Are you into Insights or Information?

A few weeks ago I shared some ideas on developing insights. (You can read the post here) It certainly struck a chord with a vast number of you, judging from the comments and acknowledgements many of you sent in. I really appreciated them all so thanks a million.

This week I thought I would take insights development even further, by proposing some steps to take for those of you who are still struggling, or would like to upgrade your own process. Often we stop at the information or knowledge stage and thus never get to real insights. This is such a disappointment, after all the hard work of data gathering and integration.

In January Forrester wrote an article suggesting that 2013 was going to be the year for market insights. A couple of months on, things don’t seem to have advanced 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

As mentioned in the previous article, your objective for developing an insight should be presented as a desired behavioural change in your target audience. 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

If you are looking to improve your image, your objective could be:

  • Find a communication platform that resonates better with your target audience, so they consider your br and in a new light

If you are looking to reverse a sales decline, it might be:

  • Underst and how to move your shoppers from monthly to weekly purchasing

Identifying the behavioural change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true insight.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department. Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development both easier and more effective. Gathering together a group of experts to provide a 360 perspective of the category or br and users could mean including:

  • R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
  • Operations can share current defects and development aspects
  • Sales can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • Marketing will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • Customer services can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • Finance can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the behavioural change you are looking to make. However I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team or external experts, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also will 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 anyone realises, even your market research, insight, strategy or planning teams. This also emphasises the need for having a team with differing expertise since they will also bring different 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. This analysis can be shared amongst all members of the team. They 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 objective.

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.

These are the first three steps towards great insight development. In future articles I will complete the process with the remaining steps. Do you use these same steps when developing insights or do you have a different process? If you do, I would love to hear what you do differently.

For more information about insight development, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Are you Happy with your Market Research?

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

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

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

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

 

Market maturity

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

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

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

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

 

Size of the Budget

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

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

 

Br and Life-cycle stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is there a Future for Insight Departments? Five Actions to Help you Decide

Many organisations have revamped their Market Research groups as Insight Departments in the past five to ten years. However, it takes more than a name change for those involved to achieve the recognition they deserve.

If you work in or with such a department, then read on, as I have some ideas on how you can achieve this.

Last month Forrester issued the results of some research they had done looking into the Future of Market Research in 2013. Their conclusions, even if dated today, are still highly relevant:

  1. 2013 is the year of truth for market insights: their future will depend on how successful they are at getting increased investments and tapping into alternative information sources than just market research
  2. Market insights departments need to invest in knowledge, technology and skills: the group will need to better respond to the fast-paced management need for the customer understanding that can impact their business decisions
  3. Vendors have to show their worth: suppliers have become commodity providers as they have allowed their clients to select on price more than differentiation.
  4. Future market insights solutions have to connect the dots: single source is no longer sufficient – if it ever was – and vendors need to be able to better respond to the need for 360 degree perspectives.

Whilst I certainly agree with these conclusions, which in fact impact both supplier and company insight professionals, I believe that most of these needs are not really new.

Some more forward-thinking organisations have in fact already identified and adjusted to these changed needs.

So what is there to do if you haven’t? How do you prioritise what needs to be done in your organisation? Here are my top 5 tips:

 

#1. Find out What Management Really Needs

It is amazing how many market research and insight groups still have little, or no contact with top management. So how can they possibly be perceived as value creators for the business?

It is not enough just to attend the presentations of the business plans or to get a copy of them to read afterwards. You need to talk with those who wrote them and those who will implement them.

Ideally, you should be instrumental in helping to draw them up. Get out of your offices and into the boardrooms and hallowed top-floor offices. Listen hard and ask tough questions. Make sure you understand where the company is going and your role in getting there.

 

 

#2. Review the Information you Currently Collect

Most organisations have regular on-going measurements of some sort, which probably haven’t changed in years, if not decades! Now you know what the business needs, review, revamp or retire the studies that are no longer needed. Show that you are using your budget wisely, to provide management with the information and knowledge they need, to help them to take better decisions.

