Program Objectives

The following list represents the Key Program Objectives (KPO) for the Appleton Greene Corporate Positioning corporate training program.

Corporate Positioning – Part 1- Year 1Appleton Greene

  1. Part 1 Month 1 Internal Assessment – This first month will involve assessment and analysis of product capabilities and possibilities, through interdepartmental communication at the corporate level. Although Marketing will take ownership for the overall implementation and delivery of the value proposition plan, input from all areas will lead to a more cohesive approach towards execution. Suggested start would be with Development for outline of the expectations for the product/service, based on key inputs such as functionality, performance and efficiency. These should be mapped to show expectations against actual deliverables to start to identify where the deficiencies may be and how they should be addressed as part of the overall competitive market plan. Next, alignment with overall corporate strategy should be reviewed to determine if the product is consistent with existing direction of if there is deviation away from overall goals and objectives. If there are, then the task will be to determine if overall objectives were reasonable, given company resources and the competitive landscape. This type of assessment is critical to ensure strong positioning of the value proposition, when considering all aspects of the product and corporate plan. A final step in the assessment will be to determine if product value is linked to either existing products or planned products in the pipeline. If so, allowance will need to be made to articulate this clearly in the proposition plan, so as not to convey any misleading of confusing information to the buyer. Often compatibility with a company’s products is a key benefit within the value proposition and this can be critical feature when looking for that competitive edge regarding product differentiation.
  2. Part 1 Month 2 Define Issues – During the initial assessment, time would have been taken to review both product and corporate goals and objectives. This process helps to identify gaps that may impact creating of a strong value proposition and also identify resources that may be lacking when trying to achieve this goal. This next step is to select any and all issues that may have been tagged and determine the impact they may have in achieving the objective. These can not simply be identified and catalogued. They must be discussed by the team and may in fact lead to understanding misconceptions with the product/service that will ultimately impact the value proposition and positioning at market. It’s important to remember that the value proposition outlines how the product/service will solve a buyer’s problem or pain points and if this value is not connected correctly, because issues have been identified but not resolved, then the entire proposal will fall short and the company will not be seen as the lead provider of this value at market. Mapping of issues will be important and an exercise involving how the issue affects the goal(s) of the product will have the team to determine a corrective course of action. Think of this exercise as a chance to target issues and deficiencies before they can affect next steps in the process and compromise activities such as development of the plan and potential implementation. Objectivity is key and if this can not be gained by the core team, then departmental leaders must also be tasked with the process, thus confirming the importance of inter-departmental participation.
  3. Part 1 Month 3 Target Setting – At this stage, the team will start to formulate ideas and start to set goals for the value proposition plan. These goals will include such things as determining the effectiveness of the plan at regular intervals, to developing deeper concepts that support product benefits throughout its’ lifecycle. Questions should be asked about the process such as; “Which part of the target segment are we hoping to reach and how quickly?”, “What market and user factors could put the plan at greatest risk?”, “ How will users be assessed and what will determine a positive outcome of the plan?” , “What value proposition benefits are missing or have been poorly defined?”, and, “What impacts can be expected for other departments and how will they be addressed?”. These questions and more will help to outline relevant goals for both the plan and the organization itself. Determination of goals should also include tangible and intangible benefits to be measured concerning the buyer. Tangible would include any quantifiable and process driven outcomes. Intangible would be directed at soft benefits, such as comfort levels when using the product or any emotions that may result from product use. It’s important that the company includes all possible scenarios to determine relevant goals for the program. This activity can also be viewed as risk mitigation as to those activities and events that may undermine or compromise key goals and objectives. We must remember that goals are those things the company needs to outline that determine the success of not just the plan, but ultimately the product or service itself. If they are not properly defined and don’t reach the buyer in a useful way, then analysis will lead to meaningless data when determining the effectiveness of the plan.
  4. Part 1 Month 4 Gathering Data – Collection of market data is critical to determining how best to position the product/service and defining a clear value proposition. More important is gaining a perspective on the changing trends and conditions that define the market and how they will impact that same product/service. In today’s highly competitive markets, these changes are frequent and rapid, so initial assessment will need to followed-up as part of the monitoring process. When obtaining data, goals and objectives should be kept in mind so meaningful information is returned and in alignment with these targets, as part of overall product and corporate mission. If this is not done, it may be difficult to interpret the data and make sound decisions about content and direction of the value proposition. A further suggestion is to review the value statements made by close competitors as these may have an impact of development of the plan to articulate value to the buyer in a meaningful, market leading way. One of the key value statements concerns how economic value is conveyed and is becoming one of the leading requirements among consumers/buyers. A comparison of this among competitors within the marketplace will help to define a company’s own economic value and must consider not just data review of cost benefits, but how value translates to headcount changes, reduction of third-party reliance within the buyer’s organization and a clear idea of how revenue is enhanced through the medium to long term. Buyers use this information as part of strict purchase practice and understanding the data related to it is vital. Lastly, data collection should be conducted within the key market and buyer segments the company plans to target.
