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 this 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.
India on continuous growth path
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.
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. Organisations that are also dynamic and market driven will quickly hitch their wagons to the marketplace so that external growth proportionately translates into the growth of their own enterprise.
Essentials of marketing strategy
Growth in sales and growth in profits, both come from the marketplace. While savings can come from optimising your operations, cutting costs, value engineering your products, automating your systems, streamlining your supply chain, 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 analysis of marketplace dynamics always reveals 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. All successful organisations accept that growth in turnover and growth in profits, both come from the marketplace. Marketing processes in customer-driven organisation should, therefore, be an area of constant vigilance. Differentiating your offering quantitatively & qualitatively and attuning it to your customer needs is the key.
Planned growth vs accidental growth
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 utilisation is optimised. Rise in turnover reflects in profits. To achieve planned growth, successful enterprises have a mechanism to engineer their marketing process. This ensures sustained organisational evolution, which is seamless across the organisation, creating long-lasting value.
The marketing process of a business enterprise comprises of its entire marketing value chain, starting with the satisfied customer and ending with the sales team. In between lies the organisation’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 organisational branding and its perceived equity, customer sensitivity of the sales team and their response effectiveness. Add to this matrix, the external factors which include the 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, maximising 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.
Customer-centric marketing strategy
It is imperative that organisations design customer-centric marketing processes and implement them to deliver real organisational growth. Key aspects of such a marketing strategy include:
Quantification of goals for the enterprise derived from 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 achieve is key
Evaluating internal & external marketing architecture and aligning it with a market-driven, time-bound growth trajectory that meets the goals in the allotted time frame. This shall include a people structure that can respond to and achieve the goals. It further involves identifying core personnel, defining key result areas, enhancing requisite skill sets and setting up a quick response mechanism that your customers will applaud.
A customised Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is essential. This tool enables members of the enterprise as well as any selected customers to have instant access to the current status of a range of variables, which includes the status of projects, etc. A simple and transparent CRM system process is also effective in creating satisfied customers who keep coming back to you.
Development of many innovative communication channels between a business enterprise and its internal and external customers, result in higher effort to result efficiency. These tools have been widely used for lead generation and should be embedded in every sales organisation 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.
Measuring and monitoring customer satisfaction in absolute and relative terms.This results in incisive customer-oriented strategies to generate more satisfied customers. The same science also applies to the following:
Dealer & distribution channel satisfaction
Corporate communication effectiveness studies
Parameters for analysing satisfaction levels
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 analyse the satisfaction level on each parameter that causes satisfaction and the customer satisfaction index is benchmarked with the best in class and sometimes even with companies that follow best practices. This analysis 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.
Bridging gaps between expectation & reality
To address stakeholders’ problems in terms of technology, such as 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 be derived from the 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.
The article is reproduced with courtesy to BDB India