Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

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.

 

Dulux sample pot example of insight development

 

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. Continue Reading

Is it Time to Do Away with Market Research Departments?

What’s your gut response to the title question about eliminating Market Research Departments? Yes? No? It depends?

I am probably in the third camp. No, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations. Yes, if it is the traditional market research department. Let me explain.

Thanks to social media and websites, the IoT (Internet of Things) and smart products, companies are inundated with information these days. Who better than market research to help in its analysis? But in order to become this new business decision support group, new skills are required.

Insights 2020 by Kantar-Vermeer spoke about the need for researchers to have five critical capabilities:

  • Research & analytics mastery
  • Business acumen
  • Creative solution thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Direction setting

 

This research is now a few years old and the world is changing fast. A more recent study by BCG and GRBN resulted in an Invest in Insights Handbook to help organisations report on the ROI of the insights function. They found that those who measure their ROI have found a seat at the decision table, increased budgets, and more control. Those are the department objectives that the FMCG world in particular desires today, be they in a manufacturing or retail environment.

As the handbook mentions:

“Architecting a world-class Insights organization requires executive, cross-functional commitment/engagement”

To do this, they mention the following six points:

  • Vision & Pace
  • Seat-at-the-table and leadership
  • Functional talent blueprint
  • Ways of working with the Line
  • Self-determination
  • Impact and truth culture

The report concludes that:

“The biggest barriers to experimenting with innovation in CI are resources, both time and money. A lot of times there’ll be [a need for] an innovation project but it can’t find a home.”

Barriers to CI innovation

This seems to suggest, at least to me, a chicken and egg situation. Resources are insufficient because the business doesn’t see the benefit of investing in market research and insight. But the Market Research Department is struggling with insufficient budget and personnel to provide the support that they should – and often could – provide.

In the GRBN report, they mention the largest barriers to the measurement of the ROI of market research and insight. These were found to be:

  • Difficult to do – studies are used in many different ways
  • Difficulty in isolating impact of consumer insights
  • Time lag between insight delivery and business results

The secondary concerns are:

  • Consumer insights distant from business decision-makers
  • Business objectives not clearly defined
  • Insufficient staff to measure
  • Lack of alignment on important metrics

Looking at this list, it is clear that the market research profession is in need of a significant overhaul. Most local MR associations, as well as the global ESOMAR team are all very aware of this and have set up various groups to look into it. If you want to learn more about what they are doing, check out the discussions on the topic in last year’s ESOMAR conference in Amsterdam. You can also read a short commentary from System 1. Continue Reading

13 Inspiring Marketing Quotes (And the Actions You Can Take)

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What habits have you become so comfortable with that you don’t even notice or question them? With today’s fast-paced world, businesses need to be constantly adapting and preparing for the future.

These thirteen marketing quotes (plus a bonus one!) are amongst my favourites of all time. They will hopefully excite and inspire you to consider what changes you need to make to become even more successful through a customer first strategy.

As is the tradition at C3Centricity, there is a recommended action for you to take for each quote. How many will you complete?

#1. “There may be Customers without Brands, but there are no Brands without Customers.” Anon

This has to be the most important marketing quote to remember for all of us wanting to be more customer centric. It’s also one of my favourites, as I’m sure you’ve realised!

Brands depend on customers and if companies remember this, then they can only succeed. If however they get so tied up in their products & services that they forget their customers, they may enjoy their work but their brands will always be vulnerable to competition.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Watch the Customer First Strategy Webinar HERE

 

#2. “Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets.” Nido Qubein

One of the biggest mistakes marketing can make is to not appropriately define its target audience. It is understandably hard for a brand manager to accept that he can’t please all category users and that his target sub-category is smaller than the total category he thinks he could attract.

By trying to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one! So bite the bullet and reduce your target category size by being more precise in selecting and describing your audience.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Learn the essentials of targeting HERE.

 

#3. “The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” John Russell, President, Harley Davidson

If they aren’t already included, then every employee should have regular customer connections added to their annual objectives. Whether they are the CEO, an Executive Vice-President, a machine operator, sales clerk or brand manager, they all need to understand how their day job impacts the satisfaction of their customers.

