The Power Of Moments

I highly recommend reading The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath, Dan Heath. Are you creating memorable moments with your customers and memorable experiences in your everyday life?

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What are these moments made of, and how do we create more of them? In our research, we have found that defining moments are created from one or more of the following four elements:

ELEVATION: Defining moments rise above the everyday. They provoke not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but memorable delight. (You pick up the red phone and someone says, “Popsicle Hotline, we’ll be right out.”) To construct elevated moments, we must boost sensory pleasures — the Popsicles must be delivered poolside on a silver tray, of course-and, if appropriate, add an element of surprise. We’ll see why surprise can warp our perceptions of time, and why most people’s most memorable experiences are clustered in their teens and twenties. Moments of elevation transcend the normal course of events; they are literally extraordinary.

INSIGHT: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world. In a few seconds or minutes, we realize something that might influence our lives for decades: Now is the time for me to start this business. Or, This is the person I’m going to marry. The psychologist Roy Baumeister studied life changes that were precipitated by a “crystallization of discontent,” moments when people abruptly saw things as they were, such as cult members who suddenly realized the truth about their leader. And although these moments of insight often seem serendipitous, we can engineer them -or at the very least, lay the groundwork. In one unforgettably disgusting story, we’ll see how some relief workers sparked social change by causing a community to “trip over the truth.”

PRIDE: Defining moments capture us at our best-moments of achievement, moments of courage. Tb create such moments, we need to understand something about the architecture of pride – how to plan for a series of milestone moments that build on each other en route to a larger goal. We’ll explore why the “Couch to 5K” program was so successful-and so much more effective in sparking exercise than the simple imperative to “jog more.” And we’ll learn some unexpected things about acts of courage and the surprising ripple effects they create.

CONNECTION: Defining moments are social: weddings, graduations, baptisms, vacations, work triumphs, bar and bat mitzvahs, speeches, sporting events. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others. What triggers moments of connection? We’ll encounter a remarkable laboratory procedure that allows two people to walk into a room as strangers and walk out, 45 minutes later, as close friends. And we’ll analyze what one social scientist believes is a kind of unified theory of what makes relationships stronger, whether the bond is between husband and wife, doctor and patient, or even shopper and retailer.

Defining moments often spark positive emotion – we’ll use “positive defining moments” and “peaks” interchangeably throughout the book – but there are categories of negative defining moments, too, such as moments of pigue: experiences of embarrassment or embitterment that cause people to vow, “I’ll show them!” There’s another category that is all too common: moments of trauma, which leave us heartbroken and grieving. In the pages ahead, we’ll encounter several stories of people dealing with trauma, but we will not explore this category in detail, for the simple reason that our focus is on creating more positive moments. No one wants to experience more moments of loss. In the Appendix, we share some resources that people who have suffered a trauma might find helpful.

Defining moments possess at least one of the four elements above, but they need not have all four. Many moments of insight, for example, are private-they don’t involve a connection. And a fun moment like calling the Popsicle Hotline doesn’t offer much insight or pride.

Some powerful defining moments contain all four elements. Think of YES Prep’s Senior Signing Day: the ELEVATION of students having their moment onstage, the INSIGHT of a sixth grader thinking That could be me, the PRIDE of being accepted to college, and the CONNECTION of sharing the day with an arena full of thousands of supportive people.

Sometimes these elements can be very personal. Somewhere in your home there is a treasure chest, full of things that are precious to you and worthless to anyone else. It might be a scrapbook, or a drawer in a dresser, or a box in the attic. Maybe some of your favorites are stuck on the refrigerator so you can see them every day. Wherever your treasure chest is, its contents are likely to include the four elements we’ve been discussing:

  • ELEVATION: A love letter. A ticket stub. A well-worn T-shirt. Haphazardly colored cards from your kids that make you smile with delight.
  • INSIGHT: Quotes or articles that moved you. Books that changed your view of the world. Diaries that captured your thoughts.
  • PRIDE: Ribbons, report cards, notes of recognition, certificates, thank-yous, awards. (It just hurts, irrationally, to throwaway a trophy.)
  • CONNECTION: Wedding photos. Vacation photos. Family photos. Christmas photos of hideous sweaters. Lots of photos. Probably the first thing you’d grab if your house caught on fire.

All these items you’re safeguarding are, in essence, the relics of your life’s defining moments. How are you feeling now as you reflect on the contents of your treasure chest? What if you could give that same feeling to your kids, your students, your colleagues, your customers?

Moments matter. And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance! Teachers can inspire, caregivers can comfort, service workers can delight, politicians can unite, and managers can motivate. All it takes is a bit of insight and forethought.


McKinsey: What the future science of B2B sales growth looks like

Are you engaging customers the way they want to be engaged? Are you invested in finding and developing world-class talent? “Driving market leadership in B2B sales takes undivided focus from the CEO and his/her top team, and significant investment of time and resources. However, companies that have achieved proficiency across the three dimensions of the science of B2B sales are already outpacing their competitors and driving disproportionate growth, profitability, and shareholder value.” Below is a blog post from McKinsey & Company by Tim Colter, Mingyu Guan, Mitra Mahdavian, Sohail Razzaq, and Jeremy Schneider: (Reading time is 9 minutes.)

