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The Platformed Enterprise 3.0 - How to drive massively efficient scale

I’ve been writing about a concept called The Platformed Enterprise, which defines how customer-centricity actually works within highly successful organizations. The basic concept is aligning the entire business around shared outcome-based value creation (value externally with customers and partners, plus value internally through top-and bottom-line revenue improvements.)

 First, a refresher on key concepts

Yes, platform is becoming an overused term, but we need to re-introduce it within a new context that liberates it from the sole domain of digital and marketplaces. The fundamentals of platforms have been successfully implemented not only in the operating models of the likes of Amazon and Apple, but also in traditional companies like John Deere.

  • platform provides the rules and standards for any ecosystem to function in a unified fashion for strategic advantage. That means it can be applied to any ecosystem, whether it’s millions of IoT devices, a marketplace, or an organizational ecosystem (because nearly every business on the planet, even if relatively small, is an ecosystem with a lot of moving parts.)

  • Too much emphasis is being put on platform-based business models (PPBMs), which are transactional experiences focused on bringing complementary parties together on a platform to exchange products and services for money and other forms of value (ie. data). Its core benefit is scale and top-line competitive advantage through network effects. Nearly all conversations about platforms focus here (“how to be the next Uber of your category!”), but this is only half of the success equation.

  • Barely discussed are platform-based operating models (PBOM) (ie. how you work),which strategically orchestrate all elements of an enterprise ecosystem – people, processes, strategy, org structure, technology, regions, etc. – around differentiated, sustainable value creation, ie the core value proposition. Typical operating models aren’t optimized for ecosystems; they’re optimized to enable every separate department, business unit and region to linearly produce their own separate outcomes.

Success today depends more on your operating model than a snazzy new business model.

 Your operating model must align with your business model

The below graphic defines the relationship between platforming an experience (vertical axis) and platforming the operating model (horizontal axis). The level of maturity defines how widespread and consistently an organization is applying platform principles externally and internally to drive massively efficient growth and scale. On the low end, traditional businesses are siloed internally and deliver fragmented experiences externally. On the high end, I'll credit Peter Weill with his term of ecosystem driver (although I have some fundamental disagreements with his model, it's a useful concept that can be applied internally and externally.)

The Platformed Enterprise Maturity Model

The Platformed Enterprise Maturity Model

An experience is what you deliver. The operating model is how you work. Focus on the latter, and you’ll improve the former every time. Combine both and you have found the holy growth grail of highly efficient, compounded scale.

 The transformation that’s truly needed is to break free of the current way we do business into a new, more future-ready operating model that delivers more freedom, flexibility and agility. Without this step, any snazzy new digital or CX investment will end up as lipstick on a pig and fail to accomplish your goals.

The five traits of the platformed enterprise

What’s under the hood of the above graphic is a maturity model of each layer of the Platformed Enterprise – Strategy, Experience, Operating Model, and Technology (more on that here) – against the five traits.

The first three are at the heart of every high-growth customer-centric business, and should look familiar if you joined my Customer Centricity webinar last year:

  • Value -- Laser focus on an aspirational, outcome-based value that serves as the unifying principle for the entire organization and extended ecosystem

  • Clarity -- how clear is the value externally, and how clear is it for every employee in the organization to deliver on that value (ie. "line of sight" to customer outcome)

  • Coherence -- the degree to which the organization acts like a coherent system for value creation instead of a collection of siloed components.

 The next two build on that foundation to achieve platform-based efficiency and scale:

  • Optimization, which builds on this concept of shared value. I’ve written before that the right strategy serves as a compass and a sword, allowing organizations to cut away anything that isn’t directly driving the outcome-based value you’re trying to create. Apple and Amazon both do this ruthlessly well in different ways. Check out this article from McKinsey on how this concept is applied within high-performance product teams; we’re simply expanding the concept to apply to the entire organization.

  • Replication to drive massive scale; once you’ve got the platform DNA defined, you can replicate like a beneficial virus. On the vertical axis (Experience) this takes the form of replicated assets: instead of owning a car fleet, Uber used the platform to massively replicate ride production. Likewise, Amazon’s platform replicates product development, and AirBnB replicates rooms. But wait, there’s more. On the horizontal axis, Amazon replicated and productized its own technology architecture into AWS, and its core competencies in logistics and warehousing into Amazon Services.

Next up

In my next post I’ll dive more deeply into these three and highlight how Amazon and Apple both deliver on all six attributes in very different ways. 

