Are you as busy as I am, as we plan on how we’re going to deliver on all our objectives before year-end?
The last quarter of any year is a stressful time indeed, but this post on actionable insights is a must-read if you want to start 2020 ahead of the competition!
I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.
This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in their organisation.
I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. Successful companies depend upon deep customer insights to grow their business. They understand the power of engagement built on insight, to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.
Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?
I was encouraged to see that marketing have finally understood the importance of insights. In some recent research by Gartner CMOs selected market research and insights as just as important as marketing analytics and digital commerce (see graph below).
Better late than never I suppose, but it always amazes me that marketing could put anything ahead of insights. After all, every action they decide to take should be based upon deep knowledge and understanding of the customers targeted.
If you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, then I suggest you follow these eight tips that I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams last month.
Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation. This seems to be a trait of all successful companies, that they have a desire to improve and learn more. They never consider that they “know it all,” which is a reason I have often heard from businesses when I ask why they are not doing more to understand their customers!
1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first.
Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude, and you are likely to correctly identify the actions to be taken. When you think customer’ objectives rather than (just) your own, you are far more likely to meet with success.
2. Insight generation should start with customer connection. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers.
They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes. These days you don’t even have to leave your office. Market research interviews can be videos live and care centres are always answering calls from customers, so make a habit of listening in. For hints on how to observe your customers better, check out “Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success.”
3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contacts with other groups are limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are seen as the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.
Meet for a coffee, or go to lunch with someone other than your usual group of colleagues. These impromptu meetings will deliver big on understanding and will provide invaluable information from the perspective of other departments.
4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight teams learn a host of new things about the business every day. So why not share them?
Every project and analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question in hand. However, make them a regular part of newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking across the organisation.
5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. As already suggested, join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail.
These connections can quickly become addictive, as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.
6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage.
According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will both be better informed and also feel less overwhelmed.
7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.
If you’re interested in learning more, then we can provide fun training on many areas of insight development. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.
8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to always be building their relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.
So these are the eight tips I shared with my Japanese client during our workshop. Are you doing all of them, or have they given you some ideas on how to improve your own process? I do hope so.
If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight, I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with MRI. Do they involve you in insight development or do they only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation? Add a comment with your suggestions below.
For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here.
Let's have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts and provide fun, actionable training to your team's agenda. They can be delivered both online and in person.
This post includes concepts and images from Denyse's book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, on our website HERE. Of course, the book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.
I’ve just returned from a speaking invitation in Las Vegas. It was an incredible Symposium run by Sitecore and I was blown away by the importance placed on customer centricity during the whole event!
From the opening keynote by Sitecore’s new CEO Mark Frost, to the second-day keynote by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp from Gartner, everyone in this tech and data heavy conference understood that data is only as good as the use you put to it. Do you?
We are all excited by the wealth of information available to us about our customers, from the IoT as well as people’s behaviour on the internet. In fact, data gathering is no longer an issue; it is its management, analysis and above all understanding to turn it into actionable insights that is today’s challenge.
I believe that the reason most organisations today are drowning in data and thirsting for insights as I am often quoted as saying, is because they are more excited by data than people.
“Organisations are drowning in data and thirsting for insights”
And yet data usually comes from people and their acts, is analysed by people, so that businesses can have more impact on their customers’ attitude and behaviours. It is therefore vital to turn that wealth of information into actionable insights. That’s why I want to share my 7-step process for doing just that with you.
I call it CatSight™
and the acronym always causes a few giggles as I’m sure you can imagine. After all, business is a serious topic, which is why I try to find ways for us all to find reasons to laugh in all this seriousness.
I choose the name CatSight™ because I thought it is not only memorable but also has a serious relevance to what insight developers do.
Cats have an acute vision, particularly in the dark. They are good at listening because their ears turn 180 degrees. They are highly sensitive – just ask an owner how their cat reacts when they are sad or ill.
Seeing in the dark, listening skills, sensitivity and empathy for the customer are essential skills for all insight developers.
