The Importance of Software Evaluation Benchmarking

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Your business operations need to be effective, efficient and up-to-date if you want to continue pleasing clients and making an impact within your industry. That’s why it’s so important to create a software evaluation benchmarking plan to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Using benchmarks will help you develop better strategies and foster long-term growth for your company and employees.

What Is Software Evaluation Benchmarking?

Before we discuss software evaluation benchmarking, it’s critical to understand the concepts of “software evaluation” and “benchmarking” as their own entities.

Software evaluation is an assessment of your business programs and software technology, which you can use to find room for improvement and enhancements in the company’s system operations. Meanwhile, benchmarking is the process of comparing current business processes to those of other industry leaders and competitors by collecting and analyzing data.

Software evaluation benchmarking is the use of collected data to assess your company’s technical applications. By using benchmarks as part of your software evaluation, you’ll gain the ability to make a more informed decision about the adjustments you need and how to apply them.

How Software Benchmarking Can Benefit You

Because software and computer technology dominate such a large part of industries today, the importance of software evaluation benchmarking is undeniable in the current competitive market. With accurate benchmarks, you and your employees can:

  • Illuminate system/software flaws: Software evaluation benchmarking is a great opportunity to find flaws in your processes or programs that might otherwise be hidden from plain sight. With knowledge of your business’s weaknesses, you can take steps to fix or improve them with better accuracy and foresight.
  • Compare performance with competitors: Software benchmarking will give you insights into the performances of your competitors so that you can compare them with your own performance. This comparison can help determine your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your competitors while allowing you to make improvements that might work to your advantage.
  • Improve customer experience: How do your software and applications affect customer experiences with your company? Having a basis of comparison with some of the industry’s leading companies will allow you to optimize your technology, which can have a major positive impact on customer/worker interactions.
  • Develop plans to cut costs and improve efficiency: Inconsistencies in any business’s processes can lead to losses in productivity and revenue. By accessing comparative data and making the necessary tweaks and adjustments to your system, you can raise productivity among leadership and employees while reducing unnecessary costs.

Partner With Proactive Worldwide

At Proactive Worldwide, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve accurate benchmark results every time with our software evaluation benchmarking services. With the right insights and strategies, you can create a more efficient, reliable business that will stand the test of time, even as other facets of the industry come and go.

If you’re ready to compare and assess your software and application components, we’ll provide you with all the services and resources you need. Contact us today for more information about software evaluation benchmarking.

Why Use Competitive Intelligence Software?

Benefits of using competitive intelligence software

It’s no secret that having the proper tools to organize business data and information gives a company an outlook on their market. With so much information in a business’s day to day processes, “infobesity” describes the overload state intelligence functions are in. Companies rely on data to better their practices, but it’s always a challenge to interpret numbers efficiently.

Fortunately, competitive intelligence software provides a solution for your industry.

What Is Competitive Intelligence Software?

A marketing or competitive intelligence software combines data into time-sensitive organization methods. Simply put, data and other information is taken, stored and calculated to show professionals where their business stands based on current inputs. The analysis of business information gives companies the chance to look at competitive activity and plan efforts accordingly.

At its core, competitive intelligence software lets you catch a glimpse of the marketplace in an efficient and coordinated manner.

Benefits of Proactive Worldwide Business Intelligence Software

The Proactive Worldwide platform comes from a partnership with Comintelli to offer Intelligence2day. Employed by tens of thousands of users, our competitive intelligence software can provide:

  • Business insights
  • Competitive advantages
  • Foresight into the future
  • Lower decision-making risks
  • Enhanced speed to market
  • Increased awareness
  • Predicted behaviors
  • Influence to your investments

As one of the best technology solutions for your business, Proactive Worldwide will let you choose the service level that meets your needs. Our different packages will give you a cloud-based or on-premise delivery of our service, perfectly suited to your needs. The dashboards are easy to use and work seamlessly with computers, tablets and mobile devices.

Enhancing Your Competitive Approach

Intelligence2day(R) can optimize the way in which your business works with market information. With Proactive Worldwide, your company will be able to find, categorize and communicate with your team through a variety of features. We supply your employees with access to RSS feeds, web monitoring and Google news.

Together, your workers can comment, vote, share and more with cloud-based functions that keep entire departments on the same page. Taking fewer than 30 days to start up our software, Proactive Worldwide encourages our clients to watch an exclusive demo to see how our service is customizable to each business.

Visualize Your Next Steps

Why use competitive intelligence software? Intelligence2day will let your team see valuable information for what it’s worth. Instead of crunching numbers and searching for competitive information, the Proactive Worldwide service presents quantifiable data in a visually friendly way.

Intelligence2day breaks data down into visual charts, graphs and animations to save you time. Our service adapts to any industry and makes data mining a struggle of the past. Competitive intelligence software is on the rise because it helps businesses small and large learn from mistakes and take an educated approach for the future.

Working With Proactive Worldwide for Business Intelligence Software

Proactive Worldwide can transform the way your business operates. By watching our Intelligence2day demo video, you can discover what our service does for our clients. Contact Proactive Worldwide today for more information about the products and services we can offer to better your market placement.

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Best Opportunities for Growth in the Consumer Goods Market

Growth Opportunities Consumer Goods Market

Today’s consumer goods market bustles with both well-known corporate players and nimble new brands attempting to carve out the next great industry competitive advantage. Relying on yesterday’s production, supply chain and sales practices simply won’t cut it.

Companies today must marry a wealth of consumer demographic data with larger cultural and social shifts to position their brands for relevance in the future. Investing in the right technology and tools will be critical to capturing, then leading, that CIG charge. Consumer goods companies must understand:

  • What internal and external forces motivate its target consumer?
  • What technological tools position it to reach the most relevant leads?
  • What disruptions loom on the horizon, either social, political, economical or otherwise?

In answering these questions, we begin to weave the tapestry of the top consumer trends for this year. Understanding the emerging consumer goods industry trends discussed below empowers CIG brands like yours to invest in the right technology, tailor smarter brand messages, deliver preferential products and, ultimately, forge profitable connections with customers.

Driving Forces in This Year’s Consumer Goods Trends

Today’s state of the consumer goods market is fundamentally shaped by a core set of social, cultural, political and technological factors that affect the everyday lives of consumers.

These wider forces have created an inflection point for CIG brands. Once acknowledged, companies can pivot to creatively integrate or strategically disrupt these underlying forces, creating a brand narrative both aligned with yet positioned to stay ahead of the times.

1. Customer Centricity in the Digital Age

Immediate, omnipresent and personalized. These are the holy grail of what consumer brands aspire to obtain in today’s digital-first world.

Over one-third of the world’s population owns a smartphone. Mobile devices have come to be one of the most dominant forces in contemporary life, shaping how people communicate, answer questions, schedule their days, get directions and shop.

It’s no longer enough to simply optimize sales platforms and marketing collateral for mobile search. CIG brands must deliver the personalized, relevant content today’s consumers use their mobile phones to view. A company’s ability to deliver customer-centric, value-adding content to the average person via their most prized device will profoundly affect its ability to succeed in the increasingly mobile marketplace.

2. Bioindividuality

Bioindividuality recognizes that identifying and profiling the genetic singularities within every person is the foundation for a healthful life. This unique approach covers everything from one’s metabolism, body composition and sleeping habits to more interconnected systems like memory and digestion, lending personalized suggestions on how these biological parameters influence our tastes and habits.

