5 ways to personalize your relationships !

In our post-modern society, we are lost in systems. Most of the time we feel lost in the crowd. Very few people actually care for us. That is why we desperately need attention and consideration.

Actually, we only trust brands, suppliers and service providers who build a true personal relationship with us ! 

As marketers, we know that we should use the technological tools that help us better understand the specificities of our customers, but we must not forget that
relationships should be from human to human ! Having a good CRM system is fine but not enough to create the emotions that drive our customers.

So here are 5 ways to personalize your relationships and create emotional value:

1. Listen

It is difficult to understand all the specificities of your customers if you do not take the time to listen to them at first. It is thus important to let them express themselves, to gather feedbacks and insights to understand their concerns and satisfaction levels, to understand how they feel about you and what could be improved. I recommend that you use active listening, a technique created by American psychologist Carl Rogers.
If you really want your customers to feel special and valued, you have to let them know their voice is being heard.  

2. Use data analytics

Today’s technology offers a number of ways to record information about your customers. This is now also available to small companies at a reasonable price.
Because the goal is to personalize as much as possible your offer and the relationship you have with your clients, it implies collecting as much as possible data to come up with the most appropriate solutions.
This raises however some ethical concerns: how far should you go? How transparent should you be with regard to it? My opinion is that you should be totally open with regard to data collection and you should let several options to customers to choose from.

3. Customize

Now that you have actively listened to your customers and gathered data about their preferences, you are able to understand their specificities and you can start to offer them tailored solutions.
But customization not only comes with the product or service you offer. You should also customize your relationships! You heard that customers wanted to feel special so make them feel as such!

4. Recognize

Our society is becoming more and more individualistic. People are more than ever emphasizing the “I”: they want personal attention. They want to exist with all their specificities in the eyes of the world. They want to be recognized as individuals and not simply as customers. They expect the relationship with brands to be built not only around the product or service and the problems they can solve, but more importantly around their own person.
So, find ways to show them that you really care, prove them that you truly respect them and deliver empathy !

5. Be transparent 

Would you trust someone you don’t know ?
If you want to  instill trust and foster engagement and loyalty you should let customers know who really is behind your name.  You should personify your brand.
Don’t be afraid to show who you are, with your good and bad points. Don’t hide your shortcomes. Be honest ! Don’t portray yourself as perfect ! Who is perfect anyway ?
This will help humanize the relationship you have with your customers. By the way, putting forward the people behind the curtain is an additional way to differentiate and capitalize on your uniqueness.

A great example of personalization is offered by Park Hyatt trattoria-style restaurant Opera in Saigon, Vietnam. see their website

I happen to go there from time to time quite late after teaching. The  Maître d’h has been there for years. Even if I’m coming after a few months, he calls me by my name (important !). He remembers where I like to sit, in front of the open kitchen. He asks news of my family that he only saw 5 years ago or so. He remembers that I like to open my meal with a glass of Pinot Grigio.
How can he remember all that ? I don’t know but he does. I feel important, relaxed and pampered and… it makes me come back.

Could Park Hyatt Opera restaurant still improve ?
Not much ! They’re close to perfect.
Is it linked to the 5 star-ranking of the place ? Certainly not.
Is it linked to the corporate culture of the hotel ? Certainly yes.
But it’s for sure linked to staff selection, motivation and training.
Actually, all information about customers habits can be recorded in computer systems today. What we lack in most cases is real empathy by the staff ! That’s where Hyatt is superior !


Care for your people and your people will care for your customers !

On happiness at work and performance , see
Sir Richard Branson’s 5 billion reasons to make your employees and candidates happy

Be inspired and Spice Up 🌶 your relationships

Know more about the SPICE UP model

Winning or playing great : what is best ?

The football world cup tournament ended yesterday and led me to think about a dilemma that I’ve often observed in business and education as well as in sport tactics.

The FIFA World Cup winner is France. No discussion about the legitimacy of their victory. But discussions happen about the style. Didier Deschamps (the French coach) has chosen « realism » over the beauty of the game. Over the tournament, France scored less than brilliant teams like Belgium and Croatia for example. But at the end, they performed better and won the competitive game. For football lovers, as I am, it’s a pity and it’s kind of unfair, but for those who preach victory above all, it’s good game and great coaching. At the end, only victory is remembered, right ?

Well, in business we can draw the parallel. Some CEO’s will favor innovation, creativity and risk taking while some others will manage conservatively and may be performing better along traditional standards. The former may show less stable financial results while the latter will please the stock market thanks to their regularity.

