When we conduct our Grassroots Strategy workshops, a task on day one is to draw your value chain – the steps your offering goes through before reaching an end-user. In the business-to-business world, value chains can include different distributors, specifiers, installers and value-added resellers, all of whom can influence what gets bought by whom. We recommend looking at not just product flow, but also at how decisions and money flow up and down this chain.
Author: Amphora Consulting
5 Pitfalls to Avoid when Value Pricing Software
We had a client many years ago that was struggling with how to bring a new software offering to market, specifically how to price it. Their core product was equipment used in manufacturing processes and the associated parts and accessories. The equipment was a large capital purchase for their customers, but they made most of their money of the ongoing purchase of parts and accessories (think razor blades). Their new software would help their customers design and optimize their manufacturing process and choose the best mix of parts and accessories. The challenge lay in the fact that, although the software would create tremendous value for their customers, it had the unfortunate side effect of frequently reducing the number of parts and accessories that they needed to buy. The leadership team was stuck with some wanting to postpone the software release indefinitely and others wanting to price it very high to make up for the potential lost parts revenue – and no one really thinking about customer value.
Software pricing can be complicated and confusing, but it need not be a reason to panic – even for organizations that are more comfortable pricing hardware. The primary thing to keep in mind is that all the rules of customer value still apply. Below are several of the pitfalls that we see customer fall into when pricing software, and some thoughts on how to avoid them.
Reliving the Glory Days and Boomerang CEO’s
In case you missed it, Robert Iger returned to the helm as CEO of the Walt Disney Company in November, less than two years after “retiring” in 2021. This makes him the latest in a series of high profile ‘boomerang CEOs’ who return to their former posts after allegedly leaving it to a successor. Other companies where this has happened include: Dell, Enron, Best Buy, Starbuck’s, Yahoo, Procter & Gamble, JC Penney, Bloomberg, Seagate, Apple and Xerox.
Business Travel…Can you really stay healthy?
Here it is March, and for most of us our New Year’s resolutions have faded in the rearview mirror. Yet as we adjust to a post-Covid world, many would like to avoid returning to old bad habits. In particular, as business travel rebounds to near historic levels, fellow road warriors struggle to maintain a healthy balance.
No matter what your goals or resolutions are, having a healthy approach to business travel is key to ensuring it doesn’t negatively impact your health, stress and effectiveness at work. At Amphora, we take the work we do seriously, but also believe that it is critical to Invest time to take care of ourselves.
After decades of travel, learning from our mistakes and listening to pointers from others we have compiled a list of a few simple tips that might make your travel just a little bit less stressful and perhaps a bit more rewarding.
RACI: Love them or hate them, but used correctly, they can add value
After years of documenting key processes, re-writing job descriptions and automating org charts, many organizations still struggle to have clarity and alignment around roles, responsibilities, and authority. This impacts business processes, project execution and day to day decisions resulting in frustration, inefficiency and sometimes poor decision-making. We have seen this issue in action with our clients across many industries.
Several years ago, we were working with a major candy manufacturer. One of the key triggers for calling us in was the country president’s growing dissatisfaction with his organization’s inability to make decisions without bringing problems to him. One example that happened to be on his desk when we talked was a Halloween candy promotion with their biggest retail customer, Walmart. We eventually talked his team through the situation and discovered the core issues – three different managers each thought they should make the final decision, and they could cite their job descriptions to defend their position: The account manager for Walmart who was responsible for “maximizing revenue at his account,” the VP of Marketing who was responsible for “maintaining and improving our brand equity across the country” and the CFO who was responsible for “implementing our pricing strategy across channels and key customers.”
As one of them lamented to us, “lots of people can say ‘no,’ but no one is sure who can say ‘yes’”. This is one of the classic symptoms of unclear accountability and misaligned objectives. So, how do we solve this problem?
One approach for clarifying responsibilities is the RACI Matrix.