The commercial embrace of bioindividuality represents the larger consumer demand for personalization. Today’s shoppers seek products with individual relevance and meaning rather than broad goods with generalized results. Brands in the health and wellness industry are particularly impacted by the bioindividuality trend, but its uses and influences extend to products far beyond protein bars and shampoo.

3. Sustainability, Global Consciousness

Almost half (48%) of American consumers say they consider their purchasing decision’s impact on the environment and intend to make positive changes. They’re putting their money where their mouths are, too. Sustainable fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sales today carry a compound average growth rate (CAGR) four times higher than conventional products and brands without any sustainability tenets. By 2021, the sustainability FMCG market is projected to reach $142-150 billion in sales, compounding by a minimum of 20% annually since its first growth spurt in 2014.

Global consciousness trends consumer goods

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

CIG brands must keep tabs on the next projected chapter of technological innovation, the burgeoning internet of things (IoT).

The IoT-infused commercial landscape offers retailers and producers a new foothold to examine interconnected consumer patterns and behaviors, then launch more compelling purchasing incentives. Mobile phones, wearables, voice assistants, household electronics and even connected appliances and cars provide new data for the consumer goods market to capitalize on.

5. The Omnichannel Experience

Omnichannel retailing has seen itself emerge as a major industry trend within the past five years. However, its importance continues to climb as everyday consumer technologies evolve. Consumer goods companies must find ways to engage with audiences cohesively and compellingly on multiple channels, utilizing joint targeted campaigns informed by synthesized consumer data.

Brands must find the appropriate balance between supporting mobile, voice and desktop shopping and in-store amenities, if relevant, for its business models. Industry data, in particular, continues to point toward transitioning and investing in the former (digital-first experiences) while creatively repurposing the latter (in-store) to create a contemporary shopping journey.

6. Digital Supply Chains

The consumer goods market sees supply-side forces impact its evolution, as well. Few supply-side variables have been as positively influential for CIG companies as implementing a horizontal digital supply chain directing in-house operations.

Digitally transformed supply chains harmonize cross-functional data, allowing organizations’ production, warehousing and distribution branches to work in tangent off the same data systems. In doing so, CIG companies:

  • Improve inventory/warehousing practices
  • Coordinate more cost-effective shipments
  • Manage fluid vendors and partners
  • Uncover inefficiencies or process burdens through ERP data mining
  • Can better spot demand patterns and integrate advanced planning analytics and forecasting into everyday management

7. Institutional Transparency

Trust in traditional institutions is at a historic low, particularly among millennial and Gen-Z consumers. As a result, consumer goods brands must go the extra mile to prove their authenticity and commitment to ideals larger than profits.

Brands most successful at establishing this transparency and trust are those who master customer-centricity and omnichannel engagement with its target consumer profiles. These companies have invested in understanding the true preferences and desires of its base and have nurtured a one-on-one connection. They bring value to their customers’ lives, not just another sales transaction.

Authentic brand messaging consumer goods

8. Voice Technology

Voice search is poised to be the next great chapter in commerce platforms for consumer goods companies. Industry research projects voice-assistance speakers and devices to grow from its 2.5 billion household devices today to over 8 million by 2023. This mounting prevalence presents a revolutionary new way to reach and engage with consumers directly. Over 80% of voice device owners already utilize voice commands to search for real-time information and answer questions. Brands that integrate voice search into their omnichannel presence or to trigger marketing content will be primed to leverage this growing technological wave.

9. Smart Packaging

Another supply-side force driving growth for CIG brands is the rise of smart packaging. Traditionally relegated to commercial food, beverages and pharmaceuticals, smart packaging principles and techniques are seeing applications in broader product scopes, often to cost-cutting advantage.

A smart-packaging strategy involves interconnected uses of tools like QR codes, near field communication (NFC) and RFID to extend the shelf life and organization of goods while in storage, as well as improve the transparency and expediency of the delivery process to the consumer. Overall, smart packaging principles aid in a customized, seemingly on-demand user experience while also improving a company’s life cycle management metrics.

Top Consumer Goods Trends for This Year

Consumer Goods Market Industry Trends For This Year

Inspired by an evolving cultural and technological backdrop that prioritizes personalization, immediacy, transparency and authenticity, today’s FMCG and CIG companies stand to benefit the most by incorporating any of the following consumer goods trends into their brands.

1. Going Green

Committing to a “greener” brand footprint is one of the best growth opportunities for consumer goods companies. Buyer interest in environmentally conscious, sustainable and green products has never been higher. Research from Nielsen additionally shows that in the retail market, products with clear brand messaging geared toward sustainable sourcing and social responsibility has seen the highest sales growth rates in the retail space — with more than 60% of households now prioritizing purchasing sustainable products.

Four of the main characteristics consumers look for in a green brand are:

  • Production sustainability: A product and its components are sourced and fabricated using socially conscious, sustainable and environmentally aware processes and materials across the entire production chain.
  • Processing claims: The words and descriptions used to advance a product’s green identity (e.g., “organic,”) are representative of accurate scientific, legal or medical terms.
  • Product ingredients: Product ingredients are easily identifiable, familiar, safe and generally considered “clean” according to popular scientific and consumer sentiments.
  • Product packaging: Materials used in the shipping, storage and housing of a good or product are recyclable, compostable, sourced sustainably and overall have a minimal carbon footprint.

2. “Silver” Products, Goods

The world’s population is aging. According to the United Nations, the total population of persons aged 65 or older will double in 20 years to exceed 1 billion, then double again by 2050. By 2030, the population of elderly persons is expected to outnumber children under the age of 10 across the globe.

Aging Population Trends Consumer Goods

Most tellingly, the aging population is not geomarket-specific. Its effects extend over established and developing consumer markets alike. Again, by 2030:

  • One in five North Americans will be elderly
  • One in four Europeans will be elderly
  • Nearly one in five Chinese will be elderly
  • One in eight Indians will be elderly

Aging populations significantly alter the landscape of consumer demographics. Products geared toward the aging or elderly will see significant opportunities for depth and expansion, particularly in Asian markets. Already, consumer goods brands like Dove and ConAgra have launched product lines targeting senior citizens.

3. Biohacking

Biohacking is the direct commercial result of bioindividuality, or the trend of consumers seeking products tailor-made to match their unique genetic makeup.

Already, biohacking has seen tremendous growth in the broader health and wellness industries. Consumers can order protein powders customized to their workout regiment, skincare products for their skin type and even potted household plants to “hack” mood and hormone regulation.

Yet biohacking’s ability to marry product personalization with daily functionality is only half the commercial opportunity. The popularity of biohacked consumer products reveals a deep consumer desire across demographics to live healthier, happier lifestyles based on verifiable, science-backed findings. Brands that can answer this need in their own product lines stand to leverage this powerful consumer trend.

4. Voice-Enabled Ordering

The increasing prevalence of voice-assistant devices will offer a decisive new frontier to reach and engage target consumers — in the convenience of their own homes.

Brands that optimize sales pages and content marketing collateral toward voice-based searches stand to achieve two benefits. First, they present a new level of convenience for users to find and interact with their brands, often with users doing so instinctually. Second, they stand to master a new form of SEO far before their competitors.

Voice-enabled ordering and shopping has already seen a series of successful pilot iterations, mostly in the form of voice-enabled apps. From pizza chains to grocery stores with voice-controlled digital shopping carts, voice activation stands to serve as the next significant chapter in mobile consumer technology.

