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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. Hopefully we will see changes coming out of all those debates in the coming years.

In the meantime, I decided to propose a few ideas to get your market research and insight departments moving in the right direction, no matter where you are today.



Hopefully the following ten proposed steps will move your market research department forward, wherever it is today. If you want to talk to someone about your own particular situation, then book a free advisory session with me to get you started. 



10 Steps to Reinventing Your Market Research Department

Here are the steps that I would suggest you take, should you wish to create or optimise your market research and insights function:

Step 1: If you already have a market research or insights department, then the GRBN / BCG self-assessment tool is a great place to start – and it’s FREE! The link is: http://insightsassessment.bcg.com/ . This will clearly indicate both what stage of development you are in, and what you can do to improve. Invaluable! Then all you have to do is to prioritise the changes needed!

Step 2:  Another assessment tool than can help you to better understand your customer understanding in its wider sense, is our  C3C Evaluator™. Again it is FREE; the link is: https://c3centricity.com/customer-centricity-mini-quiz-2. Unlike the insight assessment tool from BCG, this evaluator tool looks at insights as the motor or foundation to adopting a customer-first strategy. As such, it considers best-practice market research and insight development as a management decision support tool. Again, after your evaluation, you get a summary of what you need to change so you can prioritise your actions.

Step 3: Review the management’s needs in terms of information – besides the financial data they are certainly already receiving. Prioritise these and choose only the major KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to follow your business vision and strategy. For a truly customer-centric organisation these may include:

  • Market and category shares
  • Customer profiles
  • Brand image and brand equity metrics
  • Pricing, value perceptions and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)
  • Distribution and OOS (Out-Of-Stock)
  • Awareness of communications
  • Understanding and appreciation of messages
  • Website and social media traffic, and conversion rates
  • Customer retention and churn rates
  • Sales funnel’s level distribution

Besides measuring your chosen metrics, trends often mean more than the numbers themselves – in many markets the numbers will be going up anyway. Although I have mentioned many examples above, remember that KPIs mean the metrics you choose must be KEY to your business. Choose wisely so you don’t drown people in data and information.

Step 4: Identify which of the metrics you already gather and which you need to start collecting perhaps on a more regular basis. Then review methodologies and suppliers for providing all the information. If you already conduct regular tracking studies, they should be opened for pitch every few years, to avoid both sides becoming complacent and stale.

Step 5: Once the metrics are agreed upon, turn them into a one-page summary or dashboard. Most executives don’t have time for more than a rapid scan of information, so find ways to help them to read it. Using traffic-light colours, graphs and one-number indices all help them to quickly understand the current situation and identify any needed actions.

Step 6: In addition to data, management will also require information about the market, its customers, competitors and retailers. This can be gathered through observation and listening, whether in person or through market research qualitative studies. Read “Five rules of observation and why it’s hard to do effectively.” for more on the topic.

Step 7: Improving your data and information collection coming from market research will depend upon a solid briefing document. The brief should be developed in collaboration between the internal client and the market research department. It must include at a minimum why the information is needed, by when and why. For more on better briefing, read “Why Marketing doesn’t Always Get the Research it Needs, But Usually What it Deserves.”

Step 8: Identify how to measure the ROI of your service. The importance of a detailed brief cannot be overemphasized. It will not only allow good work to be done so the business gets the answers it needs. It also allows the measurement of its ROI. Knowing how the information will be used and the value of the decisions made from it, will go a long way towards proving its value. If this is only considered in retrospect, it is unlikely to meet with agreement from all concerned parties. Therefore these need to be discussed and included in your briefing document.

Step 9: The next step is to build a team of supporters within the organisation with whom you regularly share all the nuggets you learn from your different analyses. Beyond answering the questions for which any research was conducted, there are always additional learnings which can be invaluable to share. Unfortunately most Market Research Departments are so stretched that they spend most of their time behind their desks.

Even if it is just in the corridor, or during a coffee or lunch break, always have something interesting to share with your internal clients. This will quickly build respect and the MR team will be seen as an invaluable source of business understanding. Of course, this does mean that the department should be involved in business meetings, but this tends to naturally come when you start sharing more than market research presentations and reports.

