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Market Research, Business Intelligence & Big Data: Have we Forgotten about Human Data?

The annual pilgrimage to the ESOMAR Conference took place last week in Dublin. I heard that there was much discussion, both on and off the stage, about Big Data and the future of market research. Hopefully, the whole profession will get behind one initiative, instead of each individually trying to “solve world peace” on their own!

This week sees the second Swiss BI-Day taking place in Geneva and there will no doubt be similar discussions about Big Data and the future of Business Intelligence.

It appears that Big Data is not just a buzzword or a commodity that has been likened to oil; it has become the centre of a power struggle between different industries. Many professionals seem to be vying for the right to call themselves “THE Big Data experts”.

This got me thinking about the future of data analysis in general and the business usage of Big Data more specifically. There seems to be no stopping the inflow of information into organisations these days, whether gathered through market research, which is proportionally becoming smaller by the day, or from the smartphones, wearables and RFID chips, that get added to every conceivable article, more generally referred to as the IoT (Internet of Things). Who will, and how are we to better manage it all? That is the question that needs answering – soon! (>>Tweet this<<)

Data Science Central published an interesting article earlier this year called “The Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used Today To Change Our World”. Already being a few months old probably makes it a little out-of-date, in this fast changing world we live in, but I think it still makes fascinating reading. It summarises ten ways that data is being used:

  1. Underst anding and Targeting Customers
  2. Underst anding and Optimizing Business Processes
  3. Personal Quantification and Performance Optimization
  4. Improving Healthcare and Public Health
  5. Improving Sports Performance
  6. Improving Science and Research
  7. Optimizing Machine and Device Performance
  8. Improving Security and Law Enforcement
  9. Improving and Optimizing Cities and Countries
  10. Financial Trading

Many of these are not new in terms of data usage nor business analysis. What is new, is that the data analysis is mostly becoming automated and in real-time. In addition, the first and second items, which were largely the domains of market research and business intelligence, are now moving more into the h ands of IT and the data scientists. Is this a good or bad thing?

Another article posted on Data Informed a few months after the above one, talks about The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today   and succinctly summarises some of the dynamic uses of data today. The author of both pieces, Bernard Marr, wrote that “This isn’t all the stuff of science fiction or futurism. Because the technology for big data is advancing so rapidly, rules, regulations, and best practices can’t keep up.” He gives five examples of where data analysis raises certain ethical questions:

  1. Predictive policing. In February 2014, the Chicago Police Department sent uniformed officers to make “ custom notification visits to individuals whom they had identified, using a computer generated list, as likely to commit a crime in the future. Just one step towards the “Minority Report”?
  2. Hiring algorithms. Companies are using computerized learning systems to filter and hire job applicants. For example, some of these algorithms have found that, statistically, people with shorter commutes are more likely to stay in a job longer, so the application asks, “How long is your commute?” Statistically, these considerations may be accurate, but are they fair?
  3. Marketers target vulnerable individuals. Data brokers have begun selling reports that specifically highlight and target financially vulnerable individuals. For example, a data broker might provide a report on retirees with little or no savings to a company providing reverse mortgages, high-cost loans, or other financially risky products. Would we want our own families targeted in this way?
  4. Driving analysis devices may put you in the wrong insurance category. Since 2011, car insurance companies like Progressive and Axa, have offered a small device you can install in your car to analyze your driving habits and hopefully get you a better rate. But some of the criteria for these lower rates are inherently discriminatory. For example, insurance companies like drivers who stay off the roads late at night and don’t spend much time in their cars, but poorer people are more likely to work the late shift and to have longer commutes to work — both of which would be strikes against them when it comes to calculating their auto insurance rates.
  5. Walmart and Target determine your life insurance rates. OK, not directly, but Deloitte has developed an algorithm, based on “non-traditional third-party sources” that can predict your life expectancy from your buying habits. They claim that they can accurately predict if people have any one of 17 diseases, including diabetes, tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression, by analyzing their buying habits.

Marr starts this article by very briefly discussing privacy and inherent biases in data. I think these issues are far more urgent than deciding whether it is market research, business intelligence or data scientists that are in charge of the actual data analysis. Perhaps we all need to work together so that the “Human” side of data is not forgotten? After all, most data comes from people, is understood – if no longer strictly analysed – by people, for the benefit of people, to help change people’s behaviour. What do you think? Join the conversation and let your voice be heard. (I’ll be presenting this very topic at the Swiss BI-Day this coming Tuesday, so I do hope that you will pop by and listen)

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

Why Marketing doesn’t Always Get the Research it Needs, But Usually What it Deserves

Why do marketers sometimes complain about the market research they get? I’ve often heard comments during presentations such as “We already knew that” or “This can’t be right” or “Why can’t you answer the questions I have?” I am sure you have said something similar yourself or been on the receiving end of such statements. What’s going on?

I believe that one of the reasons for such comments is poor briefing. Poor briefing by marketing which results in a poor market research brief to the supplier. If you too are sometimes dissatisfied with your results, then read on for some useful tips on how you can get the information you need.

Briefing

A market research brief is a document that helps a market research specialist to deliver the knowledge the business needs, in a timely manner. In some cases this will require conducting a market research project, but not always. Sometimes, it may simply be necessary to re-analyse previous work, in a different or more detailed way, in order to answer the questions asked.

Therefore I would never encourage internal clients to always think in terms of requesting a market research project when they are looking for information. In fact I would actively discourage it. This is especially valid when budgets are tight, as cheap research is often useless research.

Choose what you Need

As noted by Arthur C. Clarke, there is a management “trilemma” encountered when trying to achieve production quickly and cheaply while maintaining high quality. This is the basis of the popular project management aphorism “Quick, Cheap, Good: Pick two.” Conceptualized as the project management triangle as shown below, this aptly applies to market research projects as well.

A trilemma

Marketing is a profession where progression is often rapid and therefore the marketer may not be aware of all the information that is available within an organisation. In my opinion, it is essential for market research specialists, who are more likely to have been in their position for many years, to appropriately advise and support their internal clients, and not be just order-takers. (>>Tweet this<<) Unfortunately in many companies this is what they have become, which is such a waste of knowledge and expertise!