Questions and comments are appreciated!

Future-proof your business with The Platformed Enterprise

I've been writing about business platforms and ecosystems, laying the groundwork for the model I'm sharing here in this post. If you missed it, you might want to visit this post, which introduces the topic at a high level, and this post where I define ecosystems and platforms in more detail. Another that may be helpful is this one that outlines "nested strategy" -- keep the Enterprise level in mind as you read further here.

To recap: In order for a business to become future-ready, it must shift from a siloed, linear model to a more dynamic, ecosystem-based model. The metaphor for business changes from a machine to a biological system that simplifies complexity and enables agility and resilience.

I like Yochai Benkler's definition of platform: “a technical and organizational context in which a community can interact to achieve a specific purpose.23  This takes the concept of platform well beyond the technology realm, but the same basic concepts apply. A platform in the technology context defines the shared purpose, standards and rules for anything that sits on the platform. Just as Apple developers must play by a different set of rules than Microsoft developers, one could argue that the entire Apple brand is a platform that defines an extremely coherent, differentiated plug-and-play environment and experience for customers and the broader ecosystem.

The platformed enterprise™

As discussed here, a core concept of an ecosystem is value exchange across diverse parties with complementary self-interest. To create a thriving business ecosystem, one must consider the "keystone species", ie. your priority customer. In a biological context, the keystone species is what holds an ecosystem together, and it influences all other types of plants and animals that make up that ecosystem. An ecosystem for a grey wolf is radically different than the one for a starfish. That means that the core value desired by your keystone customer informs your entire ecosystem internally and externally. For example, Apple's keystone customer type is "rebels who think different" -- which attracts and influences the entire ecosystem that forms around it regardless of customer type (individual, SMB or enterprise) or geography.

Which brings me to the model itself:

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The model is built in layers, designed to simplify the complexity of organizations and extended partners, with everything sitting on top of the strategy layer.

The Strategy Layer

Strategy at the enterprise level must be defined first, and is entirely based on the keystone customer. When you first define the keystone customer mindset or psychographic (examples here in Enterprise level), it serves as the organizing principle to simplify business ecosystem design.

The strategy layer defines the required ecosystem for attracting your keystone species, the specific value sought by the diversity of "species" within that ecosystem, and how players and motivations interact to create differentiated value across the entire system. It includes customers, employees and partners (offerings and experiences), as well as the broader communities and the environment in which the organization operates (informing a more aspirational purpose, plus increased ROI for sustainability and CSR).

“People think focus means  saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means  saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully." - Steve Jobs

Focus is critical here; without a very clear definition and prioritization of your keystone species, you're left with trying to be all things to all people... which means you're nothing to anyone. No ecosystem will form or thrive around diluted focus with no clear way to decide what should be in or out of the system. Steve Jobs focused on a specific mindset, resulting in Apple being the first company to hit $1T in value.

The experience layer

This is the actual customer experience. It should itself be platformed, ie. fully seamless across departments and business units, and informed by the guidelines in the strategy. If you are aiming to create a platform-based business model, it sits in this layer; design should focus on the specific value exchange between platform participants.

But of course this focus on business model alone is not enough. You need to also apply platform principles to your…

operating model Layer

Your strategy and customer experience must be supported by an operating model (org structure, metrics, processes, etc) that is fully aligned and optimized for the specific value you’re trying to create. By defining the rules of the platform, you work more efficiently and eliminate redundancies. As you mature, you’ll also able to do things like externalize your core competencies across partners and a broader ecosystem to achieve unprecedented scale.

By thinking of your organization as a platform-based ecosystem designed to deliver a specific differentiated value, you can vastly streamline your business and achieve measurable efficiencies internally.

The Technology Layer

Most talk of platforms focus here, on the technology layer. But we believe that technology must be addressed last, because technology is an enabler of value creation. What value must be created across the ecosystem, across which entities, and how is that value exchanged? Digital transformation must be built on a solid understanding of the goals at the strategy, experience and operational layers in order to be successful.

In my opinion, this is the root cause of digital transformation failure. Digital is often tackled as a siloed initiative without being fully integrated into the rest of the business in a way that delivers a set of specific outcomes aligned with the enterprise-level differentiated value.

Questions or comments? As always, thanks for reading... your comments are very welcome. Stay tuned for more on this topic.



What's the difference between a platform-based business model and a platformed enterprise?