The Adventures of 2023 Planning and Lessons From a Tumultuous 2022
By any measure, 2022 was a year of nearly unprecedented change and for many of us, one that we are not in a hurry to see repeated. While 2022 saw most of the covid-related restrictions lifted, experts are still debating the lessons and the long-term cost to things like education and small businesses as well as impacts on mental health. In addition, many businesses are still struggling with covid-related supply chain issues, including supply chain ‘whiplash’ in industries that saw big spikes in demand.
Reflecting on all this as we do our own planning for 2023 at Amphora, we are reminded of two key principles that we have stated before, read the blog below for a refresh on these principles!
So You Want to Be a Software Company?
There is a strong appeal to becoming a software company, but is it really the right answer for your business? As these two examples show, the answer is far from clear.
Your Organization is Hungry for a Strategy
We recall a rather depressing conversation with the CEO of a medium-sized company several years ago. We were trying to stress the importance of articulating a strategic agenda when he effectively shut down the conversation by asserting, “we have a three-pronged strategy: operational efficiency, organic growth and acquisitions. People need to stop asking questions and… Continue reading Your Organization is Hungry for a Strategy
How Does Inflation Impact the Value You Deliver?
Inflation is hitting every sector of the economy, and almost every company we talk to is grappling with raising prices to compensate for their rising costs. Invariably someone will say, “Raising prices is value pricing, right?” Our answer is, not really. Although value pricing could lead to an increase in price, it could also lead to holding price or even lowering price.
There are two key questions. How does inflation impact the value you deliver? And, how do you best implement the revised pricing?
Don’t Apply the B2C Customer Journey to B2B
Regular readers of our blog know that we have an instinctive negative reaction to consumer marketing concepts being applied in B2B. Ideas like personas and brand equity are critical in B2C marketing, but when inappropriately applied in B2B they can drive bad decisions based on customer preferences and personalities as opposed to real business needs and the economics underlying those needs. So, it would not surprise you that we were initially skeptical about applying the concept of “customer journey” to B2B markets.
Mapping this B2B customer journey alongside our client reinforced four key themes. Find the complete blog with these themes below.
Rest in Peace, Vin Scully, There Will Never Be Another One Like You
Baseball broadcasting legend Vincent Edward ‘Vin’ Scully passed away last week at the age of 94. He was the voice of the Dodgers for an incredible 67 seasons, from 1950 to 2016. The awards and accolades that Scully received during his career are too numerous to mention. As one example, he received the Ford Frick Award for broadcasting excellence from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, and then went on to work for 34 more years!
Bringing Your Strategy to Life
Many years ago we worked for a client in the commercial waste management business – they hauled garbage from commercial businesses and construction sites. We were called in because, despite having spent a large sum with a top-tier consulting firm for their strategy, they were stuck on how to implement it. The summary of the previous consultant’s work was a strategy statement that read “in our industry, we will provide the best customer service, be the most innovative, be the most efficient and have the best people.”
Continue reading to see what happened, our definition of strategy and how to bring your strategy to life.
Why Won’t Those Stupid Customers Buy My Valuable Solution?
“We could grow faster if those stupid customers just understood the real value of our solution.” If we had a dollar for every time we have heard a client say some version of that, we would be rich. The problem with that line of thinking is that it is a dead end. If customers are stupid, and knowingly buying something other than their best option, then what hope do we have of changing that?
We have come to believe that the ‘stupid customers’ line of thinking is a convenient, but at best superficial, explanation for not making a sale. The truth is that individual customers may seem stupid – they certainly make decisions that we don’t understand. But whole segments of customers are not systematically stupid, or they wouldn’t still be in business. Nearly always, a better explanation is that we have failed to fully understand value from the customer’s perspective.
Taking the Customer’s Perspective?
OK, time for a quick test. If you were looking at this menu board, what would you expect to pay for a bottle of Piper Heidsick champagne? This is a real picture of the menu board that my wife and I were faced with on a recent Friday evening (I have doctored it only to… Continue reading Taking the Customer’s Perspective?