When it has been established that a new research project is required, then the brief becomes the vital first step for getting the information that is needed, when it’s needed. It should be drawn up to meet individual internal requirements, and as a minimum it should contain the following sections:

1. Background

This should provide all relevant information on your company’s situation and what risk or opportunity has been identified, as well as how and why this has been identified. Previous reports and studies that are relevant to the situation should also be mentioned and of course have been reviewed for answers before a market research survey is requested. 

2. Objectives

Clearly defined objectives are essential to the success of any project. In addition to the background, detailed objectives allow the best possible work to be carried out  and ensure the research meets them as fully as possible.

Their precision will also avoid many of the comments mentioned above, since everyone will be starting from the same level of knowledge and underst anding, and will have agreed that there is a gap in underst anding that can only be met through the running of a research study.

3. Decisions to be taken

Knowing what questions are to be answered and how the information obtained will be used, will help to identify the best methodology. For example if large investments will be necessary to action the results, then a quantitative study should be conducted, to ensure solid information and as reliable a result as possible.

However, when looking for your customers’ ideas, thoughts, feelings, issues and desires, you could find such answers through a qualitative study or perhaps from the analysis of social media comments online.

The methodology which is finally chosen will have a direct impact on the project’s pricing, so underst anding how the results will be used will avoid any waste in resources. 

4. Budget and Timing

These go h and in h and, both with each other, as well as with the choice of methodology. Normally faster is more expensive, as it requires a larger field force or online panel, and a tighter control of the project’s progress. It is also essential to underst and any budget limitations, as one that is too small for say a large quantitative study should prompt the market research expert to refuse running it. As quoted above, good, cheap, fast, choose two!

One further point is that if timing is too tight, especially for the delivery of results, you may not have enough leeway should something go wrong in fieldwork, or there is the need for more time to analyse the output. I always agree with the often quoted advice of Tom Peters, the American writer perhaps best known for his 1982 book, that he wrote with Robert H Waterman Jr and which is entitled, ‘In Search of Excellence’:

“Formula for success: under promise and over deliver” 

Formula for success: under promise and over deliver Click To Tweet

This doesn’t only apply to timing or market research either; it applies to everything else you have to deliver as well!

5. Research target and approach

Although the MR specialist is the expert, any (internal) client suggestions about the respondents to contact or their preferred methodology to be used, should be clearly identified. If your client doesn’t believe in qualitative work, it may be unwise to rely solely on such a technique. I’ve known companies – dare I say quite a few in the US? – that run tens of group discussions, just to have a “sufficient sample size of respondents to analyse.” If you are likely to meet such criticism, then I think it’s better to know before you start, so you can make relevant changes to the methodology!

6. Test materials and availability

If materials are needed to run the test, whether products, concept boards, advertising prints or videos, clear numbers of copies and their delivery date must be specified. Too often they are delivered late but the research results are still expected to be provided on the agreed date, which just puts everyone under unnecessary and easily avoidable stress. 

7. Deliverables

Not all research needs a detailed report (>>Tweet this<<); sometimes a presentation or summary of the results is sufficient, especially when timing is tight. Again, knowing upfront your internal client’s needs can impact both cost and timing and the likely success of the outcome.

So there you have it, a summary of the seven major parts to a good market research brief. Of course, in reality there are many more sections that can be added, which are more dependent upon internal priorities and specific industry or category requirements.

This post was prompted by a request from a client who is looking to update their market research and insight processes. If you too would like to upgrade yours, then why not contact us today and let’s discuss your own particular needs? Each of our offers is unique and customised, and can include a market research toolbox audit, process updates and one-day catalyst sessions to get everyone on the same page within your organisation.  

The image used in this post came from Denyse’s forthcoming book Winning Customer Centricity, now available for pre-order on C³Centricity, Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobles.

Try a New Perspective on Business Intelligence: How to get More Impact & Answers

Last week I presented at the first Swiss Business Intelligence Day. It was an inspiring conference to attend, with world-class keynote speakers opening the day. They included Professor Stephane Garelli from IMD, Philippe Nieuwbourg from Decideo  and Hans Hultgren from Genesee Academy.

After such an illustrious start, you can imagine that I was more than a little nervous to present my very non-IT perspective of business intelligence. However, the presentation did seem to go down well, so I want to share with you some of the ideas I talked about. Not surprisingly, with my passion for customer centricity and always with the end-user in mind, I took quite a different perspective from that of the majority of IT experts who were present.

BI should Collaborate More

With the explosion of data sources and the continuous flow of information into a company, managing data will become a priority for everyone.

statistic id forecast big data marketThe Big Data market, which more than doubled last two years, is forecast to triple in the next four, according to Statista. BI will have to exp and its perspective, work with more varied sources of information and exp and its client base.

In the past BI was inward looking. It ran data-mining exercises, reviewed corporate performance, developed reports and occasionally dashboards. It was, and still is in many organisations, mostly concerned with operational efficiencies, cost-cutting and benchmarking.

How business intelligence fits into the data world of businessThe above plot is my own, simplified view of how BI fits into data management within most organisations today. The other three quadrants are:

  • Competitive intelligence (CI) uses external competitor knowledge to support internal decision-making. Although BI is sometimes considered to be synonymous with CI because they both support decision-making, there are differences. BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data. CI gathers, analyzes and disseminates information with a topical focus on company competitors.
  • Investor Relations (IR) uses internal data to get external people, such as shareholders, the media or the government, to support and protect the company and its views.
  • Market Research (MR) on the other h and is mostly outward looking. It studies customers’ behaviours & attitudes, measures images & satisfaction, and tries to underst and feelings & opinions. That information is then used, primarily by marketing, to develop actions and communications for these same customers.

The four quadrants, even today, usually work in isolation, but that will have to change with this new data-rich environment in which we are working.

BI is Ripe for Change

 

According to a recent (Jan 2014) Forbes article, BI is at a tipping point. It will need to work in new ways because:

  • it will be using both structured and unstructured data
  • there will be a consolidation of suppliers
  • the internet of things will send more and more information between both products and companies.
  • thanks to technology, data scientists will spend more time on information management & less time on data preparation. At present it is estimated that they spend 80% of their time on data cleaning, integration and transformation, and only 20% on its analysis!

Google glass provides access to business intelligence

In February GigaOM echoed these thoughts, claiming that we are not in BI 2.0 but rather 4.0. They said the volume of data and the number of people now exposed to it, makes data availability to everyone essential. No longer does BI involve only the CEO and IT specialists, it concerns everybody.

