Better Than Referrals – Share the Customer Experience

 17th July 2018 by gihan

In the highly-competitive world of financial advice, financial planning businesses must work harder than ever before to attract new clients. This has become especially important since recent changes to the industry in Australia, where advisers have to charge a fee for their service (rather than earning commissions from products they recommend to clients) and have to demonstrate ongoing value to clients for those fees.

One business has seen this as an opportunity rather than a problem, and combines these two ideas in a way that adds value to existing clients while also attracting new clients.

They host a quarterly “Market Update” webinar for their clients, reporting on the state of the market, describing the impact of recent events (such as an election or change to legislation), and highlighting important future trends.

Their webinar software allows a virtually unlimited number of attendees, so the business could throw open the webinar to everybody, and use it as a public marketing channel.

Instead, they want to offer this as an exclusive value-added benefit to clients, so they restrict the webinar to clients only. However, they do still use it as a marketing opportunity, because each client is given two “free tickets” to invite somebody from their network: family, friends, work colleagues, or anybody else they wish.

By doing this, each webinar becomes a win-win-win opportunity:

  • The clients get exclusive access to valuable information from their financial adviser, and get to extend this to two friends.
  • The friends also get access to this valuable information, with no obligation or pressure to buy anything or switch financial advisers.
  • The financial planning business adds value to their clients and gets the chance to demonstrate their value to a new, warm, friendly audience.

This is better than a referral.

The idea of asking your customers for referrals is not new, and of course somebody referred to you is a “warm” prospect, and usually easier to convert than most other prospects.

But most businesses don’t ask for referrals consistently. Sometimes they don’t have a consistent system for it, but more often it’s because the process seems “icky”: The salesperson feels awkward asking for a referral, and even happy customers are highly protective of their friends.

Think of the three ways you attract new customers:

  1. Without: You reach out to them independently of any relationship they might have with existing customers.
  2. Through: You ask existing customers for referrals.
  3. With: You ask existing customers to invite prospects to share the same experience as the customers themselves.

This third method is more powerful than a simple referral, because the prospect genuinely shares the same experience, in a low-pressure, no-obligation way.

This hasn’t been as easy in the past, because providing an experience comes at a cost for each extra person. But in our digital, social, connected world, it’s easier than ever to provide high-quality experiences at a low – or zero – marginal cost.

How can you extend your customer experience to prospects?

Here are three thinking points for you to bring in more new customers this way:

  1. What are you already doing for customers that you could easily extend to prospects?
  2. What more could you do that adds extra value for customers (that you could also extend to prospects)?
  3. How can you enrol your customers in inviting these prospects to share these experiences?

If you would like my help, please get in touch. In my Think Sharper masterclass and executive mentoring, we examine six different touchpoints in the customer journey where you can involve them more as partners in your business.

Customers On Your Side

 10th July 2018 by gihan

There’s a lot of buzz about being more customer-centric, but most experts and advisers miss the most important element of customer-centricity. Without it, you will almost certainly be disrupted by competitors inside or outside your industry.

Listen To the Episode

More Resources

The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

More ways to engage with me:

Turn Your Customers Into Innovators

 3rd July 2018 by gihan

In Auckland, there’s some discussion now about building a light rail system. Like many topics that are open for public discussion, interested residents can have their say in online forums, and of course they do – with comments like this:

  • “From building face to building face, all Dominion Road stations would have 21m of width to play with. We can fit a central island platform if we want.”
  • “If we absolutely have to keep through traffic in both directions, then we cannot have cycle, general, and LRT lanes at those three of four locations, and for 100m or so, cyclists will have to share the lane with motorists.”
  • “I would envisage the parking lane stopping at a station/stop and the drive lane moving over to it so the platform could be where the drive lane is.”

But these residents didn’t just make their comment in writing. They demonstrated their ideas in pictures, like this:

They are using the Streetmix service, which allows local councils to publish a proposed transport layout online, which anybody can then adjust – directly from their Web browser – to contribute their suggestions. Then, when Auckland Transport starts work designing the light rail layout, they can take all these ideas into account.

That’s what being “customer-centric” really means.

There’s a lot of talk now about businesses needing to be more “customer-centric”. That’s good, but what does that really mean?