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A lot is being written about platform-based business models. I differentiate them from platform-based businesses as follows:

  • Platform-based business models (PBBM) are transactional in nature-- focused on bringing parties together on a platform to exchange products and services for money; it can also include additional value including content and data to accelerate the network effect. Simon Torrance offers many good articles on this topic, including this recent interview with Sangeet Chaudary. In this model, about 25% of Apple's revenues come from platform-based services (think iTunes.)

  • A platformed enterprise (PE), however, is more about strategic alignment -- focused on orchestrating all elements of an enterprise (including its extended ecosystem) around differentiated, sustainable value creation. With this definition in mind, I'd argue that 100% of Apple's revenue comes from being a PE. Just like a technology platform that defines the standards and rules for applications that sit on top, Apple has applied a brand- or enterprise-level platform (Think Different) that defines the rules and standards required to seamlessly interconnect everything that sits on top; all of its products behave according to the rules of the platform, enabling flexibility and endless extendibility into new markets. A PE is an apple tree that grows apples (PBBMs). But a large, complex organization can't take a solitary apple (PBBM) and expect it to produce more fruit anytime soon.

Disruptors born in the internet age are accomplished at PBBMs precisely because they are also PEs. They serve specific customers with specific jobs to be done, and orient their entire business around differentiated value creation across a wider ecosystem. The PE enables organizations to simplify complexity, and therefore expand far beyond the boundaries of traditional firms. Platformed enterprises require a fundamentally different mindset than traditional business -- it's a shift from a mechanistic, linear "machine-based" metaphor to a biological, living-systems metaphor. A living system is inherently adaptable and resilient, able to self-organize around shared purpose and complementary value exchange.

If a large, unwieldy traditional enterprise wants to evolve to a future-ready, platform-based world, it must first become a platform -- a tree planted in fertile soil with the right growing conditions. If you tackle PBBM without becoming first a PE, then yes, you can temporarily reap some benefit. Some good examples include:

  •  GE's Predix Platform, a critical operating system for the Industrial Internet of Things that connects industrial equipment, data analysis, and delivers real-time insights

  • Target's acquisition of delivery marketplace Shipt

  • P&G's Connect and Develop, an older example, which fuels their innovation pipeline

However, these "tack-on" PBBMs do nothing to evolve the overall organization to succeed in today's complex, fast-paced environment. The underlying platform-based mindset and operational approach must be applied to the entire business.

If you're not jiving with my tree metaphor, think in terms of operating systems. You can't run Apple's Keynote on a typical PC. You can either run Keynote on a stand-alone Apple computer that's disconnected from your network, or you change your entire operating system so that everything plays by the same rules. If your organization is running off of the traditional operating system that we inherited from Henry Ford 100 years ago, tacking on a platform-based business model will only get you so far. You'll need to shift your business to an entirely new operating system to compete head-to-head with Internet-era-born disruptors.

For more on platformed enterprises, start following our series on the Value Platform, a strategic model designed to help traditional businesses evolve to a more future-ready operating system.

Platforms & Ecosystems: Why Growth is Challenging

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Platforms and ecosystems. These terms are being thrown around a lot these days, for good reason. Most of the high-growth and high-value firms -- Apple, AirBnB, Uber, Amazon -- have been built on these concepts from the ground up.

But what do these terms mean exactly? Can any organization evolve to this mode of thinking, and should they? What is a useful strategy framework that can handle and simplify the complexity of business and ecosystems? We'll be exploring these questions in a series of articles. Let's start with the groundwork of definitions.

Growth today requires a new mindset

Let's back up and take a critical look at how business works today. We inherited our business practices from Henry Ford over 100 years ago; Ford taught the world how to transcend individual craftsmanship and evolve into mass production and scale. But this model is only effective for linear manufacturing processes; it's not effective within a fast-changing, complex world where businesses must deliver loyalty-building experiences. Linear processes and silos have become barriers to growth and agility. We need a fundamentally different way of working to make our organizations fit for the future.

Let's find an analogy. What could give us insight into how to manage a lot of moving parts (departments, business units, regions, partners, value chain, etc) for a variety of customer types (consumer, small business, enterprise, cultural variations, demographic and mindset variations) and knit them together into a coherent whole to achieve a set of outcomes?

Consider a natural ecosystem like a coral reef, in which numerous unrelated species coexist in harmony. A coral reef doesn't require coordination; it's self-sustaining because one species' waste is another species' food. The value generated within the ecosystem is the engine that maintains and grows the entire system. It serves as a magnet, attracting others that want to participate in this value exchange.