What is best ? Like in football, I favor brilliant game in business too. We have great game players and also game changers. But besides the asthetic view, I also believe that competition today requires new paradigms, new strategies and new skills. I don’t like boring businesses. They make the world boring too. I prefer entrepreneurs who fail to bureaucrats who manage systems.

In education, I could also see analogies. Some brilliant minds are not performing as well as « good scholars » who study well according to traditional academic standards. They run the risk to be disappointed and they are right to be so when they are graded less than traditional colleagues. We, as professors, must be attentive to rewarding students who disobey the rules as much (and probably more) as we praise  those who are just delivering what (they think) profs are expecting.  That’s how we will find and stimulate exceptional talents.

All in all, life is about praising progress more than conservatism. Rewarding talent more than obedience. Having fun more than winning for the sake of winning.

Be inspired and Spice Up your game !



Pourquoi la paresse est propice à l’inspiration

Je vous écris de ma maison de campagne, au coin du feu, je viens de terminer une bande dessinée, j’écoute Ella Fitzgerald.

Ces quelques jours entre Noël et Nouvel An, j’ai senti la paresse s’emparer de moi. Ici, dans le nord de l’Europe, quand les jours deviennent de plus en plus courts et que la brume envahit le ciel, nos corps et nos esprits ralentissent. Il est temps de se régénérer. Il est temps de réfléchir à son passé et penser à son futur. Pour ma part, je sais que cette période m’inspire plus que jamais.

Il y a plein de façons d’être inspirés

En lisant, en écoutant un bon orateur, ou encore après une rencontre avec quelqu’un d’exceptionnel. La semaine dernière par exemple, j’ai rencontré un homme avec qui j’ai travaillé sur un projet il y a plus de 10 ans. Un ancien de P&G. Comme tout le monde, il n’est pas parfait, mais il est droit et direct. Je le savais déjà relativement âgé mais j’étais abasourdi quand il m’a dit son âge : 80 ans. Je ne pouvais pas le croire. Impeccable. Intelligent. Vif d’esprit. Peu importe ce qu’il compte faire, j’ai tout de suite ressenti de la sympathie pour lui et une bonne dose d’optimisme quant à mon propre futur. Tout comme quand je vois les Rolling Stones continuer à faire du rock et monter sur scène à plus de 70 ans. Mais c’est une autre histoire !

Mon sujet est : « comment trouver de l’inspiration ? »

Mon expérience m’a appris que nous ne pouvons pas être suffisamment inspirés quand nous sommes trop stressés, quand nous sommes hyperactifs, quand nous sommes dans l’action ! Le célèbre Secrétaire d’Etat Henry Kissinger a eu une longue carrière dans l’enseignement et en tant qu’écrivain avant d’entrer dans la vie politique. Il a dit un jour « les bons leaders devraient passer autant de temps que possible à réfléchir et théoriser avant d’accéder au pouvoir parce qu’une fois qu’ils seront rentrés en fonction, ils n’auront plus le temps de penser aux fondamentaux ». Il avait vraiment raison. Mais dans nos temps si frénétiques, comment appliquer cela ? Après quelques années d’études, nous entrons directement en action et nous ne nous arrêtons jamais. Quelques-uns d’entre nous choisissent de continuer à suivre des formations par après mais la formation des dirigeants est généralement si rapide et intense qu’elle ne laisse pas de temps à la réflexion.

Vous ne pouvez pas vous régénérer si vous ne stoppez pas votre rythme de vie effréné

C’est tout simplement impossible. Vous ne pouvez pas ressourcer votre esprit si vous ne prenez pas du temps pour vous retrouver. Vous avez besoin de calme, de solitude, de structurer vos idées et libérer votre créativité. La plupart des programmes de formation ne prônent pas cela. Au contraire, ils promettent tous : « Ici vous travaillerez 15 heures par jour, vous passerez vos soirées à préparer vos cours, si possible en groupes, vous tâcherez d’acquérir un maximum de connaissances dans le moins de temps possible, bla bla bla ». C’est tout simplement n’importe quoi ! Cela aboutit à des groupes de leaders et managers ambitieux qui regardent en vitesse quelques conférences d’un œil et discutent de pseudo-cas qu’ils n’ont même pas pris la peine d’analyser sérieusement avant la séance de formation. Le tout en regardant constamment leur smartphone, en répondant à leurs mails et en essayant de résoudre les problèmes opérationnels laissés au bureau. C’est une blague ! Et les entreprises paient des millions pour ce genre d’apprentissage accéléré !


