The Integrated Business Plan is the pivot-point to Customer-Centricity

Have you ever met a commercial leader who said their company wasn’t customer-centric? I haven’t.

I have however been asked by many CPG commercial leaders what being truly customer-centric actually means. And when you get under the skin of it, what they really want to know is how they can remove the barriers that get in the way of a deeper focus on the consumer, the shopper and the retailer throughout the organisation.

And they are not alone in this challenge. In fact, fewer than 25% of organisations say they can effectively integrate cross-functional working practices around the real needs of customers [1]

So how exactly can you break down these barriers and maximise your much-needed growth opportunities?

Not just a buzzword

The pace of change and volatility in many markets is making sustainable growth and competitiveness ever harder to achieve, with high expectations being placed on understanding the (increasingly digital) shopper. But don’t mistake customer-centricity for being just a buzzword or think that because you have a Joint Business Plan and a shopper marketing department that they will take care of it. The roles of sales and marketing departments have changed – a different set of skills and behaviours are required to win, today and in the future, making customer-centric capabilities a ‘burning platform’ for the industry.

Our clients are telling us that they know they should be more customer-centric but often don’t know how to identify and foster the right workforce capabilities (people, processes, skills, technology and operating model) and align their culture to minimise or remove conflicts and capitalise on these opportunities. If you want to break down the barriers to achieving customer-centricity, this is key.

The pivot point

But customer-centricity means more than just delivering an excellent customer experience. It represents a fundamental reorientation on your most valuable consumers (the end-consumer who uses your products or services), with your most valuable shoppers (who purchases your products or services) and your most valuable customers (the retailer who sell your products or services) across all functions of the business. If joined-up processes are crucial to delivering growth and competitive advantage, then joined-up, customer-centric business planning is the pivot point. Companies that attempt to become customer-centric without the right business planning process and culture will fall short.

It works by bringing together cross-functional departments across marketing, insight, category, customer/shopper marketing, sales, finance, supply chain and operational planning with the common goal of meeting the needs of the consumer and the shopper (the uniting battleground with retailers).

So, how are the top commercial leaders integrating their business planning processes to maximise these opportunities for growth?

  1. They have a single integrated plan built around the customer experience with clear joint ownership for realisation and execution. Our approach to joined-up planning, IMAP, is outlined here.

  2. Empower a cross-functional team with a common purpose (not just sales and marketing but the full spectrum of the value chain from product development, to insight, marketing, category, shopper, customer management, supply chain, finance etc.) to collaborate on a coherent go-to-market plan that is centred on the consumer, the shopper and the channel/retailer before writing customer business plans.

  3. Compelling visions, strategies and campaigns across the path to purchase (online, offline and in-store touchpoints) that offer differentiated consumer and shopper solutions (pack, price, channel etc.). This is a vital part of the customer experience, and must be joined-up to bridge the gap between strategy, execution and the all-important micro-moments.

  4. Early focus on any potential gaps in business performance - predicting and responding positively to changing conditions, in plenty of time.

  5. Supporting technology to join-up all business processes for full visibility. With people, processes and technology in close alignment, joined-up customer-centric business planning becomes reality.

Reinvigorating mature Integrated Business Planning (IBP) processes can be difficult, especially for larger and more complex companies, but by placing the shopper at heart of the plan and viewing customer-centricity as an organisational capability rather than a vision or the responsibility of just a few is what sets apart the winners of the future.

What can leaders and HR do to build a more customer-centric organisational culture to support these processes?

  1. Prioritise customer-centricity as an organisational capability, not an activity.

  2. Define the required interfaces and capabilities for customer-centricity throughout the organisation to nurture a sense of common purpose and mutual understanding of what each department does to accelerate collaborative conversations.

  3. Shared KPIs and measures that focus on changing shopper and customer behaviour. What gets measured, gets done. Don’t just stop there, celebrating success will reward good behaviours and inspire others.

  4. Facilitate an outside-in perspective when setting priorities so that strategies can focus on future opportunities not just those myopically right in front of us.

  5. Make customer satisfaction central to your values. Making lasting step-changes in behaviour takes more than just clarifying expectations, it requires the silent majority to truly believe and act.

Ensuring that your organisation has the right capabilities will provide the pivot-point to delivering customer-centricity, and all the advantages that this brings.

If you want to find out more about how Brand Learning can help you join up your strategy and plans to deliver a winning customer experience, get in touch.


[1] Join up to Stand Apart report 

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