Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions, where he led teams, launched products and services, suffered corporate bumps and bruises and learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way.
Recent articles of Tim Kist
Deliver quality message on range of platforms to reach target customers5 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 4, 2023
The foundation of your winning game plan is an intimate understanding of your primary customers. Leading companies know this and they develop a compelling value proposition based on these customer insights to create a valid reason for their customers to choose them over their competitors. Only then do they decide which tools to use to reach their current and potential customers with their unique value proposition.
Essential components of a winning game plan5 minute read Preview Friday, Feb. 10, 2023
There is nothing like a major life event to highlight a positive experience on behalf of a company providing an important service. For example, a funeral is an incredibly stressful and emotional family event where grief can be extremely high. As you honour the person who has recently passed away, you count on the funeral home to assist you with all your planning details and arrangements.
Creating your value proposition5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023
The customer knowledge that your organization has should allow you to describe the value you are providing through your products or services. In my experience, developing a customer-centric value proposition is a challenge that is more often than not poorly developed.
Essential components of a winning game plan5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023
There is nothing like a major life event to highlight a positive experience on behalf of a company providing an important service.
For example, a funeral is an incredibly stressful and emotional family event where grief can be extremely high. As you honour the person who hasrecently passed away, you count on the funeral home to assist you with all your planning details and arrangements.
Recently, my mother-in-law passed away just days short of her 92nd birthday. She was an exceptional mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. To provide the appropriate celebration of her life and comfort to her family, we needed the services of a professional funeral director.
The way that the funeral home staff oversaw our family’s needs is a lesson in marketing excellence. Marketing excellence is the output from aproperly constructed and executed winning game plan. Nobody wants just a winning game plan, especially in the context of an emotional event such as a funeral.
Learning from losing: How to improve your game plan5 minute read Preview Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022
Winning three championships in a row creates a dynasty. Dynasties are the ultimate symbol of sports excellence. It is extremely hard to create a dynasty in sports and the recent Grey Cup result showed why.
Digital-first mindset needs to be customer-centric5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022
Wasn’t the online shopping experience going to mean alignment with the shopping, systems, and service of a company?
Great guitarists and lessons for business5 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022
In a recent conversation with my friend, colleague, and business author Andy Bass, I mentioned that he sounded a lot like Peter Frampton both in speech and as fellow guitar players. I actually clarified that further by saying they were both “great guitar players.”
Planning for a bad day is a good way to plan for a better day5 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 3, 2022
Imagine that you walk into the second half of your annual planning session, ready and excited to discuss how you and your colleagues are going to finalize the plan and make next year the best year ever for your organization. Your leader walks into the room and says, “I am sorry to tell you that the plan we crafted last week has failed spectacularly.”
Customers win with marketing and sales harmony5 minute read Preview Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022
Recently, a client asked me about my experiences regarding the relationships between sales and marketing during my business career. I have seen examples of tremendous collaborations and success and, unfortunately, I have also seen testy sales and marketing turf wars, where a referee would have been welcomed. Continuing on last month’s theme that marketing can be a force for good, let’s explore the components of a strong relationship between these two functions.
Marketing Positivity – A Force for Customer Good5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022
Some of my recent articles have highlighted aspects of corporate life and poor leadership decisions that negatively impact customers and employees. With so many stories of woe and poor service, and with the barrage of negative economic news these days, I want to bring an element of freshness and enthusiasm that can inspire positive actions for employees as they serve their customers.
A frequent question on quizzes in the marketing classes I teach at the University of Winnipeg asks, “What is the easiest thing for a marketer to accomplish for their product?” And the answer is, “Maintain a positive attitude.”
The concept of marketing positivity gelled with me as I was reading various industry blog posts and articles. There is no real definition that I could find and I believe I may have invented it. When you have a positive mindset, you are able to tackle challenging situations, make necessary alterations to improve performance, and celebrate the excellent work that your employees are doing for your customers.
Research shows that having a positive mental attitude can lift your spirits for extended periods of time. And this attitude becomes contagious. I am not talking about “false chatter” which is just empty words of encouragement. I am talking about a deliberate approach to developing a positive mental attitude about what your company creates and delivers to customers, how you treat customers and employees, and your general corporate responsibility within your community.
Focus on your values to deliver customer excellence5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022
These days, most business articles from news sources, major worldwide consultancies, subject-matter experts, academics, and corporate leaders, seem to have a major focus on company values. The primary assertion I see is the focus on corporate values as a key element in corporate identity. This is more than just “finding your why” as author Simon Sinek postulated about a decade ago.