My current working definition of ecosystem is "self-sustaining value creation across interdependent entities with shared goals," and I'm very open to groupthink to evolve this definition.

Why doesn't your organization operate like an ecosystem?

Technically any business today should be an ecosystem. All your departments, business units, partners, etc. are (or should be) "interdependent entities with shared goals." The system should be easily self-sustaining; growth should be natural. And yet most leaders struggle to gain alignment and move their business forward. Numerous transformation efforts (digital! CX! innovation!) are applied more as band-aids without much impact, because the root cause hasn't been addressed.

Any ecosystem is an emergent property of a set of conditions. A coral reef cannot exist without the right location, water temperature and nutrients. Therefore, to get any set of diverse participants to begin operating as a singular whole, we need to look to the properties of complex systems for guidance. That means focusing on the conditions that allow growth to occur naturally... it can't be forced or even directly guided.

Defining the conditions for a self-sustaining ecosystem

I'll tackle this one in a subsequent post, but here's where I'm headed: Condition #1 for a self-sustaining ecosystem is shared value. For example, survival is the core value in a coral reef, and the currency of value is food; different types of food, or nutrients, are exchanged across species.

If your organization is not growing naturally and easily, I'd argue that you haven't defined value - and how to create that value - in a way that is relevant and meaningful across all parties, both internally and externally.

A strategy without the right metrics is called a wish

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I've seen a few posts recently arguing that the phrase "you can't manage what you can't measure" is a myth or bad advice. While the authors make some valid points, I worry that these articles diminish the importance of metrics in any transformation effort. 

what you measure reveals your priorities

Managing what you measure is a factual observation, like the sky is blue. Show me what an individual or an organization measures, and I will tell you their entire philosophy of life and success. What you measure is where your attention goes, rightly or wrongly. And you usually measure what you're focused on... again, rightly or wrongly. 

When an organization obsesses over customer acquisition metrics, but can't tell you customer LTV, I can predict that organization's profitability, growth rate and future prospects for staying in business (low). Those leaders are focusing on the wrong things if their goal is (I assume) to create a predictable revenue machine. 

Likewise, if an organization is drowning in a sea of metrics, it reveals that they have no strategic priorities.

"If you have more than three priorities, you don't have any." - Jim Collins, Good to Great. 

a strategy without metrics is a wish

When I ask clients how they're going to measure progress towards their definition of success, they often have no crisp answer. While the goal is usually measurable -- increased revenue and market share -- there can be a lack of clarity on what it's going to take to move the needle on those metrics. Which is a lot like a pilot who wants to fly from New York to Brazil without a way to know if he or she is flying in the right direction. 

I honestly can't think of a scenario in which the thing you need to manage is unmeasurable. There are ways to figure out metrics that are predictive of what you need to measure and manage. If you can think of any exceptions, please post them in the comments. 

So perhaps we should reframe this observation to be, "you can't manage what you haven't strategically decided to measure," or "you can't manage what you don't know how to measure." In my experience, a strategy without the right metrics is called a wish. 

Which begs the question...  

What are the right metrics? 

Right is, of course, a subjective term that depends on what you're trying to achieve. Let's assume your goal is to create a predictable revenue machine. There's a lot of talk about growth hacking these days, usually referring to marketing. But the ultimate growth hack is to fill the holes in your proverbial bucket so you don't lose customers out the bottom as fast as you pour them into the top. When you fill the holes by focusing on retention and loyalty, every new customer is additive instead of replacement. And these customers buy more from you and refer you to others. Ta da! Your predictable revenue machine, which costs a lot less than a sole focus on acquisition. 

So... how do we measure this? I won't go into too much detail here, but here's where I'd start: 

Strategy metrics.

Yes, I'd start with strategy, not with CX repair. I don't believe you should be down in the weeds of "find and fix" before you've set your future-state vision for your priority customer (which is, by the way, contrary to a lot of CX maturity advice out there.) Strategy helps you prioritize which holes to fix, for whom, and how to fix them in a way that is aligned to your strategy. 

Strategy metrics are outcome-based.