 

#3. Revamp What is Important

Those projects that do add value to the organisation will certainly need updating on a regular, possibly annual basis. Do your retail audits reflect the current market situation? Are the attributes you follow in your brand image trackers accurately covering the strengths of the latest competitive launches as well as your own? Take each study and adjust for each brand in collaboration with your marketing AND sales teams.

 

#4. Share the Knowledge

Many organisations are afraid of competition getting a hold of their information, and therefore do not make it widely available within the organisation. Have you never learnt about something going on in your own organisation, but from competition? I know I have. Therefore the risks of tipping off the competition are far lower than others may think, so start to share the information you gather. It is amazing how much you can save when you do, as other departments often then discover that they are conducting research, or buying information and reports that are already available in-house.

 

#5. Integrate for Insight

Despite some managers still believing that insight is just another word for market research, insights are in fact developed out of multiple information sources. Whilst Forrester suggested that this could be managed by your suppliers, I believe that whilst they may help, true insights come from integrating information and knowledge from multiple sources, both internal and external. This means not only different projects, but also different departments that have differing perspectives and perhaps also different connection points with the customer. The insight group can help bring all this understanding together and develop actionable insights for profitable business growth.

 

 

Well those are my starter for five. What else would you add to help bring insight departments into the center of the brave new world of customer centric organisations?

If you carry out these first five steps that I have mentioned, then you will start getting more appreciation for the real value you are adding to the business. And then perhaps your budgets may even be increased, which will then lead to even greater value. Now that’s what I call a win-win and a really bright future for everyone in Insight! What do you think?

Do you need help in upgrading your market research or insight department? Check out our website for more actionable ideas and training, then contact me here:

https://c3centricity.com/contact

C³Centricity used images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com in this post.

Improving the ROI of Information Investments

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

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

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

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

#2. Review your methods

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

#3. Review your reports

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

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

#4. Review your costs

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

#5. Review your value

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

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

Let’s discuss how we can help you achieve a better ROI on your information investments; contact us today and check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/vision

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Which Sight do you Use the Most?

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

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

#1. Hindsight

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

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

#2. Eyesight

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

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

#3. Insight

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

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

#4. Foresight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on all these sights, please check out some of our ideas and training here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

From Market Research to Actionable Insights

Do you struggle to develop insights from your market research studies, or to identify clear actions out of your insights? If so, then you must read this post on how to deliver actionable insights.

There are many reasons why organisations struggle to develop actionable insights. Yet a recent report by IBM suggested that 80 percent of CMOs rely on traditional sources of information, such as market research and competitive benchmarking, to make strategic decisions.

Although they may be limiting their customer underst anding by not tapping into all their information sources, market research remains a major input to decision-making for marketers. Therefore it is essential for business to make maximum use of it.

Here are four tips to help you do both insight development and action identification better:

#1. Know why you are running the research project.

Market research is often run before people really know why they are conducting it. When you have identified a gap in your knowledge, start by conducting a complete review of all available information about the opportunity or issue you have identified. This is the only way to ensure you are spending your budget wisely on filling the knowledge gap. It is amazing how many companies work in silos and don’t share information across departments. Make sure you’re not one of them.

#2. Don’t expect the study to deliver insights

Although you need to develop insights to support your future decision making, don’t expect that they will come from the single study you are now planning. Insights are developed from the integration of numerous market research projects, information, observations and consumer connections. It is highly unlikely that one project will deliver an insight; however you can expect it to improve your knowledge of the market. Additional work will be required to build this knowledge into customer underst anding and this can only happen through integrating it with your other information.

#3. Base your insight on a human truth

Once you have identified a number of insights – although I personally would prefer to call these underst andings – you must develop an insight that is powerful enough to impact customers’ behaviour. The best way to do this is by referring to their need state and how your product or service will impact and improve their position. What benefit will your customers get from using your product? How will their thinking and behaviour be changed? In an ideal world, what changes are you looking to achieve?