Value Chain Economics: The Secret to Market Leadership
One of the first things we have our clients do in our Grassroots Strategy workshops is define the market or “opportunity” from their customer’s perspective. The primary question we ask is “what is the problem you solve for the customer?” Seems simple, right? Not always. Answering that question is predicated on understanding who is the… Continue reading Value Chain Economics: The Secret to Market Leadership
Do You Know the Momentum of Your Business?
When we run strategy workshops with clients, we usually start with a discussion of the momentum of the business. Borrowing from the concept of momentum in physics, this is our attempt to capture the trajectory of the business – where it is likely headed in the absence of any change in strategy? This foundation is… Continue reading Do You Know the Momentum of Your Business?
Make Sure You Don’t End Up With a “Paper Strategy”
The last two years have been pretty crazy. Whether your business has been doing well or badly in this environment, much of the last two years have probably felt a lot like crisis management. Starting with the new year in 2022, it’s a good idea to refocus your efforts on achieving your long-term strategic goals… Continue reading Make Sure You Don’t End Up With a “Paper Strategy”
What Lessons Can We Take From This Turbulent Year?
The end of the year is always a time to take stock of where you are and think about how you might adjust your plans for the future. Even if you are normally not one to make new year’s resolutions, this past year certainly must have caused you to stop and reflect. Many pundits have… Continue reading What Lessons Can We Take From This Turbulent Year?
A Winning Value Proposition Has to Be More Than Just a Slogan
Not long ago, we had a client that sold hospital equipment. A recent acquisition had broadened their product line and they asked us for some help with the strategy for the new portfolio. We started with an overview of our process, and when we got to the concept of value proposition, they stopped us. “Oh,… Continue reading A Winning Value Proposition Has to Be More Than Just a Slogan
‘Flow’ … being completely involved in an activity for its own sake
A pioneer and leading thinker in the world of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, passed away last month at the age of 87 (for anyone who is not a native Hungarian speaker, I have been told that ‘MeHigh ChickSentMeHigh’ comes pretty close to the proper pronunciation). Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work centered on the concept of ‘Flow’ a phrase he coined… Continue reading ‘Flow’ … being completely involved in an activity for its own sake
Five Pointers to Avoid Being Stuck in a Segment
Grassroots Strategy is a powerful conceptual framework, it changes how many of our clients think and leads to exciting new ways for them to conceptualize their businesses. After having worked with our client teams to crack the code in applying key concepts like differentiation, customer value and market segmentation, it often strikes us that the module on Voice of the Customer (VOC) taught towards the end of the workshop could seem a bit mundane.
In truth, the name VOC is a bit of a misnomer. In the past, we have attempted to change the name of this module to “Voice of the Market” or “Market Insight” but for whatever reason “Voice of The Customer”always seems to come back, despite the fact that we are describing something far larger and more important than an annual survey of existing customers that is sometimes also labelled “VOC.”
Good Segmentation Schemes Often Start Out Sounding ‘Just Crazy Enough’
One of the benefits of having coached project teams through our needs-based segmentation process hundreds of times across dozens of industries is that we can spot patterns that are difficult to identify for even the seasoned industry practitioner who has typically developed a limited number of segmentation schemes, probably in just one or two industries. One pattern that we often see is a natural clustering of customers based on size and complexity – with large customers demanding a high degree of customization for their unique requirements and small customers buying just one or two standard products serving their far simpler needs (or if they do have greater needs, we cannot afford to serve them because of their purchase volume).
While this type of segmentation works in addressing those two extremes, the problem is ‘the middle’ – the medium-size, medium complexity customers. Leaving them all in one segment is often not a good option, as they can comprise 60 – 70 percent of your revenue.
What can The Rolling Stones teach us about Voice of the Customer?
In a probably slightly twisted sort of way I often think of the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” when I think about Voice of the Customer or VOC. It is almost a universal truth that if you ask customers what they want, they will respond with some form of “a better version of what we are buying from you (or your competitor) today at a lower price.” If you just ask directly, this is almost certainly what customers will say they want, and many probably believe it. But the goal of good VOC is to get beyond this superficial response.