Step 10: The final step in optimising your market research department is to start developing insights. Although I mention this last, the 7-step insight development process I suggest to my clients involves data and information gathering only at step 6. And yet this is the one thing most MR departments are seen to do.

The reason why I mention insight development last here, is because an organisation must believe in the need for a deep understanding of their customers before it can start to develop insights about them. Otherwise its market research department will remain simply a data-gathering group. For more details about the C3Centricity insight development process, read “Customer centricity is today’s business disruptor, Insights are its foundation.”

Et voila! The first ten steps that I believe will help all organisations upgrade their market research department. If nothing else, please complete the two assessment tools. They will give you a terrific start to understanding just how good – or bad – you are today!

Also do check out our insights training offers. You can download the brochure HERE

Hopefully these ten proposed steps will move your market research department forward, wherever it is today. If you have experience in creating or upgrading a market research and insight team I would love to hear what challenges you faced. 

 

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 (>>Click to Tweet<<)

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 (>>Click to Tweet<<)

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 (>>Click to Tweet<<)

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.” David Nichols (>>Click to Tweet<<)

When was the last time you revised your market research toolbox or refined your insight development process? It’s a rapidly changing world both technologically and societally-speaking. The methods you use to observe, understand and eventually delight your customers should be moving as fast, if not even faster, to stay in touch with the market.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Attend a 1-Day Catalyst session reviewing all your market research methodologies and metrics. Find out more HERE.

 

#5. “The structure will automatically provide the pattern for the action which follows.” Donald Curtis (>>Click to Tweet<<)

There has been a lot of discussion about the new roles of the CMO, CIO and the creation of a new CCO (Chief Customer Officer) position. Perhaps it is time for your organisation to review its structure and see if it is still optimal for the business of today, as well as of tomorrow.

As mentioned above, the world is changing rapidly and you need to keep abreast of these changes to stay in the game. Who wants to find themselves the equivalent of the Kodak or Borders of 2017?

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Develop plausible future scenarios to prepare for possible opportunities and threats. Contact us HERE.

 

#6. “Customer Service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the entire company.” Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos (>>Click to Tweet<<)

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes from a man I truly admire, for truly “getting” customer centricity. Their slogan is even “Powered by Service”! As already mentioned above, every single person in a company has a role to play in satisfying the customer.

Zappos have an integration program for all new hires – including the EVPs – that incorporates time at their call centre answering customer queries. What a great way to show a new person what the company is really about.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Why not start a similar introduction programme in your own company and organise regular customer connection sessions? We can show you HOW.

 

#7. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Marketing roll-out plansToday’s customers are very demanding which has prompted many companies to increase their innovation and new product launches. However, it has been shown that renovation is as important as innovation in keeping customers satisfied (find links to relevant articles HERE).

Instead of forcing your marketing and R&D to meet certain percentage targets of new launches, most of which will be destined to failure according to latest statistics, why not review your current offers with new eyes?

If you truly understand your customers, you will quickly find small changes that can make a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty, when you take their perspective. And as an added bonus, if it solves a frustration of theirs, it might even bring you increased profits, since the perceived value will be higher than the cost.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Download the free "Secrets of Innovation" eBook by completing the form on the right-hand side of this page.

 

#8. “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos (>>Click to Tweet<<)

In the past, most companies were more concerned with the reputation of their brands than they were with that of their company, other than with investors. As consumers become interested in knowing and adhering to the policies of the companies behind the brands they buy, it is vital to manage your image from both perspectives.

In addition, if your company is the brand as is the case of Coca-Cola or Red Bull, then this is vital to follow very closely. The same applies for any organisation that is considering adding their company name more prominently to their packaging.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Review whether there are differences between your company and brand images and whether they are complementary. And book a 1-Day Catalyst Training Session to ensure you are measuring the right metrics to optimise your images.

 

#9. “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Chinese Proverb (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Today’s customers often have more complex paths to purchase in many categories than they did in the past, so thinking of the simple awareness to loyalty funnel becomes less relevant.

