Insights are the pot of gold that many businesses dream of but rarely find. Why is that? Are you one of them? If so then I have some practical ideas on how you can get much, much better at insight development.
#1. Insights don’t come from a single market research study
Management often thinks that insight is “just another word for market research”. I remember one of my previous CEOs saying exactly that to me just before he addressed the whole market research and insight’s team at our annual conference. I am sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!
Insights are a challenge to develop and are rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information in order to answer one or more questions. Whilst it may enable a business to make a more informed decision based upon the objectives, insight development is quite a different process.
Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the data and information you have about a category or segment user. Then summarising it into knowledge and turning that knowledge into understanding. Only then are you ready to develop an insight.
All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and communications are built. For example
AXE (Lynx in UK): (young) men want to attract as many beautiful and sexy women as possible. This is one of their newer ads, where the seduction is a little less in your face and more subtle – but still there.
Haribo Starmix: There’s a child inside every adult. This “Kid’s Voices” campaign has been running for years and manages to surprise and delight with each new episode.
Dulux sample paint pots: I love to decorate my home, but I don’t want to look stupid by choosing the wrong colour. Although these are now a standard offer for many paint brands, Dulux were the first to understand the problem facing potential home decorators.
Insight development will provide the basis on which you will define the actions that are needed to change the behaviour of your target audience. It also provides a solid framework on which to build your communications’ strategy.
#2. Insight development is based upon a desired behavioural change
When your sales, marketing or management look to improve their business results, their real objective is to change the behaviour of your current or potential customers’ behaviour. For example:
From buying a competitive brand to purchasing yours.
From using your services once a month, to once a week.
Moving customers’ beliefs about your brand from a traditional or classic brand, to a more modern image.
Changing customers’ perceptions about the price of your brand from expensive to good value for money.
Because insights are based on a desired behavioural change, they usually contain an emotional element that is communicated through advertising. The emotion that is shown in your communications is more likely to resonate with customers if it does stimulate their emotions. They are then more likely to remember your brand and may be more motivated to take the desired action you have identified.
If you are looking to increase sales or improve your brand’s image or equity, look to connect emotionally with your (potential) customers. Identifying the behavioural change you need your customers to make is a foundational step of insight development.
#3. Insight development needs more than Insight professionals
Although this may sound counter-productive, insights really do benefit from working from differing perspectives to get to that “ah-ha” moment, that many refer to. A deep understanding of customers and their reasons for behaving in a certain way, comes from looking at all aspects of their lives.
If you only review the actual moment when they choose or use a product or service, it is highly unlikely that you will develop that deep understanding you need. What happens before and afterwards also leads to their choice or that of their next purchase.
This is why it is important to work as a team when developing insights. Depending upon the issue or opportunity identified, the team can be made up of people from marketing, sales, trade marketing, production, packaging, advertising, innovation, and / or distribution. And these people don’t even need to work on the category in question; sometimes it is by taking ideas from different categories that real insights are developed.
#4. Insights are usually based on a human truth
The insights that resonate best with people are those that are not only emotional, but are also based upon a human truth. As you can imagine, these two elements are closely connected.
A human truth is a statement that refers to human beings, irrespective of race, colour or creed. It is a powerful and compelling fact of attitudes and behaviour that is rooted in fundamental human values. It is something that is obvious when quoted, but is often ignored or forgotten in daily business.
Human truths are linked to human needs and although it’s validity has been questioned in the past, it is seeing a revival today. The covid-19 virus has moved all human being back to a search for the basic levels of safety and health.
Examples of human truths used by some brands include:
Parents want to protect their children.
Men and women want to find love.
People want to be better than others.
If you are struggling to find an insight, it can help to review which level of needs your target audience is on and see how your brand can respond to help answer it.
Following on from the above points, it is particularly interesting that once found, an insight can be adapted to be used by different brands. There are many examples of this, particularly amongst major FMCG / CPG companies.
So take a look at your competitors’ communications and see if you can identify the insight on which they are built. Do the same for other categories targeting a similar audience. Sometimes you can use the same insight for your brand as they are using. But I would only recommend this if you are really struggling to develop your own insight.
One very successful example of this is the advertising for Omo / Persil from Unilever and Nestle’s Nido. They are both based on the insight “I want my child to experience everything in life, even if it means getting dirty.” Take a look at the two ads below and see what I mean.
Unilever’s Omo: shows that a good mother lets her child experiment and learn – even if this means getting dirty. If you don’t know their advertising, then check out one example from this long-running campaign.
Nestlé’s Nido: illustrates this need as a mother providing the nourishment for healthy growth which allows her children to explore the outside world safely. If you would like to see a typical advertisement, check it out on YouTube here. Interestingly, Nestlé has used this same insight to develop advertising for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas too.
Another example of a shared insight is again from Unilever and the local Swiss supermarket Migros. The insight is “Young women want to be appreciated for who they are and not just their external looks.”
Unilever’s Dove was the first brand to recognise and benefit from this insight. Their famous Real Beauty campaign resonates so well with young women that many other brands copied it, especially their Evolution film. Here is one of their more recent ads that I’m sure will give you goosebumps.
The Swiss Supermarket chain Migroshas a store brand “I am” which uses this same insight across all their health and beauty products. Somewhat unusually, the brand name itself is based upon the same insight, and its advertising repeats it several times: “I am – what I am”.
So there you have them, the five ideas that I came up with and numerous examples to help you to develop better insights more easily.
Although you probably already have your own process for creating them, I know from experience how hard it can be to find insights from all the information you gather.
I hope this short article has assisted you in your search for those “golden nuggets”. Do share your own ideas for making insight development easier, I would love to hear from you.