What the future science of B2B sales growth looks like

B2B sales are on the verge of a revolution, with a number of trends completely redefining what it will take to be a market leader over the next five years.

Advanced analytics and machine learning have given sales executives access to historically unprecedented amounts of data and computing power, allowing them to predict with a high degree of precision the most valuable sales opportunities. The fastest-growing companies are using advanced analytics to radically improve their sales productivity and drive double-digit sales growth with minimal additions in their sales teams and cost base.

Also, radical changes in buyers’ preferences, with buyers being more content-driven, technically savvy, and comfortable engaging via digital channels, has led to the rise of a new breed of sales leaders who bring technical expertise and a strategic mind-set. This is also transforming what sales organizations look like, with a sharp reduction in field sales and marketing, and rapid growth in inside sales and analytics teams.

Finally, a significant shift toward subscription-based business models has redefined how customer relationships are managed. No longer is a sale a one-time “won and done” deal. In a world of recurring revenues, sales need to be won every month, quarter, and year. As a result, successful customer-relationship managers are becoming increasingly more valuable, and sophisticated sales teams are aligning themselves closely to the long-term success of their customers.

Emergence of a new science of B2B sales

As a result of these disruptive changes, B2B sales has evolved from an art to a science. By that we mean that sales is data-driven, enabled by digital tools, underpinned by advanced analytics, and focused on really understanding the “what, why, and when” of the customer. Companies that have embraced what we call the “science of B2B sales” have already started to pull ahead of their peers in terms of revenue growth (registering 2.3 times industry average revenue growth), profitability (3 to 5 percent additional return on sales) and shareholder value (8 percent higher total return to shareholders than the industry average).

A key feature distinguishing market leaders from the rest of the pack is that the CEOs of the market leaders actively lead the sales transformation, rather than leaving it to the head of sales. These CEOs realize that redefining their go-to-market engine is a cross-functional sport that requires their direct engagement and flawless execution from sales, marketing, HR, IT, and finance. Market leaders have realized that winning in B2B sales in the next five to ten years will require them to fundamentally transform their go-to-market engine around three defining principles:

  1. Engaging customers the way they want to be engaged

Days when sales executives debated between investing in a great sales force or great digital assets are a figment of the past. Driving growth in the future will require bringing the best of both worlds. Our research indicates that market leaders view digital investments as the glue that holds together a powerful multichannel sales strategy. We surveyed more than 1,000 large organizations across industries and four continents to better understand their preferences in buying goods and services from B2B sellers. Our research showed that the ideal channel to reach B2B customers depends heavily on whether they are making a first-time or repeat purchase (Exhibit 1). Some 76 percent of B2B buyers found it helpful to speak to a salesperson when researching a new product or service. That figure fell to 52 percent for repeat purchases of products with new or different specifications, and only 15 percent indicated a desire to speak with a salesperson when repurchasing exactly the same product or service.

Exhibit 1

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Engaging customers in the future will require a multichannel sales strategy powered by smart digital investments, which caters to the different needs of first-time and repeat customers.

When targeting first-time customers who are looking for direct interaction with sales teams, the fastest-growing companies are using digital tools to help their sales teams address customer needs at each stage of their purchase journey. For instance, they are using interactive product demos powered through tablets or browsers to help salespeople engage customers in the research stage of their journey. A significant proportion are using relatively simple customer-relationship-management software to track customers’ past questions, thus allowing their salespeople to anticipate future inquiries and offer lightning-fast responses when customers compare their products with competitors’. A few cutting-edge companies have also invested in customer analytics that empower sales reps with price recommendations based on analysis of deals other sales reps have closed with the same customer in the recent past.

When catering to repeat customers who are comfortable being online, the fastest-growing companies are using digital tools and inside sales to keep them loyal, speed up the sale process, and encourage them to spend more. For instance, they are creating online comparison engines that allow customers to seamlessly compare products and services with competitors’ offerings. They then supplement that with inside sales teams to answer customer questions via email, live chat, and video conferencing. In addition, they are using next-product-to-buy algorithms that send customers relevant recommendations of complementary products based on their purchase history to grow customer share of wallet.

  1. Using advanced analytics and machine learning to make better decisions faster

In the next five years, we believe that the fastest-growing companies will be using advanced analytics and machine learning to address fundamental strategic issues, such as what sales opportunities to pursue, what resources to allocate to which accounts, and what behaviors to prioritize to drive sales productivity. Already the days when lead generation relied entirely on local field knowledge are fading fast. Market leaders of the future are using advanced analytics to build a granular account, product, and geographic profile of each of their customers. These profiles are then augmented with relevant external data such as news reports, public financial information, and social media to generate a truly 360-degree view of each customer.

