September 27, 2016 Realizing Competitive Edge: Your People Can Help You See Things Differently
I’ve learned a lot from marketing consultants – but the truth is, you can learn a great deal from your own people. They know things about the market and the game out there, things you don’t realize they know. When you’re looking for answers, and the right questions, it’s great to get their insights first hand.
Getting out there in the field lets you see different things, and to see things differently. When I’m in the stores, I go to the section where our products are sold to see our setup and displays – but I’m also very curious to see what my competitors are doing. I browse and see what’s happening with products outside our category and how they’re reaching consumers. I want the shoppers’ whole experience; the colors, the fonts – all of it. I want to see and hear about trends and buying behavior the analysts might not know that well.
And of course that gets into the really good stuff – connecting with your people out there on the frontline. Asking questions because they know things you don’t know.
The best way to learn is from the people who are in the action, those who are learning fast and reacting fast. I can find out what our salespeople are up against every day. I even get to hear from the customers themselves – what works, what doesn’t and what’s good for them. But the action out in the field is not just at the stores. It could be in a factory, at a branch or even at a community event we’re sponsoring. You can take in information from dozens of environments.
By being out there talking to people, you can connect different data points and insights. What you learn on a factory floor could relate to something you want to do with packaging, promotion or company-wide programs. Someone talking about how they entered the company, where they started work and trained or how they came out of school can trigger new thoughts about how to build a talent pipeline. During one plant visit, when I found out we have 100 people who will soon be over 20 years with the company, the thought came to me: “Where are our next 100 people coming from?” I may not have gotten the answer, but I got a very valuable question.