Ken Wong

Marketing and Strategic Planning Expert

With work that has earned him the cover of Canadian Business and Strategy magazine and a place in the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends, Ken Wong is well-known for his energetic, entertaining, and content-rich presentations. As the Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and a Partner in the consulting firm Level 5 Strategy Group, Wong has built a virtual cult following for business elite who have learned his unique terminology and ways of illustrating biggest threats to yield healthy bottom-line results.

Wong has addressed groups around the world and worked with hundreds of organizations, from multinationals like Microsoft, Starbucks, 3M and GE to retailers, small startups, and public agencies at all level. His message is simple — organizations underperform because they lose sight of the things that matter most. He helps organizations build consensus and commitment by identifying the key factors shaping performance in all industries and relating them back to their particular circumstances. His message is strategic and tactical, factual and motivational, serious and light-hearted.

Wong was the principal architect of the first MBA program to operate completely outside of government subsidy — a program named by Business Week as the number one MBA outside the US. He has also taught in programs at Cornell, Carleton, Dalhousie, Radcliffe College, University of Alberta, Harvard’s Continuing Education Program, and various executive programs. In addition, he sits on numerous Boards of Directors and Advisory Councils, including the Canadian Delegation to the International Standards Organization where he’s helping to develop global standards for branding and brand management.

One of Canada’s most frequently cited marketing authorities, Wong writes regularly for Strategy, Marketing magazine, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Canadian Grocer, and Meetings and Incentive Travel. His writing and videos can also be found on the websites of Teva, MSN, the Globe and Mail, and Microsoft.

Wong has received numerous teaching and professional awards including the Kingston Business Hall of Fame (2015) and the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends (2006) for his contributions to the practice and teaching of marketing. In 1998 Ken received a lifetime achievement award as a “Leader in Management Education” from the National Post.

Your Next BIG Thing

Ken Wong reviews recent trends within your industry and search for other industries that share common characteristics. Ken then combines that information with state-of-the-art research to present an “outsider’s view” of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for you. This program has been done in several different sectors and is especially useful to those who are trying to communicate or get “buy in” for a new strategy or vision. (Note: at least two months lead time required).

Staying At the Top of Your Game

Based on six years as a judge in the “50 Best Managed Companies in Canada” contest, Ken looks at the characteristics of those who successfully re-qualified for the competition versus those who failed to do so. In the process, he discusses how companies can become “victims of their own success,” not only through complacency, but because they failed to understand the demands that growth would place upon their people, their systems and their way of doing business.


Competing Against Giants: How Smaller Firms Can Prosper

In an era where industry consolidation and mergers are creating scale-advantaged giants in almost every line of business, some smaller firms have found a way to not only survive, but prosper. Learn how to capitalize on the disadvantages that large size can bring, how to leverage the unique qualities of small scale operations, and how to use organizational arrangements to reap many of the benefits of large size without sacrificing the positive aspects of being a smaller enterprise.

(Workshop) Innovation: More Than New Products

Innovation has come to be equated with new product development. But innovation is much more, and encompasses every aspect of business performance. Learn to identify areas ripe for innovation and how to promote a culture of innovation for employees.

Growing Your Top Line

In a world where industry boundaries are blurring and new forms of competition are emerging, every CEO is in a constant search for business development opportunities. The hardest part of that search is distinguishing what we “could” do from what we “should” do, moving away from finding sectors where we can “play” to sectors where we should “win.” In this talk, Ken reviews the necessity of finding new revenue streams and discusses the keys to finding the right opportunities. This is a great session for companies that want business development to be part of everyone’s job and not just the CEO’s.


Delivering on Marketing Promises

One of marketing’s major roles is to gain “trial” so that customers can experience and believe the claims that marketing and sales make. But too often firms spend so much energy delivering their claims to customers that they forget to communicate and motivate employees on making the right first impression. The result? Great strategies with weak execution: a lost opportunity that can never be recaptured. In this session Ken covers what every manager and every employee needs to know about how to convert “trial” into customer satisfaction and long term adoption.

Building and Managing Customer Loyalty

Consumers today are awash in loyalty programs and business customers are constantly being encouraged to be a part of a customer relationship program. However, most of these programs offer little to either customers or suppliers that cannot be generated by a more traditional promotional program. In this session, Ken reviews the economics behind loyalty programs and explains why and how they work. By the session’s end, your audience will understand why it takes more than “points and software” to succeed at building and maintaining loyal customers.

Additional Topics

For additional topics, please contact Speakers’ Spotlight.