So here are my 7-steps to insight development – and note that information gathering is only step #6!
If you react to business questions by immediately running a market research project, then please read on. It could save you a lot of money and time!
Using my method, you only start spending money on running a survey in step six – and then, only if you have identified a gap in your knowledge of the situation. Many organisations don’t know what they already know and what is already available within the company that they are unaware of.
This 7-step process will save you money because you will run less research AND make better use of all the information already available within the organisation. That’s an immediate improvement in the ROI of your information gathering.
Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. At first sight, this may seem obvious, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might at first think.
For instance, suppose you are looking to launch a new juice flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks.
In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink! The reason was that they were both seen as being for lively, fun people who needed a kick – whether from caffeine or healthy fresh ingredients with added vitamins and minerals.
If we’d only looked at other fruit flavoured soft drinks we would have missed a whole – and large – section of category consumers.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment.
A = Aim
Once you know which category you should be trying to understand better, you must consider what the aim or objective of your initiative is towards the customer. Are you looking to change their attitude or behaviour? Yes, of course, these are linked, but there will be one you are trying to influence more than the other.
Then you need to translate your objective into the words of the customer, or at least a description of your objective in how it impacts the.
How can we grow the market share of Brand “A”?
This could be written as: How can we attract consumers from competitor Brand “X” who are looking for a low sugar CSD?
You will notice that the second is far more focused and will deliver more relevant results than the first.
This could be written as: Which of my customers would be most interested in my new service offer and why?
This example came from work with one of my clients in the service industry. He wanted to offer something new and was trying to identify which of his clients would be most interested in it.
When we worked together, we first ran a detailed segmentation of all potential customers for this new service. By understanding each segment in detail, we actually found that he had two and not one group to whom he should be selling his basic service to. One of these groups could also be exactly interested in this new offer. Talk about leaving money on the table – he almost doubled his business overnight!
T = Target
There are many different pieces of information that make up a complete knowledge of your customers. This takes time to complete, but there are hree main areaas which I suggest to at least get basic information on:
1. First thing you need to segment all category users and then choose the most attractive one.
For this one of the simplest tools to work with is the BCG matrix. I say that because it works just as well with observed facts as it does with complex measured and weighted data.
2. Next you need to develop a customer image or persona.
We use the 4W™ Template as you know, because it reminds users to find out the who, what where and why. That way no area if forgotten.
3. The third tool we use to better understand our customers deeply, is their journey map.
This can be as simple or as complex as you like too. However I would suggest adding the emotional state of the customer at each stage, as this provides valuable information concerning pain points. These steps are obviously the ones you want to solve for your customer as a priority.
These three tools will provide you with a great foundation on which you can build both your understanding and insight development. Do you have others which you regularly use? If so, then please suggest them in the comments below.
Ready to go deeper into these first three steps that most organisations forget? Book an online training or an in-house 1-Day Catalyst Session for your whole team in November and get a 20% discount.
S = Supporters
No-one is an island and this goes whether you are an executive, solopreneur or corporate slave. If you work in a business, then I advise you to get out from behind your desk and talk to people in other departments. We can sometimes get so tied up in our work that we never take time to understand the wider corporation in which we work. We live on our floor, take coffee and lunch with fellow employees and never learn much news that we didn’t know already.
by making a habit to speak with your colleagues from other departments and floors, will open you to a deeper understanding of your organisation. It will give you an advantage over your colleagues in knowing what’s going on in other groups and will enable you to gather information you would be unlikely to get otherwise.
If you are a solopreneur, meetings others on a regular basis becomes even more vital. It provides you with some fresh thinking and perspectives, a friendly ear to discuss business with and a change of air for an hour or two. I try to meet up with someone for coffee or lunch at least three or four times a week when i`’m not traveling.
Getting supporters is vital to the success of both projects and business in general, so make a habit of widening your professional circle anyway you can/
I = Intimacy
Even if you have a detailed persona of your target customers – you do don’t you? – nothing beats getting intimate with them. Not only does this bring your data and information to life, but you may also learn new things about your customers.