C³Centricity uses images from Pixabay.com.
Do you need help developing or updating your own Insight development process? C3Centricity offers several 1-Day Catalyst training sessions on the topic. We will work with your team to review and revitalise your own insight process, or will define a proprietary one that integrates into your other internal processes.
Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?
If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.
If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.
People don’t read instructions
We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.
If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.
In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.
As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.
People do look at packs
Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.
It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.
Here are a few examples I have come across recently:
Nestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.
What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.
Juvena of Switzerland: The short message to “Enjoy the smoothness” on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.
Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.
Yucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.
The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.
While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that’s what I call impact!
Pringleshave done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.
They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.
Heinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing – and reading.
A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change – of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?
These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.
If you’re not confident that your packs are optimised to connect with your customers, why not get us to run a pack audit? We will review all your packs and discuss how you can make them more customer centric. Why not communicate with your customers when they are ready to listen, as they use your product?
People are willing to help you
Creative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.
What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it’s fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.
Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.
We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.
Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn’t you agree?
But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.
Here’s a simple three-step process to do so.
Encourage employees to use competitive products & services
In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?
However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.
This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.
Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.
Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.
Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material
In one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.
Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy.
However, it was managed by the marketing services team and was hidden away in the lower ground floor where people rarely passed by. Additionally, the packs were emptied of their contents, to avoid infestations of vermin and insects, so people never got to try the products.
It would have been even better had the products been displayed in a location that was easily accessible to everyone. In addition, the products should have ideally been sampled before the packages were emptied of their contents. That said, they still remain one of the few companies I know that have been observing and following their competitors in such a consistent way for decades. As you can imagine, they were always ahead of the market and up-to-date with their competitive intelligence!
Another client of mine has made a library of communications material. Their advertising agency is of course the major source of the samples, but employees who travel are also encouraged to take photos of ads and promotional materials which are then added to the library. You would be amazed how inspiring it is to review this work whenever a group is discussing their own advertising and promotions. They avoid duplication, get great ideas from countries to which they don’t normally have access, and can again take their customers’ perspective when comparing the samples with their own work.
What could you do to make your competitors’ products and communications more easily accessible to your employees? If you’re serious about wanting to know the competition better than you do today, you have to stay on top of what they are doing at all times.
Understand your Competitors’ Customers too
This same curiosity to know your competitors’ products can also be used to know and better understand your competition’s customers as well.
When your employees go out to observe your own customers, they should also pay attention to those people who are not using your products or services. In this way they can gather additional information that can then be compared with your knowledge of your own customers.
Whether it is getting a better understanding of your competitors’ products and services or the people that use them, the information accumulated must be stored and shared internally to be of any benefit. Some companies organise weekly or monthly sessions where people from different departments can share their latest knowledge and observations. For more ideas on how to share effectively read “Knowledge sharing and how to WOW!”
Other companies organise customer connection sessions where teams of employees from different departments – with differing perspectives – go out together with a task to complete or a question to answer. These could be for example:
How, where and when do people use our product or service?
What is their biggest frustration in shopping for the category?
If they could make one change to our major competitor’s product, what would it be?
What differences are there in the way the category’s brands are displayed?
Which social media channels are most popular with category users?
Employees gather ideas and information by first observing and only afterwards asking questions for clarification purposes. Upon their return, the teams can meet up to share their ideas and learnings, as well as to discuss the impact of their findings and agree on what actions if any need to be taken. For more details on how to observe customers, whether your own or those of your major competitors, read “Five Rules of Customer Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”
I have witnessed these customer connection sessions being run in countless organisations. Every single time I see just how excited and energised employees get about improving the way the company makes, packs, sells or communicates its products and services.
Isn’t it time your organisation got closer to your customers and those of the competition?
These are three ways you can easily and quickly know the competition better than you do today. Do you have other ideas that you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments below.
Have you run any such customer connection exercises, or built a competitive library of products in your own organisation? If so please share your experiences too.
For more ideas on how you can know the competition even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of brand building, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures here. If you would rather talk through your needs first, then feel free to book time in my calendar.
Be a true leader; share this post with the members of your team who need the inspiration and support.
Your boss expects you to be able to answer all his questions and especially to know your customers. Here are the 13 things your boss is likely to ask you and a handy Checklist to prove to him that you know your customers better than he realises.
Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really? The following is a checklist of 13 facts you need to be able to answer in order to know your customers as well as you should.
As you read the post, keep tabs on your answers and share your final score below. I’m offering a personal 50% discount code to spend in store for everyone who publishes their score here in July 2018. And if you’re the boss, I’d love to hear how well you think your team would do – 100% of course, no?!
#1. Who is your customer?
OK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you really know about them?
The C3Centricity 4W™ Template is a great resource for storing all the information you have on your customer. Download a free copy and watch the related videos HERE.
#2. What business are you in?
Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customers. Many organisations are working with industry definitions rather than customer ones. What about you? If you want to know your customers, you need to understand what category they think they are buying.
This is one of the essential elements you need to understand in order to know your customers deeply. It is something that many organisations don’t take the time to clearly identify, which results in an incorrect appreciation of their market and competitors. By not correctly identifying the category you are in, or plan to enter, your innovations will also lack the success you are hoping for.
For instance, are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? One of my clients wanted to launch a fruit flavoured soft drink and thought they were competing with other soft drinks. When we worked together we discovered that they were actually competing in the energy drink business!
Again another slow starter to show you know your customers. Here you want to make sure that you have correctly identified what market you are actually competing in and who are your competitors. It just might not be the one you think!
Also, do you know as much about your competitors’ customers as you do about your own? Complete a SWOT to know exactly where you stand with them – although it’s probably best to wait until you have read the next eleven points before actually doing this.