In order to understand the purchasing of your brand, think information integration, as customers are becoming as savvy about products as they are about themselves. They seek out information based on the size of their budget and take the time needed to make what they consider to be an informed decision.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Check whether you are in every relevant touchpoint with appropriate information for them. Learn more about optimising your communications HERE.

 

#10. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Winston Churchill (>>Click to Tweet<<)

If your world has changed then so should the metrics you use to manage the business. Annual reviews of your KPIs should be made, if not even more frequently.

Also, review last year’s business results in comparison to the metrics you have been following. Were you correctly assessing the environment, the market and customer behaviour? If not, then it's probably time to update your KPIs.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Review and refine your KPIs. Find out more in Chapters 37-38 of "Winning Customer Centricity."

 

#11. “The fear of being wrong is the prime inhibitor of the creative process.” Jean Bryant

Do you embrace entrepreneurship in your organisation? What happens when someone fails whilst trying something new? The more accepting you are of relevant trial and error exercises, the more likely it will be that your employees will share their more creative ideas.

If failure is punished, then they will be reluctant to try or even propose new things and your business will stagnate. This is a great time to review your ways of compensating creativeness as well as how you share learnings from failures.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Download the FREE "Secrets to Actionable Insights" below.


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#12. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.” T S Eliot

Do you ever take decisions based on information or knowledge? If so then perhaps you should reconsider your insight development process.

While information and knowledge are essential to a deeper understanding of your customers, it is only when you have integrated everything you know and understand about them, that you can begin to develop insights that will positively impact your customers’ behaviour.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Sign up for a 1-Day Catalyst Training Session on "Insights to Action" or "Insights to Impact." More information HERE.

 

Storytelling#13. “If you can’t sum up the story in a sentence, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Garr Reynolds

Taking the decision to share information and understanding in a new way through storytelling, will have a profound impact on the way your employees think and remember the essential understandings of your customers.

Before every presentation ask yourself what is the one sentence that sums up everything you want to share.

If you can't come up with one, then perhaps you don't know what you're talking about, or perhaps you just need more time to practice.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Read Chapters 45-47 in "Winning Customer Centricity."

 

So there you have thirteen marketing quotes that will excite and inspire most people. And because I promised you a bonus if you read to the end, here is one more which aptly sums up all the others.

It is the one message out of all these marketing quotes from Charles Darwin which remains vital to remember in this awesomely changing world we live in.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, it is those most responsive to change”

If you have your own favourite marketing quote that inspires you to change your business practices in 2017, then please share it below. We would love to hear from you and we promise we'll add it to our growing library of quotes, with appropriate credit to you. (Fame at last!)

For even more inspiring marketing quotes, why not check out our website library? it's regularly updated.

C³Centricity used images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity" in this post.

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

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.
  • Build platforms, not products. This may be the hardest for many organisations to grasp. Giving your customers the opportunity to decide what and how they use what you produce, and how it should be changed is the route to success. Networks and co-creation are the future that is already here. And customers are the answer!
 
  • Think like engineers and customers. Everyone in an organisation should be encouraged to look at problems from the customer’s perspective. It always amazes me how we seem to “take off our consumer hat” when we arrive at our place of work!
  • Know that money only gets you so far. Innovation has a much shorter shelf-life than it used to. In fact, best-in-class organisations have a continuous process ingrained in their culture.
  • Get acquisitions right. Many companies are looking for acquisitions for a way to quick-start their innovation. But it is difficult to get the timing right. The current value is good but potential growth is better.
 
The article concludes with an interesting comment that it is “leadership in business model innovation that offers the deepest and most transformational insights.” I would add it’s our customers too!
 
If innovation is a challenge for you and you know your process is not optimal, then you might like to read “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.”

Where do I find out what issues my brand has?

You’re measuring your sales and hopefully the trend is upwards. You’re following your distribution and hopefully it’s expanding. You’re calculating your profits and hopefully those are also rising. What else are you doing to follow your brand?
 
You would be amazed at just how many brand managers stop there! Even those in major CPG companies! It’s not enough. You know nothing about your customers! Your forecasts are based on outdated information from the past. (and if you didn’t skip to this point but read the previous one, you know why that’s insufficient)
 
The health of your brand and a good estimate of at least its short-term future comes from your work with customers. From brand image and equity,   to co-creation and observation, your customers are the answer.
 