Lead-scoring algorithms can then use these detailed customer profiles to predict which customers to target, when to contact them, and what factors truly drive lead conversion rates. A few of the most cutting-edge companies are also experimenting with AI-enabled agents that use predictive analytics and natural-language processing to automate early lead-generation activities such as handling basic customer questions and automating initial presales questions. While these predictive lead-scoring algorithms are still relatively nascent, some companies deploying them are already experiencing 15 to 20 percent improvement in their lead-conversion rates.

In the past, sales leaders used to rely on gut instinct to identify behaviors that drive sales productivity and make account coverage decisions. Advanced analytics is revolutionizing our understanding of how to match the right people to the right deals. The most data-savvy sales organizations are combining sales, customer, and HR data to understand the intrinsic attributes (e.g., professional background, education, personality traits, cognitive ability) and behaviors (e.g., frequency/duration of customer interaction, time devoted to sales planning, listening skills, persistence, risk taking) that are statistically correlated with distinctive sales performance. Armed with this knowledge, they can identify the best sales people and allocate them to their most strategically valuable accounts.

  1. Continually investing in finding and developing world-class talent

Buyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and technically savvy, which has led to the rise of a new breed of sales leaders who bring a strategic mind-set and rock-solid technical skills. These leaders are “growing up” across multiple roles in their organization and come with a truly cross-functional and cross-geographic skill set. They view themselves as coaches whose primary job is to turn rookies into rainmakers.

“Getting the right individual in the right role” was a common theme that came up in our interviews with more than 400 sales executives. Despite the stated importance of hiring the right talent, not all organizations believe they are equipped with the right talent for the future (Exhibit 2). While all companies struggle with getting world-class talent, fast-growth companies fare better than slow-growth companies: 51 percent of the former believe they have the right sales talent for the future compared with only 30 percent of slow growth companies.

Exhibit 2

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Hiring the right talent is only part of the puzzle. The fastest-growing companies also invest significant time and resources in nurturing and growing their talent. In our survey, 48 percent of fast-growth companies indicated that they invest significant time and resources in sales training versus only 22 percent of slow-growth companies (Exhibit 3). Behavioral economics and social psychology have revealed powerful insights into how to nurture high-performing individuals who thrive on independence and entrepreneurship. A defining insight has been that adult learners only remember 10 percent of what they heard and 32 percent of what they saw three months after the learning program concludes. In contrast, they remember 65 percent of what they learn by doing. This insight is driving a transformative change in the nature of sales trainings. They are evolving from classroom and digital modules to “on-the-job” experiential, immersive programs in which sales reps are paired with experienced coaches and learn from doing.

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3.png

How to embrace the science of B2B sales

Companies who embrace the science of B2B sales generally begin with a three-part journey:

First, they make an honest assessment of the status quo. This starts with a look at the customer. Customer preferences for buying should shape the investments the sales organization makes, yet many sales leaders fly blind. In our experience, most companies tend to underinvest in the sales capabilities that actually matter most to their customers.

Second, they plan for the long term. Sales winners are moving past quarterly planning and adopting instead a long- term view. Of the fast growers we have studied, more than 50 percent take a minimum 12-month view in their sales plans, and 10 percent look more than three years out. This long-term view means that sales leaders can invest in the right capabilities based on a specific (though flexible) roadmap.

Third, they move fast and get quick wins. Speed matters now more than ever. Winning sales organizations are using test-and-learn strategies to become more nimble. Some set up a sales war-room model to launch new digital campaigns and messages. Others adopt an agile test-fail-learn-adapt operating model to rapidly ideate and refine sales tactics. Through these quick-win approaches, sales orgs are seeing dramatic results, some with up to 300 percent growth in digital sales within the first 30 days of action. In the next few years, we expect to see more of the winners enjoying these results.

Driving market leadership in B2B sales takes undivided focus from the CEO and his/her top team, and significant investment of time and resources. However, companies that have achieved proficiency across the three dimensions of the science of B2B sales are already outpacing their competitors and driving disproportionate growth, profitability, and shareholder value.

HBR: Making Time to Really Listen to Your Patients

Do you think the following concepts around patient care can be applied to the building supply industry? What is the cost of hurried encounters with your customers? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Leonard L. Berry and Rana L.A. Awdish:

Making Time to Really Listen to Your Patients

Modern medicine’s true healing potential depends on a resource that is being systematically depleted: the time and capacity to truly listen to patients, hear their stories, and learn not only what’s the matter with them but also what matters to them. Some health professionals claim that workload and other factors have compressed medical encounters to a point that genuine conversation with patients is no longer possible or practical. We disagree.

Our experiences — as a critical-care physician whose own critical illness led her to train physicians in relationship-centered communication (Rana Awdish) and as a health services researcher who has interviewed and observed hundreds of patients, doctors, and nurses (Len Berry) — teach us that hurried care incurs hidden costs and offers false economy. In other words, it might save money in the short term but wastes money over time.