Mission Critical Marketing (MCM)

Duration: Half-Day
Target Audiences: Managers

Mission Critical Marketing is a collection of four modules that focus on the four drivers of business profitability: price realization; cost reduction; increased market share, and; product/market development. Each component examines the principle drivers of performance, ways of improving that performance, implication for how various marketing tools are used and the most common errors managers make in managing the area. In addition, managers are provided an inventory of diagnostic questions to help them identify the likely sources of leakages in profitability. In addition to the complete four module program, modules can be used individually or in the combinations noted below.
Combination 1: Managing Margins


Module 1: Getting Your (Premium) Price (4 hours)

The average business experiences an 11% change in profitability for every 1% change in their price. Small wonder that businesses are increasingly looking at price realization as an objective in itself, instead of blinding cutting price in the hope of building business volume. Learn the five drivers of “what the market will bear” and how you can achieve significant and lasting differentiation.


Module 2: Reducing and Containing Costs (4 hours)

The average business experiences an 8% change in profitability for every 1% change in their costs. In addition, in commodity-like markets, where price premiums are difficult to realize, survival often depends on having “low cost producer” status. Learn how to “cut costs without damaging quality” and gain new insights into the application of operations-based methods and the use of e-business and other technologies to reduce service, marketing and selling costs.

NOTE: This two part series also examines the critical role of infrastructure, culture and process in executing price- or cost-based strategies. In the process, managers deal with key strategic issues such as “can we operate at both the high- and low-end of the market at the same time?”


Combination 2: Managing Volumes

Module 3: Getting (and Increasing) Your Share of the Business (4 hours)

Market share has traditionally been the holy grail of marketing and sales. Too often, that objective has been pursued via either price cuts or increased marketing and sales spending. But the average firm gains only a 3% lift in profitability for every 1% gain in volume: and loses 11% and 8% for each 1% change in price and cost, respectively. As a result, many firms “buy share” and find profitability falls despite growing volumes. This is partly due to the high failure rate of share-building programs and to the conventional reliance on “customer acquisition” as primary source of new business. Learn the keys to “building profitable share” and how the principles of “lift, shift and retention” can lead to double digit improvements in profitability even at very small volume gains. In addition, managers learn the fine art of “customer selection”


Module 4: Finding the Right New Products and the Right New Markets (4 hours)

In many firms growth is opportunistic as opposed to being a planned and deliberate strategy. As a result, many initiatives fail. Even if successful, opportunistic firms often find themselves offering a collection of unrelated products or playing in unrelated markets with no potential to leverage their corporate portfolio. Learn the alternative means of growing your business, how to evaluate new product and market opportunities and how to choose between a growth strategy based on new technologies, new markets or new applications.

Market and Account Profiling

Duration: Half-Day
Target Audiences: Executives

It is often said that “marketing makes promises that the rest of the organization has to keep”. One of the biggest challenges in developing and executing marketing and business strategies is securing “buy in”: not just from marketing and sales but also from other functional areas. A big part of the problem is that, in the absence of large-scale research studies, marketing and business strategies are often presented as a “leap of faith” and often dismissed on the basis of anecdotal evidence.
Market profiling is an easy-to-use methodology for building strategic consensus and translating that consensus into tactical objectives. Learn how to translate responses to three simple questions into:

  • The ability to determine whether a segment or account should be won or lost
  • A measure of the strength of the leader’s position;
  • The ability to consider the impact of specific cost-reduction or quality-enhancing initiatives;
  • The ability to perform a wide range of sensitivity analyses on changes in market or competitive position;
  • The ability to identify alternative tactical programs for translating a strategy into action;
  • Answers to the following questions:
  • What do I have to do to continue winning?
  • What changes do I absolutely have to make?
  • Where could I spend money on customer education?
  • Where and how could new technology help?
  • Where could I cut costs without losing competitive standing?
  • What current programs are unlikely to generate significant results?

This program is a perfect follow-up to Mission Critical Marketing or can be offered alone. Hands-on workshops in the use of the technique can also be accommodated (allow four hours, in addition to the presentation, for workshop sessions).

Market Dynamics

Duration: Half-Day
Target Audiences: Executives, Creatives

Strategy is about taking control. However, there are market and competitive forces that shape the nature and extent to which control can be exercised. Some of these forces are unpredictable while others emerge in a more-or-less predictable manner.
Learn the predictable changes that occur over the lifetime of any product or market, the forces that make them occur, the actions that can be taken in advance of their arrival and the reactions that can used after their arrival. In addition, learn the pattern of industry financial performance that usually accompanies this evolution and see why business strategies and corporate priorities may not always mesh.