They're anchored on what outcomes your priority customers want you to help them achieve, which are both emotional and tangible. Yes, emotional... even in B2B. How do your customers want to feel when they do business with you? This is the #1 outcome you're aiming for, which guides your brand, business and CX strategies. And remember: there's no and in brand. You have to pick one emotion or mindset that is highly motivating and differentiated enough to aim for, and that is linked to driving business outcomes (for example, feeling in control, successful, confident, a sense of belonging, important, etc etc. Every great brand anchors on an emotion, which is what we built our Value Archetypes to inform.) 

They focus on the why.

All the analytics in the world won't tell you the why behind win/loss. And they won't define the overarching why you're in business and the value you should create. You have to get that understanding up front, use it to set your strategy, then use your strategy to inform metrics and everything else (and continue to listen for the why to fill in your journey- or touchpoint-specific knowledge gaps.) 

They can help you manage an emotion. 

You can reverse-engineer everything you say and do from the emotional outcome you deliver and value you create. I call it "getting all the wood behind one arrow." What experience and business model is required to deliver that outcome? When you do this correctly, you can back into a very short set of perception metrics (7, to be precise) that are predictive of attracting and keeping customers -- and these metrics are shared across the entire business to create alignment. Then you can define the descriptive, operational and department-level metrics that will guide you on closing the gap between current-state and future-state experience. Which then guides your repair metrics and focus. 

PS. Note that strategy metrics are NOT oriented around you, and what you make and sell. Your customer is the only one who can decide whether you're creating sufficient value -- on their terms -- to justify giving you value in return.

PPS. This is all included in customer strategy: the organization-wide blueprint on how to attract and keep customers. I'll be covering this topic in my next White Board Wednesday. To get it in your inbox, click here

Repair metrics 

You are probably doing some form of this, but let's get strategic instead of boiling the ocean with a lot of repairs and metrics that may not actually be the right ones.

For which customers?

First, we have to know which customer groups are most important to your success. And yes, these are defined up in your strategy. If you're losing unprofitable customers, no big deal... which is yet another metric you should be tracking by segment, but knowing how to segment and prioritize customers isn't always straightforward in a complex business. I'll save this for another post. 

Which issues?

Identify where the holes in your bucket are for these customers, and how much revenue is flowing out of each of them as they move through the conversion lifecycle (ie. at what stage do they drop out and why).  Journey mapping is another essential tool that can help diagnose which issues and why, along with more sophisticated methods like analytics and regression modeling to understand what's driving customer win/loss.

Now let's filter these holes by how essential they are to your future-state vision. Let's say your future-state is all based on, say, helping customers feel more in control... which means you need to provide tools, information and resources to empower them. And let's say one of your holes to repair is the lack of easy information and guidance. Boom. Put this in your higher priority fixes. 

How do we measure?

Lastly, identify descriptive metrics that are linked to those holes and those positive, differentiated perceptions that we want to create. A descriptive metric for tools and resources might be how often customers access a tool, how much time they spend with it, and whether increased use of the tool helps improve their perception metric of feeling empowered and in control. 

Your navigation system: Strategy, metrics and governance

Oooh, the "g" word. I know governance is a term a lot of people don't like, so let's reframe it as "how we make decisions." If... 

  • you have numerous strategies sitting in silos like marketing, digital, IT, service, product, etc.
  • you are drowning in an ocean of metrics, none of which ladder up to shared goals and outcomes, and
  • your decision-making across the organization is also fragmented and based on different criteria....

... then hoo boy, you're in a world of hurt, as they say back in my hometown in Texas. 

I like to call the intersection of strategy, metrics and governance as the organization's navigation system. It's how effective leaders, like pilots flying an airplane, know the flight plan and the associated metrics to mark your progress. Which then allows you to more effectively make decisions, because your flight plan and dashboard are tightly integrated and boiled down to the essentials that you need to know to reach your objective. 

If these three aren't basically the same thing -- across your entire organization -- well, there's your biggest opportunity to accelerate your growth. 

We'll dive deeper into this topic on next week's White Board Wednesday. Stay tuned. 

 

 

Why B2B buyer personas are a massive waste of money (and what to do instead)

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If you're in marketing, it's likely that you've created buyer personas. If you're in B2B, then the number of those personas are probably proliferating due to all the variations like role/title, vertical, size of company, relevance to various products or business units, etc. 

Buyer personas are based on the enormous fallacy of something called the purchase funnel. Spend a lot of resources generating awareness and consideration among the greatest number of prospects, and then convert them to purchase. Job done, right? 

Wrong. 

It's time to start thinking quality over quantity. When you think with the end in mind --  what are the right products, services and experiences required to keep and grow our most valuable types of customers -- then everything changes. 