Don’t Wait for the Perfect Mission and Vision Statement to Create a Strategy
We often talk with companies who are waiting to work on their strategy because they are reworking their mission and vision statements. There are key differences between mission, vision and strategy and it is essential they all fit together to drive impact. Successful companies connect these three pieces together to ensure their business focus is clear, communicated and market driven. But strategy is too important to be put on hold while you search for the perfect mission and vision.
Our advice: Make sure you don’t put your strategy on hold while updating your vision and mission statements.
Read the full blog for insights on the core components of your strategy that drive results to set you and your company up for success.
Do you Prefer Superhero Strategy Lessons from DC Comics or Marvel?
When we were kids (yes, we had cars and televisions back then), there was no doubt that the DC universe of superheroes was cooler than the Marvel Universe. DC had Batman and Superman, the two coolest crimefighters, plus we had the Justice League cartoons on Saturday mornings and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Women on TV. DC… Continue reading Do you Prefer Superhero Strategy Lessons from DC Comics or Marvel?
Don’t Fall in Love With Last Decade’s Business Model
The Pygmalion Trap The Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who falls in love with the statue he creates, is one of the most enduring stories of all time. The tale shows up in the works of Ovid, the Roman poet who lived in the time of Caesar Augustus. In the 18th and 19th century,… Continue reading Don’t Fall in Love With Last Decade’s Business Model
Is a Semi-Custom Business Model the Right Fit For You?
A man in a well-tailored suit will always shine brighter than a guy in an off-the-rack suit.
– Michael Kors
Mr. Kors may be right, there is nothing quite like a real custom-tailored suit. But it has also been one of life’s luxuries reserved for the fortunate few – a bespoke suit from one of London’s Saville Row tailors will set the owner back at least $2,000 and it could be several times that amount. So, most of us usually settled for an off-the-rack suit, it didn’t fit perfectly, but it was a fraction of the cost.
In search of …… silver bullet strategy
Too often, companies believe that the purpose of strategic planning is to find some magical ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all their problems and guarantee a path to profitable growth. A frustrating conversation with a client we had a few years ago comes to mind:
Amphora: What do you think of this draft strategy?
Client Executive: I don’t know, it feels like something is missing.
Amphora: Well, is there something wrong with our logic? This strategy should result in higher growth and higher profits.
Client Executive: No, but it’s based on information we already know, I was looking for a big idea.
Amphora: Yes, but this strategy is completely different than how you currently operate; it clarifies the underlying business trade-offs and forces different choices. Is there something you think we overlooked?
Client Executive: I just feel like there should be something more, like an outside-the-box idea.
Amphora: Is there any specific big idea that you think we should investigate?
Client Executive: I thought that was what you were going to come back with.
Expecting your strategic planning team to come up with the next big idea to guarantee profitable growth, is a bit like asking for a plan to lose weight without diet or exercise, or a plan to make money in the stock market without taking any risk. It would be nice if these strategies existed, but it is rarely the case.
Corporate Culture: You Don’t Know What You Think You Know
The list of books and blogs focused on corporate culture is expansive and it is a topic that has been discussed for decades. Why then is culture still one of the top issues leaders seek to address in their organizations? What holds organizations back from being able to develop the culture they are looking for?
Strategies to Stand the Test of Time
Is your strategy precise or robust? Precise: “Exactly or sharply defined or stated” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) or “Marked by exactness and accuracy of expression or detail” (Oxford English Dictionary) Robust: “Capable of performing without failure under a wide range of conditions” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) or “Sturdy in Construction” (Oxford English Dictionary) It is with some… Continue reading Strategies to Stand the Test of Time
“I know it when I see it”
Defining strategy so your organization can soar.
Many mid-sized companies become successful based on the intuition and experience of the CEO (often the founder) and sometimes one or several members of the Senior Management Team. Oftentimes they understand particular customer problems well and have developed offerings that uniquely solve these customer problems. Growth in the business comes from; growing the customer base within their target segment and expanding their share of wallet among customers in the target segment by expanding the scope of the solutions.