Google glass provides access to business intelligence
Google glass, as tested by Virgin
, is a good example of this. It delivers real-time, on time and relevant information to Virgin’s hosts and hostesses, to meet, greet and advise its passengers. Their customer support team can accompany their VIP guests and warn them of delays and gate changes as they happen. Google Glass enables them to get out from behind their desks and interact more with the guests they are trying to please.

BI must Deliver More Synthesised Knowledge

According to a recent Business Intelligence report on management’s opinion of their data, they are currently frustrated. They say that it comes from many disparate sources and is rarely if ever available in real-time. They can’t easily access it without the help of IT and it takes too long to customise it to what they need. What is particularly interesting in the findings, is that management were not saying that they don’t need information; in fact it actually looks as if they want to have access to more data. BUT more of it in a way that makes it easy to find what they want, when they want it.

Another finding from the survey shows executives’ thoughts about data delivery. Currently they are getting their information primarily through emails and spreadsheets. I find this shocking that today we still expect management to take the time to wade through all the data in order to draw their own conclusions. Less than one in eight of the C-suite is getting dashboards, which is their preferred medium (>>Tweet this<<). They also want mobile delivery so that they can access information on the go.

This study provides us with a simple plan to satisfy their needs and to help us meet our own challenges of data abundance. This is what we should prioritize, since we can no longer continue to do what we’ve always done in the same way we’ve always done it. The BI priorities are as simple as ABC; accessibility, business impact and consistency (>>Tweet this<<).

BI needs to Provide Simplified Access

Information should be provided where and when it is needed and in such a way as to have most impact on the business. This means making it easy to review, and quick and simple to draw conclusions. This is why the number one dem and from business is dashboards.

Dashboards have the advantage of imposing consistency (>>Tweet this<<) so no time is lost in underst anding what the information is showing. With the availability of more information, comes the challenge to make it available to more people. And more people will also mean more and different needs.

Business Intelligence data warehouses are like a tree of knowledgeTo underst and the accessibility challenge I find the tree is a great metaphor for what we struggle to achieve. The roots can be compared to all the different sources of information we have at our disposal. The trunk is like all the integrated information that is reported in dashboards and the branches, twigs and leaves are the different data warehouses we create.

Whilst a one-page overview is sufficient for management, others will need greater granularity. Therefore we need to make information available at different levels of detail. My experience suggests three types of information sharing.

  • The leaves are like data warehouses where the raw or nearly raw data sits
  • The twigs are the information repositories where analysed data and information resides
  • And the branches are the knowledge libraries where the integrated actionable insights sit

What I have learned from setting up numerous data warehouses, information repositories and knowledge libraries, is that it is not easy. Not because of any technical complexity, but because of winning the needed  internal support for the project and getting the essential acceptance for global access to the information. It takes more than technology, it takes a culture change in many cases too, and this is the real challenge. Stopping the “information is power” mentality means finding ways to counter the opposition who claim  confidentiality of their own data whilst also requesting access to everyone else’s. In addition, even if people need information, they will generally not make the effort to go looking for it, if there is an easier way, such as by asking someone else! All these issues need to be resolved for an integrated database project to succeed.

Business Impact

One way to encourage the culture change mentioned earlier, is to demonstrate the business impact of what you are providing. The desired impact won’t come by delivering spreadsheets, it will come from dashboards (>>Tweet this<<).

So how do you summarise a company in a one-page dashboard, especially those which are present in multiple categories, globally? Well, often the simplest way is not to try to cover the total business, but rather the top categories and markets that would cover 70% – 80% of total sales. In most cases this would be sufficient to underst and the main priorities for management.

Of course at category level each business unit should be able to get access to more detailed information, as should the regional presidents, if you are working in such a complex business environment.

The real power of dashboard information will come from data integration, where both internal and external information are synthesised, for a holistic view of the business. I have worked on several projects that combined internal information with consumer data for a complete business report. The consumer information came from promotions, call centres and CRM activities, and was combined with market research on product and communications performance, to provide a solid base of consumer underst anding. This can then be presented alongside the more usual financial information that executives are already receiving. Having a complete overview of the business has far more impact than individual, silo’d summaries and enables management to make decisions more quickly and easily.

Increase Consistency

Another challenge when setting up and integrating databases, is in the harmonisation of their master data. When you are working with consumer data, this challenge can be multiplied by ten if not one hundred. For example, consumers will talk about a pizza, without specifying the br and, sub-br and, variant, flavour, packaging and size that would be used by the business to define it. So you have to find a way to translate what the consumer is saying, into the products as recorded internally.

The consistency of the master data will even increase in importance and complexity, with the expansion in available data sources. In addition, the fact that more people will get involved, will confound things even more, since their needs will differ.

Asking Better Questions of the Data

Accessibility, business impact and consistency are vital to the success of the new BI’s data management and usage, but I feel the urge to add one more thing. That of asking the right questions of the data. Although BI is used to asking questions, I think Market Research (MR) are the real experts in questioning. Therefore they should be involved in ensuring integrated databases are combined in such a way as to permit easy extraction of whatever level of information is required, or whatever perspective might be taken.

For example, BI is used to running forecasts. Those usually start from a review of past data and current reality to develop forecasts based on complex algorithms. They will do this within their teams with perhaps input from finance. MR on the other h and, is more likely to work from societal trends and develop plausible future scenarios, brainstorming across the organisation to gather a wide array of perspectives. Both perspectives are complementary and combined, they make a powerfully readied organisation.

Making more data more accessible to more people will certainly help this question development, as I think getting the right answers depends upon asking the right question, don’t you?

These were just a few of the ideas I shared at the Swiss BI Day in Geneva. How do you see business intelligence adapting and changing as a result of the increased information availability happening today?

C³Centricity used images and graphs from Statista, Microsoft and Virgin in this post.

Reputation and Trust: Do you Have Both?

At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.

Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the br and or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.

The three essentials of br and valueLet me start by saying that I covered br and image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post  called “ How to Build Br and Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your br and image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.

Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring br and equity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the br ands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.

Coca Cola logo

However, measuring br and image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the br ands and the company.

Unilever AXE logoFor some br ands such as Coca Cola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G  and Unilever may be far less evident.

P&G Pantene logo

Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their br ands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.