Voice-Enabled Ordering Trends Consumer goods

5. Experiential Connections

Inspired in part by the emergence of pop-up shops, creative experiential partnerships offer CIGs a way to create memorable brand touchpoints with your customers, nurturing more authentic connections along the way.

These campaigns work best when they harness technology’s ability to blur digital and physical experiences. Brands will be pushed to think creatively about how to engage with customers online in ways that mirror organic interactions in stores. For example:

  • Influencer and acquisition collaborations: Getting physical products off the webpage and into the hands of real industry leaders and influencers as well as into stores.
  • User-generated content: Putting the power of the online review back in your control, plus offering another arm to practice customer-centricity.
  • Co-creation across pages and platforms: Letting customers express their own product or brand ideas, preferences and tweaks, then creating content based on their feedback.

The irony is not lost that many of today’s most successful e-retail disruptors are moving to develop in-person brand experiences. Instead of hopping on the pop-up store bandwagon, CIG brands should strategize ways they can recreate a dynamic in-store experience across their omnichannel touchpoints, then use those non-salesy touchpoints to convert.

6. Sustainability and Transparency

Consumers today are more concerned about the reputations of the businesses they engage with than ever. Though they still value bargains, they’re less inclined to compartmentalize low prices and savings if it means supporting unethical businesses or production processes. In fact, 75% of consumers say they’ll switch to a brand that provides in-depth product information on the label and online, even paying more for that product.

Sustainable Transparent Business Practices Consumer goods

CIG brands have several tools at their disposal to convey greater integrity and transparency. They can:

  • Wield social media to narrate end-to-end sourcing, vendor, testing, production and packaging practices
  • Use marketing and advertising to relay authentic brand values
  • Cultivate brand partnerships with nonprofits and influencers dedicated to causes you care about
  • Be transparent — literally — jumping on the transparent packaging trend with glass, clear bioplastic and clear biodegradable plastic packaging over petroleum-derived containers

7. On-Demand Home Delivery

On-demand, home-delivered products were first pioneered by CIG disruptors selling subscriptions for everything from razors to wine. Now, traditional consumer goods companies must take the best aspects of on-demand home delivery and integrate them into their supply chain infrastructure, beating competitors at their own game.

Doing so lets consumer goods companies tout both the personalization consumers crave and the benefits of a digitally directed supply chain. It also satisfies the customer’s need for instant gratification. With one click, they can order the goods they want, then get them in the time frame they need. This “last-mile delivery” convenience brings a brand-reputation boost prized by many CIG companies but delivered by few, and can be piloted using several strategies and services:

  • Partnering with an established on-demand delivery provider (compared to traditionally large logistics companies)
  • Incorporating your products onto existing on-demand delivery apps, with both B2B and B2C platforms available
  • Creating your own courier delivery service in dedicated regions

While the costs of implementing on-demand home delivery options has historically turned CIGs away, the benefits may outweigh the risks. Those online transactions provide you access to large swaths of consumer data inaccessible through old retailers. Plus, CIG companies can even repurpose physical storefronts into micro-delivery warehouses serving local zones, breathing new life into expensive retail square footage while offering this popular delivery perk.

8. On-Demand Services

Like on-demand delivery, on-demand service is a promising new trend in the consumer goods marketplace. It allows brands to repurpose the goods it’s already known for into attractive, brand-intuitive service offerings and experiences, tailored to fit the lifestyles and preferences of its consumer base.

Take this industry example. Tide recently captured attention with its launch of Tide Cleaners, an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service the brand initiated after intense consumer research into both millennial and elderly demographics. With the success of its test pilot programs, Tide announced its plans to make Tide Cleaners available in roughly 2,000 locations nationwide by the end of 2020.

On-Demand Service Industry Growth Consumer Goods

9. Tiered Subscriptions

Subscription ecommerce has grown by more than 100% annually each year for the past five years. What’s more, over 15% of all online shoppers have signed up for a reoccurring subscription service, contributing to the growing $10 billion industry.

Consumer goods companies have yet another opportunity to incorporate the best of their top disruptor’s practices into their own models. With brand familiarity on their side, larger CIG companies are in a prime position to offer products via a subscription-like package delivered conveniently to the consumer’s door.

Tiered recurring subscriptions are particularly pertinent to brands whose products and goods are required regularly, such as household goods, food, beverage and confections, cosmetics, personal care and hygiene products and cleaning supplies.

10. Shopping Local

Tenets of the buy-local movement still reverberate with pockets of today’s consumers. At its heart, the movement aims to reinstate consumer agency and transparency into the entire production pipeline, as well as stimulate local markets and economies.

Shopping Local Consumer Preference Trends

CIG brands large and small can adapt many of its core sentiments into their own business processes, and do so in a way that isn’t co-optive or superficial. They can:

  • Create hyper-localized social media ads targeting specific regions
  • Launch special regional products or services, ideated internally or crowdsourced from local consumers
  • Find key regional partners to set up complementary brand offers
  • Publish marketing collateral highlighting local vendors and partners
  • Foster community involvement and brand sponsorships at the local level

11. Global Urbanization

More and more of the world’s population is concentrated in urban centers. With over one billion new people expected to enter those urbanized consumer market by 2025, CIGs must reevaluate their existing competitive market profiles to identify currently fruitful industry spaces as well as emerging ones.

But CIGs must also keep a pulse on the impending population and urbanization shifts favoring the East. Within the next decade, Asia will outpace the West as the top consumer market. The Asian market growth share — notably in China, Indonesia and India — is expected to make up over 80% of the world’s burgeoning new middle-class population with an extra disposable income of between $10 and $100 per day.

Asian markets and their bolstering middle class represent a peak opportunity for CIG players, particularly in the ecommerce and B2B spheres. CIG brands must look to adopt Asia-centered regional business models with localized coordination backed by equally localized consumer data analysis.

12. Moment-Specific Communications

Today’s shopper wants clear, direct and personalized information across their shopping journey. Those same shoppers leave traces of their true likes, interests and concerns all over their web searches. Together, that desires-based information is primed for brands to create “micro-moments,” or moment-specific communications triggered after a specific consumer action and designed to engage, surprise and delight.

Technology affords CIG companies more opportunities to nurture moment-specific communications than ever. Chatbots and messenger apps can work as real-time Q&A agents answering product or service questions during relevant searches. Properly timed suggestion for augmented or virtual reality experiences can cement your brand in the mind of a lead. Social media ads can display on home feeds after a consumer has researched relevant queries. The list goes on.

These intentional, helpful micro-moments allow CIG content to be more useful than ever, informing the customer decision journey without aggressive or repeated sales pitches.

Don’t Follow Industry Trends. Set Them.

Across two decades and dozens of research campaigns in 47+ countries, Proactive Worldwide has meticulously crafted its superior consumer goods market research and competitive intelligence methodology. It’s positioned us as one of the world’s leading CIG CI firms for a reason — and our customers as market trendsetters, not followers.

Browse our website to learn about our approach and areas of expertise, then contact us to see what insights we can deliver for you.

Consumer Goods Industry Market Research Trends Consulting

How Often Should I Create Customer Journey Maps?

How Often Should I Create Customer Journey Maps?

How do you determine the ideal customer experience for your company? A specific, streamlined plan for addressing customer needs is a valuable tool, especially when laid out an easy-to-decipher visual representation. Customer journey maps touch on a number of customer experience components and areas for improvement in your business.

Company-wide changes mean it’s time to create a customer journey map. This tool is most beneficial when there is a change in leadership, shifting business strategy or an important quarter when you need to get into the minds of your customers.

