As the year comes to an end I wanted to share with you some of the better marketing and business books I read this year.
Most of them were not published this year. They are nonetheless, in my opinions, staples that will not go out of style. If you are looking for worthwhile reads during the holidays any of these will hopefully inspire you to start doing some things a bit differently in 2015.
Here are my 2014 Best reads
This is Service Design Thinking
The official authors are Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider. However, applying its own technique, Service Design Thinking has in fact dozens of authors.
Aptly titled, this book takes a new look at how to create new services.
The book has three sections: the basics of design thinking, the tools to put it into application and some real life case studies.
Like many of the books you will see in this review, Service Design Thinking is a user-centered approach which puts forth the notion that designing or developing a new service is a continuous process composed of a sequence of interrelated actions. The design techniques promote co-creativity or the use of everyone’s input, not just the subject matter experts. Many of its tools help service designers to visualise intangible notions such as user needs. Finally it uses a holistic approach where the entire environment of a new service should be taken into consideration during the creation process.
Although the book focuses on service creation it’s approach and tools can easily be used for not only new product creation but also managing your entire business.
These previous posts
were inspired by This is Service Design Thinking.
Business Model Generation
Busines Model Generation is a collaborative work that was written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur from the findings of almost 500 practitioners. In fact not only is the technique to write a business plan described in their book unique so is the process they used to write the book and the manner in which it is presented. The authors had the brilliant idea to organise symposiums in various countries where paying participant wilfully contributed to the book’s content. The other revolutionary approach is in the way it is presented. Despite dealing with the serious, and some might say a boring topic of business plans, Business Model Generation almost looks like a comic book when you open it as it is full of drawings.
The major take away from this read is not only how to fill the business model canvas but even more importantly the notion that business planning is not a static process but one that needs to constantly be tuned with the business’ environment.
were in par inspired by Business Model Generation
The Lean Startup
The Lean Starup from Eric Ries (one of the most brilliant business mind of our times imho) does not bring any new concepts into the game. It does however bring many of the best business management concepts to come along in the past few decades in a way that is highly useful to any business evolving in a fast changing environment.
As its title suggests Lean Startup takes some of its inspiration from lean management developed by Toyota. The main concept taken from lean being that any actions company workers pose should bring value to your customers. Concepts also integrated into The Lean Startup are agile product development, design thinking and business model generation.
I dedicated an entire post to the good, the bad and the ugly parts of The Lean Startup
Value Proposition Design
The second born of Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (as well as two other authors) came from their observation of thousands of people filling out the business model canvas. One of the most difficult squares of the canvas to fill is definitely the value proposition one. The value proposition you offer your customers is the heart of your business. Without a solid value proposition your business’ chance of survival are very slim.
This book shows a methodology to develop your value proposition that is focused on your customers’ needs instead of your product’s attributes.
A previous post Value Proposition Design – A new light on an old concept offers a full review.
Lean Analytics written by Allistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz was born from the Lean Startup movement.
This book will not teach you analytics. It is meant to show you how to use analytics according to your type of business. It has many quick recipes (hacks) that will do the job very nicely to help you better understand how your business is doing. It does prone the use of the ‘’one metric that kills’’ which, in my opinion, is not suited for every type of business or even for a business at various development stage. However if any of your sales come directly or indirectly from the web this is a must read.
I have read the book once after borrowing it from the library but need to read it over again before I write a post inspired from its content.
This concludes my list of best business reads for 2014. I thank you for taking the time to read my posts this year.
I wish you and the ones who are close to you relaxing holidays and a 2015 filled with health, happiness and marketing success.
Techno Marketing Blog will take a break during the holidays and be back at the beginning of the new year.
Je vous souhaite, ainsi qu’à ceux qui vous sont chers, de très joyeuses fêtes et une année 2015 remplie de santé, de bonheur et de prospérité.
Techno Marketing fera une pose pendant les fêtes et sera de retour au début de la nouvelle année.