#4. Identify your action

If you have developed a true insight based on a human truth, it becomes relatively easy to plan the actions needed to change your customers’ thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. Should you struggle to identify the actions to be taken, then it almost certainly means that your insight has not been sufficiently refined, so go back and rework its wording.

These four simple steps are the heart to the successful development of actionable insights. It is how you too can successfully impact your business and deliver true return on your information investments. Without the development of actionable insights, you are likely to be considered a cost and run the risk of suffering budget cuts when times get tough. Which is a pity, since it is exactly at that moment that businesses need the most support in underst anding what is going on.

Let me know if you agree that these are the most important steps to achieving actionable insights, or if you have others to add.

Are you struggling with a sub-optimal insight development process, or lacking clear actions from them, then why not contact us for an informal chat?

No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

For more information on insight development, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

10 ways Customer Excellence can Ignite Your Business: And Why You Need It Now

Why are so many businesses looking at building a Customer Excellence (CE) department today?

Customers, consumers and clients are demanding more attention; they want to be heard, they want to be seen and understood for who they are; they want their needs and desires answered. Social media has increased our attention to them, but many organisations are still struggling to walk the talk of customer centricity. If this is your own case and you are looking to develop customer excellence, then this post is for you.

Several companies have contacted me in the last few months, to ask for help in creating a Consumer / Customer Excellence Department. Having already gone through the challenges of doing this when I worked in the corporate world, I knew that I could certainly help others with this exciting objective. However, each time, my first reaction was to ask “Why”; not why they had contacted me but why they wanted to create the group and why now?

Setting up a Customer Excellence (CE) department is not just a structural change; it is more importantly a cultural change that must go deep into the whole organisation if it is to work. #CEX #CMO #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

It is often the CEO or CMO who makes the original request, since they feel that the company is not paying enough attention to their customers. However, the initiative will only succeed if everyone in the company not only buys into the vision, but is also excited by the changes it will bring.

 

Let me share some of my own experiences to help you on your own journey, by illustrating a few of the imperatives to succeed in such an initiative:

#1. CE should report into the Board

This new department must report into the board and ideally have a seat there too. The initiative must be seen as an organisational and not a departmental objective. If CE reports into marketing, it will be seen as a marketing support group; maybe just a new name for the traditional marketing services, market research or insight departments, as I am sad to report was once said to me by my CEO!

 

#2. CE should group all customer-facing departments

Customer Excellence should include all customer-facing departments, including market research and insight of course, but also care centres, consumer services, web services, CRM and perhaps even the promotions teams.

Customer Excellence should include all customer-facing departments, including market research & insight, care centres, consumer services, web services, CRM and perhaps even the promotions teams. #CEX #Customer #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

This means that CE will watch over both personalised and anonymous connections with customers, but these can provide valuable information that can be integrated and used cross-functionally.

 

#3. CE ensures the business connects with the same tone & vocabulary

Every personalised contact with the customer must use the same tone and voice. They should also be based upon background information about every previous connection, by whatever medium used. In this way, the customer who already sees them all as links to the company, will perceive that the business cares about them and wants to build a deep relationship and understanding of their needs and desires. Everyone likes people who take a positive interest in them, so this is a true win-win.

 

#4. CE should be multi-category

In order to truly integrate all the knowledge and understanding, the CE group should also work across categories and brands in a multi-category company. In this way they will comprehend the person as a whole, and not just as a category user.

This also has the added benefit of giving the organisation an opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell when a connection is made, by proposing appropriate products and categories.

I am sure you have all been contacted at some time in the past for an inappropriate product, by a company that didn’t do this, right? For example diapers promoted to single men, a new desert to people on a diet or who are diabetic, innovative new alcoholic beverage to teetotallers etc etc. Irritating for the customer and damaging the image of the brand.

 

#5. CE should be Global

Wherever relevant, Customer Excellence should have a worldwide remit, integrating all regions and markets. This enables them, and the business, to be aware of global as well as regional category and societal trends, which in turns helps the company be prepared for future opportunities and challenges.