Use Journey Maps for Strategic Planning

You want to create new customer journey maps every quarter or every six months to assess how your current policies and methods align with business goals. Situations that may warrant the creation of a journey map include:

  • Categorizing customers: Your products or services may apply to more than one market or demographic. But there are times when you want to single out a specific group. A customer journey map defines the differences between groups so you can develop targeted marketing strategies and better understand the minds of your customers.
  • Defining specific responsibilities: Communication can become lost in a large company without clearly defined roles. A customer journey map organizes each step and helps you determine which employees or departments perform certain duties. Once everyone understands their responsibilities when it comes to satisfying customers, your operations will run more smoothly and efficiently.
  • Determining areas of success: Let’s say your profits have risen in a certain area, or a product feature has gone unnoticed or unused by customers. A journey map helps you analyze which parts of your business work and which need improvement or reanalysis. Then, you can optimize your customer experience strategy for the sake of both financial gain and customer satisfaction.
  • Expanding your reach: A map of the customer experience gives you an objective view of the areas where your company has the potential for growth and development. You can use a journey map to determine the right time to invest in more employees, better equipment or new methods.

Partner With Proactive Worldwide

A positive customer experience is the key to a successful business. Customer journey maps are essential to foster growth and determine areas of weakness. Contact Proactive Worldwide today to find out how we can design a strategic customer journey map customized to your needs.

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

To run a business, you need to create positive experiences and memories for your customers. So how do you optimize your business operations to create the ideal customer experience?

The process begins with a customer journey map, a powerful tool for leaders to make business-critical observations and predictions. A customer journey map can help you get inside the minds of your customers and increase your success.

Why Is a Customer Journey Map Useful?

A customer journey map is a visual aid that gives businesses an objective, accurate perspective of their customer interactions. They describe the customers, their goals and the steps they take with your company to achieve those goals. These maps also contain touchpoints, which are all the ways your customers interact with your company, from clicking ads to shopping on your website and communicating with customer service.

Customer journey maps allow you to view these touchpoints, interactions and experiences, then determine areas of strength and weakness. Their design gives businesses the perspective to make tweaks to their strategies and understand customer needs on a larger scale.

How Can a Customer Journey Map Help You?

Building a customer journey map offers many benefits for your business. With a journey map, your company can:

  • Analyze and extrapolate data
  • Determine customer needs
  • Visualize customer/business relationships
  • Take advantage of opportunities for growth
  • Fill in gaps and inconsistencies
  • Redefine business goals

With the information from a customer journey map, you can do more than fix small issues within your business. You can improve and innovate in your strongest areas, expand your business and reach a wider audience. Knowing where to invest your time can lead to more satisfied customers and greater profits over the long term.

Creating a Map of the Customer Experience

Building a customer journey map takes time and research. You start the process by compiling existing data and cooperating with other business leaders to perform additional research. The goal is to create a complete picture of your customers’ goals and their interactions with the company.

It’s important to ensure that the data you collect is accurate and relevant to your company’s needs. A completed customer journey map should be a visual representation of goals, customer insights and experiences, expectations and opportunities for improvement.

Contact Proactive Worldwide to Get Started

For more information on building an accurate, effective customer journey map, contact us today. We’ll help you develop a solution that works for your business.

Best Practices for Pricing Assessments

Pricing Assessment Best Practices

In the competitive intelligence space, pricing assessments continue to be one of the more frequent requests of CI and marketing functions. These studies tend to be unique in the competitive intelligence space, largely focusing on voluminous quantitative data versus more qualitative insights found in most intelligence studies.

With the strategic planning season upon us, we figured we would provide some best practices regarding pricing studies and how to provide strong results.

Know Legal’s Opinion Before Developing a Pricing Strategy

Competitive insights often involve legal guidelines, but you must take particular care in choosing a pricing strategy. In many instances, these projects have very black and white responses you should know.

One of the biggest concerns with capturing pricing is related to antitrust laws. These laws prevent organizations from artificially aligning prices based on competitive price matching or direct/indirect collusion. While pricing studies do not directly allow an organization to participate in this activity, you should make efforts to ensure the pricing strategies you develop are independent of just competitive activity.

In most cases, legal departments raise concerns when pricing gets directly captured from competitor organizations versus dealers and distributors. As a result, rules of engagement may change based on your legal department’s viewpoint.

Knowing this before you get started helps save you from project delays.

Heavily Consider External Partners for Collection

We strongly suggest using an external partner during the pricing strategy consulting process. Not all CI requires external partners, but the unique nature of pricing, the data you are capturing and the sheer volume of most requests almost always requires external resources.

Partners also provide skillsets that internal CI functions don’t always maintain, and they provide the workforce needed to generate the volume of price points desired. Because it is quantitative data, the number of price points matters. In most cases, one competitive dataset is not enough to make a decision.

Don’t Boil the Ocean — Focus on Essential Parts

Organizations all too often start a price assessment with “give me as much as possible.” Even if this was cost-effective, it does not necessarily make the project doable. In many cases, there is a balancing act in how many separate data points research can realistically capture in a moment.

To help narrow the focus — and often the cost — get internal stakeholders to focus on the critical parts that mean the most to the company. It is unlikely that you need to evaluate every hex bolt sold. Instead, consider capturing pricing on the following:

  • Key profit drivers for the business — especially if competitors are offering new, less expensive solutions.
  • Take a look at critical products, components or services that generate other related sales. For example, you may buy a piston gasket for an engine, but the piston itself is driving the purchasing decision.
  • Focus efforts on products already on the market versus brand-new. In many cases, new products won’t have many competitor price points available (certainly aftermarket alternatives).
  • Examine products, parts or services that don’t change much from country to country. This means that price data points can have wider applications than just one market. These are increasingly rare, but most organizations have a core offering. The more you understand about that core offering, the easier it is to draw conclusions about pricing in other markets.

It’s Not Just About the Data

Don’t just make pricing research about the data. Focus on the sales process, value proposition and other factors involved in a purchasing decision. Pricing plays a huge role in most decisions, but not every one of them. Make sure to ask about lead times or why customers buy. These are critical parts to understand when developing a competitive strategy.

In at least half of the studies we execute, we find that competitors offer a service, experience or value to the sales process that plays a role in decision-making.

Realistic Timelines

Price assessments take time.

It is easy to think that sales representatives are quick to provide pricing. But in most cases, they have to balance requests from known and unknown entities — and research from less-well-known organizations takes more time. Proactive Worldwide can capture some pricing within a matter of days, while we measure most in weeks of time and effort.

This is especially the case in global studies where cultures often dictate how pricing is communicated and what process is required to get a quote. Countries such as Japan and Korea can be notoriously slow at responding to price requests. Several markets in South America can take considerable time as well due to the large territories that organizations represent. The more time you have available, the better the results.

Purchasing Process Dictates Project Challenges

When thinking about capturing price points, think about the sales process your organization has and what is involved in getting to a price. This will provide you with a complexity preview of the request as well as how long engagement will take. If the product is a commodity, pricing could be relatively quick. But if the product is sold to only one company in the world or only 10 of them are sold each year, capturing pricing can be very challenging and timely.

Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and walk through the process with sales before executing a pricing assessment. Also, don’t get discouraged by the process. There are many workarounds and alternatives, but it should give more realistic talking points with stakeholders and any external partners you have.