Understanding everything you can about your customers is the key to identifying and answering their needs. This in turn is the key to successful products and services.
Traditional marketing research tools such as statistics, surveys and focus groups are still very pertinent. They will allow you to quantify your markets, give you a general knowledge and overview of certain aspects of your customers but they are not all that useful when trying to figure out their needs.
The two following tools will help you get the necessary data to kick start or refine the process of identifying your customers’ needs.
A day in the life
The name of this tool is self-explanatory. You achieve this mini-story by aggregating information from multiple sources. It can come from observing customers, interviewing them, having people who witnessed a day in the life of your target customers tell you what it’s like. Your own sales representatives and customer agents can be excellent sources of information for this as well.
The output can take the form of a written story, a recording or even a video with actors if the usefulness of the media outweighs the costs of production.
The output of this tool will give anyone who participates in the creation/renewal or optimising process of your product or service an invaluable insight into your customers’ thoughts, feelings, preoccupations, and daily reality. It will also contextualise any interaction your customer will have with your brand/product/company.
A day in the life is also a great tool to anticipate customer reaction and to spark new product ideas.
The five whys
This tool is simply the act of asking why after receiving an answer to an initial question five times. It allows you to do a deep dive into a statement. Although mostly used as a managing technique to understand the root causes of a problem it can also be applied to interviews with customers.
It is particularly useful to test out your assumptions or to get to the real customer needs as well as their motivations. The following example helps to understand the benefits of this tool. A public bus service assumes that their users’ primary need is for the buses to be on time.
WHY do you need the bus to be on time?
Because I need to get to work on time.
WHY do you need to get to work on time?
Well I don’t really have an exact time that I need to get to work by most days but I do want to know how much time it will take me to get there.
WHY do you need to know how much time it takes you to get to work?
I don’t need to know how many minutes it takes me, I just need to know that it won’t take me longer than I expect.
WHY do you need to know it won’t take you longer than you expect to get to work?
Because my time is precious.
WHY is your time precious?
My ‘’work time’’ is precious because I want to minimise it so I can have more leisure time.
If you are the company running the bus service you have just learnt that your target customer’s primary need is not to have the bus be on time but to minimise his commute time to get to work. Having your buses running according to schedule is only one of the components needed to satisfy this need. Other components would be making sure your customer has access to the times at which the bus will be at his stop and informing him of any service disruption on his route. Having an application available that could show him the best routes depending on traffic patterns of various times of the day would also contribute to satisfying his need. As would suggesting alternate modes of transportation (taxis, bicycle, walking) that would reduce his commuting time. The bus company got all this just by asking a simple question five times.
Obtaining ‘’horizontal’’ data on your markets such as socio-demographic information or how many potential customers a segment holds is useful to understand the financial potential of a market. ‘’Vertical’’ information such as the one obtained with A day in the life or the Five whys tools is useful to understand the needs, motivations and context of your customers. This type of knowledge is the one that will help you create successful products and services to extract all that you can from your potential market.
The world it is changing. Technology has brought about break-neck speed changes in business. Marketing hasn’t escaped these changes. In fact, because it’s on the front line of customer experience it is one of the first functions in business to undergo major changes in the last five years. Many of the techniques that marketers used 5 or 10 years ago are not as useful today. Waterfall product development, telemarketing, fax promotions, face to face focus groups, TV and radio advertising, are only a few examples of marketing techniques less used or heading to the graveyard.
What are the major changes in the marketing function?
The vast majority of changes can be traced back to the internet of course. Using the internet as a distribution channel has brought about some of the most significant changes. One of the former Ps of marketing, distribution (place) is now an entire business on its own. In many traditional businesses it is becoming the major source of revenue for the entire company. Businesses in general have not yet decided what parts marketing should play in this new business segment. Whatever role they are given, marketers now need to have at least basic knowledge of shopping cart applications, how to manage them, web analytics, online promotion (including email promotion) and advertising, social media and online community management.