Why Listening Matters

Actively listening to patients conveys respect for their self-knowledge and builds trust. It allows physicians to assume the role of the trusted intermediary who not only provides relevant medical knowledge but also translates it into options in line with patients’ own stated values and priorities. It is only through shared knowledge, transmitted in both directions, that physicians and patients can co-create an authentic, viable care plan.

A doctor’s medical toolbox and supply of best-practice guidelines, ample as they are, do not address a patient’s fears, grief over a diagnosis, practical issues of access to care, or reliability of their social support system. Overlooking these realities is perilous, both for the patient’s well-being and for efficient delivery of care. We believe not only that a clinician should share medical decision making with the patient but also that it must occur in the context of an authentic relationship.

The Costs of Hurried Encounters

Compressed medicine has real risks. Clinicians become more likely to provide ineffective or undesired treatment and miss pertinent information that would have altered the treatment plan and are often blind to patients’ lack of understanding. All of this serves to diminish the joy of serving patients, thereby contributing to high rates of physician burnout. These consequences have clear human and financial costs.

The medical literature increasingly offers potential solutions to the inefficiencies that rob patients of physicians’ time and attention, including delegating lower-expertise tasks to non-physician team members, improving the design of the electronic health system, and greatly reducing the paperwork bureaucracy that adds little or no value. We can create more space for active listening. Unhurried medical care may be elusive, but it is practical.

Reimagining Roles

Beyond time pressures, the typically unquestioned roles that physicians and patients assume also inhibit relationship-building. In their medical training, physicians often are taught to maintain a clinical distance and an even temperament. They are warned not to get too close to patients, lest they internalize the suffering and shoulder it themselves. The best physicians, we know, reject this advice because it diminishes their humanity and disadvantages their patients, who need more than a highly-qualified body technician, especially when they’re seriously ill.

Patients learn roles, too: adhere to the doctor’s plan, squelch errant thoughts that might sound foolish, don’t ask too many questions, defer to the expert, be “a good patient.” In a new article we co-authored with others, we show that many patients, especially those with serious disease, behave like hostages in the presence of physicians — unwilling to challenge authority, understating their concerns, requesting less than they desire. Most physicians certainly don’t want patients to feel like hostages, but the patients often do. When patients feel like hostages, the ideal of shared decision making is a pipe dream.

It’s no wonder, then, that for patients with serious illness, the emotion they most often cite is “overwhelmed.” The diagnosis, the options, the treatment, the myriad side effects, the change in identity when living with disease — all of it can indeed be overwhelming. In this complex, fraught situation, people need a compassionate guide — a wise, comforting sherpa who knows the mountain, the risks of various routes, the viable contingency plans. The physician-sherpa should be a partner on the journey, not simply a medical operative, extracting formulaic rules and implements from a toolbox. Patients need and deserve much more.

When doctor and patient join forces, the team dynamic dismantles the harmful hierarchy. Both members of the dyad can rely on each other because neither owns all the data that matter. Speaking at a White Coat ceremony for medical students, Dr. Rita Charon, a pioneer in the rising discipline of narrative medicine, stated:

I used to ask new patients a million questions about their health, their symptoms, their diet and exercise, their previous illnesses or surgeries. I don’t do that anymore. I find it more useful to offer my presence to patients and invite them to tell me what they think I should know about their situation.…I sit there in front of the patient, sitting on my hands so as not to write during the patient’s account, the better to grant attention to the story, probably with my mouth open in amazement at the unerring privilege of hearing another put into words — seamlessly, freely, in whatever form is chosen — what I need to know about him or her.

An Organization that Listens and Heals

Not hearing the patient’s voice harms the patient and the clinician. They don’t have the benefit of pooled knowledge, ability to make fully informed mutual decisions, or time to build trust. Health systems that want to avoid those pitfalls need leaders who invest in shaping an organizational culture that values hearing patients’ voices. Here are some steps such organizations might take:

  • Share patient stories and related lessons at every meeting. Perhaps one should be a story of success (what we did well for a patient) and another of a failure (where we must improve).
  • Offer a communications curriculum to clinical and non-clinical staff. The professional development should be engaging and dynamic so that adult learners seek it out because they view it as worthwhile.
  • Encourage and reward clinical curiosity, whereby generous questions are asked to elicit generous patient responses. Emphasize listening for not just what is said, but also how it is communicated. Consider a narrative-medicine component.
  • Convene patient advisory boards that meet regularly with practice leaders to convey concerns and make suggestions about improving patients’ experiences.
  • Use multiple methods to identify and systematically address impediments in clinicians’ daily work — the “pebbles in the shoes.” Examples include rounds, conducted by senior leaders, with both staff and patients; staff focus groups and anonymous surveys; and CEO feedback meetings with small groups who speak openly about what prevents them from delivering better care.
  • Create a balanced scorecard of physician performance that tracks not only productivity but also professional development, team building, safety and quality metrics, timeliness of care or access, communication skills, and care coordination — measures that matter to patients.

