We all are living in a VUCA World. VUCA is an acronym coined by the American Army for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The term VUCA originated in the US Army War College, but spread to the business world as there are striking similarities in terms of rapid change and uncertainty. The digital age has helped to accelerate the evolution of businesses and disrupt the basic principles that were taken for granted.
The VUCA parameters earlier would be seen in a business cycle but now we witness it as a consistent phenomenon. Change is the new constant and uncertainty is the new certainty. What it means is, irrespective of their size and scale, corporations are working hard to fight this. Hence, there is a need for a paradigm shift in how we look at the marketing function.
Experts predict that India shall continue on the growth path and shall register one of the highest rates of development globally between now and 2025. This prophecy seems to be bearing out if one extrapolates the current economic trends although the growth may not be linear.
In the natural course therefore, such a national growth path shall automatically create opportunities for every business enterprise in India, especially those that are sensitive and responsive to external change. Organizations that are also dynamic and market driven, will quickly hitch their wagons to the marketplace so that external growth proportionately translates in to the growth of their own enterprise.
Growth in sales and growth in profits, both come from the marketplacenot from any other place. While savings can come from optimizing your operations, cutting costs, value engineering your products, automating your systems, streamlining your supply chain etc, real growth in sales, turnover and profits always come from the marketplace. So if you want fundamental growth of your business, the marketplace is what you should be looking at.
Intricate analyses of marketplace dynamics almost always reveal gaps between what is available and what the customers’ expectations are. These factors form the inputs into a Marketing Strategy. A multitude of variables determine customers’ buying pattern – some of which may be unbelievably subjective like “satisfaction”, even in the industrial marketplace!
All successful organizations accept that growth in turnover (more sales) and growth in profits (better sales) both come from the marketplace. Marketing processes in every ambitious and customer driven organization should therefore be an area of constant vigilance. Differentiating your offering quantitatively and qualitatively; and attuning it to your customer needs (often through customization) is the key secret.
Planned growth is any day better than accidental growth. In planned growth, the entire enterprise moves in tandem. Every activity in an enterprise grows proportionally in response to the market, and resource utilization is optimized. Rise in turnover reflects in profits not merely in size!
To achieve planned growth, successful enterprises have a mechanism to comprehensively engineer their marketing process. This ensures balanced and sustained organizational evolution, which is seamless across the organization and that creates long lasting corporate value.
The marketing process of a business enterprise comprises its entire marketing value chain, starting with the satisfied customer and ending with the sales team. In between lies the organization’s internal and external marketing matrix.
Internal marketing initiatives include customer relationship management, product or service characteristics and reliability, its delivery mechanism, ability to adapt to changing customer needs, product and organizational branding and its perceived equity, customer sensitivity of the sales team and their response effectiveness.
Add to this matrix, the external factors – rate of growth of demand, opportunity gaps and new opportunities, competition, product or service delivery network, differentiation of “bottom of the pyramid” features from the rest of the market, maximizing returns from existing customers, enlarging the share of the pie from new customers, after-market support, price sensitivity, and robust and vibrant communication with external stake holders in the marketplace.
It is imperative that organisations design customer centric marketing processes and implement these processes to deliver real organizational growth in a competitive marketplace and to expand their businesses along a predetermined growth curve, on a three to five year time line.
Key aspects of such a multi-pronged marketing strategy include :
1: Quantification of optimum goals and targets for the enterprise, derived from thorough systematic and scientific research in the marketplace; and projection of demand trends over a three to five year time frame, such that the enterprise can painlessly achieve.
2: Evaluation and revitalization of the internal and external marketing architecture of the enterprise, to align it with a market driven, time bound growth trajectory that shall meet or exceed the goals and targets in the allotted time frame. This shall include a people structure that can energetically respond to and achieve the goals and targets. Identifying core personnel, defining Key Result Areas, enhancing requisite skill sets and setting up a quick response mechanism that your customers will applaud.
3 : A customized Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is essential. This dramatic tool enables every member of the enterprise as well as any selected customers, to have instant access to the current status of a range of variables, typically status of projects or equipment dispatches or service delivery. A simple and transparent CRM systems process extremely effective in creating satisfied customers – customers that keep cheerfully coming back to you.
4: Development of many innovative communication channels between a business enterprise and its internal and external customers, which are ultra cost effective results in higher effort to result efficiency. These tools have been widely used for lead generation (enquiry generation) and should be embedded in every cutting edge sales organization as part of standard daily activity. These tools are also invaluable in building brands, in promoting new products, equipment or processes, in achieving quick recall and in creating great brand equity. It is a brilliant way to create Awareness, Build Brands and Establish Credibility.
5: Measuring and monitoring customer satisfaction in absolute and relative terms. This results in incisive customer oriented strategies to generate more satisfied customers and consequently more business. The same science is also applied to :
- Vendor Satisfaction
- Dealer & Distribution Channel Satisfaction
- Employee Satisfaction
- Corporate Communication Effectiveness Studies
Consumer expectations are changing, the aspirations of Dealers and Retailers are changing, channels of distribution are becoming complex and there is a clear differentiation of market experience in different regions of India. Consumers are getting the opportunity to use and experience new products.
Such studies analyze the satisfaction level on each parameter that causes satisfaction and the customer satisfaction index is bench marked with the best in class and sometimes even with companies that follow best practices. This analysis finally brings out regional and national level inputs in different market segments.
For customer satisfaction and trade satisfaction, though the methodology remains the same, the parameters that are considered for evaluating the satisfaction, will vary. Several medium and large corporations make use of customer satisfaction study inputs for implementing short, medium and long term strategies and competing for the national level awards for quality and service excellence.
To address stakeholders’ problems in terms of technology such studies assist companies in identifying gaps in satisfaction and expectations from customers. The output of such studies helps bridge any gaps that may exist between customer expectations and what he actually gets.
Ultimately, successful marketing strategies will derive from organisation’s ability to be flexible, agile, and bold. It is also about absorbing new ideas that come from all stakeholders, and being bold in implementing them out. Organisations that foster these values will thrive in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.