Consider Multiple Pricing Strategy Consulting Methods

There are many ways to capture pricing insights, including customer interviews, scraping technology, panels and secret shopping.

Pricing research often has a direct impact on an organization’s pricing and product strategies and influences revenue and profitability outcomes. With the few tips above, you will find that pricing insights can enhance decision-making and your functional capabilities.

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How to Execute a VOC Perception Study

VOC Perception Study

Perception studies are becoming go-to research methods that enhance competitive intelligence by including customer perspectives in a particular discussion. In most cases, leadership wants to know what competitors are doing, but customer perceptions can be just as important if not more so. As CI functions look to offer additional capabilities and perspectives, voice of customer (VOC) studies seeking customer perceptions are key.

We wanted to provide some best practices to CI, marketing, R&D and other functions looking to execute VOC perception studies. These tips will help increase the impact perception studies can have, as well as provide unique competitive insights.

Methodology

Most voice of customer studies have three to four primary methods of research — online, recruitment-basead, panel-based and focus groups. There are alternatives such as mail or email, but these are largely less effective. In fact, we believe you should only conduct perception studies using methods that engage the respondents versus a more passive approach, such as online surveys.

VOC perception studies require probing. They require expert interviewers speaking with a respondent and probing why, how and what is next. This is hard to execute via methods that utilize survey questions static in nature. This, of course, adds to the investment needed, but a poorly conducted perception study can actually make a situation worse.

Our preferred method is using recruitment-based research — that is, going and finding the best sources to engage with. Panels and focus groups are effective as well, but they often suffer from too-small sample sizes or the target audience is so unique that a panel is not likely available. We offer all three solutions.

Suggested Scope of a VOC Study

If engaging respondents via human interaction is the plan, we suggest a survey 15 to 20 minutes in length. Most of our research staff can execute 30-minute discussions with little pushback, but this requires highly skilled interviewers who know how to drive a conversation without steering the results.

Most of our research covers the following topics:

  • Who do they know in the industry?
  • Who are they using in the industry today?
  • What do they know about the client organization?
  • What do they know about the competitive landscape?
  • Any key strengths and weaknesses.
  • Questions regarding improvement and prioritization of those points of feedback.

We blend a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions to create balance and ensure the survey does not turn into an hour-long discussion during our voice of customer consulting services. Hour-long discussions are possible but often require incentives, and the ROI is not always there. Just because someone talks for an hour does not mean what they have to say is relevant or meaningfully different.

Quota Size

This is one of the largest variables in any voice of customer study. There are multiple schools of thought on what is needed. Most projects we execute involve B2B perception research and don’t always require statistical validity.

Many people want statistical validity, but when it comes to the price tag, that desire quickly goes out the window. In many cases, VOC studies don’t always need statistical validity — the focus must be on how balanced the quota is to the different respondents and ensuring there is enough opportunity to see differences. As the research comes in, the goal is to evaluate the responses and see if there is a clear story developing and how the recruiting process ensures balance in the types of respondents.

One reason to consider an external partner for research is to make sure that, when a perception study is executed, the list of sources interviewed is not only filled with respondents who have only favorable perceptions of the brand. Internal functions often try to execute these projects,but when it comes to finding respondents, they get a list of respondents hand-selected by sales functions that are naturally more positive about your company’s brand.

Deliverable

The emphasis on deliverables for VOC perception studies is a narrow executive summary that covers key takeaways and implications. The key areas we suggest you have in an executive summary include:

  • Breakdown of demographics of the survey — including who the respondents are, how many answered, etc.
  • Key findings and top takeaways. These are short and to-the-point. In most cases, they may not have graphs or charts. It’s simply “what the research means.”
  • Comparisons of performance between your organization and competing brands. This is where the graphs start to show up. What are the key positive and negative outcomes?
  • Suggested next steps or areas to focus on improvement initiatives. This is key — executives want ideas and suggestions. Ideally, you are working with groups impacted by the results and will develop suggested courses of action alongside them. This builds ownership and prevents projects from becoming “political.”

Most executive summaries should be shorter than five pages — ideally three, but this can be tough when you include graphs.

Frequency

Most of our clients execute these projects annually for large programs or simply ad-hoc when considering changes to the strategy, tactics or product or service in question. Seeing how perceptions change can be a great outcome as well, but you need time. When executing a study that focuses on change — i.e., “How did perceptions evolve once changes were made?” — we often try to contact at least 50% of the same respondents from the previous study.

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Win/Loss Program Best Practices

Win/Loss Analysis

Win/loss assessments have become a critical input to organizations for their strategic and tactical planning activities. These unique inputs are designed to provide executives with evidence-based insights on what the organization is doing well and where shortcomings exist in an ideally unfiltered manner. “Unfiltered” is often the key requirement for a successful win/loss analysis. All too often, organizations tend to brush off critiques of a product, solution, initiative or offering whether it’s because of politics, internal turf wars or a belief that leadership does not want to hear bad news.

This is why win/loss analysis consulting from external partners can be a beneficial exercise, if not a required one. To assist, we wanted to provide some thoughts on best practices in win/loss programs we use as part of our projects. We feel they are valuable to any organization.

Ask the Tough Questions

In this era, organizations often use very simple online surveys to execute win/loss assessments. We largely believe these fail at providing the detail needed to tell a coherent story. Using basic online surveys also creates an easy scenario for people not to ask tough questions. Why? Because things often sound worse when you read them. When people read, our interpretation of tone in the message is often biased based on our own expectations and experiences.

As a result, it is common for tough questions to get watered down or even removed from win/loss assessments to make it more palatable when in reality it simply reduces the chance of getting real answers.

When you are executing a win/loss assessment, consider the following:

  • Add a balance of positive and critical questions and seek balance in when and how you present the questions.
  • Asking tough questions often means engaging with customers live. Try to avoid short or basic win/loss assessments. Truncated surveys can provide a false reality. By engaging customers with real people, you can control the tone and method of presenting tough questions and it is easier to get careful but honest answers and critiques. The goal is not to change the narrative, but effective researchers can provide a neutral voice that allows the story to come out.
  • Allow the researcher or partner to modify the language as needed. In most instances, they know how to present a question without influencing the results.
  • Make sure the most critical questions in the win/loss analysis are not watered down or designed to paint a positive image. Win/loss engagements are designed to find the truth. Sometimes clients like to take a question such as, “What do you dislike about working with company A?” and change it to, “What can we do better to serve your needs?” These do not ask the same question. We want to know which negative sentiments exist.

Involve Those Impacted Early

If a win/loss analysis may impact a function or team, allow them to be a part of the process and start early. You can use outputs to fight internal politics and battles that research functions may or may not always know. Approaching functions with a win/loss concept early, explaining how you will use it and the impact it can provide early on can build trust behind the process.

This step also allows them to provide recommendations and be a part of the process versus “the victim” of it. This improves ownership and ultimately ensures the results are not only heard but also embraced.

Be Transparent

The worst thing you can do when starting a win/loss analysis consulting initiative is to not fully explain how you will use the results and what the process entails. This is a big issue. Sales functions are one of the most impacted groups of win/loss outputs. You need trust early as well as a feeling of safety to start a program with this function.

Outline all of the details — the survey, partner you’re using, reporting frequency, troubleshooting processing, target audience and how to handle critical feedback. Ideally, these will reduce the fear that programs can initially conjure up. This also sets a rule of engagement with leadership requesting the insight. Think of transparency as a charter or agreement between those asking for, and those who may be impacted by, a win/loss assessment.