A Way Forward

Medicine is constantly evolving as new ways to treat, heal, and even cure emerge. We must continually reflect on the changes, and correct the course as needed. This work cannot happen in a vacuum of forced efficiency. Physicians, patients, and administrators all must maintain and build on what is sacred and soulful in clinical practice. We must listen generously so that we nurture authentic, bidirectional relationships that give clinicians and patients a sense of mutual purpose that no best-practice guideline or algorithm could ever hope to achieve.

HBR: Shoppers Need a Reason to Go to Your Store — Other Than Buying Stuff

Does your store make small pickups a convenience? Should our building supply stores provide a compelling or memorable physical experience? How do you balance between time-well-saved and time-well-spent for your customers? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by B. Joseph Pine II:

Shoppers Need a Reason to Go to Your Store — Other Than Buying Stuff

The holiday season, which is by far the most important time of year for retailers, highlights the increasingly intense battle between physical stores and online websites. Given the large number of casualties this year — witness the bankruptcy filings of such venerable institutions as Toys ‘R Us, The Limited, H.H. Gregg, Gander Mountain, Payless Shoes, and RadioShack, to name but a few — retailers must finally wake up to the core terrain over which they’re fighting: customers’ time.

Online retailers offer consumers time well saved. People can find what they want, when they want it, with incredible ease and convenience, and with the physical good shipped directly to their homes in a matter of days (and increasingly, in large cities, hours). As often as not, they don’t even have to pay shipping costs, and returns are a relative breeze. While the U.S. Census Bureau puts e-commerce’s share of the U.S. retail market at less than 10% as of the first quarter of 2017, online sales are growing at almost 10% per year. Should that trend continue — and it appears to be accelerating slightly — online retailing will account for nearly 20% of the total in 2025, over 30% in 2030, and about 50% in 2035.

To address this threat, one path physical retailers can take, of course, is to compete by going online themselves and even using their physical stores as a pickup spot — a strategy that many bricks-and-mortar retailers have taken. (One retailer I know saw a 35% bump in sales when it gave customers the option of picking up merchandise in its stores that they had bought online.)

But that alone will not save many retailers’ physical stores. They have to provide a compelling reason for consumers to visit them that online retailers can’t match. The best way is to compete on the basis of time well spent — to offer an experience so engaging that customers cannot help but spend time with you! And the more time they spend with you, the more money they will spend.

Consider what I think is the best new retail format in ages: Eataly. This Milan-based retailer (which so far has 13 stores in Italy, five in the United States, and five others in other countries) manages to combine all things Italian cooking into one amazingly engaging space: a café, one or more restaurants, a cooking school, and — especially — rows and rows of Italian groceries, kitchenware, and small appliances for sale. Consumers often spend hours there, and then memorialize their visit with photos posted to their Instagram feed or other social media outlets.

Many retailers (even banks) incorporate cafés to engage the senses and encourage consumers to linger, such as Restoration Hardware’s new 70,000-square-foot place in Chicago, which features a courtyard café, an espresso bar, and a wine room. Others, such as cosmetics retailers Lush and SABON, focus on getting consumers to experience their goods in the store, knowing that will increase the chances they will make a purchase.

Another approach is to focus on the story of each product, as happens in L’Occitane en Provence when customers encounter associates. Yet another way to offer time well spent is to stage special events, which even Walmart is doing this holiday season: It’s hosting 20,000 parties across its 4,700 stores, knowing that’s something Amazon cannot do. The Christmas season, of course, furnishes the perfect time-tested tactic that has worked for decades for department stores: Santa Villages and other Christmas extravaganzas for which people gladly pay to give their kids a festive experience.

Interestingly, many of the most engaging retail experiences have come from manufacturers. There’s American Girl Places, which immerses girls in its doll’s stories; Nespresso Boutiques, which lets people experience its espresso machines before they buy them; LEGO Stores, which feature play and building; and, of course, Apple Stores, where every product is live and workshops offer skills, “geniuses” offer support, and sessions offer inspiration. (Even Starbucks started out as a manufacturer before Howard Schultz turned it into an experience stager.) And recognizing the demand-generating power of physical engagement, numerous online retailers have opened up their own bricks-and-mortar stores; examples include Warby Parker stores, Bonobos Guideshops (bought by Walmart), and mass customizer Indochino Showrooms.

Those that are best at staging experiences have even figured out that when consumers truly value the time well spent they encounter in these places, the retailer can charge for that time via an admission or membership fee. Billed as the world’s most beautiful bookstore, Livraria Lello, in Porto Portugal, charges an admission fee of €3 just to enter the store — and then consumers get that money back if they make a purchase. Universal CityWalk in Hollywood charges from $5 to $50 (depending on location and time of day) per vehicle — not for parking per se but specifically to send the signal that it is a retail place worth experiencing.

Generally, though, retailers charge for particular experiences within their stores and do not charge for admission to their stores. American Girl charges for its café experience, a photo shoot and magazine cover, and even a doll hair salon experience (not to mention birthday parties that can run into the thousands of dollars). Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) charges customers $20 to $40 to tackle the 60-foot climbing walls and structures it has in its flagship stores, offering instruction and also essentially getting customers to pay to try out its mountain-climbing equipment. And the Mall of America charges for the various rides in its Nickelodeon Universe theme park in the middle of the mall.

