Speech Topics

Customers Love Us … Now What?

The purpose of any business is to add some value, in some way, to someone or something outside of itself. However, organizations ultimately exist to satisfy customers and earn revenue from them. A business simply cannot survive—let alone thrive—unless it is also able to generate sufficient funds to pursue future innovations, repay and reward investors, or support social and environmental initiatives. So, how should an organization, independent of shape, size, or orientation, think about “making money?” In this presentation, I lay out a simple framework that rests on one basic premise: a business cannot improve its ability to earn from customers unless its decisions and actions are guided by customers—what they value, why they value it, when and how they value it, and so on. While this logic is intuitive, in practice it often loses out to seemingly safer, certainly easier approaches that prioritize internal considerations.

Competing on Customer Outcomes

Technology is rewriting the rules of commerce. In our era of mobile and cloud computing, the internet of things, advanced analytics, and micro-transactions, enhanced transparency is putting pressure on organizations to profit from the actual value they provide, not from what they make. Today, accountability is no longer a fashionable marketing slogan, but a strategic imperative. Customers demand it: they struggle to understand what their money buys them, and technology empowers them to challenge the promises that businesses make. Similarly, many startups tout accountability as a means to stand out from tired incumbents. In this presentation, based on my book with Oded Koenigsberg, “The Ends Game: How Smart Companies Stop Selling Products and Start Delivering Value,” I use examples from sectors as diverse and consequential as healthcare, automotive, education, media, and mining to map the gradual but relentless evolution of markets to a point where money flows to proof rather than promises. I help organizations not only grasp the fundamental challenges of this revolution, but also transform what is essentially economic waste into tangible value that market players can share.

Listen Closely: Your Algorithms Are Talking to Your Customers

In June 2017, London police cars responded to reports of a terrorist attack. Pedestrians and pub-goers in the area sensed danger and attempted to order Uber cars to head home to safety. Uber’s dynamic pricing algorithm caused rates in that part of the city to jump more than 200%. While an economist might applaud Uber’s pricing engine, I argue that constant changes in price points can negatively impact brand perception, so they need to be carefully managed. In this presentation, based on my Harvard Business Review article “The Pitfalls of Pricing Algorithms,” I show why brands need to consider more than simple math when employing algorithmic systems. I further help leaders across industries—including advertising, e-commerce, entertainment, insurance, sports, travel and utilities—minimize risk and maximize revenue while also making customers feel as if they have paid the appropriate amount for a product or service.

Can We Afford Sustainable Business?

Businesses are struggling with the economics of making sustainable products both affordable and profitable, but that’s because they aren’t asking the right questions. Leaders looking to move beyond “how are we going to pay for this?” need to stop thinking about price simply as a bar that they can prod up or down to get customers to buy less or more. Every price decision is comprised of additional, more strategic choices that can rally market actors around responsible behaviors and, therefore, mitigate the negative externalities of commerce before companies are forced to price them in. In this presentation, based on my Fall 2021 MIT Sloan Management Review article, I explain how leaders in every sector can achieve this by creatively rethinking the “what,” “who,” “when” and “how” embedded in every price decision. Ultimately, I argue, organizations should be caretakers of markets rather than simple producers. By using the incentives and information embedded in the price mechanism, they can allocate the responsibility for broader and fairer access, for conscientious and effective consumption, and for handling waste more efficiently.

Selling Value to Customers

The success of a revenue strategy often depends on your ability to communicate value to customers in a convincing manner. Indeed, I would argue that price is seldom a problem when the value of an offering is clearly understood by sellers and buyers alike. In this presentation, I discuss the complications that often arise when an organization attempts to sell value in a market plagued by customers that, for strategic reasons or otherwise, push back. To remedy the situation, I recommend taking five clear steps. Implementing this roadmap provides a sense of calibration and confidence that helps fight off the pressure from skeptical, stubborn clients and prospects. In my mind, organizations that “stay calm and sell value” are better equipped to capitalize on their efforts to stand out in the market, particularly when innovation and creativity are fast-paced and expensive.