  5. Part 1 Month 5 Analyze Data – Data analysis is the company’s opportunity to undertake critical review of all of the market segments and buyer patterns that will influence their own product or service. Again, review should be done with a keen eye on the overall goals and objectives of the program to ensure the data is relevant and on target. Both qualitative and quantitative assessment should be made and when possible, published in easy to read graphs. The purpose here is to identify trends, significant deviations and validate early assumptions. Depending on how the data was collected, through interview, review of competitive material, surveys, etc., it may take some time to complete the analysis and define the information outline for the value proposition preliminary plan. Assigning specific review tasks to individual team members on data feedback from each of the data sources will help to expedite the process and keep the overall process on time. Another method the team may use for review is statistical analysis of the data to allow for modelling and presentation of trends in a more formal way. However, the techniques used should match the team’s experience and knowledge levels to ensure quality production. Once all of the data has been reviewed and compared against the original goals and objectives of the plan, a formal presentation to all stakeholders, including department heads, should be conducted to ensure compliance with the original assessment and allow for critical input prior to completing this module. This will allow for a seamless integration with the preparation of the preliminary plan and also allows company stakeholders to provide final input, consistent with the company-wide approach to creating solid groundwork for creation of the value proposition.
  6. Part 1 Month 6 Preliminary Plan – At this stage, all reviewed data has been prepared and summarized and the learned information is ready for inclusion in a preliminary plan. The first step is to identify all value proposition segments to be used. A comprehensive list includes detailed value statements on usability, productivity, compatibility, efficiency, customization and performance results, to name a few. Its important to remember that value must convey the importance, usefulness and worth of a product and can not simply be a plain statement on a feature/benefit. In simple terms, we can not say a product is efficient because it ‘speeds up a process’. We need to change the statement to state that ‘speeding up the process puts less demand on other resources and allows the user to perform other tasks, simultaneously or otherwise and provides ‘X’ $’s savings on headcount for the process’. In essence, the company must include a logical and detailed link between a value segment and the expected outcome (original goal/objective). This is part of good positioning with the target audience and ultimately, product success at market. The plan should be flexible enough to include revisions and updates based on further review of each segment, as well as additional input from other departments. This is a dynamic document and one that will evolve as it moves closer to implementation. Also, as with many new products, final adjustments/changes to the product prior to commercial launch may well affect the claims/statements made on some of the value segments. This must be taken into account during the team process of developing the plan.
  7. Part 1 Month 7 Review Plan – Once the preliminary plan has been prepared and all segments of the value proposition completed, its necessary to review each segment both individually and also in conjunction with the other value segments. The best way to conduct this part of the program is through SWOT analysis with the marketing team and other department heads. Strengths of the plan can be quickly identified and allocated to one section. Weaknesses need to be revisited and will involve some challenge by team members to determine if the original segment was on target or not with the product plan or are weaknesses a result of inconsistencies with other value claims or market findings. Opportunities discovered through review present the best chance for a company to truly drive further/deeper on the value segment(s) to give the company that competitive edge as the product of choice. This what this section is really about and the team needs to take every advantage to optimize positioning. Finally, Threats should create a full stop with the team with the basic questions about how threats were created within the plan and what other segments do they affect. There is no choice here but to completely revisit the claims made and look at the outcome of a perceived threat, in tandem with the original data analysis. If sufficient information does not alter the situation, a re-work on a particular value segment will be required. This process can prove to be exhaustive and at times, team agreement or compromise may be difficult to achieve. It’s important to stay true to the original goals and objectives and ultimately produce a plan which has the best possible value segments that will be received favourably by the target market/buyer/user.
  8. Part 1 Month 8 Test Assumptions – Common in many industries, including healthcare and its related segments, are external alpha and beta testing programs to validate new product performance claims within a defined segment of market users. These programs are designed to obtain specific feedback against a company-generated review plan and give the company time to make and implement required changes to satisfy the user. This is also a time when marketing claims, such as the value proposition, can be tested to provide useful feedback and allow changes and updates, prior to full commercial launch. The alpha program is essentially the prototype phase and provides the opportunity for marketing to test the preliminary plan against product performance. Changes to the plan can then be made as necessary and a second opportunity, at the beta or pre-commercial phase, will help to ensure plan assumptions were correct and ensure the plan is on point with the commercial launch. Time spent during these two programs also presents the opportunity for internal testing of assumptions, as department heads will be gaining feedback against the user review plan and can easily provide input against the value segments within the preliminary plan. The result is assumptions are tested and validated both internally and externally, giving the plan depth of experience, prior to full implementation. One additional avenue marketing has is conducting pre-launch user meetings or focus groups to test assumptions on both product performance and the related value claims it plans to use at rollout. These can be very useful and when conducted by independent third parties, can provide a thorough assessment of all plan components.