Customer connections also inspire new thinking, can identify previously unknown issues and excite everyone to think customer first in everything they do.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Sign up below for the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar.

 


For more ideas about getting to know your customers, join the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement to Grow your Business Faster.

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#4. “If you use standard research methods you will have the same insights as everyone else.”

Continue Reading

Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions)

Listen on Apple Podcasts“Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.”

Last week I asked whether it is employees or customers who are more important to an organisation. If you missed it read “Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees” now and catch up.

I knew it would be a provocative question but I still didn’t expect quite so many comments! So this week I decided to be just as provocative and talk about the issues that challenge many businesses. And where the answer to whatever problem they have is actually quite simple. For me, customers are the answer! They can either answer or help you overcome any challenge or issue you may have.  Read on and then let me know if you agree.

 

How can I innovate more successfully?

 
According to an excellent article by Harvard Professor Dr Srini Pillay “Humans have a natural aversion to innovation because it involves a healthy dose of uncertainty and risk.”
 
 
Unfortunately, we try to reduce this risk by referencing past events to help us to predict the probability of our future success. Dr Pillay concludes that possibilities rather than probabilities are more likely to lead to better results.
 
I would concur with this statement, as the world is changing too fast to rely on past events as a predictor of anything in the future. This is why I say that customers are the answer!
 
It is only by getting closer to our customers and being constantly curious, that we have any chance of increasing our success in satisfying them.
 
It therefore makes sense that we involve our customers in helping us innovate. Not as a judge of concepts, which is what many businesses do. This is wrong because we know that consumers don’t know what they want, at least not until they see it.
 
However, they do know what their pains are; what is wrong with a product or service and what they would rather have. Co-creation and in fact ongoing conversations with our customers is the only way to stay ahead of the game.
 
In another article, this time in the HBRHeitor MartinsYran Bartolomeu Dias and Somesh Khanna from McKinsey shared the results of numerous interviews they conducted in Silicon Valley, the home of US (tech) innovation.
 
They conclude that it takes many skills and cultural changes for most organisations to become more innovative. These include:
  • Audacity and grit: The determination to continue despite failure. And I would add the acceptance of failure and the license for employees to fail too.
  • Strong leadership and true collaboration: An inspiring vision and the tenacity to make it happen – together.
  • Give employees autonomy. We all need meaningful work. The chance of helping an organisation grow is what motivates top employees. That and the freedom to make decisions based on clear goals but without directive processes on how to meet these objectives.
Continue Reading

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

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.
Continue Reading

4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator. Continue Reading

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

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

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

Briefing

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

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

Choose what you Need

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

A trilemma

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

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

1. Background

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

2. Objectives

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

Should you Test your Advertising? If so, What, When and How?

 

One of my clients recently asked me a very interesting question, which I share here, as I am sure that you too have asked it from time to time. It was this: “Should I test my advertising and if so, when and how?”

Depending upon whether you work on the client side, in a media agency or are a creative in an ad agency, you will have certainly answered this in a different way. So let’s review all the pros and cons and decide what is right – for you – in different circumstances.

 

Should you test advertising?

If you work on the client side and ask your colleagues in an advertising agency, most of them would probably scream NO and that’s not surprising! Countless teams have suffered at the h ands of market research and the over-testing of their creative.

In the past sixty years or so, there have been many different metrics invented, with the intention of evaluating which of a client’s communication concepts would best meet their objectives. And that for me is one of the biggest challenges to ad. testing. Should you test a campaign or each individual ad? Should you test an ad built to increase awareness in the same way as one built for encouraging trial, purchase, repurchase, loyalty or advocacy? My answer would be a very Swiss “It depends”.

Firstly you have to be clear about why you are advertising in the first place, and what your campaign is trying to achieve. It still amazes me how many companies develop new campaigns simply because that’s what they do each year. Hopefully each new campaign has a link to the preceding one, but even that is not always obvious. Therefore start by being very clear with whom you want to communicate and why – and share that information with your ad agency.

 

When to test

A lot of companies have a st andard process of testing ads before airing. Whilst this could be admired, it often results in multiple ad developments. The feeling is that more is better. If you test two, three or more ads, you can then choose the winner to air. What’s wrong with that?