So how do you measure this link and underst and what the br and brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.

Following Br and & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process

Step 1: Measure your br ands’ images

Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage br ands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.

The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the br ands. This will be essential for the analysis later on.

Step 2: Measure your corporate image

Again you should already be doing this, but I am always amazed how few companies collect such metrics on a regular basis. The prompt for doing so is often a crisis or a change of management and vision, but by then it is actually too late. Whatever you measure in such circumstances will be difficult to analyse since you don’t know what the figures looked like before the event happened. This is why it is essential to measure it at least annually and perhaps even more regularly when a lot is happening in the marketplace.

As was also the case for your br and equity metrics, you will need to include a measurement of br and attribution for each of the companies you measure. This will again be used in the analytical phase.

Step 3: Analyse and cross-reference the information gathered

The third step of the process is to first review the images of each br and by the knowledge and awareness of the consumers about its parent company. Then review the corporate images based upon whether each is attributed or not to each of its br ands, or maybe even to competitive br ands. Then by crossing these two sets of relational information, you will get a clear picture of what the br and brings in terms of reputation to the company and what the corporate reputation adds to or detracts from each br and. Once you underst and the relationship between your br ands and your business, you can start to lay out a plan to boost your consumers’ knowledge and trust with appropriate PR and advertising.

Some organisations, including those mentioned above, find ways to associate their company name within their br and advertising. For instance Nestlé and Purina both end their ads with a company link and logo. Unilever and SCJohnson are a little more creative in showing  a fold up / down corner with their logo and name and in the case of the latter, even their corporate slogan. This is far less intrusive and leaves the br and to shine as hero in the ad.

If you already run your own br and equity or corporate reputation studies, why not combine them as suggested above, for improved actionability? If you do a different type of analysis I would love to hear about it; just add a comment below or write to me in person at denysedd@c3centricity.com. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this essential element of tracking.

Does your Organisation Really Need a Market Research Department? And in the Future?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about New Marketing; how communication is now all about engagement, how the consumer is boss and such like. But there has been very little said about New Market Research, perhaps because there isn’t any! If you’re concerned by this situation, whether you work in marketing, market research or a completely different area, then read on for some thoughts on how this situation can and must change.

Earlier this year I wrote about the future of market research / insight departments and what researchers need to do within their organisation to improve their image and perceived value. This week I want to take a wider look at the profession in general. 

Current Perception of Market Research

According to  Wikipedia, Marketing is “The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers” The definition of  Market Research is “Any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy”.

What is interesting in comparing these two definitions is the difference in appreciation of the value to business of the two. Marketing is said to be a “critical function”, whereas Market Research is said to be “very important”. Perhaps this is why Market Research Departments continue to be hammered, their budgets are constantly under pressure and their value to the business is questioned.

Well, things are about to change, or at least there is an opportunity for this, if researchers take up the incredible chance offered to them in today’s world of information (over?) abundance. You can’t continue to do the same old same old when marketing, and more importantly the consumer, is clearly on the move.

 

What Business gets from Market Research

I think that one of the biggest problems that Market Research has (continues to have) is that Marketing and Management in general, find it too complex. What is often delivered from market research, BY researchers,  tends to be numbers and findings, not underst anding, insight and recommendations.

We no longer need market research to share the numbers and information today. More and more often, these are coming automatically into companies from an ever-growing number of sources, and a lot of it is even in real-time, something market research results never were! Think sensors on products, GPS on smart phones, retail purchases with debit / credit / loyalty cards, social media interactions …. DataShaka recently wrote in their The Lab an interesting perspective on data management and information sources which you might want to check out.

That’s a lot of data; indeed Aaron Zornes, chief research officer of The MDM Institute, was recently quoted in Information Management as saying that “a typical large company with (has) 14,000 or so databases on average”. And most of that data will be just sitting around in IT storage systems, rarely reviewed and even less likely to be integrated for meaningful knowledge development. It needs analysts and who better to interpret the meaning of all this data than market research?

What Market Research could Offer Business

 

What an incredible opportunity! The question is whether the market research profession is ready to take it up; whether researchers are ready to move from data gatherers (alone!) to interpreters and storytellers. Signs of the urgency for this change are everywhere. In a recent report by BusinessIntelligence.com (you can download the full report there), one of the conclusions drawn was that CEO’s are not getting what they need (from Big Data). Instead of Dashboards, they were more likely to be getting emails and spread sheets!

The market research profession took a small step to reinventing itself with the introduction of insight development, but this is still well within their comfort zone, and still not being done as effectively and consistently as it should. Today, market research / insight departments are being asked to make a much bigger leap into the realms of unknown territory, even for those already comfortable working with BigData.

The Questions you Need to Answer

In conclusion, here is what I believe all market research suppliers, agency and client-side researchers should be asking themselves today:

  1. Am I ready to move from data gatherer and sharer, to synthesizer and interpreter?
  2. Could I agree to the information I will be required to analyse NOT coming from statistically validated, representative samples of clearly identified populations?
  3. Will I accept that I have little control over the data sources I do use and even less over the information that is streaming into the organisation for all to see?
  4. Am I willing to shift from sending emails and spreadsheets, or presenting graphs and data, to speaking about how the world and consumers are changing?
  5. Would I happily move from sharing descriptions of data and knowledge to telling stories built from it?
  6. Can I get comfortable speaking about maybe just one or two consumers rather than about large(ish) groups of them?
  7. Am I capable of accepting that true insight development doesn’t come from one study or database, but from information integration of multiple sources?
  8. Am I ready to give up the name of my profession as market researcher?

If you can’t answer YES to all of these questions, then I believe you should consider changing jobs, before you find yourself redundant and replaced by the information analytic, machine-learning “robots” of the future.

What do you think? Is it already too late for market research? Can the profession reinvent itself? ESOMAR, which claims to be “The essential organisation for encouraging, advancing and elevating market research worldwide” has been asking a lot of the right questions about the future of the profession recently, but it is up to researchers everywhere to make the change happen. Are you going to join the lead now, or follow reluctantly when your own management questions whether they really need a department that clings to the old ways of collecting and analysing information?

Let me know how you feel about your own market research position, whether you are a member of a supplier or client-side organisation. Are there other challenges or opportunities I forgot to mention? What name would you give to your future profession?

