Prospective for a customer perspective - Denis Failly
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Prospective for a customer perspective - Denis Failly

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This article is about whether Prospective, which is spread over a long-term span, could crossfertilise ...

This article is about whether Prospective, which is spread over a long-term span, could crossfertilise
others fields and specifically Marketing. Marketeers who fail to master all the subtleties related to the understanding of future trends could well be inspired by the art of‘ Prospective’ when it comes to improving their understanding of their clients.‘Prospective’puts its finger on “what could occur?”, hinges upon strategy and is not inconsistent with
Strategic Marketing, since the latter is about answering the following questions: “what can I do about it ?, what I am going to do ?, and how to do it ?”

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Prospective for a customer perspective - Denis Failly Document Transcript

  • 1. PERSPECTIVE FOR A CUSTOMER PROSPECTIVE Denis FaillyThis article is about whether Prospective, which is spread over a long-term span, could cross-fertilise others fields and specifically Marketing. Marketeers who fail to master all thesubtleties related to the understanding of future trends could well be inspired by the art of‘Prospective’ when it comes to improving their understanding of their clients.‘Prospective’puts its finger on “what could occur?”, hinges upon strategy and is not inconsistent withStrategic Marketing, since the latter is about answering the following questions: “what can Ido about it?, what I am going to do? , and how to do it?” (Michel Godet). To put in the wordsof Pierre F. Gonod, ‘Prospective’ is systemic, multi-dimensional and transverse. Besides, ithas nothing to do with futurology and any comparison of ‘Prospective’ to any form offuturistic planning would be pointless. ‘Prospective’ is not about making up sales forecastsstatistically; it is about eliciting a number of potential trends that we could subsequently usein order to build scenarios through the allocation of a probability. This practice is similar topredictive analysis in datamining, whereby one will resort to experience in order to performpatterns modelling (through the use of Neural networks, Kohonen cards, etc.). From amethodology viewpoint, one can find huge similarities between that definition of‘Prospective’ and that of Market Surveys whereby areas of customer knowledge can be uncovered as we go along. Prospective & Marketing As an “Intellectual indiscipline [1] ”, the aim of ‘prospective’ [2] is to “anticipate action, to look far into the future, wide and deep” (Gaston Berger [3] ). The approach for the prospective researcher is to cast a light on possible actions by focusing on the possible and desirable futures.This article is about whether Prospective, which is spread over a long-term span, could cross-fertilise others fields and specifically Marketing. Marketeers who fail to master all thesubtleties related to the understanding of future trends could well be inspired by the art of‘Prospective’ when it comes to improving their understanding of their clients.‘Prospective’puts its finger on “what could occur?”, hinges upon strategy and is not inconsistent withStrategic Marketing, since the latter is about answering the following questions: “what can Ido about it?, what I am going to do? , and how to do it?” (Michel Godet). To put in the wordsof Pierre F. Gonod, ‘Prospective’ is systemic, multi-dimensional and transverse. Besides, ithas nothing to do with futurology and any comparison of ‘Prospective’ to any form offuturistic planning would be pointless. ‘Prospective’ is not about making up sales forecastsstatistically; it is about eliciting a number of potential trends that we could subsequently usein order to build scenarios through the allocation of a probability. This practice is similar to
  • 2. predictive analysis in datamining, whereby one will resort to experience in order to performpatterns modelling (through the use of Neural networks, Kohonen cards, etc.). From amethodology viewpoint, one can find huge similarities between that definition of‘Prospective’ and that of Market Surveys whereby areas of customer knowledge can beuncovered as we go along. The Seemingly Diverging Aims of Marketing and ‘Prospective’ The available prospective cases (few of them can unfortunately bedisclosed for confidentiality reasons) are often focused on the same industries:manufacturing, energy, defence, territories, transport or technology. Such Prospectivesurveys are often ordered by all-powerful public service administrations, quasi monopoliesand other quangos for which the notion of client often verges on the abstract. Furthermore,some of these studies may be initiated by politicians who use them like means ofrelaunching their pet-projects when the latter have been ditched for too long against theirwishes. Consequently, such studies consider customers just as economic agents (i.e. a merestatistical adjustment factor) that is to say mere consumers in the economic sense of theterm but non-marketing entities. As a consequence, these studies where customers areseldom analysed as complex, ever-changing, fluctuating and self-motivated beings, oftenremain restrictive in their description of reality. It seems inconsistent that customers betreated as these marketing non-entities with no influence on and no link to theirenvironment, whereas in the real world of Marketing, services are ubiquitous, customerbehaviours are more and more unpredictable, not to talk about the extreme volatility ofcustomer loyalty.As a conclusion, in this ever-changing service-focused world, it seems absurd that customersbe considered marginal (i.e. having little influence and very dependent on other economicplayers), with little grasp on the world around them. As a matter of fact, don’t data-intensivebusinesses consider the share-of-wallet as a more meaningful measure than the traditionalmarket-share ratio? When considering online services, consumers also become producers oreven self-producers (hence the coining of the term pro-sumer to depict that situation) ofmore and more dematerialised goods; all of this makes them capable of initiating marketchanges by themselves (e.g. the P2P revolution and its influence on the music industry [4] ) Complexity As A Common Denominator If it’s so difficult to allocate a better value to customers in Prospective, this isbecause of the constant factor of complexity. As expressed in my former article “ AMetaphorical Way Of Understanding Customer Relationship [5] ", where I was using theChaos and Quantum mechanics metaphor, the amazing complexity and elusiveness oftoday’s Consumers cannot be captured with standard market research and data analysis (aka