Even if your business is not selling online, you most likely have a website and chances are you need to publish online content, use social media and the web for promotion, advertising and possibly your customer service. Again, your marketing team will be required to have basic to full knowledge of online content management, social media and online community management, online promotion and advertising and web analytics. This includes knowing which applications to use and how to use them to accomplish all of these tasks.
The internet also affects how you develop your products. You now have access to tools that can bring you fast and valuable feedback while you are still developing.
Online selling can not only enable you to gather data that will provide you with insight to optimise your prices and pricing model, it can also, with the use of an application, adapt your prices to customer types for the same product.
Your customers ‘experience is also impacted at some, if not all points, by your web presence
Finally, the internet applications have brought about a higher level of integration of sales, marketing, communication, order fulfilment and customer service.
These new realities mean that the plate of your marketing team is overflowing to say the least.
What can small companies do to facilitate the change?
First, you need to have marketing staff that is open and willing to put in the efforts to learn all these new disciplines. Learning about all the necessary applications, how to work with them, getting the results you are expecting while doing your other work is no small feat. If your marketing team is backing into this monumental task it’s simply not going to happen.
As a business owner you are responsible for ensuring that your marketing team has the appropriate environment and tools to make this transition. Small companies can use different strategies to get their marketing team up to speed as quickly as possible.
The most obvious approach is to require your resources to get some training either online or in classes. This method is great but may not be the fastest way if used by itself.
Supplementing training with the use of an outside resource (consultant or knowledgeable new full or part-time employee) that will come into your company and execute specific tasks for the first time, while training/coaching your own marketing resources, will enable you to achieve faster results.
It is also important to remember that although your marketing team may have been aces at their job before, they are now apprentices in many respects. Hence, they won’t be able initially to deliver as much as they use to. Acknowledging this will go a long way in encouraging the necessary changes to take place.
Finally, as the conductor, you will need to make sure your marketing team works closely with your other resources such as IT, production and customer service to ensure as seamless a process as possible. This means fostering a collaborative approach with a common goal of better answering the needs of your customers. It also means creating an environment in which change can happen on a daily basis.
The world it is changing. You and your organisation need to change along with it.
Il était une fois, l’histoire de M. Côté, un entrepreneur. Il bossait jour et nuit afin de construire son entreprise. Il y avait tellement à faire et si peu de ressources pour tout faire que plusieurs feux y avaient pris naissance.
Lui, et ses quelques collègues, s’affairaient donc à contenir les feux existants et les nouveaux qui s’allumaient ça et là. Les bons jours, ils réussissaient même à en éteindre quelques uns.
Au cours des rares occasions où M. Côté relevait la tête de son travail, cela arrivait principalement lors des rencontres mensuelles avec son comptable, il ne reconnaissait plus l’environnement dans lequel il avait démarré son entreprise. Ça l’inquiétait un peu mais tant que son comptable lui disait que tout allait bien il retournait combattre ses feux.
Un jour, le comptable de M. Côté lui dit, d’un ton plus sérieux qu’à son habitude, que son entreprise n’avançait pas aussi vite que celle de ses principaux compétiteurs. Encore pire, les revenus n’augmentaient plus aussi rapidement qu’à pareille date l’an dernier.
En bon chef d’entreprise, M. Côté décide d’agir. Il regarde d’abord du côté de ses compétiteurs. Il se rend compte qu’ils ont tous de beaux sites web et sont présents sur les médias sociaux. Son entreprise a bien un site web, créé il y a environ 4 ans, mais il s’avoue ne plus y avoir retouché depuis.
Qu’à cela ne tienne! Il demande des références à ses bons amis entrepreneurs et embauche les meilleurs consultants en marketing web qui, jour et nuit s’affairent à lui construire le plus beau site web, une superbe page Facebook et un profil LinkedIn du tonnerre. Les consultants lui suggèrent en extra des contrats d’entretien, des campagnes Facebook et de garder à jour le profil LinkedIn de son entreprise. Cela commence à coûter très cher. Si bien qu’un jour son comptable lui dit que son budget marketing pour l’année est épuisé. Aie! Nous ne sommes qu’en avril. M. Côté est confiant, ses nouveaux outils marketing feront augmenter ses ventes et il comblera le déficit en un rien de temps.