In addition, this can build a useful community spirit, especially in decentralised organisations. Markets should always be looking for information from countries ahead of them on any relevant trends, whilst also looking back to help those who are following them on other trends.


Customer excellence roadmap in the book Winning customer centricityThe book Winning Customer Centricity: Putting customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time  includes a simple roadmap for adopting a customer first strategy. It covers the four foundational topics that need to be addressed.

Find out more and about the book and reserve your spot for the webinar:

 

 

 

 


#6. CE should develop Scenarios

Most organisations today follow trends, but these do not bring competitive advantage unless they are developed into future scenarios. By doing this, Customer Excellence can prepare management for the future, identifying possible changes to the market, so that opportunities can be grabbed and response to possible challenges well prepared in advance.

Business relevance will always be higher for scenarios than trends. In a regional or multinational organisation, scenarios can help markets to be better prepared, by sharing information across borders and continents, rather than using geographic closeness to define regions.

Language rather than geography sets the boundaries in todays connected world, so innovation and new product roll-outs should follow them. Surprisingly, companies still favour launching based on market proximity; this is a big error.

Language rather than geography sets the boundaries in todays connected world, so innovation & new product roll-outs should follow them. Surprisingly, companies still favour launching based on market proximity; this is a big error. #NPD… Click To Tweet

 

#7. CE should be Market / Brand agnostic

By being market and brand agnostic, the Customer Excellence department is free to give advice and to share their true opinions, without fear of upsetting the business unit or regional head. Corporations today must get comfortable with cross-departmental team working and the creation of a Customer Excellence department is a great way to catalyse this change.

 

#8. CE should Integrate all Customer Information

Understanding and insight development from the information gathered by market research, sales, marketing, finance, supply chain, and all the other available sources within an organisation, can only come from total data and knowledge integration. Consumer Excellence can again provide the analytical expertise and the cross-category perspective to reap the full benefits for everyone.

Having a one-stop shop for a company’s customer and market information, knowledge, understanding and insights means that work is not replicated when requests come in from different departments. Additionally, multiple categories may be interested in similar target groups, which means that customer excellence can provide deeper insights to both groups without twice the work.

 

#9. CE should cover costs through better negotiation

This also applies to the purchasing of external information and reports. Few suppliers would ever tell a company that they have already purchased a report or database. They are happy to make that second or even multiple sales to different departments within an organisation. However, if all information requests are handled by one group, companies can certainly avoid this and also negotiate better deals for multiple purchases for reports that are relevant in several business units and which should be made available across the organisation.

This is a particularly valuable additional benefit for decentralised corporations, since there is generally little collaboration at the purchasing level. However, from my own personal experience, savings can even be found for centralised enterprises, through simply negotiating volume discounts.

 

#10. CE Ignites Customer Centricity & Business Growth

Last but not least, the customer benefits from a CE function, since all employees are thinking about the role they play in satisfying them. Becoming customer centric is a long journey, so the more people that are involved at the start, the more likely that cultural change will happen. This is because each employee reinforces the thinking of putting the customer at the heart  of the business.

To conclude, the creation of a Customer Excellence department sponsored at board level, can put the customer at the heart of the company, as well as of every department within it. The business will benefit, the customer will benefit and hopefully the employees too.

What have been your experiences with the creation of a Customer or Consumer Excellence Department? Please share your own stories here and add the other benefits you have found from your own experiences. 

For more about the processes of enhancing customer centricity or creating a Customer Excellence Department, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com

Build Better Insights in just 4 steps

We are lucky to be living in an information rich environment, where numerous data sources are readily available to us.

However, this can also be a challenge since we are usually:

“Drowning in data and starving for insight”

as I have often been quoted.

If you too are drowning in data, take a look at these four easy steps you can take to meet the challenge of better insight development. We call them the four “I’s” of Insight development to impact business:

Step 1 – IDENTIFY: first identify the most relevant pieces of information for the issue or opportunity you have selected to address, as well as for the business or industry you are in. How do you decide what is relevant?

