Improving the ROI of Information Investments

If you have ever worked in a typical organisation, you will have almost certainly been under pressure at times to reduce budgets. Each time this happens, market research and information gathering tend to be one of the first areas to be cut. After all there doesn’t appear to be a negative impact on sales, so its Return-on-Investment is questioned. Sound familiar? Then read on.

Unlike advertising and communications to your customers, information gathering does not have an obvious link to sales, at least in the short term, so it is the first target many managers choose when looking to reduce costs. If you are tired of having to constantly defend your budget then I have some ideas to help, so that next time someone comes looking for money, it won’t be from your budget.

#1. Take your (internal) client’s perspective

What is the boss getting for his / her money? If you reply lots of data and information, then that is the reason your budget gets cut. People who have problems don’t want data they want solutions. Therefore don’t provide nice tables and graphs, but rather a story to inspire the changes you recommend, based upon your findings.

#2. Review your methods

Are you still doing the same type of information gathering that you’ve done for the last five, ten or even more years? If so then it is time to review your methodologies, questionnaires and reporting. The world is changing fast and you can’t expect the questions you developed years ago remain as relevant today as they once were. Take a look at your customers and see how they have changed and what needs to be measured today. That way what information you do collect is likely be in areas that are new to the organisation and thus invaluable.

#3. Review your reports

Another habit we can get ourselves into is to continue to produce the same old reports with the same KPIs, graphs and tables. Or sometimes even worse, as I once sadly witnessed in a major FMCG / CPG; the reports just kept getting bigger and bigger as more and more information was added. It got to the point where management woke up to the fact one day and (rightly) cancelled the whole report!

As with methodologies, your own reports need to be regularly updated. What are your own clients really using out of everything you circulate? You may be disappointed to see just how little they use. If they are not reading / reviewing everything you send, then stop sending it. When you get over the shock, you will be happy to have more time to develop more useful analyses. After all, the main reason we get locked into habit is that we don’t have time to think!

#4. Review your costs

Are you working in a regional or global organisation? If so, has your company negotiated discounts for multiple purchases of their different external reports and analyses? Many suppliers are open to providing a discount for a st andardised report or mass purchases of regular reports they produce. However they won’t offer them if they find unnecessary multiple purchases, why should they? You have to ask for them.

#5. Review your value

With the above four points you may be able to avoid a budget cut next time, but you need to also prepare for future crises. Review what value you provide and admit honestly whether or not you would pay what you cost your organisation, for the information and insights you provide. If not, then act quickly before someone else realises this too. Find out what your clients need and provide more of it. Perhaps even more importantly, find out what your clients may need in the future and are maybe not yet aware, and pre-empt their request by offering it. That will certainly impact your value and their appreciation.

If you follow these five tips, then you have a good chance that your budget will not be cut next time your manager has to make a cost-cutting exercise. Have other tips to add? Please add your comments below and also share these with your colleagues. They will appreciate your foresight.

Let’s discuss how we can help you achieve a better ROI on your information investments; contact us today and check out our website:

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Improving Customer Centricity in Hospitality

The title of this week’s post might surprise you. After all, the hospitality industry should be customer centric as it relies on satisfying its guests, no?

However, it has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG), as I shared recently with industry experts at a Faculty Day of one of the leading hospitality schools in Switzerl and. If you would like to learn what I revealed, then read on.

Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart. They both are founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer. However, as the world changes, customer dem ands increase and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these dem ands in order to ensure continued growth.

During my short presentation earlier this week, these are some of the points that I covered:

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationships. Whilst I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement, since honestly, who wants to have a relationship with a br and?! Br ands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back; to the br and, the product, their website, their communications. Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this.

#2. Build Relationships with Strangers

Customer centricity means building relationships with strangersWhilst the hospitality industry has been based on serving and satisfying its guests, in todays connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but could potentially become guests. These might be the friends of current guest, which for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract. This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to post them on Facebook. This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging these friends, whom one might assume are potential clients since they are probably similar to their current guests.

#3. Value is more Important than Price

Having additional control in their lives today means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their peers influence their decisions more than does traditional marketing. The internet enables them to compare offers, so they are less interested in bundled propositions,preferring to decide what is best value for them personally for each element.

#4. Renovation is more than Buildings

Most CPG companies have annual targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner by building on their individual talents and enable them to develop better products and services. For hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; the Art Series Hotels are another. Check out the latter’s recent ad to underst and better how they excel at underst anding their guests: Art Series Overstay Checkout, or why not review the picture posted on MayaKoba Facebook page?

#5. Loyalty is never really Won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer dem ands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today. To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

#6. Dialogue don’t just Communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want a say in what they buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints. According to a recent Edison Research, 20% expect a company to answer to their social media post within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means 24/7 monitoring for all organisations if we are not to disappoint are most engaged customers.

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during my presentation. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, you can find it on SlideShare here.

Are you struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information and contact us here.

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Which Sight do you Use the Most?