  9. Part 1 Month 9 Issue Resolution – In my experience, a company can never ask too many questions and during this phase, questions should be asked about all segments accomplished to date, to ensure the value proposition plan is sound and provides the company with enough leverage to be seen as the product/service of choice within the marketplace. Questions asked will help to ensure all goals have been satisfied prior to implementation. The team needs to revisit the original goals and objectives that were formulated by all team members and ensure they are consistent with product capabilities and a sustainable product/corporate position at market. Issues that were identified early should be cross-checked against the proposed plan to ensure the gap analysis was thorough and nothing was missed or left unexplained. Data that was collected should undergo a final review to be certain the right information was collected and that is in-line with the goals that were set for the value proposition segments. Further, question the analysis of the data and determine if further assumptions can be made or if additional questions need to be answered. The plan should be reviewed from the user perspective and feedback gained during the testing of assumptions given another critical review. At this point, team members should be comfortable that all aspects of the value proposition plan have been adequately resolved, giving implementation every chance to succeed. This is not say there will not be future changes and updates. That’s the nature of a product’s lifecycle and this will in turn affect the value segments downstream. However, there should be collective thinking that the right questions have been asked and answered and no doubts remain as to the plan’s viability.
  10. Part 1 Month 10 Implement Solutions – At this stage, the plan is implemented with the commercial launch of the product/service. The launch itself and rollout of the plan should be done in a phased format at first versus to the broader market, to help gain initial rapid feedback to make changes and modifications as necessary. User feedback should be used to ensure that value segments are being correctly received and well understood. Any misconceptions can potentially be seen as the company making false claims, which will damage market penetration activities and overall product success. The phased rollout can therefore be segmented in several ways to help gain this valuable feedback. Buyers/users can be segmented by geography, perhaps using a 500 mile radius of customers to start to allow for easy contact, both electronically and in-person. Optimal company size can be determined so feedback is gained among key users and departments in a timely fashion. If the companies are too large, gaining information can be tedious. Simple mechanisms for feedback should be put in place to allow for feedback, including on-line surveys and telephone/email follow up. Assuming positive response from this early segmentation, the product/service rollout can be expanded until all segments have been reached. Also important during the early rollout phase is obtaining and using customer/user testimonials to help seed future market activities and ultimately drive sales. This information can be shared through the company’s web site, at trade shows and conventions and most specifically through social media. Successful implementation requires a coordinated team effort, particularly if multiple markets are being developed and teams are diverse. Regular updates and meetings with team members is essential to ensure implementation is successful and is consistent with overall corporate objectives. Updates to the company leadership team should be done weekly to start and then move to monthly and quarterly.
  11. Part 1 Month 11 Monitor Activity – The monitoring to obtain customer/user feedback through phased implementation must continue through the balance of the commercialization phase. The feedback and information obtained will be vital to the on-going success of the program and help to make changes and corrections in advance of any market compromising issues. Traditional surveys and user input mechanisms should continue, but the implementation of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and metrics should be implemented to more accurately monitor direction and program success. Typical marketing KPI’s include email performance, including open rate, click through rate and conversion rate, social media reach using analytics provided by the individual sites, web site traffic which indicates potential leads for a company’s product/service and tracking of those that turned into qualified leads. These are typical marketing KPI’s and should also be supported by sales KPI’s including sales by region, total monthly sale growth, sales by contact method and lead conversion rate, to name a few. Marketing and sales typically work together when collecting and reviewing this data, which allows for changes and updates on strategy as needed. Essentially, the more data that can be obtained, the better off the program will be and of course, sales for the product/service. Review should take place on a regularly scheduled basis and results shared with all team members, including company leaders and department heads. Remember, this is a holistic approach and program value comes from input from all members. An additional step, which many companies consider, are regional user meetings to gain feedback and track product and program success in the field. Although expensive, they offer the chance for direct user to company input and can also be a platform for launch of new products and services.
  12. Part 1 Month 12 Continuous Improvement – In this phase, continuous improvement should be part of a company’s overall quality strategy and should involve the quality team for both product and program performance. Some companies take this phase very seriously and implement programs such as Six Sigma for company-wide quality management methods. The important takeaway here is quality methods drive improvement and in-turn, success at market. Today, ISO strategies are vital and in many industries, including healthcare and its segments, such as device and diagnostics, operating without ISO certification is not an option and will prevent commercialization of products in many global markets. Given all of this, continuous improvement through quality systems and practice is not driven solely by data obtained from market observation and user interaction. It often comes from within companies, through the very employees who have been in product and program development. They are closest to all relevant activity and information along with issues and problems that can affect the quality program. Further, input to facilitate change is often achieved in small, incremental steps versus large shifts in product functionality/performance and program elements. This is not a race but a platform for slow and steady progress and innovation, the pillars of good quality practice. The other important fact to remember is incremental change is often less costly and time consuming than making significant change in product or program direction. In this time of cost containment and lean manufacturing practice, this thinking is essential and will lead to better company health. Empowered employees and team members will step up and see this an opportunity to make a difference when striving for product success.