Need help in updating and reinventing your own market research department and responsibilities? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

HELP! Your Customers don’t Value you as much as you do!

Have you noticed how extra “freebies” are always suggested to have an extremely high value, sometimes close to the level of the product you’re thinking of buying? Last week I spoke about the best 10-step process for following and developing your br and / corporate image. This week I want to speak primarily about value, an important area of any image.

I have just returned from another trip to the US; the Americans are, amongst many other things, the champions of exaggeration (apologies to all my American friends, but it’s true!) Here are a few examples I saw during my recent trip – thanks to my jetlag and my late night TV binges – of valuations of extras offered for free with the sale of various products:

  • Three additional CD’s are valued at $59.99, when the proposed product’s asking price is 3X $39.99 or almost $120
  • A set of plastic measuring cups valued at $39.99 and a recipe book valued at $79.99 are offered free when you purchase a $129.99 express cooker
  • Mini samples of other products when you buy a “starter kit” of cosmetics, valued at twice (!) the price of the product you are buying – which is incidentally already grossly overpriced.

Do the companies making these offers really believe that people will purchase the product they are advertising because of the value of the “free” extras? Or is it me that doesn’t underst and their motivations? We have all become used to the exaggerated claims of the products offered on TV in these infomercials, but have you noticed how they are now creeping into online offers too?

This post was in fact prompted by a recent email I received from what until then I had judged to be a serious resource for tips on social media best practices. If I signed up for a bi-weekly newsletter service, I was offered two “free” eBooks totalling 130 pages between them and valued at $157! Come on, be serious! How many books do you know that are worth almost $80 each? Even those filled with lots of glossy colour photos are usually on sale for less than that. And to make matters worse, with the explosion of self-publishing, many excellent books are being offered at below the Kindle royalty threshold of $9.99 these days.

My reaction was to immediately cancel my subscription to the person’s newsletters; if he can claim such prices for his eBooks, perhaps his tips were just hot air claims too. I do get upset by companies which are stupid enough to think they can fool their potential or even current customers into buying something because of an over-valued freebie. So let’s talk value and look a little more closely at what customers think about the value of your own products / services.

Setting the Price

Setting your price to reflect customer valueWhilst you can put a price on your offer – in fact you will certainly do this before launch, with or without the help of your customers – it is only once it is on the market that customers will confirm its true value. If you over-price your offer, your product will either fail or will have to be sold at a constant discount. I wrote about the danger of continual discounts in my post “ Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell?” which concluded with the thought that the slippery slope of price-cutting ends in turning your br and into a commodity bought on price alone.

 

 

Underst anding your Value

The journey to customer valueThere is a big difference between price and value. Hopefully you are (no longer?) pricing your product based upon its cost and then adding your margin. If you have correctly identified your customers’ need and have produced a product that meets or hopefully surpasses these needs, then the price your customer is willing to pay can be higher than its actual cost. This is why it is essential to start new product development by observing and listening to your customers.

Communicating your Value

Communicating your value through dvertisingIn contrast, from C3Centricity’s recent work on luxury watch communications, Terry Villines of our partner PhaseOne wrote a guest post about the essentials of value which can be applied to any category. It is called “ Is your br and worth paying more for?”.

In it Terry speaks about the six specific types of benefits found among br and messages wanting to imply premiumness. These were:

 

  1. Product innovation – your br and brings a new or enhanced benefit to the category.
  2. Human Worth – by tapping into the target’s self-esteem, a br and communicates how they are worthy of the more costly br and
  3. Unique Production Process – the way in which the product is made results in the delivery of a more significant benefit
  4. Premium imagery – associating the br and with other things that are premium in nature
  5. Higher performance than competing br ands
  6. Endorsement by a credible authority

These six elements will indeed suggest added value or premiumness, but if your product does not live up to your customers’ expectations they won’t be happy – and in today’s world your sales will be immediately impacted, thanks to social media. Therefore it makes sense to make a good estimation of the value of your product and then if necessary see how you can substantiate it with additional communication elements as detailed above.

Is your product correctly priced or are you forced into a price war to maintain sales? If so then you are already on the “stairway to hell”. If you aren’t (yet?) then you should ensure that your communications and product quality are always in line with your customers’ ever increasing dem ands. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market will maintain your br and at the forefront of changing market conditions and dem ands and will enable you to defend your pricing without the need for price cuts. That way you can use discounts to attract new customers rather than to keep your current ones alone.

What do you do to guarantee your br and is priced correctly? I’d love to hear your own ideas. Need help in knowing more about pricing and value identification? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Increasing your Information ROI: Turning Knowledge into Gold

We all gather information about our customers. What do we do with it? We (hopefully) use it to inform our decisions and then it gets filed away. In some cases this is vertical (i.e. thrown away) but usually it is horizontal, to gather dust on a shelf somewhere that is soon forgotten. I think it’s time we changed this and turned our information investments into gold!

There are many, many ways to gather information about the customer: observation, listening, market research and external reports. I recently wrote about all the information on our customer that we should have at our disposition in a post called “12 Things you need to know about your target customers”. We need a lot of information to really know and underst and our customer and it clearly will not come from one single market research project or report. Therefore that knowledge must be built up over time and that is where the problem lies.

Often we forget we already have the information and go out and buy it again. This is particularly common when the marketing department changes its lead or members – which seems to be every year or two in many organisations these days! Everyone thinks they need more information, when they actually most likely need more insight. (I have written several posts on insight development, including “ Are you into insights or information?”) Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas on resolving this situation, so that your hard-fought budget gets spent on gathering information that you don’t have available and really do need.

#1. Review what you’ve got

Data, information and knowledge are only useful if they are analysed and converted into underst anding and insight. In today’s data-rich environment, this is often where companies struggle the most. Next time you need information about your customer, start by reviewing the information and knowledge you already have, and also ask other departments who may need similar information, if they have it, before commissioning further research or report purchases.

#2. Share what you’ve got

One of the reasons companies spend money on gathering information that is already available internally, is because they don’t know it is! To help reduce this overspend, which unfortunately most suppliers will not inform you of, you need to make sure that everyone who might need the information is made aware of it and has access to it.

For one of my clients, we discovered that some external reports were being bought separately more than 20 times within the organisation! As if that wasn’t bad enough, several different departments were also buying access to the same databases, and others were doing almost identical pieces of market research at approximately the same time.