Brand image and equity measurements are vital for helping you to understand what current and potential clients think about your brand. If you want to learn more about the topic then read “What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes.”
 
There is an additional bonus in following your brand image and that is that it acts as an early-warning signal. This is because it almost always starts to decline before your sales do!
 
The reason for this is that we are creatures of habit, retailers included. Change is difficult as a decision has to be made. So we tend to continue with the same products and services until something important happens. Important in the eye of the customer that is.
 
It may be a new brand introduction, a price promotion, bad publicity or negative comments on social media. If these are important enough to customers then they may decide to change brands. And if this impacts a lot of customers, the sales decline can be fast and significant.
 
Better therefore to follow your image as well as comments on social media.
 
Social media platforms can provide a wealth of information about your brand. Of course, different people adopt different platforms for different uses. Pew Research ran a useful analysis in their Social Media Update 2016 of the demographic similarities and differences of channels in the US. It is definitely worth a read to understand these differences, as well as to identify the best platforms for your own brands.
 
Another good source of social media statistics is from Smart Insights. Their “Global social media research summary 2017” combines information from numerous sources and provides a global perspective.
 
The sort of information that can be gathered from social media includes:
  • Natural vocabulary used by your customers.
  • Issues customers have with products and services, often in real time.
  • Trending topics of interest; use trend alerts rather than the keyword tool from Google, which is slower to update.
  • Regional or country differences from topic frequencies.
 
Observation and listening in person can provide extra benefits that social media can’t. The two information sources are thus complementary. In fact, I would consider them to be the best way to identify brand issues, long before running any market research surveys. For more on best practices in customer closeness sessions, check out “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.” 
 
 

How can I grow my brand more profitably?

As you know there are basically only three ways to grow your business:

  • Get more customers to buy.
  • Get customers to buy more.
  • Get customers to buy more frequently
 
You will see that all three ways involve the customer; of course, they do! As you know, one of my favourite quotes says “There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.” If you still haven’t understood the message, your customers are the answer to everything!
Just think about that for a moment, please. A simple but profound statement, don’t you think? Therefore, your customer is the solution to your business growth and profitability.
 
Speaking of which, sometimes a business is growing but has done so by slashing prices and being on constant promotion. This doesn’t grow your brand, it demolishes it! Both its value and reputation! Read more about this and head the warning in “Are you on the Way to Brand Heaven or Hell?”
 
A far better way to grow more profitably is to understand the value that you offer to your customers. This is done through a PSM (price sensitivity measurement), a price trade-off study (BPTO) or similar survey. These will provide you with the information you need to understand your customers’ perception of your value. Whether your price is too high or too low, you’re leaving money on the table and could be more profitable. 
 

 

Why is market research not enough to understand my customers?

There are so many reasons why running market research is insufficient to really know and understand your customers and your business. I don’t know where to start, but here are a few reasons I’ve come up with (please add your own in the comments box below):
  1. Projects are sample based.
  2. They are at best snapshots of current opinions and behaviours.
  3. The information can quickly become outdated.
  4. They ask questions.
  5. They have limited focus.
  6. People don’t tell the truth.
  7. People don’t know why they do what they do.
  8. Results are extrapolated.
  9. Results are open to interpretation.
 
I could go on and on with this list – and again feel free to add further ideas in the comments below – but you get the idea.
 
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of market research. BUT done by experts. Unfortunately, with the ease of connecting with people online and the simple survey platforms offered for free, it is easy for anyone to run a research project today.
 
It’s great that people see the benefit of surveys, but as this subtitle mentions, it’s not enough for truly knowing and understanding your customers. Also, if the reasons I gave above are not enough, there’s something else!
 
The biggest issue from my perspective is that understanding takes far more information than any single market research project can provide. Yes, it may deliver certain answers to a finite number of questions, but to understand your customer you need to get intimate.
 
I wrote a blog on just this topic which you might want to check out for a more detailed plan on getting to know your customers. It’s called “4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding.”
 
 

Why are customers always the answer?