Regardez quelques grands leaders, artistes et sportifs de haut niveau

Sophie Dutordoir, par exemple, est la première femme aux commandes de la SNCB http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.francais/Politique/1.2846020

Après une brillante carrière chez Suez en tant que CEO, elle a tout arrêté durant trois ans pour ouvrir une épicerie fine dans une petite ville près de Bruxelles. Le monde du business pensait qu’elle était devenue folle. Mais elle avait raison. Elle a pris le temps de régénérer les batteries et sera maintenant, j’en suis convaincu, un meilleur CEO que jamais ! C’est la même chose dans d’autres professions. Tous les chanteurs et musiciens, en tant que créateurs, ont passé des années sans faire de shows, entre 2 albums. Ils vont chercher l’inspiration dans un environnement non stressant.

Le temps est venu d’investir un peu de temps en vous !

Votre première réaction sera de dire « non ». « Non, je ne peux pas. Non, je ne peux pas laisser mon travail pour une semaine. Non, j’ai besoin de m’occuper de ma maison, de ma famille, de mes amis. Non, c’estdéfinitivement impossible » ! Il est donc temps de vous demander : êtes-vous un esclave ou une personne libre ? Comment est votre vie ? Passez- vous du temps à prendre soin de tout le monde, de tout ce qui vous entoure sans que personne ne prenne soin de vous ? Quelle est votre vraie valeur ajoutée ? Etes-vous un vrai leader ou juste un bon soldat aux ordres ? Etc.

Ne laissez jamais l’agitation guider votre vie !

La vie, ce n’est pas être épuisé, se reposer un peu, avant de recommencer à être une sorte de machine humaine. Cela peut certes vous rassurer mais cela détruira votre efficacité, votre clairvoyance et tout simplement votre vie. Ce n’est pas ce que vous recherchez, n’est-ce pas ? Ni le burnout bien sûr ? Pensez-y !

Que ceci vous inspire ! Epicez votre vie !

jean-pierre.baeyens@ulb.ac.be-  https://profbaeyens.com – Décembre 2017

Panthers vs elephants ! How many banks will avoid the Kodak syndrome ?

Fintech is the new revolution in financial services ! A number of you may not be aware of the huge development of this new branch of finance. It’s made of startups allowing customers to access a service (payments, investments, crowdfunding, peer to peer lending…) with no intermediaries. As founder of the Solvay Fintech Marketing Hub, I’m studying the emergence of this new sector and I can tell you that banks are worried. While some are not yet conscious of the danger of cannibalization, most now realized how fast they could be replaced by these new players. They are moving towards collaboration with them. But it’s the same clash of culture as we saw a few years ago in other industries.

We all know about the Kodak syndrome. To summarize the story, read http://oser-performer.com/2015/08/22/oser-performer-50-how-could-your-company-avoid-the-kodak-syndrome

In 2012, Kodak, this huge profitable company « had managed to enter the exclusive club of companies, made their mark in common brands like: Aspirin, Bic, Canadair, Jeep, Post-it,…Kodak was a goose that layed golden eggs that nobody wanted to kill – especially not shareholders focused on short term results. The Top Management was « cool » and attended to a growing or stable trend of financial results, where everything was fine … so why introduce disruptive change? Its industry would eventually switch from analog to digital. But the time to wake up, to dare to make courageous decisions, to have courage – it’s hard after years of comfort… it was too late.   Sony, Nikon, Canon were in place… customers left and it was the end. Kodak disappeared in few months. »

kodak.bankrupt-945x315.jpgBanks now face the same challenge. As traditional players in a new moving game, first reactions of many of them were lack of vigilance and some degree of arrogance. Then, suddenly the Fintech trend is accelerating. Faced with the inevitable, some still take time to think, evaluate, consult and hold numerous board meetings leading to further analysis. Others are moving, investing, partnering, shaking their culture. But it’s tough ! We ‘re seeing a culture schock here. Many banks lived in a wadded atmosphere. They lost consumers’ confidence during the finacial crisis of 2008 and they didn’t wake up.

So the question now is : can banks be entrepreneurial again ? Well good practices examples are hard to find. We can point out Danske Bank, a Danish bank who decisively implemented a customer oriented approach, entirely reviewing their processes from the customer’s point of view. http://bit.ly/2mUMqCV  Their last initiative is a co-created platform helping SME’s to better manage their treasury http://bit.ly/2hY1X38

Other examples are Banco Bradesco in Brazil, now allowing their customers to manage their accounts out of their Facebook page http://bit.ly/2jhCTR1 or Vietnamese VP Bank teaming up with TIMO a « lifestyle » Fintech venture founded by its Chairman Claude Spiese https://www.linkedin.com/in/claudespiese/, and focusing on generations Y & Z http://bit.ly/2zWTVvM.