It would seem to be straight forward to explain the strategy of the business yet in our experience many companies still struggle creating a well-articulated strategy.
Can you make the headache of budgeting a thing of the past?
It’s that time of year again – no, we are not referring to the holiday displays starting to appear in stores which seems to happen earlier each year as the holiday season gets longer. We are referring to the equally long season of budgeting that is ongoing for many of you reading this. CFO Magazine… Continue reading Can you make the headache of budgeting a thing of the past?
“You Want Me to Pay for That?” – The Myth of ‘Customer Requirements’
We heard a familiar lament just a couple weeks ago from a VP of Engineering at one of our clients: “If the Sales team would just tell us the customer requirements, we could get on with designing the product.” We’ve heard something similar hundreds of times, and it sounds innocuous at first – what could… Continue reading “You Want Me to Pay for That?” – The Myth of ‘Customer Requirements’
Warning: No-one Cares About Your Product!
Our executive sponsor at a long-time client used to start off every Grassroots Strategy session by telling the teams to put a jar in the middle of their table and every time someone mentioned the word ‘product’ they had to put $5 in it. She told them that she was sure that every team would be able to throw a pretty good party by the end of the week with the money they collected. Her point was that they needed to focus on the customer and the problems that they could solve for customers rather than on their product. Professor Theodore Levitt said it best decades ago when he said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Innovation – You Can’t Go It Alone
Senior innovation leaders confirm that after years of talking about innovation, they are still struggling to integrate customer/market perspectives into the innovation process Amphora Consulting recently completed a survey of 20 senior innovation leaders. Our findings support the perspectives shared below. Complete results of the survey can be found here. Innovation is and continues to… Continue reading Innovation – You Can’t Go It Alone
Market Segmentation – How to Get it Right
We continue to believe that done well, market segmentation is not just a critical marketing tool, but can be the defining element of your overall strategy. In our previous blog post, we shared of the most common difficulties in getting to a workable needs-based segmentation. So what can you do to avoid those mistakes above and unleash the power of an effective segmentation?
Market Segmentation – Why is it so Difficult?
In our Grassroots Strategy workshops with clients, the highlight of the week is often market segmentation. Done well, it is one of the most important changes in the way you think about your business and customers – the customers you choose to serve and how you serve them impacts both the revenue and the expense sides of your income statement. But too often, teams struggle to do it well.
Should You Jump on the XaaS Bandwagon?
In 1998 Concur revolutionized the software industry by introducing their Software as a Service (SaaS) pricing and delivery model, rather than the traditional license and maintenance model. The model was revolutionary at the time because for a fixed monthly fee, customers got access to a continuous stream of small upgrades, rather than getting stuck on an old version and facing a big upgrade expense when they chose to upgrade.
Fast forward to today, and it is hard to imagine buying most software through anything other than SaaS. Now a recurring theme that we hear from our non-software customers is that they want to move their business to a subscription-based model, but is XaaS (anything as a service) really the best answer for everything?
It turns out that, as is true for most things, XaaS is not the best fit for every offering. There are seven things that need to be true for XaaS to be the optimal answer for your business.
Leadership Now and in the New Normal
Decision making in times of unusual uncertainty is one of the greatest, perhaps the single greatest, challenges of leadership. Navigating the current COVID-19 crisis and crafting appropriate responses has been a challenge for leaders around the world. And whatever happens, we are likely to have years of second-guessing as to what we could have done differently. To some extent this is inevitable – with so many unknowns, it is a certainty that we either over-reacted or under-reacted, deploying certain measures either too early or too late; and we may never know which, as we cannot go back in time and try something different.
Are You Ready to Come out on Offense?
With all the major sports leagues shut down, perhaps it is more important than ever that we keep alive that grand American business tradition – the sports analogy. So here it goes: boxer Mike Tyson once said “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.” At this point in the Covid-19 crisis, that sums up where most companies are with regards to their 2020 plans – we are reeling from being punched in the mouth.
Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones, and our thanks to those who have been risking their lives on the front line fighting this invisible enemy. As we write this, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, people are talking about plans to re-open the economy. But to Mr. Tyson’s point, those can’t be the same plans that we had coming into the crisis. You’ve been punched in the mouth, what do you need to change before the bell rings to start the next round?
What do Innovation, Rock and Defense Tech have in Common?
What do Rock ‘n’ Roll, innovation and defense technology have in common? If you’ve heard this story, you probably have a guess. If not, it might surprise you to find the answer is one person: Skunk Baxter.
Who Should Own Pricing in Your Organization?
Pricing is one of the most important levers your organization has, therefore pricing decisions are some of the most important it will make. Set the price too high, and you won’t sell anything. Worse yet, set the price too low and you are leaving money on the table.
That leads to the question, what department or function within your organization is in the best position to set the price in order to maximize earnings?
This is a Time for Thoughtful Re-Planning
Rethinking your plans in light of the unthinkable To call these times turbulent is an understatement. Obviously reducing the risk to lives is paramount, but the unprecedented threat of the Covid-19 virus and the necessary response are already wreaking havoc across the economy, with some second and third order effects that may be felt for… Continue reading This is a Time for Thoughtful Re-Planning
Strategy, Focus and the Perfect Pint
In 1759, Arthur Guinness leased a disused brewery in Dublin and began producing beer for the local market. Like most brewers of his time, he produced a variety of beers to meet a variety of tastes. But by the late 1770’s, Guinness was becoming known for his porter. The dark beer that used roasted barley to produce a deep brown color and rich complex aroma had become quite popular, especially among the dockhands in Dublin. In 1799, faced with a shortage of capacity, Guinness made the bold decision to discontinue production of his various other ales and focus exclusively on the porter – the beer we know today as Guinness Stout.
This historical tale underscores one of the most powerful and difficult challenges of strategy – focus.
Is it time to take the ‘product’ out of product management?
Frequently, we are asked to tailor our ‘Grassroots Strategy’ workshops to serve as training for product managers. Typically, the identified need is a lack of strategic thinking and/or tools for analyzing markets in a company’s product manager group. Beneath the surface, however, we believe that the problem may run deeper. The problem may be grounded in the very definition of what a product manager is and therefore what the rest of the organization expects from them.
Not-for-Profit is a Tax Status, Not Your Strategy
We are asked from time to time if our ‘Grassroots Strategy’ framework applies in the nonprofit world. After some reflection and a couple of attempts to make it work, we are convinced that it does work. However, we have come to realize that nonprofits frequently need to add an additional step at the beginning of their strategy discussions.
RIP Clayton Christensen
One of the most original and influential strategic thinkers of all time, Clayton Christensen, passed away last week at the age of 67. Christensen was a professor at the Harvard Business School, a prolific author, dedicated philanthropist and moral philosopher, as well as being an entrepreneur himself before joining the ranks of academics.
Why do I need a Strategy if I have a Corporate Strategy?
Now is the time that you can settle into running your business. You have a set of sales targets, budget requirements and maybe product launches or geographic expansions that you have planned for and committed to for 2020. But independent of all of this, do you really know what you need to focus on to win in 2020 and set yourself up to win going forward?
Value Pricing Relies on Effective Segmentation
Bottom line, effective value pricing relies on first having a good segmentation that is based on customer needs. Or, as we often say in our workshops, “value and segmentation always go hand in hand.”
Now that you have an annual plan, do you really have a strategy?
If you are like many of our clients, you may have thought about strategy and long-term goals sometime in the late summer/early fall and probably presented something to your leadership and/or your board at that time.
What you need to know about the value of customer relationships
Although customer relationships are important, do they really create value for the customer?
You think you know value pricing… and it can still surprise you
Our book, “Grassroots Strategy: Cultivating B2B Growth from the Ground Up” has just been published, so driven by some combination of curiosity and vanity, we have been somewhat obsessive about checking our page on Amazon.com.