction scores such as NPS (Net Promoter Score). Repeat business and loyalty also go up.

In their book, Price and Jaffe share several reasons why every business should be frictionless:

  • Being Frictionless Reduces Cost – There is a cost to setting up a process that’s easy for customers (and employees), but the ROI far exceeds the investment. When a company is easy to do business with, it doesn’t get nearly as many customer support calls, which can be a huge drain on the customer service budget. There are fewer returns and refunds. Websites are more effective. And more.
  • Being Frictionless Drives Customer and Revenue Growth – Price’s experience with Amazon proves that a high customer satisfaction score translates into more business. Amazon has some of the highest ratings in the business world, and its growth proves this model works.
  • Being Frictionless Delivers a True Competitive Advantage – The stats at the beginning of this article prove that point. No/low friction and convenience can help bulletproof a company from the competition.
  • Being Frictionless Enables Business Survival – The past several years have tested the best business leaders. Survival during the pandemic, through supply-chain issues, and now a recession proves that the best companies can survive with the right strategies. A frictionless experience is more important than ever.

When I interviewed Price on Amazing Business Radio, he made the perfect closing comments for this article. “It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. What matters is that customers just want things to be easy for them. And if you don’t make it really simple and easy for customers, someone else will.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

Check out my latest research in his Achieving Customer Amazement Study, Sponsored by Amazon Web Services, Inc.

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Emotional Connections Drive Customer Loyalty

Emotional Connections Drive Customer Loyalty

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

There are many reasons a customer might come back to a business again and again that have nothing to do with loyalty. A repeat customer can come about because of a convenient location, a lower price, a bigger selection and more. But those don’t create loyalty. It just looks as if the customer is loyal.

Actually, you could say that they are loyal—but not to the company. They are loyal to the price, convenient location, etc. The customer who comes back again and again for those types of reasons can deceive you. Not on purpose. It’s their behavior that imitates loyalty. Consider a retail store with repeat customers (not loyal customers), and ask this: If a competitor moves into the neighborhood, has a more convenient location and advertises lower prices, would the customer switch?

If you want your customers to be loyal, you must find a way to create an emotional connection.

Meet Zhecho Dobrev, a principal consultant at Beyond Philosophy and the author of the newly published book, The Big Miss: How Organizations Overlook the Value of Emotions. I interviewed Dobrev for an episode of Amazing Business Radio, and he shared his insights on what drives loyalty.

According to Dobrev, “Emotional connection creates preference over the competition. Customers don’t just come back out of convenience. They see a difference between doing business with your company and other companies.” His research has found that the amount of business a company gets is dependent on its relationships with customers.

The relationship you want with customers is rooted in emotion. A good experience creates a positive memory. Dobrev is a fan of Professor Daniel Kahneman, who says that people don’t choose between experiences. They choose between the memories of their experiences.

Often, memory is based on interactions customers have had with a salesperson, customer support or a process that a company has. Ideally, it’s a good memory. And when the customer comes back a second time and third time and has similar experiences, the memories of those interactions become an owned experience. The customer expects it. They know it’s going to happen, just like last time. That’s where the relationship starts to solidify, with a consistent and predictable experience. It goes to an even higher level when the customer feels valued and appreciated. Ultimately, the brand becomes more important than just a place to stop and do business.

Dobrev surveyed more than 19,000 customers in the U.S. and UK and determined that emotional attachment was the biggest driver of value, being responsible for about 43% of business value. Compare that to a company that promotes product features, which came in second at 20%. “Customers don’t know what they really want,” says Dobrev. “They say they want a product, but what really drives business value is emotional attachment.”

Emotions can start to develop even before the customer chooses to do business with a company or brand. Emotions can be found in a marketing strategy. Consider the automobile manufacturer BMW, which in the 1970s used the slogan The Ultimate Driving Machine — a description of the car — until it switched its focus to the emotion of owning and experiencing the car with the slogan BMW is Joy. While BMW still includes The Ultimate Driving Machine in its descriptors, today’s slogan is Sheer Driving Pleasure. Joachim Blickhäuser, head of corporate and brand identity at the BMW Group, says, “The ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ slogan delivers positive emotions and does exactly what a claim should.”