There are many organisations that understand the importance of the customer and yet still hesitate to start walking the talk of customer centricity. If you’re one of them, then here are a few statistics that should convince you  – and your bosses – of their importance:
  • Customer centric organisations are 60% more profitable. (Source)
  • The average revenue growth of Customer Experience Leaders is 14% points higher than that of the laggards. (Source)
  • 64% of people think that customer experience is more important than price in their choice of brand. (Source) 
I don’t think anyone can read those numbers and not be excited by the potential for growth. So what are you waiting for?

Conclusions

 
As you see, our customers can provide many if not all the answers to almost any question we may have about our businesses. After all, we are in business to make a difference to our customers lives in one way or another. So it is surprising that we still go looking for our answers elsewhere.
 
If I haven’t highlighted your main business challenge for 2017, then please add a comment below. I’m sure the customer will still be the answer – but prove me wrong!
 

If you’re ready to adopt a Customer First Strategy, book a free half-hour advisory session with me directly in my calendar, so we can go through your priorities and discuss solutions.

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. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of underst anding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on br ands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support br and building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

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

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

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.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

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

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

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

Briefing

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

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

Choose what you Need

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

A trilemma

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

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

1. Background

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

2. Objectives

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

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

3. Decisions to be taken

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

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

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

4. Budget and Timing

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

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

“Formula for success: under promise and over deliver” 

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

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

5. Research target and approach

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

6. Test materials and availability

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

7. Deliverables

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

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

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

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

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. The earlier you test, the more resources your ad agency can concentrate on the most relevant concept(s), rather than diluting their efforts to give you the wide choice you usually dem and. No wonder ad agencies don’t like copytesting!

 

What to test

Another reason for testing concepts rather than finished ads, is to ensure that they can be turned into a campaign. I have witnessed many terrific, so called “big ideas” that were superb as they stood, but which it was impossible to visualise other than in the single form proposed. If you show your early work to consumers, they might even be inspired by the story of an idea and suggest other ways to show the concept you have developed and thus you get an indication of the campaignability of the idea.

For regional and global campaigns, there is often the added complication of the translation of the idea into other languages. There are many concepts in English that don’t or only poorly translate into other languages. English is a wonderful language that is particularly appropriate for advertising, because of the ability to make wordplays, or use idioms, acronyms, slang, compound words and other wonders of its grammar. In addition the English language is known for its extensive vocabulary, which is especially useful in advertising copy-writing. Whereas in another language you might only have one or two words to express a particular meaning, English may have five or six, each with subtle differences.  If you’d like to see some great examples of advertising messages “lost in translation” (>>Tweet this<<) check out this fun article from Business News Daily.

 

How to test

Depending upon their “st andard” processes, most companies will tend to use the same methodology, with no regard for the reasons for doing so. Are you used to copytesting all your developments in order to pick the “winner”, or to get airing approved by management? Some clients I know must score in the “top quadrant” on the usual copytesting impact and persuasion metrics in order to use an ad, even though there are valid reasons to accept lower scores on one or other of the metrics, depending upon the campaign’s objectives.

Some of the best – and most useful – campaign testing I have ever seen, was done qualitatively. But that alone won’t work unless you then allow the creatives, market research and insight groups to discuss the results together – ALONE! It was exciting to share consumer opinions with the creatives and they found it equally stimulating to share their ideas and get feedback based on real consumer input. Whoever said that creatives don’t like testing are wrong; they just dislike judgemental, sometimes disrespectful and bl and numerical results with little if any depth of analysis.

A powerful testing methodology I have had the privilege to work with is the unique one proposed by PhaseOne. Their scientifically based, proprietary technique, is based on over thirty years experience of academic work  and real-world validation. Their knowledgebase includes an extensive foundation including analytics in human behaviour, anthropology, culture traits, entertainment, education, communications and marketing. This enables them to accurately explain how your target will react to your messages and even more importantly the reasons why, without actually speaking with consumers. In comparative testing versus st andard copytesting, their technique has been shown to give similar outcomes, but with greater depth and underst anding of the reasons why consumers react to an ad as they do and not just the what. If you’d like to hear more about this unique methodology, especially if you’re having trouble speaking with your own target customers due to legal or confidentiality issues, I’d be happy to share some case studies.