To avoid this:

  • make a review of information needs across the organisation, or across the region or globe if yours is an international business
  • make one person responsible for negotiating company-wide deals with suppliers; the savings made may even cover the cost of this position and is therefore well worth the investment
  • share plans for market research projects across businesses and look for opportunities to combine for further cost savings

#3. Store what you’ve got

Despite all the actions specified in #2. above, you may still find that there are times when unplanned information needs crop up. This is where a knowledge database or library becomes effective. It can be as simple as a folder on a shared drive or as complex as a bespoke platform, or anything in between. What is important is that is meets the needs of those looking for information and that all relevant people have easy access to it.

Whichever size of storage you decide on, I suggest first making an audit of information needs. This should cover both what is available, as well as what is needed and why. However be careful to distinguish between what people would like to have and what they actually need; I have found a wide difference between the two in many cases.

#4. Build your Library

Once you have identified the real needs of your organisation, it is time to build your Library. And don’t think once you have built it that people will immediately start to use it! They need to be encouraged to share their knowledge. In my experience, this can sometimes be met with concerns about the confidentiality of the information stored:

“I would love to see what everyone else has gathered, but of course my information is confidential and can’t be shared”

One possible solution to this is to provide right of use only to those who share their knowledge and information, ideally at similar levels to their access.  “Greedy outliers” who take more than they give should then be easy to identify.

Another issue that can crop up with open sharing is management’s worry about leaking information to the competition, especially when employees leave the company. Although this is often an exaggerated risk, in most cases this can be significantly reduced by controlling information download. If certain projects, especially new product development, are considered to be too high a risk to share, then these can have a confidential “as needs” basis rule, or a time limit set on them before being made public.

#5. Mine the gold

The real gold from information sharing comes quickly once it starts to be a reality. Even for smaller knowledge libraries, I have found that within six months the available information starts to replace planned research projects or report purchases.

Once the Library is up and running, the next step is to start sharing your insights too. As mentioned in “ Five ideas to improve your insight development” insights can often be used across more categories than the one for which it was developed. In the post I share a couple of examples of them:

  • INSIGHT: Parents want to protect their children so that they grow up happy and healthy used by:
    • Unilever's OmoUnilever’s Omo and its “Dirt is Good”; see one of their ads on YouTube here
    • Nestle Nido logoNestlé’s Nido; check out one of their ads here. Interestingly Nestlé has also used this same insight for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas.

 

  • INSIGHT: Young women want to be appreciated for who they really are i.e. not models used by
    • Unilever Dove logoUnilever’s Dove was the first br and to recognise and benefit from this insight with their infamous Real Beauty campaign; see one of their more recent ads here
    • Migros IamThe Swiss Supermarket chain Migros has a store toiletries br and “I am” which uses the same insight across all their health and beauty products, even using it for the br and name itself and advertising copy: “ I am – what I am“.

The power of information sharing goes a long way to increasing the return on information investments. Reviewing what you’ve already got, sharing and making it accessible to all, and then developing a library platform will all help increase its use whilst at the same time reducing the costs of market research and information gathering. So, what are you waiting for?

Have you developed your own system or library for information and insight sharing? If so please share your experiences and horror stories in the comments below. Everyone would love to know what some of the challenges may be for them when they follow your example. 

Need help in negotiating your information contracts or in building an information / insight Library? Why not call us to discuss just how much you could be saving and increase your information ROI. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

If you would like to know more about knowledge sharing check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

How to Segment for Actionability & Success

Last week I shared the twelve questions you need to be able to answer in order to ensure you really know your target audience. If you missed it, you can read it here. The post certainly attracted a lot of hits, so I hope you have all found ways to improve your own customer underst anding as a result of reading it.

All br ands and services need a group of customers that they are going to satisfy, since it is impossible to appeal to everyone most of the time. This means that you will need to make a choice about who you are going to target, which also implies that you must accept that you will also ignore some other category users.

Last week I read a really great post by Colin Nelson of HYPE on how a simple segmentation of employees enabled Swisslog to underst and and improve participation in their innovation ideas campaigns. I highly recommend reading this case study as it shows how even the simplest grouping of a market – in this case employees – can be both actionable and successful.

Segmentation can be as simple or as complex as you like, but is essential for all successful businesses. If you yourself are struggling to underst and your consumers, employees, retail customers, or any other group of people, perhaps a segmentation exercise is what you need to run.

 

 Where to start

When deciding who to target, most companies will start by conducting some sort of data gathering. This could be as simple as identifying your users by what you observe, such as young men or large families, or as complex as gathering your customers’ values and motivations. As mentioned in last week’s post, the deeper the underst anding of your target customer is, the more likely it is to provide you with a competitive advantage. The same also goes for segmentation.

 

Do you have the MIDAS touch?

Choosing the golden segmentWhatever method you use for segmenting and choosing your target group, the results of your exercise need to meet the following five conditions, known collectively as the MIDAS touch:

Measurable: The individual groups need to be clearly defined and quantifiable using KPI’s such as size, market share, value share
Identifiable: Each segment must have a distinct profile and each customer must be attributed to only one segment
Definable: Every cluster must be easy to describe and share with others, so that you have mutual underst anding of each of them
Actionable: The groups must be easy to identify, in order to be able to target your actions and communications to them
Substantial: The chosen segment must be financially viable to target, which means that it should in general be stable or growing, and durable over the long term

All good segmentations or groupings will fulfil these five key conditions, so it is easy for you to evaluate the results of your segmentation exercise. If they do not meet these conditions, then you will struggle to target your actions to your chosen group of customers.

Why not take a look at your own segmentation right now and decide how it can be improved? This may be by completing the information you have on each group, or may make you realise that you need a whole new segmentation study. However, it is definitely worth getting target customer choice right, as this forms the foundation for your br ands’ customer centricity.

 

Don’t have the resources? Here’s a solution

If you do not have the time, money, or expertise to run a detailed segmentation study, you can still make an informed decision of thebest  customer group to target. Use an analysis similar to the Boston Matrix, first developed in the 70′s by the BCG. At that time, it was created to help corporations analyse their business units and was based on market growth and relative market share. There are numerous free articles online explaining both the methodology and giving example plots; the one from MindTools is in my opinion one of the better sources.