There have been a lot of posts in the last few weeks suggesting we take a look back over our experience in 2012 or to start planning what we would like to do in 2013. I therefore thought I would combine both perspectives by reviewing how we can work more efficiently with customer underst anding and information to develop deeper insight and grow our businesses.

All organisations try to underst and their customers in order to satisfy their rational needs and emotional desires. The way they go about doing this however, can make a big difference in how successful they are. There are globally four ways we can consider to collect and then use information and knowledge about our customers:

#1. Hindsight

This is arguably the most used “sight” in customer underst anding. We look back and record or measure what our customers did. Where they bought; how much they consumed; what advertising they saw and when. All these metrics are based on past performance and we often then use this information to estimate how healthy our br and and business is going to be in the future. This is based on the assumption that our continued efforts will be rewarded with similar, if not greater success. However, in today’s fast-paced world, nothing stays the same for long, especially not the customer.

Examples of hindsight are market shares, media consumption and shopping habits. Whilst br and equity can also be considered hindsight, it has been found that declining image often preceeds a sales decline, so could arguable be seen to contain elements of both hindsight and foresight.

#2. Eyesight

This is the qualitative element of the previous “sight”. It helps us to qualify the decisions we take about what is important to measure before we do so, or can deepen our underst anding of the information we have already recorded. Management can sometimes feel less comfortable with this type of knowledge if it is not quantified by “solid” quantified information. However, it is a powerful way to more deeply underst and our customers’ thoughts and behaviour and to share it with others.

Examples of eyesight include observation and ethnography, as well as online social media discussions and chat.

#3. Insight

This is what hindsight and eyesight should be developed into. This suggests that no one piece of research, nor one project should be expected to deliver insight. Insights come from combining different sources of information and knowledge into underst anding and insight. Until we underst and the “why” behind what we have found, it is unlikely that true insight can be developed.

Depending upon your definition of an insight, these can include a statement voiced from the consumer’s perspective of what their need is and what feeling they are looking to achieve in solving it.

#4. Foresight

Although a business can be successful if it develops insight, in an ideal world it should also be considering the future and likely changes to the current situation. This will enable an organisation to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities, as well as to plan for possible threats.

Going beyond insight to foresight can mean making ourselves uncomfortable by thinking about possible scenarios that perhaps we would prefer avoiding. However it is only by thinking about them and planning for our reactions in such situations, can we be best prepared to meet the challenges the future may hold.

Now that I have summarised the differences between these four sights, which are you using more often? To be successful we need to use all four, but not necessarily in equal proportions. Their use will depend upon the situation in which we find ourselves, but we need to be able to work with all four of them, in order for our businesses to remain healthy.

If we work mainly with hindsight, we risk being unprepared for market changes and new situations, so we need to strengthen our foresight. This can be done by following societal trends and developing future scenarios to challenge our thinking.

If we work mostly with eyesight, we may feel threatened by numbers and the chance of being proven wrong in our hypotheses and assumptions. Why not try quantifying some of our observations to see whether or not what has been observed is normal behaviour, or due to some sort of bias in sampling or due merely to our perception?

If you work in an organisation that runs a lot of market research projects and draws conclusions from each of them individually, it is time to strengthen your insights. If you don’t have a process for developing insights from information integration, then C3Centricity can help. Insight development can actually save you resources, since running an evaluation of what is already known may produce the required answers and avoid the need for further research.

Finally if you are living mostly in the future, you may be unaware of current opportunities / threats that quantification can indicate. Even when comfortable working with foresight, a business still needs to be managed on a day to day basis and for that, nothing beats a few numbers. Whilst foresight is essential to long-term business growth, the hypotheses must be based upon facts rather than supposition.

So, which sight do you need to strength in 2013? How are you going to do that? Start this New Year by taking a critical look at which ones you are most comfortable in using and decide to strengthen your other sights. Please share your thoughts with everyone below. 

For more information on all these sights, please check out some of our ideas and training here:

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A Peek at the Future of Customer Underst anding

What are you expecting in 2013? This is a question we should all be asking of both ourselves and our businesses this week. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider what we need to do, to be better prepared for the opportunities and risks that will present themselves in the future.

For this reason, and to also announce an exciting addition to the C3Centricity partnership, I decided to ask this of one of THE most inspirational experts in the area of future scenario building, SciFutures‘s Ari Popper. Ari is the co-founder and President of the company that helps organisations to consider the future in a different and more rewarding way. You can learn more about them on the C3Centricity partner page HERE.

As we finalised our partnership, I took the chance to interview Ari on the changes that he saw for those of us working to underst and and better satisfy the customer of today and tomorrow.

Denyse: Ari, thanks for agreeing to this interview. As we start the New Year, I’d like to begin by getting your thoughts on what you see as the three biggest changes / trends that will likely take place in 2013?

 Ari: Thanks Denyse. My pleasure.

It may sound like hyperbole but this is one of the most exciting times to be alive. Humanity is experiencing a significant step change in ‘life as we know it’ driven by a number of powerful trends. In 2013, these trends will continue to gather momentum and embed even deeper in all aspects of everyday life. Different foresight professionals emphasize different trends but this step change is mostly driven by rapid advancements in emerging technology, the democratization of knowledge and our increasingly networked society.