 

In summary when it comes to testing your advertising:

  1. Know with whom you want to communicate
  2. Know what your target audience wants to hear
  3. Know why you are communicating, what the message is that you want to send
  4. Know which concept(s) have the most resonance with both your target audience and objectives, and why
  5. Know how the concept(s) will develop into a campaign across media
  6. Know how you are going to communicate, the most relevant medium and channels for your target audience

Can you answer all six questions before pre-testing you own ads? If so, well done; if not, perhaps it’s time to review your testing process.

 

Where testing came from & where it’s going

In conclusion, a few words about the future of pre-testing. Although advertising testing supposedly started in the mid 1800’s, it was in the 1950’s that performance metrics became the holy grail of clients, ad agencies and media sellers alike. From Day-After-Recall, to persuasion, and br and linkage to moment-by-moment systems, it wasn’t until this decennie that the importance of emotional rather than rational responses to advertising gained support. Today, emotional analysis has become widely available and customers’ reaction to the ads are measured, usually on the six universal emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger) plus neutral. Whilst it’s still early days in underst anding the connection between emotional reactions and br and impact, things are moving fast. C³Centricity is now offering facial coding as part of its services, whether for adding to market research projects or for the development of original promotions and point-of-sale activities. One such case study is available for download on the C³Centricity Members area here. (Free to join)

Interestingly, when I was doing research for this post, almost all the more recent articles I found were about the testing of online advertising, comparing PPC and positioning, of the usual paid, earned and owned media. However, with around two-thirds of budgets still being on traditional media – at least for now –  and Statista showing that consumers still trust it more than new media,  it seemed appropriate for me to concentrate on that here and leave online for a future post.

Also, I have covered only pre-testing here, yet I know many companies who are satisfied with running only post-tests. They admit that it is because they never have enough time to pre-test their ads which, at least to me, highlights a clear lack of concept testing in the first place. Hopefully I have explained why I think it is important, no vital, for clients, media and ad agencies alike, to do more of it. At least it will provide more material for those development discussions – before it’s too late!

Do you agree? Have I forgotten something? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post

 

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.  You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:

  • go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you underst and the decision making process of your target customers.
  • compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their br and’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one h and? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your br and. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#5. Fill the gaps

Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review (>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.

#6. Develop the insight

At this stage, you will certainly have a better underst anding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.

You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

 

These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.

From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website at: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/ as well as available trainings at: https://www.c3centricity.com/training- and-evaluation/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi in this post.

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. From where do they get information about products? From manufacturers, friends, family, colleagues? Do they access it online, in print, on radio or TV, at home or on the road? What websites and people do they follow, listen to and value the opinion of? What interests do they have in general and concerning the category?
  9. WHERE THEY SEE: One reason to target a specific group of customers is so that you can better communicate with them. Where are they most likely to be open to your messages; what media, what times, which days?
  10. WHY VALUES: What values do your customers have that you are meeting with your product or service, and explain why they are using it? Do they have other values that are not currently addressed, either by you or your competitors? Do these values offer the possibility of a differentiated communications platform or product / service concept?
  11. WHY EMOTIONS: What is the emotional state of your customers when they are considering a purchase or use, both of the category and the br and? Clearly identified emotions enable you to more easily resonate with your customers through empathising with their current situation. You are more likely to propose a solution that will satisfy their need or desire when their emotional state is precisely identified.
  12. WHY MOTIVATIONS: What motivates the customer to consider, buy and use their category and br and choice? Emotions and motivations are closely linked both to each other and to the customer’s need state. By identifying the need-state you want to address, you will be better able to underst and your customers and increase the resonance of your communications.

If you can answer all twelve of these questions in detail, then you certainly know your customers intimately. But before you sit back and relax on your laurels, remember that people are constantly changing and what satisfies them today, is unlikely to satisfy them tomorrow. Therefore you need to keep a track on all four layers of your customer description to stay ahead of competition, as well as to satisfy and hopefully delight your customers.

As mentioned above, by answering and completing a detailed description of the target audience for my client, we were able to identify a couple of new segments that my client’s services could address. Although their demographics were similar, their emotional and need states were quite different. This gave us the opportunity to respond with slightly different service offers for each group.