Fintechs are panthers, banks are elephants. Elephants are massive, strong and intelligent. Panthers are moving fast, they hunt and jump on their target with no hesitation. In this wild financial industry jungle, elephants will need to move fast. Will they ? Can they ? I’m not sure at all they will.  As a young employee of fintech TIMO https://www.linkedin.com/in/phuong-bui-942b21b9/ put it recently when I interviewed her : « A bank was a place where the product was money Fintechs are businesses who just operate money, these are very different points of view…”   A great number of analysts believe that alliances between panthers and elephants is the solution. But merging these so different corporate cultures will be the most difficult challenge.

I think that it’s gonna be tough out there !

Be inspired and Spice Up your strategies

Follow me on my youtube channel


My seven keys to happiness

My experience led me to understand that the pursuit of happiness is something that, apart from unexpected drama, comes from your inner self. The way you can balance good and bad moments of life will guide you to some kind of fulfillment. In order to reach that state, let me give you my seven keys to a happy life.

  1. Have a dream!
  2. Go away from toxic people !
  3. Believe in your inner feelings !
  4. Practice the art of « creative paradox » !
  5. Look for lazy times and…Carpe Diem !
  6. Go after responsibilities, not after power or money !
  7. Know your values and live in accordance with them !
  1. Have a dream! A dream so strong for you that you naturally will do everything you can to reach it.  This dream should be strong but not necessarily big. It may seem unreachable for others but you know that  « you » can do it. When I was 18 year-old, my dream was to live some day in the USA. I had this in mind and I knew I would do it. There was no doubt in my mind. There was a vision and whatever the way, I would do it. Go back to your childhood and you will find back your dreams !
  2. Go away from toxic people! This is something we learn with time. So, my young friends, beware of people who are poisonous. There are always some of them around. They sometimes want to make friends with you but they’re jealous and envious. They get you in trouble and want to take advantage of you. You don’t see it at first. But your real friends or parents soon feel it. You generally deny the fact. But as soon as you have doubts, put them aside as quickly as you can
  3. Believe in your inner feelings ! We always thinimages.pngk that our reason should dominate our emotions. We were taught that at school, at home, everywhere. Although we think that reason is the base of what we call « rational decisions », it’s actually the base of « rational analysis ». Decision is human, not rational. We are not robots. Let our feelings play a major role. Our feelings are our true self !
  4. Practice the art of « creative paradox » ! Life is made of trade offs. Faced with a number of decisions, in business or life, we always balance between various desirable but incompatible solutions. We tend to be dichotomic : it’s either black or white, good or bad, nice or nasty… The world is now too complex to think that way. and we can be lost in dead end situations with all the stress that goes with it. So, be creative, look for the « and » instead of the « or ». Accept and practice the black and white, the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
  5. Look for lazy times and…Carpe Diem ! Being overcharged makes you feel good but it’s an addiction and addiction is always dangerous and leads to burnout or depression. Besides that, never stopping work, family or social activities makes you loose your abilty to have a sound judgement on facts. It cuts your mind from creativity and emotional intelligence. So, have your own regular lazy moments. It does not need to be long but it has to be regular. And be good to yourself ! Carpe Diem is a latin aphorism meaning « Pick up each day as a ripe fruit as tomorrow is uncertain».
  6. Go after responsibilities, not after power or money ! We live on this planet to accomplish some task for the good of mankind. If not, why are we here ? Most of us have the chance to go beyond mere survival issues and do something worth. It can be little things or big things but we should feel responsible. If you have the chance to be cherished by life, take on more responsibilities. But don’t chase power, honors or money. If you do, you will loose your freedom and abandon your responsibilities. You will be unhappy. Soon or later !
  7. Know your values and live in accordance with them ! it takes some time to know about your values sometimes. When we’re young, we often have some generous values. We believe in what is good, we want to change the f…ing world that our parents or society left us inheritance. Then, with age, we tend to forget these values. We’re more egocentric, too serious, too reasonable. So we loose our power to change the world and we tend to feel frustrated. Well, it’s time to restate your values, select the most important ones in your eyes and check if your life is in accordance. If not, be brave and change your life ! When you’ll be really old, it will be too late to regret it.


Check your current life and see if you have the keys to happiness. If not, find them ! You’re worth it !

Be inspired and Spice Up your life !