Wingtip, a men’s store in San Francisco, doesn’t charge for the retail experience — as engaging as it is, with superb merchandising of clothing, including a bespoke experience, plus wine and spirits, cigars, and a barbershop fulfilling its theme of “Solutions for the Modern Gentleman”; instead it created the Wingtip Club in the top two stories of its building for which it charges membership fees. The club is a refuge from the bustle of the city, with a lounge, bar, game room, whiskey corner, and golf simulator; members spend hours at a time there. The price of a membership is a $3,000 initiation fee and then $200 per month for unlimited access. All members (men and women) receive a 10% discount on merchandise.

There will always be physical stores for pickup convenience and the commoditized or very inexpensive merchandise like Dollar Tree stores sell. But providing a compelling or memorable physical experience is a different strategy that can work. Physical retailers must choose between time-well-saved and time-well-spent strategies. Whatever they do, they should be careful not to choose a middle-of-the-road approach that fails to excel at either.

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HBR: Selling Products Is Good. Selling Projects Can Be Even Better

As building suppliers, we tend to focus on bigger projects such as new homes and commercial buildings. Is your company or yourself focusing on small projects? Are you helping your customers complete their projects? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez.

Selling Products Is Good. Selling Projects Can Be Even Better

In the beginning companies sold products. And then they sold services. In recent years, the fashionable suggestion has been that companies sell experiences and solutions, solving the needs and aspirations of customers.

Companies, indeed, do all of these things. But increasingly, what companies sell are projects. To understand the difference, think of an athletic shoe company, such as Nike or Adidas. A focus on products means a focus on selling running shoes. A focus on experiences might mean they sell you a membership to a local running club. A focus on solutions might mean they figure out how to help you reach your goal weight. While these clearly offer more value than simply selling you a pair of shoes, they also have limitations. Selling products limits the revenues you can make from clients: Unless you are innovating and continually updating your product offering, customer attrition tends to be high, and incentivizing repurchases can be hard. Selling experiences provides intangible benefits that are hard to quantify and measure, often focusing on meeting the needs of one single customer, preventing any mass production. Selling solutions became popular in the early 2000s when customers didn’t know how to solve their problems. But today, in the internet age, people can do their own research and define the solutions for themselves.

A focus on selling projects would mean helping someone do something more specific, such as running the Boston Marathon. Nike could provide you with its traditional sports gear, but in addition it could include a training program, a dietary plan, a coach, and a monitoring system to help you achieve your dream. The project would have a clear goal (finish the marathon) and a clear start and end date.

And that is just one type of project. More so than products, the possibilities with projects are endless.

From Products to Projects at Philips

Consider the evolution of Philips. Founded in Eindhoven, in the south of The Netherlands, in 1891 by Gerard Philips and his father Frederik, it began by producing carbon-filament lamps. Its success was achieved by a culture of innovation and the speedy introduction of new products. Over more than a century of profitable existence, the range of products offered by the company has mushroomed. Today, Philips produces everything from automated external defibrillators to energy-efficient lighting for entire cities. It even applies its smart sensor technology to teeth brushing.

This profusion of products means that Philips is cash-rich, yet sales have stagnated in the last decade, and concerns about the company have been reflected in its stock price. Faced with this changing reality, Philips took a long, hard look at itself. It identified the absence of focus and lack of strategy implementation capabilities as crucial elements that needed addressing. Five years ago, with intensifying competition, the Philips board split the organization into three different companies: Consumer Health, Lighting, and Healthcare.

It then went on to launch “Accelerate,” a program aimed at accelerating growth by transforming each new independent company into a focused organization. At the heart of the changes brought about by the Accelerate program are projects.

Over the years, Philips had become an intricate, blurred matrix. Accountabilities and responsibilities were shared between products, segments, countries, regions, functions, and headquarters. It set out to simplify this convoluted and archaic organization structure.

To do so, Philips put projects center stage. Projects were identified as the best management structure to break up silos and encourage teams to work transversally (end-to-end) in the organization.

As part of this, Philips Health Tech was divided into just three divisions. Essential to making this happen was a substantial increase in the work executed through projects. The shift was from selling customers a few products every year to creating an engaged relationship over decades.

One of the biggest challenges facing Philips Health Tech is that the life expectancy of its products is becoming shorter and shorter. Soon after launch, products are copied by the competition, which means they must be priced more cheaply. Soon, they become a commodity. This removes any opportunity for steady, high margins over the long term. Philips has experienced this even with its high-end health care products. Shifting its emphasis to selling projects rather than products was a strategic response to this problem.

For example, Philips sells high-tech medical devices. In the past it sold them simply as products (and it still does). But now Philips seeks out the projects in which its products will be used. If a new health care center is being considered, Philips will seek to become a partner from the very beginning of the project, including the running and the maintenance of the new center.