Look at who your target audience is; what do they like to do in their spare time; what are their hobbies; what are their needs, desires and dreams; what motivates them; what are their basic values? What are they tweeting and blogging about? Do they speak about problems they have with the products and categories you are reviewing? All of these will help you to really underst and them and what issues or opportunities there are for your product or service and br and.

Step 2 – INTEGRATE: once you have gathered and prioritized the most valuable sources of information, it is necessary to integrate them in order to reap their full benefits. Customer information and facts that are integrated help to build deeper knowledge. It also enables the extraction of essential underst anding on which the business can grow.

Data integration can be done manually or using technology, which is advisable when managing large amounts of information. Integration of underst anding can be done by looking for themes and key topics that get repeated across the different sources.

Step 3 – INSIGHTS: after integration of the information, you need to develop the insights. If you haven’t already done so, get a mixed team of experts from different relevant departments together to review all the information, and have the project led by one of your Market Research or Insight group. They will love both the recognition and the challenge of running an insight development session, using everything that has been gathered and integrated.

Step 4 – INSPIRE: as the team begins to hypothesize insights coming out of the information, find someone who can then synthesize their findings into a compelling story. Storytelling will fire enthusiasm into both the team and the company at large, and everyone will be more ready and willing to take the required action. Storytelling helps the findings and insights to be transmitted to all interested parties within the organisation. In some cases, a presentation using storytelling is sufficient for decisions to be made.

How do you develop insights in your own organisation. Do you have other ways to integrate information and knowledge? Please share your ideas with everyone.

For more on Insight development, please see our website https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

This post first appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on December 29th 2011

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Choosing the right marketing ROI metrics

If you work in marketing and are being challenged by management to demonstrate that you are an investment and not just a cost to the business, then this post is definitely for you.

Marketing is coming under a lot of pressure these days; it is being asked, no dem anded, to demonstrate the ROI of their investments. With the explosion of information readily available from social media, this has become even more pressing. In response, marketing is showing how many “Likes” they have on Facebook, or how many fans they have on their br and pages, but are these effective and relevant measures of marketing success today? I doubt it.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, marketing is no longer (just) the creative arm of business (you can read that post here); – it is now also heavily involved in data integration and analytics, with the need to befriend the IT department to manage all the information.

This is a truly exciting time to be in marketing, especially because of all these changes. However change also brings its own challenges and many in marketing are feeling the need, if not obligation, to defend their budgets, whether stable or increasing. This is due to the many opportunities for what many see to be “free” media on the web, so I thought it would be useful to review what marketers can do to ensure they continue to be viewed as the essential predecessor of sales that they are in reality.

“Everything that can be counted doesn’t necessarily count; everything that counts can’t necessarily be counted” Albert Einstein

According to the Lenskold Group’s 2010 B2B Lead Generation Marketing ROI Study, most marketers don’t know what impact a 10% increase or decrease in their budgets would have. Therefore if the CEO is looking for money, you know where he’s likely to go; if marketers can’t defend their own budgets, who will?

One of the biggest challenges faced by marketing people is that they don’t all speak the language of business. CEO’s and CFO’s are interested in sales, margins and profits, so there is no point in speaking to them about increasing awareness or the number of clicks on your latest website or ad – unless you can say what impact these increases will have on the business.      

I think that the main issue with calculating marketing is that too many marketing plans are still being developed based upon those of previous years, without too much thought going into what the objectives of each action are specifically. How many times have you been asked why your br and is running three new ad campaigns this year and the reply is “because we ran three last year”!

If you or your organisation is likely to reply in a similar fashion, here are three tips for you to consider:

#1. Plan the metrics when you plan the actions

Marketing are often found scrambling to prove why their budgets should not be cut half-way through the year, when the CEO is looking for money. Unless you know what the results of your actions are likely to be, as well as best case and worst case scenarios, which means you have already thought about the outcomes and metrics, you are unlikely to be able to defend your continued spending when times are tough.