This is supposed to be the essence of the organization. These are the core elements that build the successful culture of a business.
We talk about core values when I lead strategic planning engagements. When I teach courses, establishing values is a part of strategic planning and marketing.
And yet, we still have reports of corporate greed, ethical violations, fraud, corruption, poor labour relations with employees, and various other incidents that make me shake my head. I do not want to dwell on these items — they exist. The bigger question is, “what can be done to improve commitment to core values?”
Complaints can Bedrock Your Winning Game Plan5 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 7, 2022
Last month, I wrote about my experience with a difficult-to-open pickle container and provided some insights into how the process of obtaining customer feedback can help with product design improvements. It turns out that many of you had the same experience I had with the redesigned pickle container and expressed their frustration with the package design.
I summarized the feedback I received and sent a message to the company to share their customers’ complaints about their problematic pickle package. I also included a copy of my article as a reference and validation of the source of the issue. I received a polite and thoughtful reply from a customer service representative explaining the main reason for the package redesign from a vertical jar to a horizontal plastic container was for shipping purposes.
While I understand the functional reason and company benefit for the change, the bottom line is that the plastic container appears to be poorly redesigned for customers. The customer service rep provided images and a video showing how to use a spoon handle to open the container. Unfortunately, the video showed pickle juice spilling on the counter while prying off the lid. One positive note in the response was that the company is redesigning the package to address concerns about it being difficult to open.
If you search “best ways to handle customer complaints” on Google, you will receive almost 14 billion entries. And the top few pages are remarkably similar in their structure of a good response. In summary, start with acknowledging the respondent, validate their issue, offer a solution, and thank them for their important feedback.
Consider your business simply the best? Says who?5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022
I was watching the NFL playoffs the past two weekends and noted the frequency of a Pepsi No Sugar commercial. The background music was the Tina Turner song, Simply the Best. Also running with some frequency over these weekends was a commercial for Coke Zero. So, while Pepsi was claiming to be “the best zero sugar,” Coke was claiming to be “best no sugar ever.”
Consider the money invested into the customer research, the development of the ads, and for the rights to use Tina Turner’s song. After thinking about all the work to create the products and the ads, I believe that neither company can make the claim. Only the customer can determine “the best.”
The topic of “best” also came up during a discussion in a strategic planning class I teach at the University of Winnipeg. We had a lively discussion as students considered the concept of “best.” We concluded that “best” is subjective and only your customer can determine what “best” is and what specifically you are “best” at providing them.
Typically, companies will become particularly good at something that is distinct or different than what their competitors offer. These traits are not necessarily “the best” because the best can be replaced or improved upon. Just like the Wild West, where there was always a faster draw, gun-slingers had a limited shelf life if they made claims about being the fastest or best.
Marketing Reflections for 2021 to Prepare for 20225 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022
I recently attended a webinar that focused on what has happened to the customer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key conclusion from the presenters is that there is a disconnect between what customers want from their customer experience and what companies think they want. For example, 58 per cent of brands believed that high quality is the most important factor for customers, while customers only placed the importance of high quality at 35 per cent - a significant gap.
The other factors that were included as responses similarly showed the disconnect between brand view of priority and customer view of priority. This tells me that knowing your customer better becomes an even stronger need than ever before. Great companies continuously study buying patterns and review customer feedback to see what customer habits and priorities may have changed.
Companies typically have a substantial amount of data, yet they are starved for customer insights. With so much data available this means that often no decision is made, or an erroneous decision is made using incomplete or inaccurate information.
The insights that are gained through this analysis must then be applied to your business processes and decisions, so that your customer experience delivered by the company is solid. Too often we hear about “best practices” and comparisons to industry leaders. Companies often shift their approach to mimic someone else rather than create what should be specific to their business and customers based on the direct feedback their customers have provided.
Anatomy of a customer-centric event5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021
As the playoffs near for the CFL, college, and with the NFL also in full swing south of the border, teams look to assess their performance to ensure they always know what is working and why, and what is not working and how it can be fixed. Over the past few months, I have shared some customer service nightmares and provided some guidance on fundamentals that should be entrenched in every organization to improve their game plans.
This month, we are going to assess the anatomy of a first-class customer interaction and capture the fundamentals this company employed. A colleague provided the details of this story because I have not experienced this level of “owning” a customer interaction like this in quite some time.