Boston MatrixWhilst the criteria you use for each axis can vary, this simple method has the advantage of being able to be completed over time, as you get more information. Examples of the criteria that can be used are:

Attractiveness: Segment size, segment growth, segment value, competitive environment, fit to the company or br and
Ability to win: Product attractiveness to your customer, your distribution channels, your media mix, your reputation

Once you have positioned the different segments or groups of customers on the axes, you can easily see what needs to be done for each:

  1. Target: these are your core customers to target, as they are both attractive to the business and easy for the company’s product or service to attract
  2. Convert: these users can be attracted to your product or service but your ability to win them is currently low; you probably need to consider improving one of the elements of the marketing mix to attract them
  3. Grow: your product or service can easily win these groups but perhaps they are not as profitable as you would like; review them from time-to-time or develop a different strategy to attract them
  4. Ignore: many organisations struggle to make the decision NOT to go after a group of category users, but if you have neither the product / service nor the segment size that would be profitable to you, why spend time, money and energy going after them?

Choosing the right group of customers to satisfy with your product or service is essential for business success. So is doing everything you can to underst and them as deeply as possible. Truly customer centric organisations excel at doing both; do you? Why not share your own succcess story on segmentation?

If you would like to  know more about targeting, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

Need help in underst anding and segmenting your current category customers or defining which group to target? Let us help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us here

This post has been adapted from one that was publised on C3Centricity Dimensions on May 14th 2012

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Are you Happy with your Market Research?

Next week is the official start of Spring in Europe, although in the US you have already moved your clocks forward by an hour.

Therefore, this seems to be a good time to review what market research we are running and spring-clean our toolbox in line with our new company objectives. If you would like some help in doing this then please read on for some original ideas on how to make it all easier.

In order to decide on the tools you need, it of course depends upon the maturity of your market, the size of your budget, as well as the position of your br ands in their life-cycles.

Last Spring, we used the 5Ps of marketing as a basis for the review of the market research toolbox; if you didn’t see it or would like to re-read it then you can find it here. This year I will be taking into account the three elements mentioned above and looking at how you might adapt the tools in consequence. Whatever stage your br and is in, however, there are some metrics that you will always want to follow. These include awareness, usage, product performance versus competition and advertising & communication (including pack and web) effectiveness.

 

Market maturity

Are you competing in a mature category or is it still growing strongly? Mature markets tend to change more slowly; consumers have their purchase habits settled and in some cases choose from amongst a portfolio of br ands, between which they switch depending upon current promotions.

If you are competing in such a market, then you can probably manage with monthly or bi-monthly or even less frequent data about stocks, pricing and shares. Unless a newcomer is launched onto the market, many mature categories have br ands that are being “milked” by their manufacturers, with perhaps little investment in communications. Therefore it is price that usually dominate share changes and can to a large extent be predicted.

In terms of market research needs, retail audits, price tracking and promotional monitoring are all important metrics to gather. Br and Image studies are also important, but can be limited to every few years, when real changes are more likely to be recorded. Too frequent measurement of a static market is likely to show only noise from sample error rather than true shifts in image. If you are in a service industry, then loyalty and satisfaction (NPS) metrics are also useful. (If you’re not quite sure what NPS is or how to use it, then HubSpot did a great Infographic a few months back that I recommend reading)

If however, you are competing in a new or strongly growing category, you will need far more frequent data in order to make informed decisions. In these cases, retail chain data, shares, stocks, out-of-stocks and pricing will be vital to follow, ideally on a weekly basis. Br and Image data should be gathered annually, but everyone should underst and that in a fast moving market, things can alter rapidly, so the ratings are merely snapshot comparisons versus competition. To complement image data, social media monitoring can provide additional information on how your br and’s equity may be changing. Check out what is being said on LinkedIn groups, your Facebook page and those of your competitors, as well as on Twitter using a “#word” search.

 

Size of the Budget

Although companies should invest wisely in terms of their information needs, in reality budgets are (too?) often defined based upon previous year’s spend rather than current investment needs. It is also not wise to rely solely on a sales percentage for market research, nor marketing come to that, since you should arguably invest more in a growing br and. Many times companies work with this percentage model which seriously limits the potential of promising br ands through lack of customer awareness and information for decision making.

In addition, when budgets are tight, organisations can sometimes be tempted to use qualitative research rather than the needed quantitative data. If you need metrics, then you have to run the appropriate methodology; decisions cannot be taken based upon a few group discussions alone. And please don’t think about doubling the number of groups to get a larger sample! The results will remain qualitative in nature whatever the sample size.

 

Br and Life-cycle stage

As mentioned above, we often need more information when a br and is stagnating or declining than when it is growing, to underst and exactly what is going on. You could argue that when it is decreasing it is (almost) too late, so in fact it is important to find ways to forewarn potential declines before they happen. In many cases a br and’s image will start to stagnate or decline long before there is any dip in sales. Therefore br and equity measurement is particularly vital for a maturing br and. Other ways to revitalise such br ands is through renovation and this is where concept and pack testing come into their own. You may also decide to look at pricing and new campaigns developments which will also need verification.

When a new product or service is launched, it is wise to do some quick tracking of off-take to gauge likely success. Early measurement can help you make small adjustments to the offer before many people have considered or tried it, reducing the risk of failure in the mid-term. Of course once launched the br and can also be added to your ongoing monitoring of the basic information mentioned above.

If you have information and answers to all of these questions, whatever the stage of your market, category or br and, then your MR house is in good order. If not, then perhaps it is time to update your toolbox with newer, better tools.

Do you review and Spring clean your toolbox every year? What changes have you identified as being needed in your own toolbox? It would be great to compare our spring cleaning efforts, so please add your thoughts in the comments below.

For more information on identifying KPI’s and performance metrics please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

Need help running your own MR review? C3Centricity offers a 1-Day Catalyst session, where we work with your team to identify priorities & needed change in your processes. Contact us here for an informal chat about it. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

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: https://www.c3centricity.com/vision

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

4 Tips on International Marketing

This week’s post was prompted by an article recently published by HubSpot about the similarities and differences between the preferences in social media around the world. As the world becomes ever smaller thanks to real-time connection, the challenge to international marketing is above all to remain relevant.

If you work in marketing then you are certainly feeling this. I hope you find the tips below of use and please share your own in the comments below; I would love to hear them.

Should you “Think Global, Act Local”?