Once you know who your competitors are, use the 4W™ Template again for each of the major ones and add information to it every time you learn something new about them.
#4. What do they buy?
What and where your customers buy your product should have been covered in point #1. (If it’s wasn’t, make a note to gather that information and add it to your 4W™ template.)
Now you should look at how much your customer spends on your product or service and how much they have available. How does what they spend compare with the amount they spend on your competitors? Is your share of category and wallet growing? If not, why not?
Other information you need to gather to know your customers in this area is how they react to promotions. Do they only buy on promotion? Do they buy in bulk? Do they have size or packaging preferences? All this information will help you to get into the head of your customers and really know them.
Understanding the shopper, who is not always the person who uses or consumes your product, is also essential information you need to have at your fingertips for this section. If they are different people (mothers, housekeepers, single mums) then I would suggest you also develop a 4W™ Template for the shopper too. In this way you can compare and understand the similarities and differences between the buyer and the consumer. I’m sure that having personas for both will also impress the boss and show him/her that you really know your customers!
#5. What does your customer need?
I’m not speaking about what he says he needs, but what he really needs and perhaps doesn’t even know yet. What would surprise and delight him? What does he need that he only knows he does when he sees it?
Apple is one company that seems to be very good at getting at peoples’ unarticulated needs. Be inspired by them to know your customers as deeply as they do.
Apple have people queuing up to buy one of their new products even when they already have a perfectly functioning older model. Do they really need this new version? No. Do they want it? Perhaps! But, what their real emotion is, is a desire, a craving for the latest version, whatever the price! Wouldn’t you like customers to feel the same about what you have to offer?
#6. What do they think of your price?
Here consider not just the price they pay, but also the cost to them of their actual purchase. Do they buy online with packing and shipping costs extra? Do they have to drive out-of-town or even further to be able to purchase? All of these add to the perceived cost of your brand.
In order to know your customers, you have to calcualte the total cost to them of buying what you have to offer? And how that price compares to the total value they place on it?
Value will automatically include comparison to competitive offers, so ensure you include an evaluation of their brands’ values too.
Review the elements of your offer which your customers value and which they value less. Is there room for renovation to include more of what they like or to remove what does not bring value – and usually involves cost for you. Spend your manufacturing and development budget on things your customers value most.
Packaging today goes far beyond protecting the product inside and making its on-shelf presence more impactful.
It is a further medium for communications and also for showcasing your value and USP (unique selling point). However, many organisations have still not realised this. You can therefore get ahead of the competition when you know your customers deeply and their packaging preferences. Read “Is your packaging product or promotion?” for more on this topic.
Packaging is also an important part of your manufacturing costs so its value to the customer should be critically assessed. Even if you reduce your carton strength or pack content because you can, it certainly doesn’t mean you always should. Perhaps your customers don’t immediately notice the changes, but one day they will wake up and re-evaluate the value they are getting. Your packaging which is now made of flimsy carton, will appear to them as being of lower quality and this perception mat get transferred to its contents. Upon evaluation of your total offer, they then might decide to switch away!
Product testing is an often overlooked essential of concept development. Even if a product is tested before launch, and supposingly does well (or it wouldn’t have been launched, I hope) competition is constantly changing, as are your customers’ tastes.
Therefore it is important to keep an eye on your performance over time. Annual measurement at the very least and preferably also of your major competitors is the minimum, to keep your finger on the pulse.
Another important aspect of product testing is to keep track of the metrics over time. It is not sufficient to test versus your previous offer or that of your major competitor. Incremental changes may not be immediately noticed, but can become significant over time. And this applies to product just as much as to its packaging mentioned above.
If you don’t have the budget for regular testing – and I would question why you don’t for such a critical element of you mix – there are other things you can do. Follow social media comments from your customers for one. These provide invaluable input not only on your product’s performance and that of your competitors, but online comments can also supply ideas for renovation and innovation.
As with product testing, this is another of the on-going performance metrics, to ensure you know your customers. In addition, the earlier you start testing within the communications development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts. I am continually appalled at just how many companies waste large portions of their marketing budget by producing multiple ads, sometimes to practically air-readiness before choosing the final direction.
Of course, your ad agency will never complain about you working in this way, but couldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? I highly recommend you check out PhaseOne’s unique tool for early stage, confidential global communications evaluation.
Their clients rarely develop more than two ads and often by testing early-stage concepts, they develop only one. Think about how much money you could save by doing this! Contact meif you’d like to hear how businesses globally are benefiting from this approach and saving tens of thousands in ad testing..
#10. What do they think about your online presence?
It’s not so much what they think here, but more about do they even notice? Unless you know your customers’ habits online, you are unlikely to be where and when they are ready to receive your messages.
Instead of choosing and using just the most popular online websites – like everyone else – your work completing point #1 will indicate which are the most visited by your customers. For some brands an online presence is of minimal importance, whereas for others it actually replaces more traditional forms of advertising. Think of RedBull as just one powerful example of this. Although they now advertise both on and offline, they started building awareness through social media and word of mouth alone.
#11. What do they think of your social media personality?
You can’t hide your personality on social media, nor delete what you have shared. The words you choose for a Tweet, the ideas you share on FaceBook, the images you post on Pinterest, all build to a picture in the minds of your customer. What image do you think was created in the minds of people who read the following Tweet exchange from Nestle?
Treat your online discussions in the same way you would any other form of communications and use the same tone and spirit. Just because it’s new media doesn’t mean it is less important or serious.
As the above example shows, mismanagement of customer connections on such platforms cannot be removed – even if as Nestlé did, you take it off your own website – it will always be online for others to find and haunt you with!
#12. Why do they buy?