Seek Direct Quotes

We have learned that no matter the piece of feedback, direct quotes go a long way. This is also why we suggest phone interviews versus cheap online solutions.

When a client sees a direct quote from one of our interviews, it can have a huge impact on the truth and importance of a win/loss analysis. Simply put, they are hard to deny. Quotes provide readers with the ability to hear a different voice or tone. It is hard to reject a finding when the quote is right in front of you. In some rare cases, we have even recorded discussions — with permission — and played excerpts for executives.

Another strategy we have used in providing quotes includes whole sections of a win/loss report that are simply quotes based on the question. We seek to balance positive and negative quotes to make sure that win/loss is not just about the losses or critical feedback.

Phone interviews are key to capturing this. In most cases, respondents don’t take the time to write in detail about what they experienced. They often cut corners and provide minimum feedback unless they are very unhappy with an outcome. When there is no one to probe on a piece of positive or negative feedback, there is no ability to learn about underlying concerns.

Develop Direct Communication to and From Leadership

Whenever possible, work directly with decision-makers on the output and presenting the results. This requires careful planning and wording, but this also ensures the story that needs telling is actually told!

When left to others, those impacted will water-down the results to spin them in a more positive light. Having a direct relationship with the leaders requesting the results and allowing the research partner or research function to provide an unfiltered look often has the highest impact.

Staying close to the customer on delivery is a critical step to creating a win/loss assessment that has an impact.

Provide Suggested Improvements

While we suggest a direct relationship with the leadership team asking for results, working with the impacted teams to provide a preview of the data as well as provide possible solutions — or have them provide suggested solutions — is hugely beneficial.

The surprise of negative feedback is one of the largest triggers for contention. It can set us up for embarrassment and rejection of feedback, and can also prevent meaningful discussions about causes or solutions. For win/loss assessments, none of these behaviors is desired.

Here are some tips on working with functions targeted in win/loss engagements:

  • Provide updates that allow them to be aware of potentially negative feedback and what that feedback is. Start with quotes early to build trust. Make sure there is a pattern, and it is not a reaction based on two interviews.
  • Provide them a copy of the report before the final leadership team. Indicate that you can’t change the outputs, but the timing allows for a response or solution to the critique.
  • Provide suggested solutions. No one likes to hear what they are doing wrong, and leaders are almost always looking for answers and suggestions. Better yet, work on a list of possible solutions to present with leadership together. This is a positive outcome all around.
  • If an output is likely to have strong pushback by functions targeted for win/loss assessments, consider having a section of the final report to provide rebuttals or disagreement. This is not an ideal approach, but if there is a battle to take place, it’s important to enable both sides to present their perspective in the open. This may help de-escalate the output emotionally and move toward finding and agreeing on resolutions.

Execute Routinely

Finally, remember to execute win/loss analyses routinely. We see most programs do it at a minimum of twice per year, but many are quarterly. No matter the frequency, stay committed and track the results.

Customers are routinely becoming less loyal to their providers, suppliers and partners as millennials take leadership positions. To that end, staying on top of customer perceptions is critical — and watching trends on a routine basis allows you to see problems before they escalate to drops in market share or customer retainment.

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How to Develop a Strategic Business Plan

How to Develop a Strategic Business Plan

Dime-a-dozen strategic business plans carry dime-a-dozen results. When creating their organization’s long-term strategic priorities, too many leaders fall victim to templates lacking the substantive measures needed to steer toward a brighter business future — or any future, for that matter.

Worse, others may become overwhelmed with the perceived complexity of the task. Strategic planning’s onus of breaking abstract and lofty visions into measurable daily actions is straightforward in theory, yet time-consuming and resource-intensive in practice, no matter what the leading management theories say.

There is a better way to create a strategic business plan tailored to your organization’s DNA, one that’s devisable, deployable and — ultimately — value-additive for your authentic enterprise growth.

How to Create a Strategic Business Plan: The Foundation

Foundations of Strategic Business Planning

Several terms illustrate the core tenets of a strategic business plan.

  • Vision: What do we want our company to look like in one, two, five, 10 years? In other words, what ideal successes, accomplishments and accolades do we want to develop a reputation for?
  • Focus areas: How can we get where we want to be? What high-level feats or domains do we want to accomplish that’ll lend a long-term competitive advantage?
  • Objectives: How will we scaffold those goals? What substantial start-and-stop activities pave the foundation for a successfully forged focus area?
  • Initiatives: What everyday projects and operations will help us gradually achieve our objectives? How will we translate high-level ideas into a set of everyday, operational projects?
  • Outcomes: How will we know we’ve completed an objective? How will we track, measure, benchmark and report KPIs across initiatives?

Creating a strategic business plan means developing a template that implements these concepts, then communicates them with all relevant business stakeholders.

Where to Begin When Building a New Business Plan

We’re all familiar with the two-day retreat booked off-premises the one where business leaders meet, drink coffee and prepare the official annual strategic plan before returning to their offices to commence business as usual. That concept is inherently flawed, because it’s impossible to master business maturity in two days.

Business Strategic Planning Steps

The most successful business strategic plans take shape gradually, initiated after a series of competitive intelligence, market research and qualitative analysis benchmarks where your organization is now — versus where it can go.

1. Perform Intelligence-Based External Assessments

 Competitive Intelligence Assessments

Market research reveals various angles to your organization’s current strengths, weaknesses and risk categories. It also compares your operations and structures to competitors in your industry, providing authoritative and data-backed analyses to benchmark capacities.

Without conducting any prior competitive intelligence, your strategic plans have no roadmap designating where your business currently operates and where it strives to go.

Consider any of the following competitive intelligence strategic research before creating any official plan documents.

  • Scenario planning: Scenario planning presents a broad, yet methodical, range of circumstances that may agitate your business operations and endeavors. These include industry and market disruptions, competitor breakthroughs, technological advancements and even geopolitical instances that could affect your industry, allowing you to plan accordingly.
  • War gaming: War gaming is a set of guided role-playing exercises where organizations immerse themselves into the business models of their top competitors. Businesses can then better preempt the actions and strategies of those competitors, using briefings, market data and additional resources to get ahead of the opposition.
  • Competitive profiling: Competitive market assessments see the most productive results through partnering with a strategic planning and market research firm. These firms deliver customized reports that detail your relative competitive position compared to others in the market, therefore empowering smarter investments and resource allocation to detect blind spots, close gaps and establish new opportunities — the goal of any robust strategic plan.

2. Select a Business Strategy Framework

Business Strategy Framework

Business strategy frameworks help document the perceived value you provide your customers. More importantly, they detail how you deliver that value — cataloging the products, policies, procedures, personnel and more that make up the anatomy of your operations.

You cannot implement a successful strategic plan altering the course of your business’ future without first pausing to know where you are: your strengths, weaknesses, past performances, etc.

Organizations assess their DNA through one of many strategic planning frameworks:

3. Institutionalize Performance Measuring

Business Performance Measuring KPI Assessment

Organizations must implement the infrastructure needed to manage, support and refine KPI measurements.

Without such technologies and systems, your organization has no way to hold itself accountable for any initiatives devised under the strategic plan.

Performance measurements for a strategic plan should:

  • Be valid and verifiable
  • Measure a specific value or business unit
  • Inspire desired employee outcomes or behaviors
  • Aggregate simply and intuitively, unburdening employees from undue manual data collection practices
  • Ultimately answer specific, strategic questions guiding decision-makers toward improved business plans

Best Practices to Create a Successful Strategic Business Plan

Strategic Business Plan Best Practices

There is no objective, “one-size-fits-all” business planning model. Strategic plans must be hand-drawn to the organization spearheading it, with steps, inputs, outputs and procedures as distinct as your handprint.