It’s not just about customer feedback surveys and your Net Promoter Score.
It’s not just about delivering better experiences.
It’s not just about customer empathy mapping and customer journey mapping.

All those things are useful and valuable, but they still treat the customer as somebody outside your business.

Being customer-centric means bringing your customers inside, and involving them earlier in your internal processes.

In the past, there was a clear “wall” between you and your customers, with your team inside the wall and customers outside. You engaged with customers only in a narrow band of interactions – such as marketing campaigns, sales meetings, feedback surveys, customer support, and of course the sales transaction itself.

But that isn’t enough anymore.

In our more social, highly-connected, information-rich world, the most successful organisations break down this wall and let customers in.

Turn your customers into innovators.

Your best customers already have years of experience using your products and services, so why wouldn’t you draw on that experience when designing them? That wasn’t easy to do in the past, but technology makes it much easier now.

If you can provide easy-to-use tools for them to provide design input (these are known as “mass-customisation toolkits” or “MC toolkits”), your customers will gladly help out. An example is the Streetmix service above.

Of course, your customers aren’t design experts, so they might suggest design ideas that just won’t work. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask them for any ideas at all!

Great design is a combination of experience and expertise.

In the past, you relied on your internal resources for both, but now you can call on your customers for their experience. And then add your expertise to make it happen.

Of course, it’s not enough to just ask your customers for their ideas – you also need to use them! And that might mean changes to your systems, processes, and even your team culture. So it’s not as simple as clicking your fingers today and magically making this happen overnight.

In the Harvard Business Review article “Customers as Innovators: A New Way to Create Value”, authors Stefan Thomke and Eric von Hippel suggest these five steps for turning your customers into innovators:

  1. Develop a user-friendly tool kit for customers.
  2. Increase the flexibility of your production processes.
  3. Carefully select the first customers to use the tool kit.
  4. Evolve your tool kit continually and rapidly to satisfy your leading-edge customers.
  5. Adapt your business practices accordingly.

But that was written more than 15 years ago, and now that process is way too slow! You might be able to find a toolkit (rather than developing your own), you can open it up to all customers (not just a few), and you will have to adapt your business practices much faster now.

The most important first step is to make the decision today to be more customer-centric, and set that direction for your future.

If you would like my help, please get in touch. In my Think Sharper masterclass and executive mentoring, we examine six different touchpoints in the customer journey where you can involve them as innovators.

Filed Under

Tagged With

Map Many Scenarios, Choose a Few

 26th June 2018 by gihan

Map Many Scenarios, Choose a Few

A few months ago, I had my first dangerous close encounter with a kangaroo when driving on a country road. We were enjoying a quiet weekend away in Yallingup, in the beautiful South-West region of Australia, driving on a road near the beach, when a roo jumped out from bushes in front of us. Fortunately, it hopped across the road quickly, and we avoided an accident. But it was close, and I realised there was nothing we could have done if we had been crossing its path a few seconds earlier.

As a result of this close call, for the next couple of hours, I was very cautious when driving, examining every bush on the side of the road as if it might have a kangaroo lurking behind it. In fact, I became overly cautious, until I realised it was crazy to have that attitude forever. Yes, we need to be alert for roos, but we can’t drive forever with one foot hovering over the brake pedal.

The same applies to the way you view the future.

Future-ready leaders know which scenarios demand their greatest attention.

Whether you’re leading a team, department, or business, you know you’ll be navigating your way through unknown scenarios in the future. But not all those scenarios are equally likely, and not all will affect you in the short term.

When you evaluate these scenarios, you can classify them into four groups:

Then you can deal with them differently, depending on where they fit.

Long-term and unlikely: Ignore for now.

Some things are speculative, and even if they happened, won’t affect you in the short term. So it’s usually safe to ignore them for now.

For example, as much as we might get excited about Elon Musk planning to build a million-person colony on Mars, there are many obstacles to overcome, and it’s estimated to take 40-100 years. So most of us don’t have to take that into account in our business decisions.

Short-term and unlikely: Keep on radar.

Some other things seem unlikely right now, but will have an immediate impact if they happen. It’s risky to ignore them, but we can just keep them on the radar and stay alert in case they suddenly appear on the horizon.