See, your product teams can't build as many variations of product to match the variety of customers you're pulling in the door. Nor can your organization build an infinite number of experiences. This is why the trend of data-driven personalization is a band-aid. Sure, it can drive top-line revenue... but how in hell is the rest of the organization going to deliver on 100 different promises? Ending your funnel at purchase is taking care of you, but alas, not helping the rest of the organization. 

Reframing your job

Marketing is the tip of the spear. You're the group who is best poised to understand your customers and prioritize them for the entire organization. You're the only group who can do it. And when you start helping the entire organization attract, keep and grow your most valuable customer types -- which boosts brand reputation, accelerates business growth and decreases inefficiencies -- you win major credibility points with other departments and in the board room. 

Instead of a purchase funnel, start thinking conversion lifecycle: a combination of 'conversion funnel' (ie. from awareness to purchase to loyalty and advocacy) with the major lifecycle stages including, for example, installation and getting support. It doesn't make sense to have two different models for different reasons. 

When you think about who is moving through that entire lifecycle, it's a single human (or group of humans.) There's not a set of buyers who suddenly turn into a different set of customers... which is an artificial distinction created by internal silos, represented by different metrics, goals and funnels. You likely have different personas proliferating around the organization that are built by different departments for their own ends.

With this in mind, your job should be focused on understanding how many and which customers are moving (or should move) past the purchase stage. Your ideal customers may be pouring out the holes in the bottom of the bucket faster than you can keep it topped off -- which happens when your organization isn't aligned on the same customer priorities and takes an all-things-to-all-people approach in a helpless response to customer complexity.  

Throw away your buyer personas

... which are no good to anyone in your organization except for sales and marketing. Instead, build a limited set of priority customer personas, linked together by a differentiated psychographic and mindset, that guides the actions and priorities of the entire organization. Show how each priority role moves through the entire lifecycle, and what experience is required to attract and keep them. NOW you've got the right information to inform your "marketing module" -- how to get these people in the door in the first place. 

"Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." - Steve Jobs

I've seen too many buyer personas with a laundry list of possible mindsets, needs and motivations. They were built in a bottoms-up fashion without a top-down strategy to guide all employees on the single most important customer outcome that everyone should be aiming to create.  

How to fast-track the right answer

You may be thinking, "Of course, Jen, I know that we need to do this. But I don't have the time or resources to dedicate to a big strategy project." 

Yep, exactly. I know the feeling. I'll let you in on a little secret that consulting firms and agencies don't want you to know (or maybe they don't know it themselves): This process is way simpler than it looks. Why? Because human nature is... well, human nature. It doesn't change. And there are only so many customer variables with which you can build a successful brand. 

After nearly 30 years in the business, I've packaged up all the repeatable shortcuts and frameworks that I built for my own use as a consultant, and I'm making them available to you. It's time to take the know-how and short-cuts out of the minds of consultants and put it where it belongs: in YOUR teams. 

Join us for our upcoming webinar: The Shortcut to Defining Prioritized, Impactful B2B Personas. I'll share my 3-part recipe for getting to the right answer fast. 

Click to register. 

Like this article? Might your teams and peers benefit? Please share! 

 

What's a B2B Persona Platform, and why do I need one?

Does your business deal with a Rubik's cube of enterprise customer complexity? Verticals, titles, sizes, geos, channels, psychographics and mindsets.

Layer on all the various departments and business units that might be building use-case-specific personas for marketing, sales, products, services and experiences, and you've got an explosion of complexity on your hands. 

While marketers can create an infinite number of personalized messages for an infinite number of customer segments, that's taking the easy way out. You're not helping the rest of the organization, since your product, service, and experience groups don't have that luxury. 

It's essential to prioritize and focus on your best-fit customer... then create a very small number of personas that every department can build on. 

Think of this "master set" of personas as a platform. They are linked together by a mindset, and provide high-level information on the messages and experiences that will drive repurchase and loyalty. Then each department builds on this foundation over time. How does Role A move through the lifecycle? What digital experience is the right one? How does it vary from Role B? 

Apple is a great example of focus. Their target? People who think different. How many unique personas do they need? Not many. Basically a couple variations on a single theme -- Apple consumers are also an enterprise's employees who demand that the IT department allow them to BYOD (bring your own device). That's what has fueled Apple's growth in the enterprise (40% YOY growth as of the last reported statistic in 2016). 