Among the results of this project focus at Philips is a partnership with Westchester Medical Center Health Network aimed at improving health care for millions of patients across New York’s Hudson Valley. Through this long-term partnership Philips provides WMC Health with a comprehensive range of clinical and business consulting projects, as well as advanced medical technologies such as imaging systems, patient monitoring, telehealth, and clinical informatics solutions.

In similar long-term partnerships with Philips, hospitals have been able to significantly improve radiology volumes and cut MRI waiting times in half. These organizations are seeing a 35% reduction in technology spending while improving clinical quality.

The Project Revolution

Philips is not alone in using an increased focus on selling projects as a means of disruptive transformation. At Microsoft, the company’s entire focus has shifted to Cloud services, most of which are offered as projects. It now has around 10,000 operating projects. Airbnb, valued this year at $30 billion, recently announced that it will start selling “experiences” — small tourism projects — as a way to create new revenue streams and address the increased regulatory scrutiny in some of its bigger markets. The biopharmaceutical industry is also seeking to work with governments and other purchasers on focused treatment programs, rather than simply offering individual drugs.

Clearly, the shift to becoming a project-driven organization and selling projects rather than products or services presents sizeable challenges to corporations and their business models. Working in projects throughout my career, I have identified these as the important ones:

  • Revenue streams. Revenues will be generated progressively over long periods of time, instead of right after the sale of a product. This will affect the way revenues are recognized, as well as accounting policies and the overall company valuation.
  • Pricing model. New pricing models will need to be developed. It is easier to price a product, for which most of the fixed and variable costs are known, than a project, which is influenced by many external factors.
  • Quality control. Delivering quality products will not be enough to meet customer expectations. Implementation and post-implementation services will also have to be of the highest possible quality to ensure that clients continue to buy projects.
  • Branding and marketing. Traditional marketing has focused on short-term immediate benefits. Marketing teams will need to promote the long-term benefits of the projects sold by the organization.
  • Sales force. The buyer of the project will no longer be the procurement department of an organization. Sales will be pitched to leaders of the business, so the sales force and sales skills will have to be upgraded with strategy and project management competencies.

Stop for a moment and consider what your organization is selling. Is it a project? Increasingly, the answer is clear and affirmative. If not, beware, your products might soon become part of a project sold by someone else.


HBR: The Most Common Reasons Customer Experience Programs Fail

What are your Costs-to-Acquire, Customer Penetration, and Customer-Lifetime Value? Do you have a Customer Experience strategy? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Ryan Smith and Luke Williams.

The Most Common Reasons Customer Experience Programs Fail

Most customer experience (CX programs) are positioned as strategic, but quickly veer away from business objectives and become simply about tracking CX metrics. Time passes slowly, data continues to mount, and paralysis sets in. Big, strategic goals evolve into score improvements and incrementalism instead of gleaning useful insights that allow change with confidence.

So where does it all go wrong?

Most CX programs are broken in similar ways:

  1. They are not designed with change or innovation in mind.
  2. They have “soft” metrics rather than real business goals.
  3. They move slowly and without purpose.

Mistake #1: Forgoing change and innovation

Ask your CX program leader about the purpose of the program. If the answer is something other than, “So we can make intelligent changes that benefit the customer and the business,” you may have a serious issue. CX programs must be about change.

At the most rudimentary level, basic programs track performance over time. Yes, that’s useful, but why is it important? Because you want to improve over time. This means you must do things differently than you did them before. While it’s not complicated, this is a frequently overlooked premise to having a CX program—it’s about change.

Effective CX programs prioritize the importance of what gets measured and stack those data against your desired outcomes—what’s called “driver analyses.” Good driver analyses unlock the method for having the most change in the fewest possible moves.

While executing driver analyses enables change, it’s not actual change. It’s just more data until you do something with it. The reasons change doesn’t often happen are reporting paralysis, the lack of “think time,” and failure to collaborate.

Reporting paralysis can occur when teams are so wrapped up in distributing data, ensuring data quality, or writing up insights that they forget the purpose of data. If you “measure everything and report everywhere,” you’re not being strategic with your data.

Building in “think time” can help with this. Instead of just measuring, manufacturing, and distributing, build in time to understand the implications and applications of the data. This will give you clarity and confidence in what you’ve seen, how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, allow hypotheses to be formed and plans for change to be made.

Collaboration is also important if CX is going to result in any real change. CX experts must work with other departments and stakeholders to push the agenda for customer-focused improvement. Yes, it’s hard to do this when no one has time to meet, much less collaborate. But the CX program is uniquely positioned to try to make this happen anyway. They own the customer, they’re the advocate, and they have the analysis. Most importantly, the CX program reminds everyone else why they have to make time for the customer, above all else.

Mistake #2: Linking metrics to business outcomes

Most CX programs use their own tracking measures as emblems of success or failure. If a score improves, that number is heralded and CX teams use it as evidence of innovation and improvement by the team. Often, these results are accepted at face value.

