Using play-scripting as a means to develop effective corporate strategies

Writing a “playscript” is an incredibly powerful way to conduct a competitive business review, according to this Harvard Business Review article (subscription required). The article advocates writing a “playscript” using characters and character analysis to define your company and competitive landscape for use as a foundational element in corporate strategy development.

The article argues that “traditional” strategy tools like five forces maps and blue ocean thinking are outdated because they assume a static competitive environment as opposed to a rapidly evolving one. The article argues that by drafting a “playscript”, companies are in a much better position to map the landscape and anticipate emergent competitive forces.

In developing a playscript, the article suggests focusing on the following:

1) Draft a current playsript: Broadly describe the setting in which you operate by identifying the other characters, their motivations, what role your company plays, how this role is perceived by others; it’s important to view your role as critically as you can through the eyes of others (i.e., perception is reality); map the links among all the actors and the rules that govern them; give voice to the value your organization adds.

2) Rewrite your playscript: the goal here is to rewrite your playscript and, if possible, reinvent the playscript for an entire sector by answering such questions like “Can my organization attract new alliances to my sector where I can then leverage these alliances to add to an existing link or create a new link in a customer-centered value chain?”; determine where there’s a value need and fill this need (the article cites Intrawest as an example of a company that filled a value need by creating alliances with partners that deliver an exceptional destination living experience which has allowed Intrawest to emerge as a dominant player in managing experiential destination resorts, whereas before its focus was on developing these types of properties).

3) Future-proof your playscript: consider how changes in your customer needs will affect your company by finding the correlation between who your customers are, what they want, and how they get the things they want (the article cites IKEA as a company that’s done this well by foreseeing high volatility in the prices governing the wood it uses to make its products so it purchased forests in Poland and the Baltic states to help stabilize prices, thus allowing it to confidently focus on dominating the low cost segment of the “lifestyle furnishings” market).

Since 2005, we’ve seen many playscripts written and re-written in the real estate industry with the advent of Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, etc. Since 2007, we’ve seen new marketing and customer acquisition playscripts written and re-written via the explosion of social media and social networking. And currently we’re seeing playscripts written and re-written with the emergence of mobile applications and augmented reality. What’s your playscript that will allow you to position your firm as a dominate player in your market? How do you plan to adapt to the changing needs of your clients and customers, especially in terms of mobile solutions? Who are the dominate characters in your company, your competitors, and the industry at large? Who’d you cast as Othello, Brutas, Caesar, Puck, Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde?

Photo: tanakawho

Customer strategy departments driving customer loyalty

This Harvard Business Review article (subscription necessary) makes a strong case for companies to create customer strategy departments and positions. One section of the article focuses on “Customer-facing functions” and makes some great recommendations:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) responsibility should migrate away from corporate IT and into the customer strategy department since CRM helps companies assess customers needs and wants and that’s the role of customer strategists
  • Market research should break-out of the marketing department silo and extend to all departments and focus bilaterally on the aggregate and the individual (for example, creating customer profiles as espoused in the book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR) with a singular focus on customer for life (CLV) and customer equity metrics to measure success (here’s a sample lifetime value of a customer analysis from the Database Marketing Institute that will help you begin thinking about CLV metrics
  • Customer strategists should drive the product development process rather than the engineers; the article notes that NOKIA launched NOKIA Beta Labs in Asia and enjoys 60% market share there because, in part, this developer community helps drive the product development process, whereas in the U.S. Nokia pursued a different strategy that has far less consumer input and has suffered

Voice of the customer is not a new concept in product design and development. It’s sure refreshing to see HBR tackle this issue. What’s your view of creating a customer strategist role in a company?

Photo: ishrona

Innovation and cross-functional team differentiation for competitive advantage

What factors influence effective cross-functional team environments that spur the greatest innovations and competitive advantage? The authors of this study (.pdf) (focusing on manufacturing) determined that baldly implementing a cross-functional team approach is not a universal good. Notably, the authors found that cross-functional teamwork involving marketing may have a negative effect (the authors noted too, however, that this finding contradicts earlier studies). The authors conclude that companies should focus cross-functional teams on product design, development, and engineering so as to yield the highest gains in terms of innovation. I’ll posit that this finding can be applied to firms outside the manufacturing industry that are focused on software development and related product development activities.

Interestingly, this study (.pdf) concludes that many marketing departments exert positive influence on a firm’s overall market innovation in the following areas: advertising, relationship management, segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Marketing departments can influence product innovations through their overarching customer knowledge and insight into trends. Thus, a way to effectively involve marketing in cross-functional teams focused on software-related product development activities is to have the marketing team drive a voice of the customer ethos throughout the ideation and development process.

Online community management and social ties

This study (.pdf) delves into programmatic methodology that can be used to predict strong and weak ties between users of a social network. From a community manager’s perspective, this is important because predictive activities can alleviate some oversight tasks while intelligently satisfying the needs of community members. As an example of practical implications of their research, the authors note that:

When users make privacy choices, a system could make educated guesses about which friends fall into trusted and untrusted categories.


Consider a politician or company that wants to broadcast a message through the network such that it only passes through trusted friends.

From a marketing perspective, it’s important to understand this as way to drive customer loyalty because as social networks continue to grow, predictive systems that deliver more relevant information in meaningful ways will drive overall customer loyalty. This could be a huge value add for such social network marketing/branding services like Facebook pages.

Related post: Peering Under the Hood at Facebook