There are many “why” questions I could have added here, but this is fundamentally the most important. If you know why people buy and how you are satisfying their needs, the more likely you are to satisfy them.
In addition, if you frequently monitor their changing needs and desires through trend following, the more likely you are to continue to enjoy increasing customer satisfaction.
I’ve saved the best for last. Why are you in the business you are in? Are you looking to grow a products’ sales, increase distribution for your other products, make a different product more attractive (or a competitors’ less attractive), or are you just milking profits? All of these are valid reasons, but you need to be very clear on why, in order to know how to answer all the other questions.
The BCG Growth Share Matrix is a well-known tool you can use to check that you really understand what you are trying to do. This verification will enable you to eliminate the actions that don’t align with your objectives and mission for your brand.
So there’s my 13-point “Know your Customer” checklist to enable you to know your customers well enough to answer any question your boss may ask of you.
I suggest you go back to the top and revisit each point and answer them truthfully. By reviewing all 13 I am sure that your thoughts will have changed or at least been modified as a result of this new perspective.
And if you yourself happen to be the boss, why not ask your team how many they can answer? Let my know your score below; be the first to confirm that you can answer all 13!
If you or your team can’t answer all 13 questions, I have a solution. Book a 1-Day Catalyst training session and be amazed at the progress & changes!
What does a Head of Marketing & Communications (CMO) do in their average four-year tenure to ensure that they keep their job for longer?
Did you know that CMOs have the shortest average term of office of any chief in the C-suite, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry? And even more shocking is the fact that in the consumer goods industry it is even lower at just 3.6 years! So just how long have you been in your position?
A 2012 global survey by the Fournaise Marketing Group provides one possible explanation. It highlights the ongoing tensions between CEOs and CMOs. A huge 80% of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed with their CMOs, compared to just 10% for their CFOs and CIOs. Why is this? Perhaps it’s because CEOs don’t understand the role of a CMO or is there still an issue with the ROI of the marketing budget? I’ll let you be the judge of this in your own situation.
Let’s start at the beginning. Marketers, what opportunities are there, that you can keep your job? Despite the short lifespan of a CMO, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not all bad news. While the position is plagued by high turnover, this could also be because CMOs are highly visible for promotions or a steal by the competition. Nice to feel wanted, isn’t it?
It is therefore important that a new CMO quickly makes an impact. More so than any other c-suite function, bar the CEO of course, who sometimes faces almost immediate criticism by shareholders and the financial world, upon being named.
Another piece of good news for the head of the marketing function is that being on the executive board they have access to resources. The bad news is that as the CMO is a member of the EB, management expects them to make (profitable) changes fast. And even more so if they have just been hired! The board trusts the new CMO to analyse the situation, identify what needs to be done, develop the plan to do it and then take actions. And all of this in their first 3 months or so!
Are you or have you yourself been in exactly this situation? Tough isn’t it? That’s why many CMOs hire a supportive advisor or sounding board such as myself to accompany them on this stressful early part of their journey. (If you’d like to discuss opportunities of working with me, contact me here: https://c3centricity.com/contact)
In the meantime, here is what I would do if I were in the position of a new CMO, or one who is reaching their four-year breakpoint and is not ready to leave quite yet.
The latest Forbes research into the CMO function highlights three major areas where the head of marketing’s remit now goes far beyond the previous traditional, more creative areas. In the report they mention three changes that CMOs are grappling with in an effort to impact both inside and outside their organisation:
How the relationships between brands and customers have changed. The most influential CMOs lead digital transformation with a customer-first mindset.
How brands can offer the very best customer experience. Top CMOs are championing the voice of their customers and aligning their organizations around better customer experiences.
How brands can become more human and approachable. CMOs are no longer afraid to raise their voice or take a stand on political and social issues – because that’s how they connect and build trust with their customers. Take a look at the Forbes list of The World’s Most Influential CMOs of 2019 to see inspiring examples of this.
The report concludes:
The world’s most influential CMOs recognize that customer experience is the new brand, and inspire marketers everywhere to ask: How can we better know and serve our customers — not as a collection of data points, but as people?
However, the most influential CMOs also recognize that their ultimate job is driving business growth. And to do that, effective CMOs play a larger role, taking on additional responsibilities in areas as diverse as internal culture, talent, IT purchasing, and customer engagement. Talk about broadening their skill-set!
So how should a Head of Marketing & Communications (CMO), whether old and new in the job, tackle their business from a fresh perspective? I suggest looking at the following five areas:
1. Mission and Vision
These are the very foundation of a company and are the starting point for any employee who wants to understand their role in an organisation, not just the CMO.
For the head of marketing however, it is perhaps even more important, since it is their actions that will bring them to life for consumers. And don’t forget that this also includes developing the corporate brand as well!
The mission should be played out in every product, service and communication that is launched. If it doesn’t, then those planned actions should almost certainly be reconsidered.
Or perhaps it’s the brands in the current portfolio that are not a good fit for the company’s aspirations. If this is your case, then a brave and determined effort is needed to admit which ones are not supporting current values and make plans for moving them out. This can be done either through discontinuing them or by selling them to other organisations which have less lofty ambitions.
One example of this that was recently in the news comes from Nestle USA. Nestle has for many years had the ambition to become a nutrition, health and wellness company, not “just” a food and beverage company. This past month we saw them (finally) selling their U.S. confectionery business to Ferrero. CEO Mark Schneider said of the sale:
“This move allows Nestlé to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals and infant nutrition”.
Companies that ignore making hard portfolio decisions, risk diluting their impact, their image and more importantly their equity. The various top 100 most valuable brand tables only highlight this issue. Brands appear on the leaderboard but sometimes fail to remain there.