Well, in my opinion, quite a lot. You’ve just wasted a lot of time, money and energy in developing multiple ads, when you know you’ll most probably only use one in most cases. It’s time to think differently and spend your valuable resources more wisely. Once the ad agency has developed a number of campaign concepts or ideas that meet your carefully defined objectives, then that is a better time to test.

Don’t wait until you have gone further and produced animations, final prints or complete films before testing. If you wait until that late a stage in the development process, you are also more likely to designate a “winner” when in fact they could all be good – or bad! Working with concepts will help identify the real winning ideas you have, which can then be developed into a final version or two for copytesting – if you must, but more of that later.  Continue Reading

The Ultimate Guide to Developing Actionable Insights

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 change in 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.   Continue Reading

How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?

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.

C3Centricity how well you know your customers

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:

  1. WHO DEMOGRAPHICS: 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.
  2. WHAT THEY USE: 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?
  3. WHAT THEY 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?
  4. WHAT THEY 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?
  5. WHAT THEY 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?
  6. WHERE THEY 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?
  7. WHERE THEY BUY: Do your target customers have certain places and times they buy? Is it an habitual or impulse purchase? Is it seasonal?
  8. WHERE THEY CONSUME: Today “consume” covers not just traditional media but new media as well.
Continue Reading

How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer underst anding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better underst anding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben  and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another br and which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent? Continue Reading

The Highly Effective Habits of Truly Innovative Companies

A couple of months ago I shared what I consider to be the Ten Mistakes even Great Companies Make when innovating. Whilst it is useful to have these “watch out” lists, I believe it is also beneficial to take a look at how other companies get it right.

This post was prompted by a new client who is one of those already doing innovation extremely well and yet is still looking to improve their thinking. That for me is the sign of a truly innovative company. So read on for some ideas on how you too can become great at innovating.

Set Stretch Launch Targets

Let me start by saying there is a huge difference between the quantity and quality of innovations in almost all companies. In fact I believe there is an inverse relationship between the two. Those that innovate a lot rarely do it well. I think this is because they have the pressure of meeting objectives of numbers of new launches, rather than numbers of successful launches.

What is a successful launch? For me it is meeting or beating carefully thought through and calculated objectives. Not those wishfully high numbers used to get management buy-in for the launch, nor those ridiculously low targets that everyone knows will be met even before the new product is launched. No, I mean objectives that are stretch targets but achievable with the right plan, actions and effort. In other words SMART.

Be Inspired by your Customers

There are a lot of very clever organisations, especially in the technology area, which develop incredibly innovative products. Apple is (was?) obviously one of these and until recently, was admired for its innovations. Now it has been claimed that Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research. This is untrue. He did believe in market research, but market research done right. He didn’t ask consumers what they wanted, because he said they didn’t know. Instead he asked them what their problems were, what they dreamt about. He then showed them his answers to these and got their reactions. Even when he got his answers, he didn’t immediately start adapting products to meet these stated needs, but rather worked to underst and what consumers meant by what they asked for. As the infamous Ford quote says

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

Jobs didn’t build a faster tape player, or a smaller one, or a lighter one. He made “music on the go” more convenient, more accessible and above all, more fun.

Use a Flexible Approach to Idea Generation

Many companies approach innovation as a strict process. They will use something similar to the below funnel, brainstorming for a multitude of ideas that eventually get whittled down to the one or two new launches that are finally chosen.

St andard funnel used by companies lacking innovative ideas

There are many companies today offering new processes and ways of innovating, but they all come down to a finite number of alternative levers:

  • Start from your strengths and / or weaknesses
  • Start from the strengths and / or weaknesses of your competitors
  • Extend into adjacent categories
  • Extend into new channels
  • Extend into new presentations (packs, prices, communications)

They also use one of three models to reduce their number of possible choices in their selection process:

  • Start large and reduce down (the st andard “funnel” approach shown above)
  • Start small and exp and before selecting (inverse funnel approach)
  • Repeated executions of the combination of the above expansion and contraction of ideas (sometimes referred to as the accordion approach)

Whichever you decide to use, you eventually get to a decision of the one, or few, launch choices, at least in most cases. Continue Reading

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