My colleague had given a used Toyota RAV 4 to his son, who lives in another province. There were some mechanical problems occurring, so the son contacted his father. It seems the local dealership in a small British Columbia town could not diagnose the exact problem. The father suggested to his son that the local dealership contact the Winnipeg dealership where the vehicle was originally purchased and that had performed all the service work on it.
Not surprisingly, the small dealership did not contact the Winnipeg dealership. So, my colleague went to the Winnipeg dealership and spoke to the service advisor and explained the situation. In a very proactive move, the service provider said, “Well, I will call the other dealership right now.” And he proceeded to make the call.
Horror stories from the world of customer service5 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021
Writing about marketing as a fundamental building block of a winning game plan is a real joy for me. During my career, I have been fortunate to work with some great companies, where a strong marketing mindset led to success.
However, I am dismayed at the number of customer service horror stories that seem to be increasing and are occurring across a variety of industries. The 1988 “Marketing is You” booklet that I’ve referred to over the past few months provided the marketing fundamentals for developing a winning game plan. Sadly, there seems to be more negative stories shared with me by readers than positive ones.
While I am a believer that you should look internally in your company and build off what works, we can also learn from the mistakes of others to understand why customers have chosen to leave. The lessons must be more than saying “don’t do it that way” because that does not provide any real guidance to effect positive change in your marketing mindset across the company.
Consider the following examples from different cities and different industries.
Common-sense marketing: feel like a customer5 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021
Over the past few months, I have written about fundamental concepts that appear to be absent from so many interactions with businesses. Building from a pamphlet that was written in 1988, I have addressed some of the key ways businesses can improve their relationships with customers.
But why is this customer-centric approach so important? Many business leaders may be concerned about making costly investments that might not result in increased revenue. Further, how can one be sure about the financial returns since no one can really predict the future? There must be some grounding to demonstrate that a customer-centric approach is just common sense.
My colleague, Dr. Linden Brown, chairman of MarketCulture and author of the 2015 business book of the year The Customer Culture Imperative, explains the importance of a customer-centric culture. He says, “Customer culture is to business, what breathing is to living. Yet so many leaders do not know the impact of their culture on their customers’ experiences. Direct interaction with customers helps leaders create a “customer mindset” that is needed before decisions are made and practices are implemented that show their customers that they care. These practices, reflected by the behaviours of leaders and their employees, can be measured, and benchmarked against the most customer-centric companies in the world. It’s a good starting point for action by leaders to embed stronger customer-centric practices as a culture, that everyone in the business can embrace.”
Dr. Brown’s position is very clear that customer-centricity provides a competitive advantage for an organization over the long term. Specifically, the research he conducted has confirmed that customer-centric companies are more profitable.
Listen to front-line workers5 minute read Preview Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021
Last year I wrote a series of articles focused on helping businesses create a winning game plan.
A major component of creating a winning game plan is building off the business fundamentals of taking care of your customers and your employees. While a focus on fundamentals is always a good approach, I want to dive deeper into where you can find untapped gold from your customers and employees who can help you create additional success.
Your front-line staff deal with customers on a regular basis. These interactions result in valuable insights and anecdotes that can help an organization understand how their product or service assists their customers to get their jobs done. People don’t buy a product or service just because they like it. It is because they have some type of job to be done. Needs aren’t vague and unknowable, they are how customers measure success when getting a job done. Are you collecting this data to build an improved understanding of your customers’ wants and needs based on the job they need done?
In my experience, one of the reasons that unsuccessful companies do not capture this data is that senior leaders do not believe what the front-line staff are saying. This is somewhat reminiscent of the news correspondents that were in Vietnam during that war.
Marketing is easy when you do the hard work5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 3, 2021
Last month, I wrote about two of the 11 practices identified in a 1988 American Marketing Association (AMA) pamphlet titled, “Marketing is You.” This month, I thought I’d touch on two more concepts on the AMA list, namely, “treat each customer as you would like to be treated” and “make it easy on the customer.” Just as with last month’s concepts, these two are marketing fundamentals and yet are difficult to find consistently applied in practice.
When I am on the receiving end of poor customer service, I find it hard to imagine anyone would want to be treated that way themselves. Just a bit of self-awareness should be enough for staff to realize that the service they are providing is not reasonable and must be improved. And yet the low quality persists. Perhaps if management “walked the floor” or “secretly shopped” at their own business they would experience the level of service offered to paying customers and changes would be made to deliver a quality customer experience. This simple exercise, and the insights it can reveal, is what made the show Undercover Boss so popular
Where is the pride in doing a good job?