Now it is true that Google’s parent company Alphabet does dabble in other sectors such as smart-home technology, self-driving cars, aging research and more, but almost all these new developments are losing money. Identifying and responding to customers’ needs is clearly one of Amazon’s real strengths and has allowed them to expand into distant industries far from their origins of the simple online bookstore they were just 25 years ago.
In Forbes’ Worlds’ Most Valuable Brands list, Apple leads ahead of Google and Microsoft, with Google in fifth position. The Forbes list is dominated by tech companies because I believe they are more in line with consumers needs today. These companies are also relatively new and thus have missions and values which are closely aligned with our new-age world. However even this list highlights the struggle Google is having to increase its value in the same way as Amazon or Apple. I wonder how their CMOs are planning to correct this. (and if they’d like my help!)
The vision and mission of an organisation can sometimes be difficult to live up to, but isn’t that the case for anything of value? This is why I see it as the first thing for a new CMO to get their head around and fully embrace – updating comes later when the EB trusts them enough to allow them to suggest changes.
Once the (new) CMO understands the company’s mission and vision, it is important for them to evaluate how well these are integrated into the daily working of all employees.
This means gathering qualitative information from key players from the board on downwards, at global, regional and market level. Including market heads, business unit heads, marketing heads, brand managers, sales heads, operations, innovation, R&D, market research and insight provides a good overview. The more diversity in perspectives gathered the better, so the head of marketing should aim to talk to people from different departments, categories, levels and geographies (where relevant).
Have you noticed how most consultants that start working within a company will usually commence their audits by speaking with many people internally? They then come back and share a multitude of findings and information that we should probably already have known! Frustrating perhaps, but a useful pointer at what all CMOs should be doing – regularly – in order to be up-to-date with the organisation and ensuring they add value everywhere.
I don’t know how many times I have heard a new client say to me “If only we knew what we know.” That’s why we external consultants have it relatively “easy.” We can ask the naive questions that perhaps a new Head of Marketing is too shy to pose and a longer-serving CMO is afraid to admit they don’t know.
Well, why not change this by taking the decision to ask the naive questions you have about your business – even if you are not new to your job? You can make your fact-finding less formal by doing it over a simple coffee or lunch. This way your colleague is unlikely to see that you are actually drilling them for information! A definite win-win as you will be building your reputation and internal relationships at the same time.
“Dare to ask the naive questions you have about your business. You have everything to gain.”
3. Analysing (more) Information
After the qualitative information gathering, and having identified any possible issues and opportunities the business has, based on the interviews and their own analysis of the situation, it’s time to put some metrics against them.
Some organisations are very rich in terms of data and know it. But many more are rich and don’t know it, as previously mentioned.
The information you need will depend upon the business you’re in, but there are some basics that all companies have or should have, ideally with the trends of them too:
Market size, in total and by geography.
Category size, shares.
Consumer (customer, client) profiles.
Brand image and equity.
Customer lifetime value.
Communications’ awareness and performance
Website / SEO performance
The analysis of these metrics and especially their trends will help identify the facts from the feelings. Not to say the latter are unimportant, but they will need addressing separately. With this analysis done, the CMO can start defining strategies and prioritising actions.
One exciting improvement to information analysis that is now available to any business is the use of AI and machine learning. A recent article from Bain & Co explores the opportunities that it brings to marketing mix optimisation in particular. They call it MMO 3.0. The article makes a great read, but their conclusion suffices for here. They end by summarising the major elements of analysis that CMOs should keep in mind:
“Stay practical and in control of your data. Use balanced analytic approaches. Don’t let analysis get too far beyond action. Cultivate analytic marketers. And focus on incrementally better insights and predictions that you understand, rather than big-bang black boxes you don’t.”
I believe that that these points are valid and valuable for all marketers to remember. As AI and machine learning distance us all from the data sources, we are at risk of losing the means to make sense of it all. And we are all so overwhelmed by the data tsunami, that we often forget to keep it simple – so KISS your analytics and look for small, steady advances in your information learnings.
4. Evaluating New Team Skills
Most CMOs will join an existing team, so I will not speak about how to create a dream marketing team. (However I would be happy to jump on a Skype if that is your situation) It will therefore be necessary to review and evaluate the members of your inherited team.
Hold off the temptation to immediately start hiring colleagues from your previous company for at least six months and ideally a year or more. Give yourself and your team the necessary time to get comfortable working together. This will also enable you to correctly identify any missing skills; sometimes good people are just in the wrong jobs.
“The war for marketing talent is escalating as companies demand people skilled both in the art and the science of marketing, and who understand the emerging realities of empowered customers in a social media universe.”
Despite what the people who attended the Cannes Lions in the South of France last week may think, creativity alone is no longer enough. Marketers need a whole list of other skills.
I came across an interesting list (thanks to @ValaAfshar from Salesforce) of the 20 talents that the ideal team should have. I think it pretty much covers the needs of the modern marketing department but you be the judge:
Now clearly many of you reading this article don’t have such a large team that you can include all these positions in addition to brand and communications staff. Nor do you have the possibility to hire more members to a smaller one, so you will have to think creatively. However as everyone has far more talents than the one for which they were hired, I am sure you will find people in your current group who can fulfil all or most of these positions. (How about a storytelling scientist?)
5. Improving Processes
All organisations have ways of working and hopefully many of them have been developed into processes. I believe these processes are what make a company more or less successful. This is because the methods used and any information collected is consistent, which makes product and service management that much easier. It also makes results comparable and the process repeatable over time.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”Will Durant – not Aristotle!