Defining the metrics doesn’t mean finding the easiest way to measure your actions, but the way that will produce the most relevant metrics to show their impact on sales and profit. Thus although advertising does impact awareness, it is only when the awareness level is linked to trial and purchase does it become relevant from a business perspective.

#2. Aim for foresight rather than “eyesight”

There has been a lot of talk about developing insight in recent years, but I think it is even more valuable for business to develop foresight. Most market research studies measure what is happening at best and often report what happened in the past, since the results are presented weeks if not months after their recording.

To be effective you need to get more comfortable with hypotheses and considering likely outcomes of your actions, in order to know when you need to ask for more budget or when you might even return monies if your actions are not delivering the expected results. No CFO will reduce budgets next year just because you didn’t use all your money this year, if they can clearly underst and how you came to the decision concerning the required investments and the likely results.

Another point to consider is to run test and learn exercises, which will save time and provide metrics on which to base your hypotheses, when the test is compared to a control group. CFO’s love numbers and comparisons are even more likely to meet with approval of your dem ands.

#3. Think quality not (just) quantity

Marketing is usually happy to report on the number of contacts made at an event, or the number of people remembering an ad campaign, when in many cases increases in these contact / recall numbers don’t mean an equal or proportional increase in sales. So unless you know exactly the relationship between the two, find a more meaningful metric for the business.

Management always has too much to read and review, so keep the metrics to a small number, three to five should be sufficient. Since marketing directly impacts sales, the effectiveness KPI’s chosen should be a collaborative decision of the two departments concerned. Whether your organisation is used to working with a sales funnel, a path to purchase or a decision journey, choose metrics that can be measured in a consistent way along it and thus also followed over time.

And one last word of warning; link your metrics to outcome not to spend, which is the easier and oft chosen one. Of course a CMO will be following many more than 3-5 metrics of the marketing activities, to ensure the budget split is as effective as possible, but the CEO will not need to see them all.

These are just three tips to help marketing defend their budgets through appropriate measurement; what others would you add?

For more on KPI’s please see our C3C Solution on our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

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Ten reasons NOT to commission market research: Part I

If you commission or conduct market research, then this post is for you. It shares some of the reasons I have learned over the years for NOT doing research, but which are unfortunately still prevalent today. Here are the first five of my ten; are you guilty of any of them?

#1. When the issue / opportunity is not clear and the objectives are not well defined

Most organisations will have a briefing of some sort, written or oral, for each piece of research required. It usually includes the background to and the objectives of the research, which should be specified in terms of the opportunity or issue identified, as well as the relevant information and data already gathered and analysed. If it doesn’t include these basics, it might mean that someone wanted to know or underst and something and just thought research could quickly provide them with the answers. Wrong! The best studies come from a thorough situation analysis which should include a complete review of all current knowledge and past research findings.

#2. When the cost would exceed the value of doing the research

Following on from the above point, when requesting a study, if the objectives are well defined, then the decisions and actions resulting from the findings should be clear and therefore also the expected benefit of the information too. Thinking about how you will use the data and information gathered is one of the best ways to estimate the true value of it before it is gathered. If the decisions and actions to be taken cannot be clearly expressed, then the research results will be just “nice to know” and not “need to know”.

#3. When the budget is too small to do an adequate job

Most agencies would agree that clients often want a top-class work, but at a lower price than it would cost. Some clients even make a point of negotiating all prices downwards on principle, but their reputation soon goes before them and agencies start adding an amount that they will then remove in answering the client’s request for a cost reduction.

A second example of this aspect of cost is when a client wants to do some research but doesn’t have an adequate budget to cover it, so requests something “quick and dirty”. My recommendation would always be to refuse to get involved in such a project. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well, and a good agency will always work with the client to accommodate their needs as best they can within the budget available.

