I have been positively influenced by many people and organisations over the years – in fact I continue to be on a daily basis. As well as being a big believer in the principle of ‘simplicity’, I am also an advocate of ‘shamelessly stealing’ ideas that make sense to me. Maybe the utilisation of ideas garnered from others should not be considered ‘stealing’ – especially if credit is always given to those who were behind the idea – perhaps the right word is ‘borrow’!
One organisation that has had a dramatic effect on influencing my career is General Electric (GE). I have written many times in the past about GE – my four plus years with the US conglomerate quite literally changed my working life in so many ways. I think the most powerful demonstration of this is the fact I continue to use and deploy many of the tools, techniques and principles I was taught whilst working there. When you consider I left GE in 2004 – over twelve years ago, that is an impressive fact.
The world has changed enormously in 12 years – but some of the most powerful business techniques have not. Connecting back to the principle of simplicity, I believe that the best ideas; the ones that are long lasting; the ones that sustain themselves; are without question the simplest. I want to share one of these simple ideas in this post – the idea of FIND, WIN, KEEP.
Back in 1999, I remember being in a meeting where the concept of Find, Win, Keep was first explained to me. Like so many things about GE, it made so much sense. The CEO of my GE business at the time, a man called Gary Edwards, was probing a cross functional team on our annual strategic plans. Gary’s probing went as follows:
‘What is our strategy to sustainably FIND new customers?’. A very simple question – and one you would expect those responsible for the marketing function in the business to have a very good answer for. Back in 1999, the concept of the ‘customer journey’ did not really exist. However, even then, GE were the masters at understanding end to end ‘processes’ as well as the importance of customer centricity. This knowledge combined with an understanding of the market place (we were a B2B), good, effective plans were in place.
Now have a think about your own business – do you have a strategic plan for FINDING new customers? Do you know what your customer journey looks like and the stages/touch points in the journey that enable you to FIND customers? Do you know how good those touch points are – from your perspective and from the perspective of the customer?
‘Finding new customers is one thing – what is our plan to WIN more of them?’. Another simple question – and this time one that those responsible for sales should be very capable of answering. WINNING new customers, in my experience, is the part of the customer journey that most businesses invest in with abundance. Whether it be a B2B or B2C environment, increasing sales is always very high up on the agenda – and so it should be.
However, it is usually at this point where ‘the wheels start falling off’ – what Gary asked next was the most important question of all:
‘So tell me – what is our strategy to KEEP the customers we WIN?’ Now that is a question. Intuitively, it sounds so obvious, but when you lift up the ‘bonnet’ or ‘hood’ of the workings of most companies, understanding how to KEEP customers is not always very clear.
As both a customer and an employee, I have been exposed to businesses who have quite clearly never thought about it. I have always found it a sense of frustration when a business offers better deals and incentives to WINNING new customers than they do to KEEPING their loyal, long standing customers. Call it what you will, but it smacks of ‘taking customers for granted to me’ – or a clear sign of having no defined strategy to KEEP customers.
I am a customer of Sky – I pay a significant amount of money on a monthly basis for a variety of TV channels. A couple of years ago, I wanted to ‘upgrade’ my Sky box to the HD version. I had seen them advertising (FIND) great deals for HD packages and so decided to contact them. To cut a long story short, the ‘deals’ I had seen were not for existing customers. I would have to pay significantly more to upgrade than if I were a new customer. I explained to Sky that I had parted with thousands of pounds worth of my hard earned money over the years as a loyal customer, but they would not budge.
It took multiple phone calls and a couple of weeks before they relented and offered me a compromise deal – but only after I asked to close my account! I am sure you will agree – this is not uncommon. In their relentless desire to FIND and WIN, Sky have fallen foul of having no strategy to KEEP.
It is more common than not for companies to have a good strategy for FINDING and WINNING and little or no plan for KEEPING.
However, the opposite can also be found. On occasion, I do come across companies who are exceptional at KEEPING the customers they have. Through the consistent delivery of the customer journey and a great ability to galvanise and develop relationships, customers rarely leave them. However, if you are not able to continually ‘top up’ customers you are KEEPING, it is very difficult to survive factors that are out of your control – such as economic and environmental changes.
That is why all three elements of FIND, WIN, KEEP are so important. I love the simplicity of it – I love the clarity of it. So my question to you is this – do you know what your organisations strategy for FIND, WIN, KEEP is? If the answer is no (to one of more of the three), I suggest you convince them to do something about it as soon as possible!