As for the CMO, their process is their whole job. It involves reviewing the information mentioned earlier and then taking the following steps:
Prioritize: Every position will uncover more tasks to do than can be handled in the average working day. That’s why priority setting is so important. For the CMO this will mean identifying the tasks that will support the company’s objectives as well as its mission and vision.
Strategise: Next they will build strategies to meet these objectives in the most resourceful way. With such emphasis on ROI for marketing, this will include paying attention to the budget split and people allocation. I would highly recommend reading this article by Smart Insights’ cofounder Dave Chaffey on the differences between strategy and tactics – with some useful examples included.
Structure: As already mentioned having a range of skills in any team is important, as is talent development. CMOs must ensure they are surrounded by a capable team able to implement their strategies with appropriate tactics and actions.
Motivate: Every job has its set of challenges and with marketing being challenged to prove its ROI, motivation can take a hit. The CMO’s task is to motivate both their team and internal peers to the opportunities provided by marketing to impact and grow the business. No man is an island and the CMO needs the support of the c-suite, and especially the CIO and CFO to support their plans.
Excite: Marketing excites me, but I know not everyone feels the same. The function can be seen as having too much fun and not being that serious, especially at the Cannes Lions time of the year. However since marketing will impact most other functions within an organisation, it is essential for the CMO to excite other departments to support their carefully laid-out plans.
Lead: This is often one of the most difficult things for a CMO to do – really! Since they are usually the most experienced professional in the marketing group, it can be tempting to end up doing a lot of the work that should be handled by the team. Yes it can always be done better, but if the CMO manages all the above steps then they will not need to get personally involved in the day-to-day tactics and actions. If you are still doing everything from planning to sweeping the office floor (ladies, you know what I mean don’t you?) then it’s time to check which of the above steps you need to improve – and yes I’m actually referring to all female c-suite members and managers in general here!
Of course, the CMO also has a lot of other processes that they lead, such as for communications development, innovation and scenario planning. However, for this post I wanted to concentrate on the role of a new CMO and how they can quickly make their mark. If they get through their first 90 days and then 3+ years, they will have plenty of time to address these other very specific processes. Other C3Centricity posts on these topics will certainly help them.
So marketers, have I answered your question about how to keep your job? Are these five steps sufficient to make a difference? Personally I think so – but only if they are followed with real actions and change.
After all making an impact is the name of the game in any profession but especially for one that previously relied on creative juices alone. Do you agree? What changes are you making or would you like to see made in your own organisations?
Do you feel isolated and would like an external perspective, advice or ideas? Then we should talk.
I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!
My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.
Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act
Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.
Business doesn’t get what it needs
One of the problems that has been highlighted by BusinessIntelligence.com is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.
Information must become smarter
The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better underst and the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.
Information needs to become useful
While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the information available to us.
Market research and insight teams need new skills
In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and insight professionals need to acquire new skills:
Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of underst anding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.
So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?
For more on br ands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support br and building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!
This 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 available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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”
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.
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.
Halloween is coming, even earlier than usual this year, judging from all the retail displays already in the shops! Although it is now more associated with children dressing up in scary costumes and dem anding “Trick or Treat”, it is actually a Christian remembrance of the dead on the eve of All Saints’ Day.
So what does that have to do with marketing? Apart from the obvious effort of many companies to include the pumpkin shape, flavour or aroma in almost every product they make, at least in the US, marketing too has its scary moments doesn’t it?
What scares you marketers the most, or to put it another way, what keeps you up at night? One of the most recent studies on the topic, issued a few months ago, comes from The Marketing Institute (MSI) and was summarised by David Aaker of Prophet as seven issues, which he divided into three tiers:
TIER ONE: The hot topics
Underst anding customers and the customer experience with particular emphasis on the impact of social and digital.
Big data and analytics, with how they will impact predictive modelling and the marketing mix.
TIER TWO: The other concerns
Following on from the opportunities of Big Data, the next concern is Marketing Accountability and its ROI.
Developing marketing excellence and the new skills required such as visualisation and storytelling.
Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology and linking it to CRM
Creating and communicating enduring customer value and how to measure it in the social environment.
Developing and delivering integrated marketing
TIER THREE: Previous concerns getting under control
Innovating products and services
Optimizing social contracts
What I find interesting from this and similar studies that I wrote about last year, is the overlap between many of these challenges. Marketers are really concerned about the wealth of information that they have on their customers and how they can manage to turn it all into insights, for more profitable actions and engagement. I therefore thought it would be useful to summarise the “so whats” of all these current challenges and propose actions that will help marketers get these issues under control, so they can change their scares into solutions:
Underst anding the customer experience
SCARE: With the exciting new worlds of social and digital taking up much of the thoughts of marketers, they are struggling to find ways to think integration, but that is the only way to underst and today’s customers.
SOLUTION: Starting from the customers’ perspective makes looking at the bigger picture much easier. Instead of thinking single channels of communication, think connection and engagement. (>>Tweet this<<). Instead of thinking purchase and loyalty, think advocacy. Creating value for the customer goes way beyond providing a product or service these days. (>>Tweet this<<)
Knowing what to do with data
SCARE: We have gone from an information rich environment to complete data overload. This challenge definitely keeps a lot of marketers up at night. They feel as if they have to use everything available but at the same time are also aware that they are incapable of doing so.
SOLUTION: The answer lies in the old “eating an elephant” solution. Rather than worrying about what is not being managed, marketers should review what they already have, and only then decide what else they could use to help answer all their questions. There is so much information available today that we can’t work with it all, but we can ask better questions that can be answered by analysing this data. Start with the right question and then use the data you have to answer it. (>>Tweet this<<)
SCARE: Every br and has some sort of web presence today. Whether that is a website, Facebook page or Twitter account, most companies have rushed into social media without a detailed underst anding of why they are there. If this is your case, it’s time to take a step back.
