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Tools | Build a Core Activity Map

Core Activity Map As Michael Porter points out, the heart of strategy is in doing a different set of activities to create a unique and valued position.  So it makes sense to identify the Core Activities of your industry and determine how best optimize them to beat your competition. Use this simple process to help you create a strong set of Core Activities to win in your industry.
  1. Brainstorm the Core Activities that your company does.  Core Activities are the most important actions a company must do to operate successfully.  Examples include: deliver exceptional customer service; invest in product innovation; provide quick delivery service.
  2. Identify the top 4 Core Activities and write them on post-its.  It’s typically difficult to be the best in more than 4.
  3. Write your top 3 competitors on post-its to form the top row.
  4. Go through and describe how well each of your competitors execute each of the core activities.  Don’t worry about wording.  The value is in thinking about what your competitors do.
  5. Now you should have a good understanding of your competitive landscape.  Begin brainstorming how you can improve your Core Activities.
  6. Summarize your improvements for each Core Activity and put them on the last column of the Core Activity Map.
The next step will be to figure out how you will execute your improvements, which is always the hard part. But this exercise give you a solid first step in strategically winning in your industry.

Tools | Mapping the customer experience

MCA Customer Experience Map Use this handy tool to map out your customer’s experience with your products to help you identify areas where you can optimize the process. Download the PowerPoint document and use the shapes to map out the experience process. Action (Customer): Describe the actions your customers take along the buying process all the way to the sale, at least.  If applicable, also include the after-purchase actions for both the customer and employees. Physical Element: Describe what physical aspects the customer is experiencing. Action (Employee): Describe the action your employee(s) will make.  It would also be good to note the position of the employee who does the action to keep track of how your entire team is servicing your customer. Decision: If there is a choice that needs to be made, note it here. Option: Note their options here. What they’re thinking: What do you think your customers are thinking at that moment?  How are they evaluating their decision? Ideas for Improvement: Use this shape to note ideas of how you can improve the experience and possibly adjust the customer experience process. Tips
  • It’s usually easier to outline the potential steps in written form first.
  • You don’t need to necessarily map out every little discrete step, just the main ones.
  • Really focus on the “Thinking” areas to gain a better understanding of how to best help your customers at that point in the buying process.

Tools | Matrix Brainstorming

Corny Keanu Reeves jokes aside, Matrix Brainstorming is a way to generate new and novel ideas quickly and collaboratively.  The basic idea is to choose 2 different sets of attributes.  It can be anything.  Whatever is useful to you.  Media / Products. Promotion Type / Holiday. Message / Visual. For the purposes of this post, we’ll use Brand Personality Attributes and Selling Points. Download this PDF template for the exercise:
  1. Write down 4 of your Brand Personality Traits for your brand on the top headers of each column.
  2. Write down 4 of your key Selling Points for your company in the left column.
  3. Cut out the numbers on the 2nd page, fold them, and place them into a hat or bowl.
  4. Gather a group of your employees and have them pick out numbers.  Depending on the size of the group, you can have them pick out multiple numbers.
  5. Each number corresponds to a combination of Trait and Selling Point.
  6. Their job is to brainstorm as many ways to communicate the Selling Point with the Brand Personality Trait.
MCA Matrix Brainstorming So let’s say for example, you’re a clothing store (see PDF Template for the example).  You pick 9.  So you need to communicate “helpful staff” with “daring.”
  • Maybe it’s a print ad showing how your staff goes above and beyond to help their customers.
  • Maybe it’s developing a program for your employees to come up with a new idea for the store every month and the best idea is featured on an online video.
  • Maybe it’s a section on your website with bios of all of your employees highlighting some of the daring things they’ve done.
  • Maybe you ask all of your employees to post images of them doing dares at your store on DareShare.
Now, some are going to be harder than others.  But that’s part of the fun of stretching your imagination to come up with cool unconventional ideas. Try it.  It will “free your mind.”

Tools | Bento Box Marketing

bento If you haven’t heard of it before, a Bento is a Japanese meal comprised of different types of dishes contained in small compartments. It usually has:
  • Rice
  • Main Dish
  • Side Dish
  • Salad
  • Pickled Vegetables
It’s often an inexpensive and satisfying meal.  It can easily be packed up and taken on the go.  And while it’s structure seems pretty straight forward, there are an infinite amount of variations from the combinations of dishes.  Sounds like a great framework for a marketing plan. bento boxRice (ubiquitous staple):  This is your Value Proposition. What is the fundamental product or service you’re providing your customers?  What solution are you providing for their problem? Main Dish (the meat): This is your Core Differentiation.  What makes you unique?  What are people going to remember you for? Side Dish (secondary, but still important): This would be your Added Value. What other things do you bring to the table for your customers?  How do you deliver beyond expectations to provide a unique experience for them? Salad (it’s good for you):  This represents your Values.  What do you stand for, not because it’s profitable, but because you believe as a company, it’s the right thing to do? Picked Vegetables (adds flavor to everything else and balances the meal): Everything else that makes up your Brand (e.g. logo, store design, look and feel, design of your collateral materials, advertising layouts). Try it out and it may give you a new perspective on your marketing efforts.

Tools | Marketing Action Modeling

Post-it Flowchart The only purpose for any advertising tactic or marketing initiative is to ultimately end in a sale.  Each may have immediate goals of raising awareness or repositioning the brand.  But if the true end goal isn’t a sale, then what’s really the point? However, rather than leaving it to chance, hoping that your potential customers will know the exact road to take to get there, why not help them along the way?  The first step in doing that is to map out the buying process leading from your advertising/marketing tactic to the sale itself. Some roads may be very short.
  • You run an ad in the newspaper with a coupon.
  • They see it and want to buy something with it.
  • They come into your store to buy something and redeem the coupon.
Others may require more steps.
  • You create a Facebook page.
  • You promote it in your store.
  • Current customers see it and “like” your page.
  • You post interesting and relevant content.
  • Your current fans “like” that content.
  • Their friends see what they “liked” and begin following your page.
  • You post one of your products that are really interesting.
  • They see it and want to check it out.
  • They come into your store to buy it.
  • Maybe they buy some other things too.
By listing all of the actions they need to take from your tactic all the way to get to the end goal of the sale, you can identify ways to help them along the process.  Try this exercise with all of your current advertising and marketing.
  1. Write down your advertising/marketing tactic on a post-it.
  2. Write each step your target audience must take in order to get the end goal of the sale.
  3. Really think hard about what a person will realistically need to do to get there.  Don’t be so naïve to think that if someone just knew about your company then they would automatically want to buy something from you.
  4. Look at the process and see where you can help them along or even ways of how you can cut out some steps.  For the Facebook example, some things that may help include:
    • Run Facebook Ads to get more fans quicker
    • Focus on posting content that people will likely like
    • Run a special promotion only for your Facebook fans to encourage them to come into the store quicker
This is all about optimization.  How can you make it easier and easier to get your customers from the tactic to the sale?  Review your tactic action model periodically and see what you can do to help them along their path.