Category Archives: Marketing

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Extreme customer experience: there is no alternative.

Extreme customer experience: there is no alternative.

Whether you are an industrial player, a service provider, in the commodity business, a high-tech start-up or an independent contractor, there is only one sustainable approach towards growth. With the quick product development of today & the stream of quick and easy copycats that work at a much lower cost than you are, the only way to retain customers is by offering something that is far more difficult to copy: an awesome experience. Yes, sorry to break the news, but your customers are not buying your product or service because it’s the best in the world, they buy a solution, an experience that brings the most value to them. And value = f(product characteristics, price, easy of doing business, easy of use, fun, how they can talk about it to their peers, the price,…).

But what about Value Proposition?

Off course, there is the model of Customer Value Propositions, where the insight behind is that a company should choose where it want’s to beat the competition. The goal is that you are ‘on par’ on all the 3 axes, but divert all your focus on one specific access to win the game there.

Value Propositions
Source: The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

With this in mind, you might be inclined to think that focussing on Customer experience is only one option. However, I want to advocate that Customer Experience is not the same as customer Intimacy and that you relentlessly should focus on customer intimacy regardless of your positioning. So yes, you still can be a Product leader, but you will never have the best product when you are not going for extreme customer experience. The reason is simple: the experience is your product seen through the eyes of the customer. Nobody will buy an iPhone if you need to assemble it yourself, put 20 hours in configuring it,… Same goes for operational excellence. Even if you focus on low cost, the way to bring it to customers needs to be extremely good. Of course, the customers experience will be different, but needs to be designed with the Value Proposition in mind. Take a look at the experience Colruyt is given: It’s completely different than that of Delhaize, be they are relentless a creating a unified experience (no locks on the shopping carts, industrial lighting, the walk-in-freezer,…).

So bottom line: don’t let your positioning be an excuse to not go for Extreme customer Experience.

I’m passionate about extreme customer experience. Want to talk about it over a coffee or need some inspiration: let’s talk! A sneak preview of what I can bring to the table.

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Minimum Awesome Product

Minimum Awesome Product

Creating a new product or service can take years. More and more companies however move away from the “don’t launch it until it’s completely finished, retested and out of date” approach. They go for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach where a working but ‘not ready for mass production’ product is launched towards a small group of customers in order to help further developing the product.

In that context, a new question arises:

“What about a kick-ass product”?

The risk with MVP’s is that what makes a product truly remarkable – more often than not – lies in the details, in how remarkable the elements of the products come together in a design, a use, a service experience,… With a MVP, you will only deliver the core of the new product or service, which is most of the time not enough for a real WOW experience. And by only offering this, you also tend to focus on getting the core better when working with the first customers. They evaluate what they get (the core capabilities) and by default they will give you feedback on how to make that core better by adapting it better to their needs. Only in rare cases, they will focus on the things that are not there or that they are not (yet) aware of (the details, the design, the packaging, the unclear element of a new kind of usage,…).

So how to tackle this issue without going again towards the old model of developing a product forever?

What about a parallel route? You push your MVP product in the process with customers to focus on shipping a real product as soon as possible. At the same time, use a small group (or even individual) to add some magic to the existing MVP product. Why not use a designer, an outside consultant, one of your top sales guys,…?

When you work on shipping your version 2 of the MVP product, just add the WOW elements (as they are not linked to the core of your product, this should be rather easy). Imagine how delighted your first customers will be if they see that both their requirements were met in your new release and a magical tough has been added.

Minimum Awesome Product (MAP): Delivered!

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Challenges for enterprises on the Belgian Energy Market

Category : Blog , Marketing , Solutions

The Belgian electricity market is in constant evolution. As both society and government move towards more renewables in the energy mix, new challenges are bound to arise. The physical nature of the majority of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydro,…) implies they are not as controllable as other sources of energy. When there is no wind, there is no power to be harnessed from wind. This uncontrollability is largely due to the simple fact that there are no realistic ways — yet — to store energy in large amounts. As long as we are unable to store energy in an economically viable way, the combined demand of all companies and households in Belgium at any given time during the day cannot exceed supply (the total sum of all electricity originating from windmills, gas-fired plants, nuclear installations, solar panels, imported energy, etc.).

As governments are constantly modifying the applicable rules and regulations, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to predict their energy-related costs. On the other hand, however, new technical evolutions (in terms of measurement, smart grids and load balancing for example) are creating new opportunities for companies to optimise their energy needs.

In the face of these challenges and opportunities, the Total Cost of Energy indicator (TCE) has been developed: a powerful tool designed to help you tackle your company’s energy challenges.