There are, however, a series of fundamental variables that must guide ideas from abstract to implementable. Follow these best practices to set the stage for more actionable, intelligent and executable strategic business plans.

1. Appoint a Cross-Functional Strategic Planning Team

A genuinely cross-functional team contains representatives from every major business department within your organizational structure. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Production
  • Operations
  • Human resources
  • Financial planning and accounting
  • Research and development
  • Purchasing
  • IT
  • Compliance
  • And more

Ensuring all departments have a seat at the strategic planning table is the only way to account for the nebulous perspectives, processes, pain points and priorities that make up the daily operations of a business.

2. Identify Your Primary Focus Areas

Focus areas are the defining goals of your strategic plan. Think of them as a strategic plan’s north stars, the loftier tenets of your plan guiding the upcoming smaller list of pre-planned, individual objectives, initiatives and measurement KPIs. As separate efforts see completion, you step closer toward accomplishing the focus area.

The average strategic plan will contain anywhere from three to six focus areas prorated across three to five years. Those focus areas themselves will waterfall into half a dozen to a dozen concentrated objectives.

It’s essential to have a cross-functional leadership team devise primary focus areas as early as possible, using organizational values as their compass. These focus areas set the stage and will trigger the formation of more granular objectives and initiatives down the road, harmonizing short-term activities with the cited long-term vision.

3. Translate Objectives Into S.M.A.R.T. Goals

S.M.A.R.T. goals have been in the business lexicon for decades. The popularity and continued deployment of this framework is a testament to its nature, which takes abstract and often intangible focus areas and scaffolds them in practical actions, otherwise known as objectives.

S.M.A.R.T. goals have the following components.

  • Specific: The goal pertains to a single topic, domain or interest.
  • Measurable: The goal has a quantitative perimeter.
  • Actionable: It’s possible to initiate the goal with your organization’s current capacities.
  • Reasonable: The goal is logical for your market position, resources and values.
  • Timely: The goal has a deadline.

Begin cataloging each of your focus domains into one- to two-sentence S.M.A.R.T. objectives. For example, let’s say your organization selects “Financial growth: increasing gross revenue” as a focus area. The S.M.A.R.T. objective of that focus area may then be, “Experience three consecutive monthly recurring revenues of $100,000 within the next 12 months.”

4. Review Budgets

Budget forecasting must run tangential to strategic planning.

In particular, the planning team must begin to consider current versus prospective resource allocation, given the priorities outlined in the S.M.A.R.T. objectives.

You don’t have to funnel every last dollar toward strategic planning goals, yet you should still set up a system that tracks current budget requirements, trends and spend strengths and weaknesses to inform better resource allocation along the plan’s three- to five-year timetable. Reviewing financial allotments during annual and even quarterly budgeting cycles may not cut it when it comes to intelligent strategic planning.

5. Include Relevant Departments and Employees to Cascade Specific Initiatives

Too many strategic plans fail due to siloed departments and unstructured communications. Representatives on the strategic planning committee must make it a priority to collaborate with their teams to relay all relevant focus areas, S.M.A.R.T objectives and budget reprioritizations.

This best practice also allows objectives to transform into their next progression: initiatives. Initiatives will be the micro-projects, action items and process changes executed at the departmental level that, eventually, deliver on the S.M.A.R.T objective. In short, it’s the actual, daily operational changes that will bring about strategic transformation — the mini “sprints” that complete the strategy marathon.

Employee ideation and feedback are imperative here. These are the individuals in the thick of your operations. You can only successfully realize tactical goals when they align with the everyday lived reality of your workforce — which you only aggregate if you rope them in.

Take the objective from earlier: “Experience three consecutive monthly recurring revenues (MRRs) of $100,000 within the next 12 months.” Interdepartmental insight may scaffold a series of initiatives to reach this MRR target, including the following.

  • Production: Reduce the average cycle time of per-unit production from 30 minutes to 25 minutes.
  • Accounts receivable: Reduce the average order transaction processing time from five minutes to three minutes by implementing more automated authorizations.
  • Sales: Increase upsell rates by 15% among repeat customers.
  • Marketing: Roll out a new A/B test strategy on key sales pages.
  • Sales, marketing, production: Offer a new upmarket service line, subscription or product package.

6. Don’t Forget to Assign Key Performance Indicators to Every Initiative

Performance measurements communicate progress on objectives to teams and stakeholders alike. For every objective outlined under each focus area, you may devise multiple KPIs giving qualitative, expressive measures on the development of that objective — in turn relaying granular feedback on what’s succeeding and what needs more focus.

Structure your strategic planning KPIs to include the following.

  • A measure: The unit of progress for a business action item.
  • A benchmark: Outside market or industry data to compare KPIs to — and one of the many reasons to perform routine competitive analyses.
  • A data source: The system you use to aggregate and store data.
  • A report frequency: The amount and means by which you share KPI data.

7. Create a Strategic Plan Dashboard Accessible to All

Strategic planning dashboards create a visual representation of the strategic business plan, complete with every initiative, input and process change, as well as what objective they’re under. They most often live within an employee-accessible project management tracker or strategy management software.

That representation is cohesive, yet comprehensive. It serves as the project management-like repository for every component building up to the core focus areas of the strategic plan, while also creating a breadcrumb trail of accountability and workflows.

8. Continually Evaluate Performance Data

KPI reviews are an ongoing endeavor, not a one-and-done activity by a sole team member. In the strategic management maturity model, organizations which execute frequent and fluid KPI evaluations move closer to the fifth and highest level of business maturity evolution, continuous improvement.

Regular performance data reviews also empower organizations to refine initiatives they initially forecasted to contribute to an objective’s completion, but are proving to underperform. The earlier organizations spot these data discrepancies, the sooner they can take steps to put the strategic plan timeline back on track.

9. Prioritize Downstream Communication Before Plan Changes

If KPI analysis reveals any gaps or discrepancies, funnel them back into the initiatives occuring in the micro-environment. Before implementing them, though, department leaders must communicate these adaptations as well as their KPI-driven logic to their teams, ensuring buy-in and smooth re-implementation of the redefined action items.

Remember, your entire strategic plan — with its focus areas, objectives and building-block initiatives — takes shape across years, not months or weeks. Frequent departmental status meetings may seem like an endless game of management-employee ping-pong, but they are essential to keep your strategic plan execution on track.

Select change communication strategies that fit your organizational culture and structure:

  • Granular departmental strategic planning meetings reviewing KPIs and new initiative directions
  • One-on-one meetings between managers and team members
  • Department-wide email memos and reviews
  • Reports from project management offices or the office of strategy management, within project management software or similar digital strategy platforms

10. Consider Ongoing Accountability Efforts

Strategic planning consultants or firms provide a suite of services complementary to every stage of strategic planning.

Insights drawn from their research services are valuable to review before drafting a tactical business plan and during plan implementation, as well as when maintaining and managing business improvements in the post-objective achievement phase.

At their core, strategic planning firms profile clients’ strengths, weaknesses, growth areas, competitive differentiation opportunities and much more. They deliver quantitative and qualitative data that leverages superior strategic insights into:

8 Strategic Business Planning Tips to Adopt Today

Strategic Business Planning Tips

With its surgical ability to cut through the noise and establish shared goals, few initiatives harmonize people, processes and technology like intelligent strategic business planning.