You can do this by simply listening into your care centre calls or by serving in your retail outlets if you have them.
But you can also accompany a researcher while interviewing or organise customer connection sessions. If you are interested in organising these events designed specifically for getting closer to your customers then I suggest you read “Why customers are the answer to all your problems”
G = Gap Filling
As I’ve already mentioned, when a business wants to know their customers better they immediately think of running a market research project. Don’t do this!
Save yourself time and money by first reviewing everything your organisation already knows. Identify any gaps and only then run a survey. You will be amazed how this simple habit can save you tens of thousands every year.
HT = Human Truth
A human truth is a
“Fact of human attitudes & behaviour, based on fundamental human values & beliefs.”
It is vital to insight development since it is needs based and emotional resonant. It is a powerful and compelling statement that is rooted in basic human values, which is why it is valid for all your customers, wherever in the world they live.
Some simple examples are:
Parents want to protect their children so they grow up happy and healthy.
Men and women want to find love.
People want to feel good about their choices. (be better than their peers?)
These human truths are the basis of many of the well-known brands such as Omo / Persil, Nido, Axe / Lynx, Dulux, Heineken. When you are next watching an ad break on television, it is fun to try and identify the human truths on which they are based. The more clearly identifiable they are the better the ad will resonate with its customers.
I also suggest using this as a fun exercise in a brainstorming or other meeting of marketers in particular.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse!
So there you have it, the 7-step process I call CatSight™ which practically guarantees an insight every time you use it.
Why not try it yourself next time you are trying to work through a marketing challenge?
If you like this process and would like to learn even more details about it, then we offer two solutions:
An online course of videos and workbooks to take you through every step in detail.
An in-person training in your own office. This is particularly cost-effective when you are upgrading the skills of your entire team.
For either one, we are offering a 20% discount during November, to help you assign any remaining budget before you lose it at year-end! (I’ve been there too so I understand your situation very well) Just contact us and book your session; you can even plan it early in the New Year if you prefer. As long as you pay this year, we will accord the 20% discount. How’s that for an early Christmas present?
Last Saturday was the start of Summer in the Northern hemisphere and the weather certainly confirms this, at least for now! Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our journey to Customer Centricity.
Organisations need to take a step back occasionally and review how their plans are going. What changes do they need to make to ensure they meet their objectives over the remaining six months of the year? So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can take to get further along your journey.
#1. Identify the category in which you are competing
This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.
Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.
#2. Underst and your primary target
Knowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.
Action: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their “4Ws”. In other words the Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so. If you would like to learn more about targeting, check out this post.
#3. Watch and listen to your customers
Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.
Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer. This can be by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shop and use your product / service.
#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business
Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage. It’s time you started turning them into future scenarios or use future prototyping. (Contact us here to learn more about this)
Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges. Alternatively, why not try Sci-Fi Future Prototyping? (Contact us here for more information)
#5. Reinvent your innovation
Most organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.
Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services. Check last week’s postfor more details about innovation.
#6. Follow your image
It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.
Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).
#7. Turn your information into insight
Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.
Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.
#8. Share your information and insights
Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.
Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.
Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?
Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.
#10. Plan for action
Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.
Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait for them to start declining. Once they are, it will be much more difficult to reverse.
These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:
“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers” (>>Tweet this<<)
Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.
Last week I shared the first three essential steps to improved insight development, which covered setting the objectives, forming the team and reviewing the available information and knowledge. If you missed it or would like to re-read it before continuing then please go HERE.
This week I will complete the process with the remaining three steps and also provide you with some tips on actioning your insight once developed. After all, if you don’t take action nothing will change for your product, br and or service.
#1. Walk in your customers’ shoes
I am always disappointed how social media has encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. They just don’t seem to be going out and getting in touch with them as much as they used to. Is that the case in your organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and even needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really get their perspective.
Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have. You could for instance:
Go out shopping with a fixed budget and purchase items for an evening meal of your target customer (a couple of mother of three kids). This may help you underst and why your target customers are buying the competition.
Compare competitive offers online for a new service you would like to propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
Call up a number of competitive manufacturers of the same product that you offer and ask questions about its uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
Role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with a baby in your other arm? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoor, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume?
Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your product or service. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you are looking to identify. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.
#2. Fill the gaps
Having done a complete review of all the available information and knowledge about your customer, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. These must be filled before you develop your insight, otherwise you will be working with a less than complete underst anding of the situation. The gaps can be filled by running some market research or by gathering the required information from other available sources, either internally or externally.
Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this is relatively easy to do.
#3. Develop the insight
You have probably never had the amount of underst anding of your customer as you do at this stage, at least in relation to the identified issue or opportunity. Insight development needs a review of all of this in the multi-disciplinary team, which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process, as too often we are too keen to get to the action and accept less than a true insights.
You will know when you are there; it is when you can summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as it were being spoken by your customer. Often, when it is read out, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment, when everyone agrees that it is just so obvious you wonder why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.
Together with last week’s first three steps, these are the six basic steps to building an insight. Of course the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning the insight you have developed. This is where the multi-disciplinary team comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that are needed to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which can otherwise be the case.
From my experience actioning insights only creates problems if not enough time was spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the behavioural or attitudinal change that you are looking to encourage when defining the objectives. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of your defined objectives.
What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about developing or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question in the box below. I would be happy to answer them for you.
Do you struggle to develop insights from your market research studies, or to identify clear actions out of your insights? If so, then you must read this post on how to deliver actionable insights.
There are many reasons why organisations struggle to develop actionable insights. Yet a recent report by IBM suggested that 80 percent of CMOs rely on traditional sources of information, such as market research and competitive benchmarking, to make strategic decisions.
Although they may be limiting their customer underst anding by not tapping into all their information sources, market research remains a major input to decision-making for marketers. Therefore it is essential for business to make maximum use of it.
Here are four tips to help you do both insight development and action identification better:
#1. Know why you are running the research project.
Market research is often run before people really know why they are conducting it. When you have identified a gap in your knowledge, start by conducting a complete review of all available information about the opportunity or issue you have identified. This is the only way to ensure you are spending your budget wisely on filling the knowledge gap. It is amazing how many companies work in silos and don’t share information across departments. Make sure you’re not one of them.
#2. Don’t expect the study to deliver insights
Although you need to develop insights to support your future decision making, don’t expect that they will come from the single study you are now planning. Insights are developed from the integration of numerous market research projects, information, observations and consumer connections. It is highly unlikely that one project will deliver an insight; however you can expect it to improve your knowledge of the market. Additional work will be required to build this knowledge into customer underst anding and this can only happen through integrating it with your other information.
#3. Base your insight on a human truth
Once you have identified a number of insights – although I personally would prefer to call these underst andings – you must develop an insight that is powerful enough to impact customers’ behaviour. The best way to do this is by referring to their need state and how your product or service will impact and improve their position. What benefit will your customers get from using your product? How will their thinking and behaviour be changed? In an ideal world, what changes are you looking to achieve?
#4. Identify your action
If you have developed a true insight based on a human truth, it becomes relatively easy to plan the actions needed to change your customers’ thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. Should you struggle to identify the actions to be taken, then it almost certainly means that your insight has not been sufficiently refined, so go back and rework its wording.
These four simple steps are the heart to the successful development of actionable insights. It is how you too can successfully impact your business and deliver true return on your information investments. Without the development of actionable insights, you are likely to be considered a cost and run the risk of suffering budget cuts when times get tough. Which is a pity, since it is exactly at that moment that businesses need the most support in underst anding what is going on.
Let me know if you agree that these are the most important steps to achieving actionable insights, or if you have others to add.
Are you struggling with a sub-optimal insight development process, or lacking clear actions from them, then why not contact us for an informal chat?