Strategy's Important Work: MarketCues National Research Results (Part Three)
It's not news that the strategies of organizations need to adapt to changing business conditions. For many, a strategy is developed through trial and error with the goal of significantly improving the top and/or bottom lines. These are worthwhile goals but in this era of nearly ubiquitous products and services, it's wise to engage with clients first before making any changes to your strategy.
Digital marketing and Internet searches have made the exercise of product comparisons child's play. Moreover, companies are learning that excellent resources can be found outside the normal "Big 5 Providers" in any given field. Below are three case studies concerning client engagements MarketCues conducted that show how to link customer insights to strategy to win big.
Case Study #1: National Training Firm
A client of ours wanted to explore the potential of its consultative training approach among national clients. Although the national training firm's existing client pipeline was relatively limited, current national clients of theirs had expressed an interest in the firm expanding its ability to serve as a 'consultative partner' that, when combined with their current training systems, would be able to provide a turnkey service over the next 10 years.
Our SmartPlan360˚ Program was employed to determine if the required substantial investment in new professional services would drive a strong, justifiable Return On Investment (ROI) for the training firm. The specific areas of research focused on both the firm's existing resources and skill-sets along with the market potentials gathered from external sources including prospective clients, existing clients, financial and legal advisors, and related service vendors.
Key Findings Revealed
- Potential client firms did not possess the ability to perform high level (scientific engineering) diagnostics and lacked the experience to materially collaborate on long-term research projects.
- Attempts to introduce a Complex Problem Analytics Processhad created a negative culture that had disrupted business growth.
- Knowledge barriers severely hindered communication and sharing of information between groups that would be of benefit when working together.
- Poor management and a lack of 'community spirit' among the organization's groups were hampering the completion of time-bound initiatives.
- Key scientific talent was leaving for more focused programs at competitive firms.
Based upon these findings MarketCues recommended that our client offer a new resource to national clients that possessed the foregoing internal limitations. The goal was to drive a pilot program to build a successful track record among current and prospective clients. We recommended offering this new consultative approach based upon a "Fee Plus Bonus" arrangement that earned clients credits toward future long-term research to more quickly induce clients into the new offering. Clients who would normally not engage in long-term research were able to do so and mitigate their upfront investment costs once the programs proved successful in their implementation.
Our client created a new strategic market platform with an ongoing income stream that mitigated the internal operating costs of running the program and produced a significant profit for the firm. This national training firm's revenues tripled in five years guided by the strategic initiatives that were implemented.
Case Study #2: Corporate College
The executives in charge of a Corporate College's strategy had driven their organization's reputation to be well known as a leading educational system in their central location. The Corporate College was located on several campuses serving thousands of continuing education students, mostly of whom were working adults wanting to advance their careers through continuing educational certifications and degrees. MarketCues was hired to provide fresh insights into their current go-to-market strategies and make recommendations of how to increase its overall training program revenues.
During our discovery process we determined that the Corporate College could increase its awareness and usage among both its current and prospective corporate clients. The challenge facing the Corporate College was that its identity had remained largely unchanged since its opening many years before. Strategies that had worked during its early years had grown stagnant and paid marketing campaigns were not producing a profitable return on investment. Based on these factors it was decided that MarketCues would research the Corporate College's customers to compare their perceptions to those held by the College's leadership and staff to determine the 'Core Strategic Drivers' that were impacting its sales performance.
Key Findings Revealed
- The Corporate College as a whole was disconnected from both its corporate clients as well as its parent educational organization.
- High organizational perception gaps existed among leaders and staff alike concerning its position in the marketplace.
- Relationships with its vendors and its parent College did not always operate in a collaborative fashion.
- The Corporate College had difficulty leveraging shared information across its organization.
- Training programs were being provided that its corporate clients were no longer interested in attending.
- Silos among the training programs existed with few being offered using an integrated approach.
Using these new findings and insights, we recommended that continuous improvement should begin by addressing the 'in-house' misperceptions concerning its value to clients. We recommended eliminating silos throughout the organization by repackaging its offerings based upon the specific needs of its corporate clients. Industry forums were hosted by the Corporate College to discuss and evaluate the value of each of its training programs. Direct client feedback included verbal commitments to send employees to specific training programs and the insight to know what programs to discontinue.
An expansion of the corporate training programs was also recommended to improve both attendance and increase revenues in the identified areas of interest to corporate clients. And finally, we recommended they grow their market reach beyond their traditional customer base to include key manufacturing, safety, mining and insurance program customers to round out the overall customer base.
Realigning specific training offerings along clients' needs created a strong synergy with key corporate clients thereby realigning the Corporate College's overall marketing and training efforts. This realignment improved workflow within the organization and increased its ability to share relevant information with clients that improved their services delivery. By identifying high-growth offerings and eliminating unprofitable programs the total Return On Investment (ROI) was significantly improved. According to the Executive Director, overall corporate training revenues increased 100% the following year by implementing these strategic recommendations.
Case Study #3: Online E-Learning Company
The executive leadership team of an Online E-Learning Company engaged our firm to provide them with a comprehensive set of market data. They wanted an informed analysis regarding the market potential of their company. They requested a risk management assessment associated with a new market expansion they were considering. We conducted the analysis using our SmartPlan360˚ Program to assess the business outlook and market potential focusing on the organization's current product offerings. Pricing, relevant market intelligence and key drivers were selected to research to gain a deeper understanding into the true market strengths and opportunities of the company.
Key Findings Revealed
- Pricing reductions of the online product offerings were required to become competitive with the many other offerings in the market, many of which were being offered for free to gain market awareness and traction.
- Introducing a subscription-based pricing was preferred to the single-sale approach in use.
- Dividing the market into four geo-demographic sections would better align the company's direct marketing to its potential customer base.
Based on these new insights we recommended offering free subscriptions to teachers to drive a more rapid awareness of the product with the added benefit they could greatly increase the use of the product by leveraging their recommendations to those they instructed. We recommended printed versions be discontinued and all operating and production expenditures reallocated to an all online offering. To further increase awareness for the product we recommended enlisting famous educational leaders to build credibility and trust for the brand.
These strategic recommendations reduced costs by 25% to produce content that could be used for both the offerings as well as for marketing. The strategic adjustments brought the risk to an acceptable level within the investment parameters. Subscription trials of the online educational product proved effective in selling subscriptions. The strength of the current educational offerings lead to a 20% rise in revenues and eventually lead to the successful sale of the company to a larger educational company.
Tom Marin President of MarketCues, a national consulting firm wants to hear from you! Follow MarketCues on Twitter for strategy and related tips. Tom also welcomes emails, new Linkedin connections, calls to (919) 908-6145 or learn more at: www.marketcues.com.
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Tom Marin is the Founder and President of MarketCues, Inc., a national consulting firm. He has worked for some of the world’s largest corporations and middle-market firms. Tom’s focus is to help CEOs drive their strategy shifts and strategic growth programs. Follow MarketCues on Twitter. Tom also welcomes emails new LinkedIn connections or calls to (919) 908-6145.