But the problem with this approach is you really can’t control for all other things that could cause scores to rise, and you can’t assume that a rise in scores is good for net revenue. When it comes time to set key performance indicators (KPIs) for the program, be sure to match them up against input from both your CMO and your CFO.

What are the kinds of things you might want to consider? Here are some examples:

  1. Cost to Acquire and Serve a Customer (CAC and CSC): The better you understand your customer and prospect base, the more you build experiences and services they crave, the lower your CAC and CSC should be.
  2. Customer Penetration and Share: Customer penetration is simply increasing the number of customers you have. Share of wallet is the ultimate measure of how they spend their money when the ultimate point-of-sale (POS) decision occurs. Study the drivers and barriers of both to optimize here.
  3. Customer Lifetime Value: This is the net present value of all future customer revenues with account for attrition and your discount rate. It’s a complex measure, but the best firms understand it and make it a central part of their scorecard.
  4. Customer Churn: A well-run CX program can contribute to gains against customers shifting away from your brand (attrition) or abandoning it altogether (defection).

There is place in the world for performance benchmarking survey metrics like net promoter score (NPS). Many firms aren’t sufficiently sophisticated with respect to the above measures, so measuring NPS or other metrics may be the only empirical evidence available. When this is the case, though, be certain to study KPI success or failure with caution. A satisfied customer is not necessarily a profitable one.

Mistake #3: Moving slowly, without purpose

A CX program is a living, breathing thing. It’s either in a state of growth, peak productivity, or decline. CX programs are like mountain climbing — if you aren’t confidently moving through the problem, you may be wasting valuable energy trying to figure out where you’re going.

While it’s critical that CX programs be well designed and methodologically sound, sometimes wasteful activities are allowed to creep into the design process and bog down the program. Lack of momentum and sluggishness spell doom to a CX program, and leadership must propel the program.

True CX leadership comes from:

  1. Ownership. There must be a program owner: a single person who is ultimately responsible for the success and quality of the program.
  2. Expertise. The leader doesn’t have to know everything about the business, research methods and analytics, or strategy to be effective. But the more they know about each, the more effective the program will be.
  3. Resources. Multi-million dollar budgets aren’t necessary to create or capture value. Start with a basic budget commensurate with those of an IT program. Let them demonstrate value to earn more resources.
  4. Empowerment. Give your leader the authority to be successful.

Going slowly when you don’t intend to is clear evidence that the program has slipped into neutral in the leadership camp.

There are many obstacles and detours that can prevent full ROI from your CX program. In our experience, these three are the most common. To avoid them, remember that CX programs are not merely about watching scores go up and down. The goal is to create experiences that add value to the customer and the firm simultaneously, and this requires constant change. So think about what ideal experiences you want customers to have, and work backwards from there. Work quickly. And re-invent as needed.

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BoF: The Business of Love and Passion 

Are you in the people business? Below is a blog from the Brains on Fire:

The Business of Love and Passion 

At Brains on Fire we believe with all our hearts and souls, it is possible to fall madly and passionately in love with the people you serve. And we believe that it’s possible for those folks to fall in love with you, too; and, yes, for you to become famous and grow your organization because of that love.

That’s exactly what we’ve done to grow our own business over the years. Not only have we fallen in love with our customers, we received the permission and indeed the honor to get to know and care for our customers’ customers. It’s our role as marketing matchmakers to help connect our customers with their employees and customers through shared passions.

Every business owner should be wildly romantic and passionate about your advocates; the employees and customers who help fuel your success.

What does it take to fall in love with your advocates, the customers and employees who are ready, willing and happy to fall in love with you? Start by following these Passion Principles.

  1. Love people. Never leverage people.
    We hate it when we hear companies talk about leveraging fans to tell their story. Think about it: Do you really use people you care about? Absolutely not. You listen to them. You get close to them. You see them frequently. You want to be a meaningful part of their life. You inspire them and in return, they inspire you.

If you want people to be in love with you and talk about you, you must fall in love with them first. Your clients, customers, donors, tribe, employees, advocates—what you call them doesn’t really matter—can and should become beloved heroes in your organizations.

  1. Love takes patience.
    For real and lasting relationships to take hold, you have to be in it for the long haul and not for a one-night stand (perhaps the marketing equivalent of a one-time purchase).

Loving your customers is not something you do for a limited amount of time. It’s something you do every single day. And the value of that effort grows exponentially stronger and deeper with time.

  1. Get people to talk about themselves.
    The passion conversation isn’t about getting people to talk about YOU, the brand. It’s about getting people to talk about themselves. Encourage others talk about themselves, their lives, their hopes and their dreams. Create platforms, online and offline, for the people you serve to share their own stories. Give them opportunities to talk and be willing to listen.

At Brains on Fire, we no longer consider ourselves to be in the marketing business. Instead, we’re in the people business. This makes sense for us because marketing nowadays is more about reframing the work you do in the world to inspire your employees and customers. The most successful word-of-mouth–driven businesses in the world have always been in the business of inspiring people.

Good stuff happens when you’re in the people business. We promise.