#4. When time is an enemy

How many times have you been asked to run a research project, but in fact the requestor is actually in need of the results – now?! As already mentioned in #3 if a study is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Today there are luckily more opportunities to reduce the time needed to run a study, using panels, the web, or by reducing the sample size or number of groups / regions. Again the best projects are developed as a win/win, with client and agency working together to deliver the highest quality results within the available resources of both time and money.

#5. When conducting the study would “tip off” the competition

This is a difficult situation to be in, as this is often a worry of management, especially when running research on innovation projects. Whilst it is a very valid concern, and a lot can be done to limit the risk, it cannot really be totally eliminated.

There is also the view that in many industries, all major companies are often working on very similar developments within a similar time scale, so competition is not likely to be surprised if they learn about your own efforts. The most important thing to do to reduce to a maximum the risk of tipping off the competition, is to ensure that people who work or have friends or family members working in relevant professions and positions, are eliminated at the start of the research.

Next week I will complete the list with the remaining five reasons not to do market research, but I would already like to know if you have been guilty of any of these and if so, what you did to correct the situation.

If you would like to know more about underst anding your customers, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/  Or why not contact us today to discuss how we can help you optimise your own market research processes? No obligation, just opportunity!

Please share this post with all your colleagues who you would like to help underst and why not all market research requests are approved!

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New Marketing is Here – Are YOU Ready?

I was recently asked to speak to some MBA students about what has and will change in the life of a marketer and what additional skills they must have to be effective today. Here is what I told them, but I would love to hear your own thoughts on this important question.

Marketing used to be considered one of the most creative parts of a business. Marketers were seen to arrive late in the office after what was assumed to have been another dinner with one of their agencies in one of the best restaurants in town. As if that image was not bad enough, they were also accused of going to fancy conferences in exotic places around the world that most employees only dream of visting. Whilst I am sure a (lucky) few had this lifestyle, the majority of us worked hard and late, and usually also put in hours at weekend to ensure promotions and events were successful.

Today marketers are challenged with a new world, a world where the customer is in control; where marketing is no longer (only) creative, and they are required to have many more skills to be successful, the following three in my opinion, being the more important:

1. Actionable Insight development

When a marketer needs information, he usually asks the marketing research department to run a study to gather the data. The results are presented and marketing takes a decision based on them – or not!

In many organisations today, the market research department has exp anded and now gathers information on the customer, the shopper, the competitor, in fact all areas of the market in general.

In the last ten years we have seen the growth of insight development, where multiple studies and other sources of data and information are integrated with internal knowledge to develop insight. Suddenly marketers not only communicate with, but now actively search out the opinions of their colleagues in R&D, operations, sales, purchasing etc when making a decision about how best to satisfy their customers.

2. Customer connection

Media choice until recently was pretty limited: TV, print, radio and outdoor – what is now referred to as traditional media. In addition, companies connected with their customers through their care centres, promotions, events and sponsorship. With the growth of the internet and social media, connecting with the customer has exp anded in possibilities, which makes the need for consistency not only more difficult, but also more important.

Customers expect to be able to choose where, when and how a company connects and communicates with them. They decide when to watch their favourite programs, often without advertising breaks, at an hour that suits them rather than at the programmed time and often not even on a television any more, but on a computer, tablet or mobile screen.

Marketers are therefore challenged to be available 24/7 for their customers and any frustration when this doesn’t happen is very quickly shared with the world at large.

3. Information integration

With the expansion of media comes also an explosion in information. According to IBM, 90% of data today did not exist two years ago and it is estimated to be growing at a rate of between 40% and 60% annually. This means that by 2015, there will be ten times more data than there is today!

It is not only the quantity of data that a marketer has at his disposal that is changing, it is also the nature of the data and the way that the value of it is extracted.

Structured data, describing what has happened amongst a sample of customers will be replaced by real-time, unstructured, external, predictive information that is or can be personalised. We are moving away from data mining to signal identification, and computers working with advanced analytics and with machine learning capabilities.