SOLUTION: How are you connecting with your customers today, both offline and online? The two should be complementary. However if there is too much overlap and you are doing the same on both, then you are wasting your money. You are also wasting your money if you don’t know why you are online in the first place! (>>Tweet this<<)
I had a client once who wanted help in updating one of their websites. In running a first analysis of all their websites, I found that more than 80% of them were being visited by less than 30 visitors a month! We cancelled all those websites and invested the money in the remaining active ones, improving both their ROI and the engagement with their customers. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your own web statistics?
SCARE: Marketers are scared for their budgets and even more so for their jobs. With the rise in the importance of technology and IT, marketers need to move from br anding and creativity alone, to embracing data and analytics much more than they have done in the past.
SOLUTION: Become friends with your CIO and see IT as a support of rather than as a threat to your budgets. Yes managing new technologies and data analysis will need more investment, but that won’t (shouldn’t) come at the expense of br and building. In fact with the increased power of the customer and the number of channels on which to reach them, marketing needs increased budgets to be where and when the customer dem ands connection and information. (>>Tweetthis<<)
Acquiring new skills
SCARE: As already mentioned, marketers must get comfortable with large amounts of different data. They also need better ways to analyse and make sense of it all, often in near real-time. This is a challenge in itself, but the new skills they have to acquire don’t stop there. They also need to turn their information into actionableinsights and then share them with the rest of the business to gain acceptance and impact.
SOLUTION: Your market research and insight colleagues are the best people to help in making sense of the data and developing actionable insights. It will be the marketer’s job to share these with the rest of the business in a more creative way. Visualisation & storytelling are the new must-have skills for today. No longer can you expect PowerPoint presentations to excite and engage your C-suite executives – if they ever did!
These are five of the most pressing current scares of marketing and some simple solutions to address them. Are you challenged by something else? If so, add a comment below and I’ll help you find a solution. Or if you prefer, you can contact me here.
C3Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.
One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.
Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into underst anding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.
Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.
#1. Be precise in your objectives
Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired changein your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive br and purchasers to buy your br and instead.
Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.
#2. Involve a wide range of experts
Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department(>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.
Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or br and, including for example:
R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
operations who can share current defects and development aspects
sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met
The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company
#3. Review all available information & knowledge
All organisations have far more information than most employees realise(>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.
Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge. You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.
As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.
#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes
I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).
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 gathered. You could for instance:
go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you underst and the decision making process of your target customers.
compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their br and’s 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 one h and? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?
Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your br and. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.
#5. Fill the gaps
Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, 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. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review(>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.
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 should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.
#6. Develop the insight
At this stage, you will certainly have a better underst anding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.
You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders 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.
These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really 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 need 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 may otherwise happen.
From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.
What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.
How well do you know your target customers? I mean really know them? Are they men, women, young, old, Fortune 100 companies, local businesses? If you can at least answer that, then you have the basics, but how much more could you know about them? Can you answer the following twelve questions?
I was recently working with a local service company who was looking for help with their online presence. They were keen to get more active on social media and had asked for advice about the best platforms, optimal frequency of publishing and possible content ideas.
However they were in for a surprise. Rather than getting straight onto the “sexy” topic of social media, I started by taking them through the basics of target customer identification. Lucky for them that I did! When we had finished the exercise, we had found five different targets for them to target, rather than the mere two they had been addressing until now. This clearly would have a huge impact on the where, what and how they communicated online.
These are the twelve questions that enabled us to brainstorm, identify and then complete a better and more complete description of their target customers. Their use also resulted in clear differentiated segments for their services – three more than they had originally thought!
How would you like to double your own market potential? Read on:
WHODEMOGRAPHICS: OK this is usually a “no-brainer” and is how most organisations describe their customers. Not really original and definitely not competitive, but still the essential foundation.
WHATTHEYUSE: Whether you are offering a product or service, you need to know what your customers are using today. And not only for your category, but in adjacent categories too. What do they use – if anything – if your product / category is not available?
WHATTHEY CONSUME: Here we need to underst and what types of information and media they are consuming; what do they read, watch, listen to in their spare time. Which social media do they use, what websites do they consult on a regular basis?
WHATTHEY DO: How do your customers spend their time? What type of lifestyle do they have? What are their hobbies? What do they do all day, and in the evening and at weekends?
WHATTHEY BUY: This is where you describe their current category purchasing habits. How frequently and what quantity do they buy? Do they have regular buying habits? Do they do research before buying or repurchasing? Do they compare and if so how, where, why?
WHERETHEY USE: Is the category consumed in home, in work, on vacation? With friends, with their partner, their children, with colleagues? Are there certain surroundings more conducive to consumption? What makes it so?
WHERETHEY BUY: Do your target customers have certain places and times they buy? Is it an habitual or impulse purchase? Is it seasonal?
WHERETHEY CONSUME: Today “consume” covers not just traditional media but new media as well. From where do they get information about products? From manufacturers, friends, family, colleagues? Do they access it online, in print, on radio or TV, at home or on the road? What websites and people do they follow, listen to and value the opinion of? What interests do they have in general and concerning the category?
WHERETHEY SEE: One reason to target a specific group of customers is so that you can better communicate with them. Where are they most likely to be open to your messages; what media, what times, which days?
WHYVALUES: What values do your customers have that you are meeting with your product or service, and explain why they are using it? Do they have other values that are not currently addressed, either by you or your competitors? Do these values offer the possibility of a differentiated communications platform or product / service concept?
WHYEMOTIONS: What is the emotional state of your customers when they are considering a purchase or use, both of the category and the br and? Clearly identified emotions enable you to more easily resonate with your customers through empathising with their current situation. You are more likely to propose a solution that will satisfy their need or desire when their emotional state is precisely identified.