Mai arrive, puis juin…le comptable est de plus en plus sérieux. L’été est tranquille, c’est normal, c’est toujours tranquille l’été. L’automne arrive et le comptable annonce à M. Côté, qu’à moins d’un miracle du côté des ventes, qu’il déclarera, pour la première fois depuis qu’il a démarré son entreprise, une perte pour l’année.
STOP! STOP! STOP! Je n’ai vraiment pas envie d’une histoire triste aujourd’hui. Et vous? Réécrivons donc notre fable pour qu’elle ait une fin heureuse.
Il était une fois…..
Blablabla et blablabla jusqu’à En bon chef d’entreprise. OK, on change l’histoire à partir d’ici.
En bon chef d’entreprise, M. Côté décide d’agir. Il se remémore son inconfort à ne plus reconnaître son environnement lorsqu’il relève la tête. Il se dit que cela fait trop longtemps qu’il n’a pas fait le tour de son industrie, de ses compétiteurs et, pire encore, de ses clients. Ouf! Par où commencer? Il y a tant d’information. Laquelle est pertinente? Quand fera-t-il tout cela se demande-t-il le boyau d’arrosage dirigé vers un feu qui menace de s’étendre.
Qu’à cela ne tienne! Il sait qu’il doit agir. Il demande des références à ses bons amis entrepreneurs. Ceux-ci lui recommandent fortement des consultants avec une formation pertinente en marketing et au moins une dizaine d’années d’expérience. Ils connaîtront toutes les sources d’informations et sauront retenir que les plus pertinentes pour répondre à ses besoins. Il s’exécute et les consultants marketing lui brossent un portrait de son environnement d’affaires. Ces derniers travaillent jour et nuit et lui présentent rapidement des informations de marché pertinentes qui permettent à M. Côté de comprendre pourquoi ses ventes ont déclinées depuis quelques mois.
Il voit dans ce rapport une tendance importante qui se dessine dans son industrie sur laquelle il doit nécessairement se positionner sans quoi il risque de perdre tous ses clients.
Il remarque, entre autre, que ses principaux compétiteurs ont une stratégie de prix assez similaire entre eux, mais très différente de la sienne, résultant en un prix moyen plus élevé que le sien.
Finalement, il constate que les besoins de ses clients ont beaucoup évolués. En partie en raison de ce qu’offre ses compétiteurs mais aussi parce que leur propre industrie, dans laquelle ils évoluent, se transforme rapidement.
M. Côté partage cette information avec ses employés et tous contribuent à élaborer un plan d’action pour redresser le parcours de l’entreprise. Dans ce plan on retrouve, entre autre, la nécessité de refaire le site web de l’entreprise afin d’atteindre plusieurs objectifs qui, jumelés à des activités du plan, permettront l’augmentation des ventes.
Très rapidement après la mise en action du plan, les ventes reprennent. Le comptable perd son ton sérieux. Il annonce à M. Côté qu’il devra allouer plus de fonds à son budget marketing pour terminer l’année mais que l’augmentation des revenus fera en sorte que les profits ne seront non seulement pas affectés mais qu’ils augmenteront. Tout est bien qui finit bien, sauf pour les vacances estivales de M. Côté. Elles ont été annulées en raison d’un surplus de travail.
La morale de cette histoire, on me dit qu’il faut absolument une morale lorsqu’on rédige une fable, la morale de cette histoire est donc:
On peut dépenser une fortune pour un site web et autres outils marketing mais si on n’a aucune stratégie marketing d’entreprise (à ne pas confondre avec une stratégie marketing numérique), pour nous dire de quels outils on a besoin et comment s’en servir, ils seront inutiles et l’argent dépensé pour les acquérir gaspillé.
Alors, quelle est votre stratégie marketing?