Blockchain technology falls into this category. At this stage, there’s a lot of hype about it, with very little substance supporting the hype – mainly because there are some complex technical issues holding it back. But if the technical geeks resolve these issues fast, blockchain has the potential to affect almost every industry. So it’s worth keeping an eye on it – even if it doesn’t inform your strategy yet.

Long-term but certain: Inform strategy.

On the other hand, some scenarios are inevitable, but might not happen for a while. As a leader, these fall under your responsibility, and they should inform your strategic direction, even if you don’t make immediate plans for them.

For example, autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) will replace drivers, just as surely and completely as cars replaced the horse and buggy. But there are still many hurdles to overcome – mainly because driving is so ingrained in society. So, it will be years before fully autonomous vehicles become mainstream, but, as a leader, you should definitely incorporate them into your strategic thinking now.

Immediate and certain: Act now!

Finally, you will face some scenarios that are both highly likely (if not already happening) and with short-term impact. Obviously, you need to plan for them and act immediately.

Whatever your industry, I’m sure you can find many examples – new regulations, actions from competitors, new technology, global competition, and more. In fact, these are usually the easiest scenarios to identify.

Which scenarios are YOU planning for?

If you have never done this kind of scenario planning before, I highly recommend it – especially now in Australia, as we’re starting a new financial year, and you might be setting your direction for the next 12 months. I also recommend you involve your team members, because they bring different perspectives to the conversation.

When I work with leaders and their teams to help them with their decision-making, I work through this exercise with them. In my experience, I see three common traps and mistakes:

  1. Not going wide enough: This is just an exercise, so let your imagination run wild, and don’t self-censor too soon. Even if a scenario seems unlikely or too far away, include it in the discussion. That doesn’t mean you need to tackle it immediately, but at least consider it – and then later decide where it fits in your scenario planning.
  2. Too much focus on unlikely scenarios: That said, don’t get side-tracked by hype, wishful thinking, and Bright Shiny Objects. By all means, identify them, but make a realistic assessment about their impact.
  3. Too many short-term actions: It’s easy to identify immediate and likely scenarios (the top-right corner of the model above), and it’s easiest to create plans for these scenarios. The danger is that you only spend your time in this area! You will be highly focussed, but also very narrow-minded in your thinking – and that’s bad for a leader.

Do this scenario planning exercise now! It’s not just useful – it’s part of your responsibility as a leader.

If you would like my help, please get in touch. I use this exercise – and many others – in my Think Sharper masterclass and leadership mentoring to assist you to keep thinking ahead.

Filed Under

Tagged With

Go Lean! Try Jugaad Innovation

 19th June 2018 by gihan

Facebook has recently been reminding me that, five years ago, I went on a holiday to Sri Lanka with my parents and my sister.

Among the many enjoyable moments was spending time with two of my aunts, who I hadn’t seen for more than 30 years. Not only did we get to enjoy a very tasty Sri Lankan meal, I also had the unexpected opportunity to become an amateur “electrician”.

Their electric fan wasn’t working, because the plug didn’t fit snugly into the adapter plug, which was plugged into the power board, which in turn was plugged into the wall socket. With a bit of experimentation (and enough care and luck not to electrocute myself), I discovered I could make it work by wedging a small piece of cardboard in there, and that tilted the plug just enough for contact!

Of course, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing such a thing back home in Australia! We have Woolies, electricians, and other – more sophisticated – options to fix this kind of problem. But those options weren’t available at the time, and a piece of cardboard was the perfect solution.

This is an example of Jugaad innovation.

“Jugaad” is a Hindi word that (roughly) means solving a problem in an ingenious way when you have limited resources. I’m sure you have seen plenty of photographs of this from around the world – such as this ute constructed from random spare parts:

Many people – especially in developed nations – used to laugh or look down on this kind of problem solving. But there’s a growing trend of applying the concepts of Jugaad innovation in well-resourced, established organisations. Authors Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja talk about this in depth in their 2012 book, “Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth”.

The big idea is that you can trigger better ideas when you have fewer – not more – resources.