WHYMOTIVATIONS: What motivates the customer to consider, buy and use their category and br and choice? Emotions and motivations are closely linked both to each other and to the customer’s need state. By identifying the need-state you want to address, you will be better able to underst and your customers and increase the resonance of your communications.
If you can answer all twelve of these questions in detail, then you certainly know your customers intimately. But before you sit back and relax on your laurels, remember that people are constantly changing and what satisfies them today, is unlikely to satisfy them tomorrow. Therefore you need to keep a track on all four layers of your customer description to stay ahead of competition, as well as to satisfy and hopefully delight your customers.
As mentioned above, by answering and completing a detailed description of the target audience for my client, we were able to identify a couple of new segments that my client’s services could address. Although their demographics were similar, their emotional and need states were quite different. This gave us the opportunity to respond with slightly different service offers for each group.
If you would like to try out this exercise for yourself, we have some useful templates that we make available to C³C Members. Why not sign up and get access? It’s FREE to join.
For more information on better identifying and understanding target customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/
C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.
This post has been adapted from one which first appeared on C³Centricity in April 2013.
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.
The 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.
The 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!
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, 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 reporton 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.
To 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.
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.
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 Dayin 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.
A recent report I came across this week shows that 76% of marketers do not use behavioral information in either segmentation analysis or targeting. They have the data, they’re just not taking advantage of it to better identify and then satisfy their consumers. This shocked me, so I went looking for more information to clarify the situation.
The study was conducted in late 2013 by Razorfish and Adobe amongst marketing and technology executives in the US, Canada, Germany, France and the UK. According to Pete Stein, CEO of Razorfish, the two main reasons for this lack of usage are firstly that today’s marketers are driving consumer segmentation with outdated technology, processes and tools, and secondly that there is an exponential growth in the availability of behavioral data.
In another study called “From Stretched to Strengthened” IBM reports that 71% of CMOs feel unprepared to h andle today’s “data explosion”. A third study, Domo‘s “2013 Data-driven marketing survey” found that two-thirds of marketers feel unable to h andle the volume of marketing data that’s available for analysis without feeling overwhelmed, and concluded that there were five reasons why this is the case:
69% don’t have the time to analyse it
66% can’t see it integrated
44% don’t have the time to collect it
40% don’t have access across devices
40% can’t see it in real time
These statistics suggest some interesting, no vital, changes that business intelligence / planning / market research / insight (BI) departments should make to address these needs of marketers. Once made, they would increase their perceived value and recognition, as well as that of the marketing department as well. Now that can’t be bad can it?
Here are my thoughts on each of them:
No time to analyse the data
I personally believe that if the support function (BI) was doing its job properly, marketing wouldn’t have to analyse the data. In fact I don’t think it is, nor should it be, their responsibility. Of course, this does mean that BI should be attributed with the appropriate levels of resources in both time and personnel to run the analyses and generate actionable insights.
Studies conducted every couple of years by the market research arm of the Corporate Executive Board (MREB), consistently show that world-class businesses have BI departments that have progressed from methodological experts to insight consultants, and then to knowledge synthesizers. Therefore unless you allow your team to develop in this direction, the onus for analysis will remain a challenge.
Can’t see the data integrated
Even before Big Data became a buzz word, companies have struggled to break down the internal silos of information ownership. The ever-increasing flow of data into organisations has just made the matter worse, so that it can no longer be ignored. Information integration may dem and a significant investment in both time and money, but the rewards are huge.
For example, from my own experience with clients, I have witnessed a grocery retailer increase sales by 15% whilst decreasing its promotional & discount allowances by 13%. This was achieved by simply making better use of the information they already had, and enabled them to make more relevant suggestions and offers to their customers. Airlines too are realising increased buy-in of their vacation and flight promotions, through more timely and relevant mailings to precisely segmented customer groups. That was only possible because they integrated the information from their different departments.
Don’t have time to collect the data
For me the problem is actually no longer simply not having the time to collect the data, but a rather subtle adaptation of our expectations to near real-time data availability today. We have all become less patient and this as true for the CEO, as it is for the CMO and on downwards.
Marketing must become more agile and flexible to be able to react to the latest data and adjust their actions and communications accordingly. Why continue to reward retailers with promotional pricing for items that are not flying off their shelves? The money could be better spent elsewhere, whether at a different retailer more aligned to the targeted segment, or even to another type of action.
Don’t have access across devices
It amazes me that so many people are still struggling to acknowledge that the PC is rapidly losing out to tablets. In fact, according to the International Data Corp. tablets will outsell PCs within the next year or so. IDC also says that while global smartphone salesin 2013 were up by 39% over 2012, they’re expected to grow by only around 19% this year.
However, as more smartphones get connected to cars as presented at the recent Geneva Car Show, marketers will be expecting to review their latest audience data or sales during their drive into work. It therefore makes sense to enable cross-device accessibility.
As an aside, I hope marketers also underst and what this trend means to their communication plans and how they connect with and engage their consumers.
Can’t see data in real time
With the never-ending flow of information into organisations it makes sense that marketers dem and to be able to look at the latest data in real time. Retail or audience data that is a month or even a few weeks out of date is of little use in this fast-paced world in which we live. Marketers will also expect market research to provide direct access to consumers and become less and less patient of studies that take weeks if not months to complete.
My conclusion from all of this is that the C-Suite needs to invest even more in data management for marketers and not only for the financial results to which they have become accustomed. They should not dem and the ROI of marketing without empowering marketers to be able to analyse the data available to them. What do you think?
C³Centricity used images from Microsoft and Mashable in this post.