Insights for health brand marketers: IBM’s Global CEO Study

Here are two major findings and associated recommendations that are relevant to health brand marketers – based on 1500 face-to-face conversations with CEO’s, general managers, and senior public sector leaders worldwide – representing different sizes of organizations in 60 countries and 33 industries:

Creativity is the most important leadership quality. Leaders expect to make deeper business model changes to realize their strategies. To succeed, they take more calculated risks, encourage others to drop outdated approaches, invite disruptive innovation, find new ideas, and keep innovating in how they lead and communicate.

The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into core processes. Globalization, combined with dramatic increases in the availability of information, has exponentially expanded customers’ options. CEOs said that ongoing engagement and co-creation with customers produce differentiation. They consider the information explosion to be their greatest opportunity in developing deep customer insights, and have made customer intimacy their number-one priority.

Recommendations (partial list from study)

a. Creativity

Reach beyond silos. Pull creative elements of your organization out of compartments and integrate them into the mainstream. Proactively exchange knowledge and cooperate with internal and external stakeholders, eliminating every communication barrier to improve your ability to handle the unknown.

Exemplify breakthrough thinking. Practice and encourage experimentation at all levels of the business. Forge ahead with rule-breaking innovation that sets your organization apart from the crowd. Study and question what others do — scour technology and customer trends. Build scenarios to plan responses to a range of possible futures.

Act despite uncertainty. Fight the natural urge to wait for clarity and stability; taking calculated risks — while others hesitate — can pay off. Find a creative way to turn complexity into an advantage. Rely on deeply felt values and a well-defined vision to provide the confidence and conviction to exploit narrow windows of opportunity.

Borrow from other industries’ successes. Learn from and be inspired by creative achievements from outside your industry. Regularly discuss case examples from other industries in your management team meetings. Stay abreast of customer and technology trends that are transforming other sectors and consider how you could apply them.

Use a wide range of communication approaches. Supplement top-down organizational communication with less formal, more innovative channels. Accept that for customers and employees alike, blogs, Internet presence, instant messaging and social networking are more credible — and often faster — than traditional top-down communication.

b. Customer Value/Co-Creation

Establish an unprecedented level of focus. Starting with the CEO, every employee in the organization must be hyper-focused on customers. Make customer value your number one value. Ensure every employee is responsible for and assessed annually on a customer satisfaction or customer value metric.

Heighten customer exposure. Make it easy for customers to connect with the right person in your organization. Every employee must have the information needed to engage with customers appropriately and effectively. All employees must understand the link between the work they do and the value it brings to customers.

Measure what customers value. Genuinely know what motivates current and potential customers to choose your product or service. Surpass today’s standards to proactively verify that you are providing what customers want and delivering it in ways that matter to them. Understand your customers’ business goals and help them succeed.

Make customers part of your team. Enhance customer relationships by finding new ways to communicate, new roles they can play, new questions to ask them, new ways you can listen, new ways to evaluate their feedback and leverage what you learn. Make — and deliver on — customer commitments.

Solicit customer wants. Engender loyalty by directly involving customers in defining emerging needs. Constantly tune offerings to their rapidly changing preferences. Make sure you are providing what customers want tomorrow, instead of what they wanted yesterday.

Co-innovate and interact with customers in new ways. Collaborate across different channels to create new products and services. Maintain a running dialogue that includes face-to-face and social networking interaction. Involve customers before and beyond the sale, including care and service.

The full study can be found here.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, a brand and marketing firm specializing in creating momentum for businesses across the health + wellness continuum. The common threads are consumers who want to get well, stay well and play well, and brands that fulfill these aspirations and goals.

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