In fact, this is exactly how smart start-up companies disrupt the big, well-established incumbents. The start-ups don’t have huge cash reserves, a large staff, and many other assets that sometimes reduce the need for innovation. They have to be lean, so they are forced to be more creative in solving problems big and small.

If you want to be more innovative, try removing some resources!

If you want more innovation in your organisation, the obvious option is to throw more resources – time, money, people, etc. – at it. But that might not necessarily be the best option. What if you removed some of those resources instead?

What if you had to create a working prototype for under $100?
What if you set aside just one hour each week to fix 10 small problems?
What if your team had to solve a problem but without using any in-house resources?

Of course, you need to strike the right balance.

Removing too many resources can also stifle innovation. But don’t automatically assume that fewer resources means less innovation.

It’s like runners in a race. If they are fat, they carry too much body weight; and if they are skinny, they don’t have enough energy. The best runners are lean, not skinny or fat!

So, if you want to spark innovation in your team, try removing some of their resources!

Filed Under

Tagged With


 13th June 2018 by gihan

When people are uncertain about the future and can’t rely on what has worked for them in the past, decision-making suffers and productivity declines. Instead of making progress, people just try to protect their turf, pass the buck, and resist change. If that’s happening to you and your team (or you want to make sure it doesn’t happen!), learn the skills of better decision-making in an uncertain future.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“How to structure options to think about the future.”

“Way of categorising future threats”

“Your best asset can be a liability too”

“Dont discount the value of Analytics and Big Data – even if I dont think it will apply to my organisation”

“The 9 technology trends of immediate impact and how to relate these to my business assets”

“Majority of competition is likely to come from outside usual competitors and need to think about business opportunities from their perspective. “

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future – what’s ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I’ll cover an important topic about the future – for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I’ll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

Register here

Filed Under

Tagged With ,

Think Ahead by Connecting Outside Technology

 7th June 2018 by gihan

The biggest changes to your job and business will come from outside your industry. In their Accenture Technology Vision 2016 report, Accenture says almost half of Australian executives expect the greatest risk of disruption from this kind of competition.

It’s all well and good to compare yourself with yourself, so you can keep improving. And it’s sometimes even worth looking around at the competition, so you can strive to be (or continue to be) the market leader. But that won’t protect you from people outside your industry stealing a march on you and the rest of your industry.

You can’t always predict this, of course. But you can be more aware of it by training yourself to consider the impact of new technology and trends.

For example, self-driving cars will affect a lot of industries:

  • Obviously, car manufacturing and car sales will change, because many people won’t have to buy their own cars.
  • We won’t need car insurance, because we won’t be responsible for car accidents.
  • The multi-billion-dollar parking industry will be affected, because cars won’t be sitting in garages and parking spaces all day.
  • Accommodation, travel and hospitality will be affected, because people can drive to destinations overnight (sleeping in their car) rather than taking flights and staying in hotels.
  • Cemeteries, morgues, and funeral directors will be affected, because there will be fewer deaths from car accidents.
  • Education will be affected, because cars might become mobile classrooms rather than just transport vehicles.

Notice that some of these connections (such as car sales, insurance and parking) are more obvious than others, because they are directly related to cars. But some of the others are not so obvious, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important! If you’re in one of those less-obvious industries, you’ll have an advantage by thinking ahead and assessing the impact of this technology.

Exercise: Be a Connector

Every time you hear about some new technology or trend, rather than just dismissing it because It’s not directly related to your industry, ask:

“How could this affect me?”
“How could this affect my business?”
“How could this affect my industry?”

Consider both the positives and negatives – that is, the opportunities and the threats.

Do this regularly and proactively, and you will spot new opportunities and keep finding ways to add value to yourself and your business.

Filed Under

Tagged With

Think Like a Futurist

 5th June 2018 by gihan


Futurists aren’t fortune-tellers! They simply look broader, deeper, and further than most people, and help you find new opportunities to apply what they find. As writer William Gibson said, the future is already here – it just isn’t evenly distributed. In this podcast episode, I’ll teach you nine practical skills you can use yourself to think like a futurist, so you can make better decisions – and faster.

Listen To the Episode

More Resources

The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

More ways to engage with me:

Filed Under