The tenets of a strategic plan will naturally vary, yet several business planning best practices consistently boost implementation rates.

1. Strategic Thinking Is Not Strategic Planning

Which team member would you prefer to have: the long-term critical thinker with genuinely innovative ideas, yet rare follow-through, or the methodical practitioner, the one who goes above and beyond in their work ethic, but may not make vocal contributions to a strategic vision?

Lightbulb moments of tactical brilliance have a time and a place. However, ideas must walk the walk and talk the talk. Leaders must be able to translate focus areas into enterprise-enriching objectives with clear outcomes and performance measurements. Anything less merely spins the strategic wheels without traction.

2. Set up Feedback Channels

Strategic planning relies on the comprehension, participation and overall buy-in of downstream employees in every department. Make it clear you value their input. After all, these employees perform the everyday work across a plan’s implementation steps and initiatives, which are the building blocks to complete a strategic objective.

Create two-way feedback channels for staff to lend their thoughts and insights. Send out surveys to temperature-check the latest projects’ strengths, pain points and processes that may need adjustment. Encourage department and team leaders to conduct one-on-one sessions with their employees to garner feedback on the everyday reality of executing the strategic plans. These insights are invaluable in creating a smoother strategic planning pipeline, today and tomorrow.

3. Make Meetings Granular

Many organizations practice the default annual or quarterly strategic report. While these are vital presentations, ongoing strategic planning is more successful when holding smaller, more frequent meetings at the departmental and executive level.

These meetings should focus on only a handful of projects or initiatives, ones cascading toward a higher strategic objective — rather than just jumping to the abstract goals or reviewing the entire broad swath of the plan itself.

4. Adopt a Business Strategy, Then Worry About Making It Agile

Adaptable Business Strategies

Continuous business planning — compared to ad-hoc static or even structured, but reactive, planning— is the goal of many organizations. Standardized, ongoing planning allows organizations to change objectives on the fly without unraveling the strands of the entire plan.

Strategic planning must walk before it can run. Evolving up the strategic management maturity model into the continuous improvement category is a process that takes time, commitment, tweaks and recurring competitive market research to ground your business vision in reality.

5. Invest in Training

Schedule employee training at the onset of your strategic planning timelines. Doing so ensures the employees executing daily strategic initiatives are fluent and familiar with the tools they need to actually perform their roles.

Consider employee trainings for any of the following:

  • New technology integral to strategic initiative execution, including strategy management software or new project management trackers
  • New project workflows
  • New performance measurement trackers, reports and data systems
  • Any additional new infrastructure related to the execution of strategic priorities

6. Remember Your Customers/Clients

Customer insights inform some of the highest-value, propelling and profitable strategic priorities. Ensure your leaders aren’t putting the blinders on, creating insular objectives detached from real-world end users. Perform regular customer insight research such as voice-of-customer surveys and user experience syndications. You will enrich your short- and long-term plans as a result.

7. Integrate Continual Competitive Research and Market Assessments

Like voice-of-customer and user experience, competitive intelligence (CI) empowers businesses to create hyper-tactical and hyper-appropriate strategic objectives informed by market positions.

CI and strategic planning are like sparks and tinder. Data from CI and market analysis serves to ignite the very issues, gaps and opportunities a strategic plan remedies, including:

  • Articulating your current strong market segments
  • Pinpointing your top competitive threats
  • Identifying strategies to mitigate, if not beat, those threats
  • Narrowing paths and strategic choices to achieve competitive differentiators — e.g., the strategic plan

Partnering with a professional CI and market research firm yields the most robust — and actionable — research. These consultants create detailed profiles pinpointing exact strength and growth areas, then assist in creating milestone roadmaps that close those gaps and propel strategic action.

8. Keep Principles and Values First

Strategic planning is more organic and more primed for success when its objectives align with company culture. These values are the DNA of your company. Reference them when developing your short- and long-term strategies, and those strategies will be far more likely to stick.

Need a Map Through Your Business’ Strategic Maze?

Business Strategic Planning Consulting Firm

Explore Proactive Worldwide’s portfolio of strategic planning services.

Proactive Worldwide specializes in personalized research packages, deployment models and overall strategic planning consultancy and support for organizations that have had enough of shapeless strategic plans. By personalized, we mean personalized — no client receives the same pre-published market findings, data sets or regurgitated transformation templates.

Reach out when you’re ready to move beyond basic business strategy.

Why Your Company Needs Competitive Intelligence

No matter what your industry is, you are continually facing new challenges and new competition. The market is constantly changing, which is why you need competitive intelligence (CI) to stay ahead of the pack. What is competitive intelligence, though, and why do you need it to succeed in today’s world?

Why Your Company Needs Competitive Intelligence - Benefits of CI

What Is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is another term for market intelligence or research into your competitive landscape. Utilizing CI means you’re looking at your competitors as well as their operational, organizational and commercial practices to give you the tools to make informed decisions for your business.

CI makes it easier to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, which improves your business intelligence. CI can also help you anticipate their next moves, analyze their customer base and compare it to your own, as well as stay ahead of new market trends.

What Are the Benefits of Competitive Intelligence?

First, CI removes all of the guesswork from your business. You don’t have to guess about your competitors or what the industry is doing because you’ll have accurate facts on hand. Having up-to-date information at your fingertips means you have everything you require to guide your company through any upcoming changes you’ll need to make to stay ahead of industry trends.

CI also improves your decision-making ROI, helping you to close any gaps you might find in your business. For new product and services, CI helps you improve your time to market, market-entry and market defense — which can secure a successful product launch.

In an ever-changing market, having the ability to predict your competitor’s behaviors can give you that edge and allow you to even beat them to the punch if they’re planning something new that might set them apart.

CI also helps you improve your marketing efforts and can even help you make better business decisions. Having concise, accurate information gives you all the tools you could possibly need to make data-backed choices that will help your company thrive well into the future.

What Does a Timeline of Competitive Intelligence Look Like?

CI starts with aggregation. The investigative campaign targets specific concerns, and then those concerns are compiled to help provide insight. This is where you’ll decide what you’re really concerned about. If you’re looking for industry trends or competitor data, CI will start by collecting as much accurate info as possible. The data collected will be split into two sets — micro and macro insights.

Next is synthesis. You’ll need to sort through the CI data and extract vital pieces of insight that will help you in the next step.

The final step is action. Now that you’ve got the most important pieces of information, you can create a milestone roadmap so you can close any performance gaps and repair any pain points while still growing your business. Having that information can mean the difference between success and failure in today’s incredibly competitive market.

What Companies Will Benefit the Most From Using CI?

The technology industry is constantly changing, sometimes faster than we can keep up. CI can help keep companies abreast of new industry trends, making it easier to stay ahead of the competition.

The healthcare industry, as well as the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, can also benefit from CI. These industries provide services, but they’re also concerned about profit, industry trends and competition. It’s hard to succeed without the information that CI can provide.

Manufacturing, industrial sectors, consumer goods and financial services can all benefit from CI as well because they’re industries that are constantly in flux and are ultra-competitive.

The Importance of Competitive Intelligence

If you run a business in today’s world, even if you don’t work in one of the industries we’ve listed above, then you can likely benefit from CI. Competitive intelligence gives you the tools to make informed decisions, keeping you ahead of the competition and ahead of industry trends.

Contact us today to learn more about how CI could benefit your business.

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