We have huge social, economic and environmental challenges and they certainly won’t disappear in 2013 but we also have the most incredible tools at our disposal for dealing with these challenges. We are living in a time where our options for creating positive transformations are immense and these options are increasing rapidly. I think of it using an artist’s pallet metaphor with color availability representing potential creative expression. Perhaps as recently as 25 years ago we had only 20 colors to work with. Today, thanks to these big transformational trends, we have hundreds or perhaps thous ands of colors to work with.

For example, the average person in Africa has access to the same amount of information as president Clinton had 20 years ago thanks to that smart device in her pocket. You can participate in free online courses offered by universities like Harvard, Stamford and MIT. [One of these courses on Computer Science had over 100,000 people register from countries all over the world!] You can have your own genome sequenced in 24 hours for less than $600. The list goes on and on and on. What I am interested in and what we do at SciFutures is to help our clients underst and that the greatest tool we have is our imaginations. Truly now, more than ever, we are living in a time where what we can imagine, we can create.

Denyse: WOW Ari, that suggests that there are huge opportunities for anyone willing to take them. I am a great believer of Quantum physics and the power of thought. Can you give any examples of what we may see?

Ari: SciFutures recently sponsored the Extreme Futurist Festival in LA. It was two days of ‘mind blowing’ glimpses from the future. My overall impression was that we have the technical knowhow to solve significant problems, even those as pervasive as world hunger. For example, Douglas Mallette, a NASA scientist who worked on technical solutions to feed astronauts living in the first Mars colony, has applied this expertise to ending world hunger. Simply put, it is a sustainable, low cost solution to create a closed loop aquaponic fish farm that can feed the hungry indefinitely with very low expertise and maintenance.

Daniel Epstein who founded the Unreasonable Institute challenges us to be ‘unreasonable’ in order make significant progress. His ‘unreasonableness’ has facilitated a low cost and extremely viable way to cure blindness permanently using fairly simple technology applied in a sublimely creative way. It is clear to me that we are not lacking in the ‘how’, we are lacking in belief and imagination.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. Let’s come back down to the more mundane world of market research, insight and the information business. What do you see as the three biggest challenges for those working in the profession in the coming year?

Ari: The market research industry has taken a well deserved battering over the past few years. I think of it as the inevitable decline of old models and tools that were great in their time but lacking in relevance and applicability in today’s world (see above). You can see it in the fact that most of the big research companies struggled to grow organically and also in the plethora of disruptive and creative research boutiques tat have popped up.

Significant advances in neuroscience, behavioral economics and the impact of emerging technologies like mobile have disrupted the industry resulting in a few big losers and a few new winners. It is a classic case of creative destruction. I think the MR industry is on the verge of a Cambrian explosion of tools, techniques, insights and smart and nimble entrepreneurs or entrepreneurially minded companies like Google (Google Surveys) are going to do extremely well. 2013 will see a continuation of this trend. The end benefit will mean a massive improvement in the quality and actionability of insights for end clients and the death of old fashioned research tools, techniques and sadly, companies that cannot change.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. I have to say that (sadly) I agree with you. It is why I started C3Centricity and have chosen just a few, very unique partners such as SciFutures to work with. It’s time that the profession woke up before it gets killed in its sleep! Tell me what SciFutures, the company you founded in early 2012, offers that is different from others working in the futures arena and how you can specifically support businesses in meeting the challenges we already talked about.

Ari: SciFutures was founded to use the power of creativity and imagination to help companies disrupt routine and outmoded thinking to create genuinely disruptive ways of operating. We are unique in that we use science fiction narratives as a device to engage our clients and transform complex data into engaging and inspiring scenarios. We like to say ‘we make the geek speak’. We were going to be a creative strategic consulting company but what has really surprised me is the fact that our clients are asking for help in implementing these radical strategies. We now have formed strategic partnerships with technology experts and are in the process of envisioning and also building radical inventions. This could only happen in today’s world since, as Warren Ellis says, “we are living the science fiction condition”.

Denyse: You’re really touching on an important change needed there Ari. How we all have to become storytellers and to share our knowledge and underst anding through stories, in order to get our messages across within the organisation. Finally Ari, if you could give just one piece of advice to all those in marketing and customer underst anding for the coming twelve months, what would it be?

Ari: Well, you have to embrace the times. Don’t fight progress and don’t put your head in the s and – it isn’t going away. Ensure that some risky or unreasonable activity is a part of your plans for 2013 as it is better to disrupt than to be disrupted.

Denyse: Great point Ari. So in summary 2013 is going to be the year of disruption, and to paraphrase Darwin “It is not the strongest that will survive, but those most responsive to change.” Thanks a lot for your time Ari. I am sure I can speak for all my readers in saying that you have certainly opened our minds with your ideas  and thoughts about the future.

Thank you!

SciFutures is one of C3Centricity’s unique and carefully selected partners. If you would like to be better prepared for possible future opportunities and risks, why not contact us? You will be amazed by the inspiration and actionability of what we bring. Also check our website to review some of our solutions:

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