Send the 4 P’s to the museum of marketing !

I meet a number of professionals almost every week, some of them quite young, and I’m still surprised by the persistence of old mythical models in business. It seems impossible to read reports or hear presentations without being confronted with the 4P’s, the Porter 5 forces, some SWOT’s, etc. Generally tinkered and badly applied by people who never read the authors’books. It’s just a mess !

This is the case for the famous 4P’s. A lot of people think marketing equals 4 P’s. It’s just terrible !

Think about that:

  1. The 4 P’s model was developed in 1954, more than 60 years ago by Prof McCarthy (not by Philip Kotler as many believe). Do we still drive 1954 cars ?
  2. The 4P’s don’t take into account segmentation analysis and targeting / positioning decisions that are key in strategic marketing
  3. We are no more in the marketing of products. We are now marketing concepts: we sell solutions, service, image, customer experience . The 4P’s doesn’t take that into account
  4. The 4P’s mix in the same category strategic elements (pricing) and operational elements (promotion): it doesn’t make sense
  5. The 4P’s neglect the essential idea of value creation through branding, experiential marketing, service programs,… all took much importance in recent yearsimages.png

So, please, look for other models when you think about marketing ! Or maybe forget about models !

According to James Donius, Managing Director at Marketplace Measurement Worldwide, « a Marketing Model is a stylized representation of reality that is easier to deal with and explore for a specific purpose than reality itself. (Lilien, Rangaswamy) » – See more at: http://www.innovationglobalnetwork.com/pov/443/DEFINITION_OF_MARKETING_MODELS.html#sthash.ZR5RfcVW.dpuf

The problem is that the reality is quite complex and ambiguous today and trying to simplify it and to put it in a rigid costume leads to a distorsion of that reality. We should find other ways to express our views. See the reality through different lenses.

Modeling should not be oversimplifying. I recommend that we describe real phenomenons through a think back step and stop approach, starting from the decision we want to make (e.g., choosing a SPICE UP positioning concept), listing the questions we need to answer to get to that decision, then specifying how to get these answers, and so on.templates-22.jpg

I have no space to detail this here but do not hesitate to contact me should you be interested to discuss moreabout it.

We might not have found new solutions yet to describe the complex realities of today but something is sure : forget about the 4 P’s and send it to the museum of marketing !

Be inspired and Spice Up your marketing !

Follow me on youtube  http://bit.ly/2fC2QtU


SPICE UP your strategy !

Most of the time, when I read strategic plans, I’m struck by their triviality. I think : « another bunch of platitudes ».  No specificity. No creativity. No excitement. I don’t want to criticize my friends working in top consultancy firms, or others in megacorporations, but I must say that I rarely found anything vivid in their technocratic strategies.

Time of classical strategic analysis has passed. The world is too unpredictable and the notion of tradtional competition itself is obsolete. And when I see some of my students still pulling out the old 5 forces Porter model out of their bags, I ‘m just frozen !


Strategic thinking should be supported by new paradigms. A number of entrepreneurs will even argue that you don’t need strategies. They’ll talk about agility and design thinking, creativity and innovation. But these are methods and attitudes. Strategy is about setting directions, making clear decisions and giving sense to action.  Being in a middle of chaos or lost in a jungle doesn’t change anything to that.

As a number of my colleagues, professors and analysts, have been addressing these issues recently, I’d like to point out another way to think of strategies. This comes out of my understanding of a number of cases I have been observing, analyzing and teaching.

Whatever method you used to generate your strategic scenarios, I recommend that you SPICE UP your final option.

SPICE UP is a model I developed a few years ago to understand how you can better position a brand or a corporate value proposition. S.P.I.C.E stands for Sexy, Personality, Intelligence, Community and Emotions. U.P. means Ultimate and Personalization. If you’re strong on all these points and if you can blend them into a distinctive concept, the chance is you can build a strong, great, distinctive story around it !


Let’s take an example. Apple, the biggest capitalized company in the world, is a S.exy brand. People don’t buy apple products on reason, they just want them ! So much that they’re ready to pay an enormous premiumvs competitors. The brand has a strong P.ersonality, long associated with its founder Steve Jobs. Apple is a company promoting I.ntelligent solutions for intelligent people . They created an extremely strong C.ommunity of users and ambassadors. Apple plays constantly on E.motions. Finally, Apple means for its. fans « the U.ltimate choice ». And they engaged very soon in product design that would entail P.ersonalization.

So, it’s time to SPICE UP your strategy and create more value than ever ! 

Be inspired !