Whether your organisation relies on energy simply for heating and lighting your offices or for more heavy-duty industrial processes, energy management is an essential part of your operational and even strategic management. It is therefore important to integrate every aspect with a potential impact on your total P&L within a comprehensive energy strategy.

And that is where the Total Cost of Energy (TCE) model comes in. To help you map all these elements into an effective strategy to minimise costs and maximise your competitive edge.

The TCE is basically a construction of all the elements that a company can/should consider when making decisions regarding its energy needs. It lists elements from the pure raw energy source, the time of buying, security of supply, energy and cost saving measures and a lot more.

You can download the whitepaper with the TCE here for free (no strings attached).

I firmly believe that when companies look towards energy as an integrated and strategic asset, they are able to save a lot of money, whilst still creating a more sustainable energy landscape.

Disclaimer: The author is Marketing Innovation & Transformation manager for a EDF Luminus, the major challenger on the Belgian Energy market.

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Habits of successful artists – Spark 10:  Lead a tribe

Leading means taking risk, standing out from the crowd, do something for the first time, ship it and convince others to follow you. It takes a great deal of courage, a great idea and a risky execution.

Courage: doing something new is by definition an uncertain business: No benchmarks, no best practices telling you what to do. Just you, your brains & intuition.

A great idea: It all starts with this. Being able to have something that creates a new kind of value to at least one person or organisation.

Risky execution: As the idea itself never represents any real value. It’s only by putting it to use that you will create an impact. Going out into the real world and leaving your whiteboard is always risky: in the real world, you can actually brake things 🙂

Go out, be brave & lead!

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Habits of successful people – Spark 8 :  Write Daily

Category : Marketing , Random thoughts

Ah, the art of writing! This should be an easy one to talk about, no? Well not for me, because writing is one thing, but doing it daily is another one. Actually, I am already glad when I get to Write Weekly (Note to self: one added value of writing: it visualizes things: Let’s call it the WW from now on ;-)).

Well, enough about the hard things of writing, let’s start with the benefits!

First of all, it helps you to learn. Not from books or classes, but from your experiences in real life (with others!): By looking back at your day and writing about it, you re-live the day and the learnings you had. As we all know that learning comes from repetition, it helps you in actually storing as many learnings of your day as possible.

Second reason is that — by forcing yourself to write something down — you create your own opinion, your own vision on things: Writing something down requires a structure of words, of paragraphs, of build up… This helps you in clarifying the ideas you have in your head. Also, by seeing your own writing, you will sometimes discover the stupid things that sounded very interesting while they were still in your head. For me, this is clearly the most important reason to write.

Writing also helps you think more in terms of the receiver of the information. It forces you to translate your idea in something another person can understand (without direct access to what’s in your head) and respond to. When it’s out into the world, people can react to it, in order to build a conversation. This helps in making your idea spread and actually have an impact.

And finally, it just can help you to calm down. Let it all go. Don’t you believe me? When you lie awake at night because the wheels in your head are turning on a splendid idea, just write it down in the book that always is next to your bed and have a good night sleep!

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Habits of successful artists: Spark 1 — Learn to sell what you have made.

Reading the book ‘The Icarus deception’ from Seth Godin, I came upon this list:

“The habits of successful artists”

  • Learn to sell what you have made.
  • Say thank you in writing.
  • Speak in public.
  • Fail often.
  • See the world as it is.
  • Make predictions.
  • Teach others.
  • Write daily.
  • Connect others.
  • Lead a tribe.

It stroke me with that much inspiration, that I decided to write one article on each (or try at least, no sense in sharing nonsense also). Easy peasy: in the order they appear.

First up: Learn to sell what you have made.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m the first to take blame, but being able to ship is in my opinion the key differentiating element for companies big and small. For some reason, in small companies, it seems like the natural thing to do. Probably because shipping there is the only way to generate revenue to pay for the cost you made. Off course, this is not different in large companies, but apparently, there is moment where companies come at a stage where the direct impact of not generating revenue right away is not that visible anymore. If you are big enough, there is no risk that you will not be able to pay your cost at the end of the week (off course, also this is an illusion, but perception is everything off course).

Another element might be that the (perceived) risk of doing some wrong is bigger in a big company than in a small. Putting it this way: if you are a one man company and you screw up big time, you need to find another job and you need to work during the week end to pay of some debt, if you are a company with 1000 employees and you screw up as a company, 1000 people need to find a new job and millions are lost for shareholders. And off course, most shareholders don’t like risk…

The only way out of this is to start putting a risk premium on ‘not shipping’, on ‘not doing anything’ or ‘doing as last year and hoping that the outcome will not be too much different’. In economical terms: this is not only the opportunity cost, but also the cost of loosing your first mover advantage or even the cost of becoming obsolete.