This is one of the favourite sayings of many Fortune 100 CEOs. The original phrase has been attributed to Scots town planner and social activist Patrick Geddes. Whilst sourcing information and particularly local production is critical for many food consumers, so is the desire for novelty and new experiences.

In addition, certain countries are seen to be experts in the manufacture of certain products and thus add a perception of positive attributes such as quality, durability or modernity, that local production cannot match. Take for example Germany cars, French wine, Swiss chocolate, American Burgers, Japanese technology.

What are your own customers more interested in, local or global? Whereas the food industry may be becoming more locally biased for everyday purchases, the recent economic crisis encouraged more at-home eating and thus a rise in the desire for more exotic experiences on occasions.

Language is not the only frontier

I am sure you all know that language and not geography is the new frontier, but do you also know what this means in terms of preferences between the social media channels? The Hubspot report does a great job of showing a few of the major differences in habits across what they term to be the 20 most social media savvy countries, but there is a lot more you need to know.

Local country habits may in fact not be relevant for your own particular target group. Social media channels vary widely by demographics and sensitivities for example. David Moth recently wrote a great post about “The top 10 social media fails of 2012” which highlighted some of the issues encountered when you don’t know your audience as well as you should.

All your employees are marketers

You may be head of international or regional marketing, but do you know which of your employees are active online? According to MarketingEasy, most companies have adopted social media “without adequate on-going management, leaving them open to alarming exposure and potentially uncontrollable risk”. It further suggests that the average company has 178 “social media assets” (Websites, Twitter h andles, employee blogs, etc.), yet only 25% of these same organisations offer social business training to their employees.

If your own employees are talking about your company or br ands, wouldn’t it make sense to have a say in what they are sharing, if not to actually guide them in what they are saying? The cost of training will certainly be significantly lower than the cost of a crisis and its subsequent management.

Your CEO may not think “you’re worth it”

To paraphrase a famous slogan from the world of beauty, a recent Marketing Week article announced that 70% of CEOs have lost trust in their marketers. Is yours one of them? If you are not providing the business impact of your actions in a language that the CEO and CFO can underst and – growth, margins, share – then they will question whether or not you are worth your budget AND salary.

Social media and information technology can provide marketing with numerous metrics that would prove the worth of their investments, but marketers have to get comfortable with data and not remain in their cosy, creative world. How about befriending your CIO this week? I went into more detail on why this is important in another post earlier this year: Are your CMO and CIO friends?

International marketing in particular, but the world of marketers in general, is already in flux and the tide of change can no longer be stopped. We cannot remain the keeper of the br and without also becoming the keeper of the customer. What changes are you expecting and are you prepared for them?

If you enjoyed this post then why not share it with your colleagues? They will thank you for the chance to learn more about customer centricity too!

For additional ideas on making your company even more customer centric, please check the wealth of inspiration on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

The Minimalist Guide to Customer Satisfaction

Are you looking to provide the best Customer Satisfaction and Experience with the minimum amount of effort? If so, then read on.

During lunch with a friend this week, we were discussing how apparently impossible it seems for many retailers to satisfy their customers. We exchanged recent experiences about our own customer satisfaction, or lack thereof, his concerning the in-store purchase of a radio, mine during a sales pitch from a local telecom company.

We laughed together as we realised that neither of us had bought the product / service we had the intention of purchasing because of the “salesman’s” basic errors. When we realised this, we started to enumerate what potential customers are looking for, when making a purchase. Hopefully the list we developed will serve you in providing better service and satisfaction to your own potential clients.

#1. Underst and who your potential customer is

If you don’t know who the person with whom you are discussing is, then it is unlikely that you will be able to effectively empathize. Start by listening to them, to better underst and who they are and what they could be interested in buying from you. Only then should you propose a solution, or perhaps a choice of two. Remember too much choice is likely to result in no sale too. Read more about this in the Columbia / Stanford paper “Choice is Demotivating”

#2. Underst and what your customer wants

In my case, the online salesman started by telling me there was a great offer, which included all local calls for free. When I explained that I rarely called others, preferring to use VOIP services such as Skype or Google Talk, he then changed the offer to a higher priced one that included making calls when I was traveling. If he had simply prepared for the sales pitch, by reviewing my past behaviour, over the previous 6-12 months, he would have been better able to propose a more attractive new service to me.

As it was, his proposals meant my spending more money for less service, which of course was not of interest. In addition, after three attempts at proposing new services I, like many customers I imagine, had lost interest in listening to him. He didn’t know how to excite me and spent useless time in a conversation that had no value to either of us.

Again, listen and learn before proposing a product or service, to ensure you are making the one best possible suggestion. If you just keep throwing offers at a potential client in the hope that one will stick, even ones with potential are likely to go unheard.

#3. Underst and what your customer needs

In many cases, a potential customer wants something different from what he actually says he needs. Remember one of many famous Henri Ford quotes:

“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”

Underst anding the need that is behind the claimed want takes you half-way to actually satisfying the desire of the customer.

#4. Underst and what you can offer

In some cases you will be unable to give your customer either what he wants or needs. In these instances you have two options:

  1. Say that your product / service will satisfy your customer, which is dangerous as he / she will quickly realise that it doesn’t
  2. Say that your product can’t satisfy their need but tell them of any future planned improvements that may appeal in the near future if they are prepared to wait. You could also suggest one that will, which may sound counter-intuitive, but which will build trust and image of your br and / company that can positively impact future purchases.

Of course, if you go for the first option and say that your product / service delivers exactly what the customer is looking for, you may congratulate yourself on the sale. Of course, when your customer finds out that it doesn’t provide the satisfaction that was expected he won’t come back and he’ll probably tell everyone he knows, or even doesn’t know via the web, about his dissatisfaction. Is that really an option? A few years ago, some HBR research showed that almost a half of people having a negative experience told ten or more others.

#5. Underst and yourself

Part of building trust and a long-term relationship with your customers comes from underst anding yourself, the real, honest and transparent strengths and weaknesses of what you have to offer. Transparency is essential today in building customer trust and customers will eventually uncover whatever you have to hide, so it’s best not to have anything that you do not want them to discover.

These are just five simple ways to guarantee customer satisfaction, but of course there are many, many more. Why not share your own favourite below? 

For more information on how to underst and your customers better, check our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

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