The New Marketing

So what do these changes mean for the marketer of today? Well product and br and managers will give way to people experts, who are no longer satisfied by data and information alone, but will dem and underst anding and insight. They will need to be comfortable with multi-sourced information where the customer is in control and pulls to them what they want, rather than accepting what marketers want to push their way.

The marketers creative skills will remain important, but will no longer be sufficient. They will need to get comfortable with the world we live in, which dem ands cultural sensitivity and real-time information integration and analytics. This will require that they become global thinkers, more flexible, technically savvy and comfortable taking rapid decisions as the market evolves.

Are you ready?

What do you see changing in the world of marketing today? Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my own thoughts.

For more about these three topics please see our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

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5 Ideas on How to Present for Action not Boredom

Many of you in market research, information & planning functions, can clearly see what needs to be done to make your organisations more customer centric, but are frustrated that nobody seems to want to listen to you or make the changes you propose.

Having been in the same position myself, I also know that you fight a constant battle to bring these much needed transformations to the attention of management, but usually get blocked by negative reactions or even worse disbelief. If so, I hope you find inspiration in this post.

Last week I came across an inspiring – if long – video made by Sony Music about their segmentation work. Anyone who has run a customer segmentation will surely underst and that although the project itself can be quite complex, even daunting at times, it is nothing in comparison to the challenges you must face to introduce it to the organisation and to get them to action it.

In the video they speak of a number of ideas that they came up with to get the company to buy into the study and to make the adjustments in their customer approach that were identified by the results. If you haven’t yet seen it I would definitely do so to get inspired.

This made me realise that however complicated an analytics project might be, it is only if its results lead to action that it can be termed a success. Therefore I came up with the following five points to help bring change and action from all data and underst anding, be it from market research projects, trawling the web for information, or any other form of knowledge gathering:

#1. Don’t tell me what you’ve done

I know we all want to be believed and we think that sharing all the work we have done, the hours of analysis, the thous ands of interviews carried out etc will impress the audience. This can’t be further from the truth. Either the listeners already know what was done, or at least can find more information in the report, that you will no doubt provide at the end of the interview.

Instead, why not tell them what they need to do? What are the actions they need to consider to take advantage of the opportunity you have uncovered? Let’s spend time talking about ideas rather than information.

#2. Dump the data

Almost any gathering of data and information provides more knowledge than anyone can swallow at one time. Instead of sharing everything you have found, why not share only the small proportion that led you to the decisions and actions you are proposing? If people want more they will certainly ask and in general most people ask for less rather than more data in a presentation. Use their time for dialogue rather than a monologue!

#3. Dramatize by Visualizing

A picture tells a thous and words, so why do you continue to torture people with text and tables? Show pictures instead, or simple graphs at the very least, so that people will listen to you rather than analysing what you are showing, or reading the words on your slides.

One great example of this is the rise in popularity of Infographics; why not make one yourself and give it away at the end of the meeting, rather than sending a report? You can find some inspiring examples here.

#4. Do tell a story

Nothing is worse than drowning in data tables and never-ending information. Make a change by telling a story rather than showing graphs of the results and findings. Everyone likes a good story and what’s more they remember it. How often do people remember tables of data?

Sevendots, a C3Centricity partner, prides itself on storytelling in presentations and their clients have been known to retell the story to their colleagues afterwards and also to use the visualisation elements they saw. It is so much easier to remember a story than an analysis.

#5. Don’t give results give actions

Analysts love to drown us all in data and information, when what we are looking for are insights and actions. So instead of presenting results, why not develop insights and propose actions or changes that would answer the issues or opportunities that have been identified? This way everyone goes away with concrete ideas of what needs to be done, rather than a sore head from all the data and information. If you have followed tip 4 then this will be a natural conclusion as every story has an ending.

These are five ideas that I came up with to help the world move away from boring presentations to the more inspiring world of storytelling. Do you have any other ideas on how to make information sharing fun for everyone? I would love to hear about your own best experiences; how did you inspire your audience?

For more on knowledge sharing and presentations, do check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

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