  • 3. CRM) tools at our disposal. Determinism and rationalism are at the heart of such tools,which prove highly ineffectual.As a consequence, a few questions arise:  Do we need complex tools to tackle such complex issues or are simple tools that can be used by anybody sufficient, however sketchy they may be ?  Should such methods and tools remain in the only hands of experts or should one try and make them usable by all those concerned with the subject ?  At last, given that Prospective does not seem to be able to handle these customers, should we deem such a customer Prospective infeasible or even undesirable ?In fact, in order to move the ball forward, a link between the two disciplines would have tobe established:On the one hand, Marketeers could work with prospective professionals in order to enhancetheir culture of service processes,On the other hand, those in charge of Prospective could help Marketeers enhance theirvision in order to incorporate more variables (economic, demographic, etc.) and providethem with different ways of analysing markets (therefore looking at key hidden variables orlatent players or even budding fads that could help Marketeers catch a glimpse of futuretrends). The Strategy Factor Michel Godet has provided ways of describing behaviours (reproduced below) when it comes to handling future situations. We could use this description in order to compare both the Prospectiveand Marketing approaches with one another and see what sort of incremental benefit couldbe gained from such comparison. With all due consideration, one could even attempt to lookat what Marketing could gain from adopting some of the approaches of Prospective.First, let us compare the each of these fields as to their time and space dimensions:  Prospective is geared towards the long term (10, 15, 20 years and more), the global vision. With prospective, what matters most is not the result but how one got there in the first place. With Prospective, besides, maps know no boundaries,  Marketing Management is mostly short-term orientated (either very short term or up to 5 years at the most, depending on how far into strategy we are looking). At the end of the day, Marketing management efficiency is measured by bottom-line results.
  • 4. Potential Behaviours When Handling Future Situations  Passivity : no planned scenarios, mostly tactics but no strategy, aim is to maintain status quo and avoid looking reality in the face,  Re-activity : no planned scenarios, adaptive strategy, respond only when external threats are perceived,  Pre-activity : exploratory scenarios, pre-emptive strategy, prepare business for expected changes,  Pro-activity : scenarios by anticipation, implement changes. The 360° View In order to improve our approach of customer understanding, we need to go one step further and bring a third essential ingredient: Sociology.Sociologists are best defined as those specialists who decipher social events andmechanisms whereby relationships are built between people and groups of people(community, ‘tribe’, etc.). As such, they are obligatory players in our eyes, when it comes toanalysing the elusive social characters that consumers have become (or even citizens for thatmatter). Individuals do influence markets through the social groups that they belong to(sometimes named ‘tribes’) as much as they are influenced by them (‘feed-back’ effect). As amatter of fact, in the 1970’s, a group of professionals dedicated to ‘social prospective’ had agoal of enhancing Prospective and promote it as part of ‘knowledge sociology’ (P. Gonod).But such skills as are necessary to conduct such a task are rarely to be found in oneindividual, if one except a few strategic planners, often found in advertising agencies.Pending the availability of such sophisticated profiles, a 360° view could well be provided bya better cooperation between two kinds of players :  Marketeers who are rather customer-focused (i.e. on behaviour analysis at a micro- economic level),  And specialists in Prospective who are more into vision (at a macro-economic level), into the interactions between various economic players and into exploring possible perspectives (“what could occur”, which possible scenarios, likely, desirable? etc.)At the end of the day, such cross-fertilisation of disciplines, processes, structures, peopleand professionals would be aimed at encompassing complexity and this is most certainlybound to bring interesting results.Denis FAILLY
  • 5. [1] Pierre Massé: Optimal Investment Decisions; Rules for Action and Criteria for ChoicePrentice-Hall, 1962. “The author, who was Associate Director General of Electricite de Francewhen this book was published, is a distinguished member of a species of brilliantmathematician-engineer-economists that began with Jules Dupuit and continues withMaurice Allais and Gerard Debreu. [see Ekelund and Hebers Secret Origins of ModernMicroeconomics for more information and an argument that the vast influence of this groupon modern economics has been virtually ignored.] The focus is on dealing with uncertaintywhen making investment decisions. Real world applications include investing in andmanaging hydroelectric power plants, oil fields and electric power generally.[2] Our subject here is about that discipline named ‘prospective’ by the eponimous Frenchschool, initiated by Gaston Berger & Bertrand de Jouvenel, and Futuribles Review) mainly ledtoday by Michel Godet, a teacher in Prospective (CNAM standing for National Conservatoryof Arts and Industries) and Director of the LIPSOR Research Lab (Laboratory of Investigationin Prospective, Strategy and Organization).[3] “Looking at the future disturbs the present" - Gaston Berger, French futurist, c.1964.Gaston Berger is Maurice Béjart’s father. Cp. Shaping the future; Gaston Berger and theconcept of Prospective by André Cournand Publisher: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers;(1973).[4] For information regarding the Peer to Peer phenomenon, please refer to JeromeDelacroix’s articles on http://visionarymarketing.com.[5] This article was published by Denis Failly in French under the following title : « de l’usagede la métaphore pour penser la connaissance client ». It can be accessed directly from theInternet at this URL: http://visionarymarketing.com/articles/htoh.htm (French article).