Two recent first-hand experiences reinforce how these fundamentals are still lacking. We searched and found a website with beautiful images and ordered a floral bouquet as a gift. The arrangement that was delivered was nothing like the picture of what we selected. When we followed up the response was simply, “We have been assured the order was filled to value.” Whose definition of value did they use? Because it was not ours.
Customer service at centre of true marketing culture5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 5, 2021
I was doing some spring cleaning in my office and uncovered a pamphlet I had acquired back in 1988 titled, “Marketing is You.” The pamphlet was created that year by the American Marketing Association (AMA) and featured a list of 11 practices to become a better marketer.
All 11 practices remain valid today because they reference the importance of the customer-first approach businesses must have. However, it begs the question of how, in 33 years, many have not been able to actively implement these practices on a consistent basis to create better customer encounters. As a followup to my May article on building trust, I want to focus on two of the 11 AMA items that can help any organization improve their trust with their customers.
The No. 1 concept on the AMA list is, “be friendly and willing to help.” This is so basic and yet it is often difficult to find in practice. Customers expect “service reps” to be friendly and helpful because it is in their job title. In my experience grocery shopping, I have encountered positive and negative examples of this concept. I am sure everyone has had questions of where to find certain items in a large store. At Safeway, the employee will take you to the aisle and find the product for you. This act of friendliness and helpfulness creates a high degree of trust with me for the store and the employee. Unfortunately, there are other stores where the employee acts as if you are interrupting their day by asking such a question and respond with something like, “I think it’s in aisle seven or maybe 12.” I no longer shop in those stores.
The second concept that can be a building block of creating trust with your customers is “handle complaints quickly and professionally.” There is almost nothing a person in an organization can do to erode trust faster than to mistreat customers during a complaint situation.
How to establish trust in business5 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 1, 2021
In the animated Disney classic, The Jungle Book, Kaa the snake is wrapped around young Mowgli and serenades him with a song with the lyrics “trust in me, just in me.” As amusing as this is, there is a reality that exists in business where a prevailing attitude is just telling customers to trust in the company. In both cases, just saying something does not make it so.
Trust is essential in our lives, particularly in the 24-7 instant-access news and comment world we live in. We have experienced mixed messaging related to major issues, such as COVID-19, that causes citizens to question which piece of information is correct. We have trust issues in relationships that can fracture families and friendships. Trust is required everywhere and yet often fails to take hold in a meaningful way.
When you see or hear messaging from companies that includes “we have great customer service” or “we have the best staff,” we are usually skeptical of such claims. Our skepticism exists because these are claims provided with no evidence to support them. They are claims made by the organization, not by those being served. When you make a claim related to trust, you need to demonstrate trustworthy activity. And this often includes taking full responsibility for your actions and words.
Many organizations believe they are trusted advisers to their customers. However, there is typically little evidence provided to support that customers believe this to be true. Therefore, the question becomes “how do we create trust with our customers?”
Don’t forget, your value is defined by your customer5 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021
Last month, I wrote about three ways local companies (the Davids) can compete against the large multinationals (the Goliaths).
In my work as a certified management consultant, I use many tools to assist clients (the Davids) in their positioning and actions. In my article, I introduced the concept of the value intensity profile (VIP) as one tool that businesses can use to determine the values that are sought by their customers. The strength of this tool is that you capture the non-price values your customers say are important. They are not what you think is important.
The only way to determine the values that are important to your customers is to ask them. You can easily have a coffee with a customer to talk about their qualitative issues. Tracking customer complaints also indicates areas of importance to your customers. Simple surveys can be sent to customers to ask them to rate the criteria you capture. The summary results will provide you with a good starting point. Another approach is to create a customer council that is representative of your customer profiles. Use the same ranking exercise to determine the top three, or up to 10, non-price criteria customers value. These are only a few considerations of the many unique and special ways you can connect with and gain insights from your customers before you call in a professional.
Next, once you have determined the top criteria, you need to have your customers score each value on a one to 10 scale. To work on the most appropriate values, you must ask your customers and carefully listen to their responses. Just as you asked customers to tell you which values are important; you are now asking them to tell you how well you deliver on these values. This complete VIP approach is typically conducted once per year to determine the values and get a ranking of how well you are delivering the value to your customers.