While an emotional connection may help create customer loyalty, you can’t ignore other competitive features. While loyalty makes price less relevant, there is a breaking point. Being easy to do business is also a big factor, so eliminate the friction that will potentially cause customers to run to your competition.

So, here is your assignment. Ask your customers, “Why do you do business with us?” Their reasons will help you define the differences between features and benefits compared to feelings and emotions. Once you have your features and benefits in place, work on creating emotional connections, and your customers will come back for the right reasons—because they love doing business with you.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pixabay

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The Role of Instagram in Customer Experience

The Role of Instagram in Customer Experience

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Part of what fuels a good customer experience is the content experience. That’s where companies and brands serve up content in numerous ways, which could include (but is not limited to) articles, blogs, text messages, newsletters, YouTube videos, podcasts, TikTok content, Tweets, LinkedIn posts and the subject of this article, Instagram. (Note: Check out this recent article about TikTok for business. TikTok has become the No. 1 visited social platform in the world, even bigger than Google!)

Customer behavior has dramatically changed as technology has allowed us to deliver content in numerous ways. There are plenty of platforms, such as the ones mentioned above, so which one should a brand focus on? The short answer is any platform you know your customers are on. That said, as new platforms evolve, some companies and brands aren’t quick to adopt them, although maybe they should be.

Who would have thought that Facebook would become a marketing machine for some brands? And it’s the same with other platforms. And that brings us to the topic—and platform—that is the focus of this article.

Instagram started out as a photo- and video-sharing social media platform in 2010 when Kevin Systrom (co-founder) uploaded a picture of a dog with the caption “test.” Over the past 12 years, it has evolved into much more, including an opportunity for brands to incorporate the platform into their content and marketing strategies.

A recent Passport-Photo.Online study surveyed more than 1,000 Instagram users to find out how the Instagram content experience is influencing their buying decisions. Here are some stats (followed by my commentary) to get you thinking about the power of Instagram and how this social media platform can work for you and your organization.

  • Instagram has 1.4 billion users each month, making it the fourth most popular social network. The potential to be seen is huge! Take advantage of another social media channel that gives you great exposure.
  • Ninety-two percent of Americans who use Instagram follow a business, with most following six to ten business accounts. The majority of Instagram users are Millennials and Gen-Z. According to a Hootsuite survey, ages 18-44 make up just under 88% of the Instagram audience. If that’s the age range of your target audience, this is a place for you to be.
  • Of those Instagram users who follow businesses, 26% typically visit business profiles every day. Another 27% visit business profiles every week. Daily or weekly visits from customers and potential customers are high. This is genuine marketing gold. Creating content that gets followers to come back again and again—daily or weekly—is something you don’t want to miss.
  • Seventy-one percent of Instagram users feel more connected to brands they follow on Instagram. Feeling connected to any company infers there is a sense of loyalty. Furthermore, 93% of people on Instagram are likely or very likely to buy from a business they feel connected to over a competitor. Some presence is better than no presence. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage and create a stronger connection with your customers.
  • Replying to the question, “Did Instagram ever inspire you to shop from businesses even when you weren’t looking to do so?,” 79% said, “Yes.” Do you need any more proof? Can you afford not to participate in an Instagram content strategy?
  • Eighty-nine percent of Instagrammers prefer short-form content (less than 1,000 words) over long-form content (1,000+) when it comes to text posts from brands specifically. Here is where the content marketing strategy comes into play. A 1,000-word post is still long. Consider experimenting with shorter posts, 400-500 words. Follow some of your favorite brands and notice their content strategy. Look for length, frequency, etc.

Content marketing is a powerful customer experience strategy. While it may cost to produce content, it costs nothing to post. And good content can be repurposed across all social media platforms. A good article on Instagram can work on LinkedIn. A few compelling sentences out of the article can become several tweets. One piece of content can be repurposed in numerous ways.

As you look at the stats and findings from the survey, you can immediately recognize the opportunity that Instagram offers. As the fourth most popular social network, this is a marketing channel you can’t afford to ignore.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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