Whenever you think: I will not present these figures to my boss this week because it’s not what he wants to hear and I want to check some extra figures, force yourself to not only put into the equation your fear (Seth would call it ‘your lizard brain’), but also the cost of loosing one week time in adapting if you prove to be right…

Shipping this article now!

Also available on Medium.

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The end of CRM, the start of MRM

In BtB, it’s about Market Relationschip Management

Customer Relationschip Management systems, programs & processes are the cornerstone of every modern company. Without them, it’s impossible to assure a good customer relationschip (especially in large companies, where everybody takes one part of the customer interaction): When your support people take up the phone, they want to make sure the customer instantly feels connected because your agent knows who he is, knows what products/services he has from your company, what is important for him, how happy he is, what are his outstanding invoices,…

It’s clear that there are a lot of solutions on the market (from the very large SAP / Siebel / Microsoft kind of solutions towards the smaller cloud solutions (Nutshell, Highrise,…).

When implementing these tools, the tricky part comes: We tend to implement them from a customer perspective (clearly, hence the C in CRM). However — especially in a B2B environment — the market is typically smaller and more stable. It can happen that a customer is leaving you, but comes back in 2 years, or is shifting part of his portfolio to you from a competitor because you have a new kind of product/service. If you want to do things right, we should stop building CRM processes and tools, but start working with Market Relationschip models (MRM): A customer who leaves you is the best lead you’ll ever have: you know his business, you know what is crucial for him (the thing he left you for might give a hint), you already have his contact information, you know his needs (at least partly: the products/services he ordered with you in the past),…

In data-model terms: stop seeing a prospect, a customer and a lost customer as different entities, they are merely charasteristics of the same entity. See it as a tag on a company name that you can use to differentiate your approach towards them (on your complete marketing mix).

How to you handle your CRM processes?


Also available on Medium.

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Internal communication is not a business unit.

Typically, it goes like this: In small companies, internal communication is done by the owner of the company. It’s not in her job description (owner’s don’t tend to have a formal job description in the first place), she just feels the need to communicate to her company. All of a sudden, in larger companies, it becomes the role description of a dedicated person or even a whole business unit.

The people in this unit then can start the work of a miner. They constantly need to push all people in the organisation for information (Do we have a new product that we should push on the corporate website? Is there a new big client the CEO can use as a reference when talking to industry leaders? How good is the knowledge of all employees on corporate strategy?…). I can only begin to image how difficult their work must be. They are faced with a situation where every employee is their source of information on the one side (but nobody has off course the time to produce direct usable information) and the complete organisation is also their target group.

Off course, this is about knowledge and the thing about knowledge networks is that every single person has an interest in learning (getting knowledge), but not directly in sharing his own knowledge (because that off course takes time). As the value of the knowledge network is mainly defined by the individual pieces of knowledge in it and everybody seems to value the power of knowledge, we should try to push more the boundaries of the typical knowledge role of internal communication in large companies.

I would argue that ‘internal communication’ should not be the formal role of one or more people, it should be a part of the role description of every single employee. The role of internal communication should be transformed into a curating one:

  • enable the knowledge sharing and learning (through dead easy tools);
  • reward knowledge sharing;
  • create and archive of the most important knowledge;
  • create flows of knowledge exchange in all directions in the organisation.

Seems a lot more fun than bugging people for information also…

How is your internal communication team oriented?


Discuss also on Medium

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The end of bad experiences?

Category : Blog , Marketing , Random thoughts

City hopping in a Foursquare world.

NYC must be the place where you can use Foursquare-like tools the most easy. Maybe it’s because I’m only an outsider visiting the City that never sleeps, but the amount of coffee bars, places to enjoy an early afternoon cocktail or discover new tastes is enormous. When I was in NYC the first time a decade ago, finding a place was as easy as it is today, the only difference was that you had no clue upfront whether the place would be great, just good or plain rubbish. Every coffee you ordered was an opportunity for an new taste experience or a disappointment in humanity all together. Chances where about 50/50.

Today, things are different. Very different. I don’t think we had one drink/bite in a place that did not have a 8+ score on Foursquare… and preferably with an online OpenTable functionality (saves you a lot of trouble waiting for the place to actually open and a lot of money if you are on a roaming rate).

There is no more hiding in this world. Bad places can only exist for the group of people not willing or not able to check a place out before they enter. With this group growing smaller over time, all market players will need to push the limit, become more agile, more original, more customer oriented, more experimental, more cosy, more local, more specialised.

Tourist traps will only live so long. Don’t ever again say technology is not bringing good things to humankind! Don’t wait for the crowd and technology to change your industry, change it for them!

Article also on Medium.

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