Apple's best-fit customer might be someone who buys Apple for themselves, and is also an employee of a large company, ideally one that has a design focus. They are both a user and an advocate. There's Role A. Role B would be the IT department who's responsible for either enterprise-wide technology purchases, or passing the rule that employees can use their own devices. 

From here, you can define each role's lifecycle -- the consumer who buys either online or in store, gets support at the Genius bar, etc. OR the enterprise IT customer who moves through a different, more personalized experience. And yes, there will be a lot of added detail and perhaps some variations... but Apple's laser focus on a mindset links it all together. 

But wait! (you might say)... Apple sells to a lot more types of people than these two! Yes, you're right. My 75-year old mother loves her iPhone. But we're talking "center of the bullseye" here. Against what type of customer will you design your end-to-end customer experience? If you get that right, others will follow. 

There you go. The first company to hit $1T in value and (I may be wrong, but) I'd bet they don't have more than 4 priority personas. 

Join our upcoming webinar

If you need to solve for an explosion of customer complexity, join us for our upcoming webinar. We'll go through our 3-part recipe for simplifying and focusing your efforts on your best fit customer. Click here to register. 

 

Three massive flaws in marketing "best practices"

If you're in marketing, advertising or lead gen, you know that what moves the needle is understanding customer mindsets, not demographics. What makes customers tick? What do they fear? What motivates them? Winners of the Effie Awards all know how to tap into emotion. The most successful brands in the world know how to build companies on emotion. Best practices, developed over decades, have told us exactly how to do it. 

The problems with "best practices"

Conventional wisdom dictates that this kind of psychographic insight requires months of up-front research and strategy work before launching a campaign to guarantee effectiveness. Building qualitative discussion guides from scratch, and then (even better!) convincing the client to spend 5-7 figures on a quantitative research project. And only then do you have the insights to create a creative brief and execute. For 25 years I served as an account planner, brand strategist, and management consultant; I've learned, practiced and taught these best practices while conveniently ignoring the problems, which include: 

  1. It takes too long. Best practices were born decades ago, back when there was more time to do everything. Clients weren't demanding results yesterday. Society and business has sped up considerably, and our practices need to evolve with the times.  
  2. It's not accessible to smaller firms. Most companies don't have (or want to spend) the money to do a 6-figure segmentation project. So you rely on existing customer knowledge (often lacking psychographic insights) or conduct a few interviews to make sure you're directionally on target. Or -- as I've heard from many of you -- you throw stuff against a wall to see what sticks.
  3. What customers say does not equal what they do. Now, this feels weird for me to write this. I mean, I've been doing research-based strategy work for decades. But the fact is, no matter how well-done the research, at the end of the day it's only directionally predictive of future success. And if you don't ask exactly the right questions, you'll miss the mark without even knowing it. Only actual behavior can be a better predictor of what's going to generate leads and new customers. 

Best practices were born decades ago before concepts like Agile and digital were a glimmer in some inventors' eyes. They're outdated. And, while still helpful, they aren't absolutely necessary. 

What's needed is a more agile approach to insights, allowing you to create hypotheses based on proven human nature and then testing those hypotheses with behavior (ie. clicks). The key here is "proven human nature." If you're guessing in a vacuum, you are likely to miss the crucial insight that is needed to capture attention and interest.

If your organization is being pressured to produce quality results faster, talk to us about our Value Archetypes, playbooks and coaching.  

How to link brand, CX and digital to drive measurable results

Now that we've reviewed the Value Platform and Value Archetype™ concepts, let's see it in action. I originally designed the Value Platform™ to address a common problem that I saw in the brand strategy world: the lack of connective tissue between the brand strategy and everything else. 

This post provides a sample framework to help you ensure that your brand promise can be operationalized. We help CMOs look good by driving measurable results from their brand work. 

Why your transformation effort is likely to fail

Why your transformation effort is likely to fail

There’s a lot being written about digital transformation. Customer experience transformation. Future of Work transformation. Oh, and let’s not forget innovation. No matter the type, they all seem to be failing. McKinsey reported that "just 26 percent of respondents say the transformations they’re most familiar with have been very or completely successful at both improving performance and equipping the organization to sustain improvements over time" in 2015; two years later, they found that "companies are no more successful at overhauling their performance and organizational health than they were ten years ago."

I'll share my theory, formed after countless conversations with senior leaders over the years and numerous customer-journey/root cause analysis projects....