If you would like to try out this exercise for yourself, we have some useful templates that we make available to C³C Members. Why not sign up and get access? It’s FREE to join.

For more information on better identifying and understanding target customers, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

This post has been adapted from one which first appeared on C³Centricity in April 2013.

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?

Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognise good ideas when they see them (>>Tweet this<<)

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too (>>Tweet this<<)

Exp and your Thinking

Innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coca Cola takes br and innovation seriouslyLast year, Coke used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

This year they took this winning idea a step further and launched the bottle that could only be opened by another Coke bottle – another way of sharing.

Starting from a different innovation lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative NPD concepts (>>Tweet this<<)

Go Beyond Trend Following

Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities.

The innovative ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during that conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have inspired you too to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us today.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Ben &Jerry’s and Coke in this post.

This post has been adapted from one first published on C³Centricity in June 2013

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. Truly innovative companies are not limited to one process or tool, and are open to idea generation from however and wherever it might come.

Make Innovation Everyone’s Responsibility

Innovation is for the privileged few in (too) many organisations today. Teams are separated off to concentrate on being “more creative” or to “bond” with R&D. However truly innovative companies use open innovation where everyone can have and share ideas about the company’s process, products and customers. In a great article on this (“ Who blocks innovation?”) Jeffrey Phillips ends with a wonderful short story:

“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realizes that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody then Nobody did what Anybody could have done”

Great companies are often great because they are very innovative. And they are very good at innovating because of three highly effective habits:

  • They set appropriate stretch targets for every new launch; good is never good enough
  • They listen to their customers, but don’t do what they say, but rather what they mean
  • They open idea generation to be inspired by a multitude of different processes, tools and above all people

Would you add another habit? Have I forgotten an important trait? Please let me know what you would add or feel free to react with your comments below.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime in this post.

Is Honesty still the Best Policy? Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

I got an email today that irritated me, I mean it really insulted me, and prompted this post on customer centricity. I am sure it would have annoyed you too; in fact you have probably already received it or at least something similar yourself in the past.

It announced a “massive 46-page eBook” that I had been chosen to receive for free. It sounded as if I should be happy and feel privileged to receive it. I wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call 46 pages massive. A jumbo jet is massive; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is massive; not a measly 46 pages – even if it was for free.

ASA Logo protecting customer centricityWhy do companies continue to think that they can treat people like idiots? In my opinion, it can only be a very short-lived business strategy. People will quickly learn the truth, especially in today’s connected world. Or should I blame the advertising agencies for coming up with these “lies”? However, it seems to me to be just a little too close for comfort to the “misleading claims” from which the Advertising St andards Authority in most countries should be protecting us.

If you are looking to be truly customer centric, here are some other examples that you are hopefully NOT doing.

Claims

The above illustration is just one example of many exaggerated claims which seem to have become prevalent these days. This is most probably because the internet makes it so easy to reach new, “naive” customers, who still trust organisations to do the right thing. Why do so many companies use overly attractive adjectives that their product or service can’t live up to? They are setting themselves up to disappoint their potential customers, especially if they don’t register what comes after that word before buying.

Massive, mouth-watering, heart-stopping, mind-blowing, huge discount, best price ever; most of the time the products are not, which is probably why they feel they have to use such words. Customer centric companies don’t use these claims unless they can substantiate them.

Packaging

One area that often suffers from exaggeration is packaging. How many packs have you opened to find the product sitting miserably in the lower half of it? What a disappointment from the promise of the packaging. Or worse still in my opinion, are companies whose packs have been discretely reduced in contents over time. Companies may print the weight of the product that is inside the pack, but customers recognise and buy the pack without checking its weight each time they buy.

What is particularly offensive in this example is that it is the company’s most loyal customers who are being cheated. The company reduces the pack’s quantity but not its price; they are getting a price increase without informing their customers. That isn’t customer centric.

Value

Customer centric companies price on value not costAnother area that often suffers from exaggerated claims is price value. I was recently offered access online to a video “worth more than US$ 997” for just US$49.99. I don’t know any videos, even those of the classics or Oscar-winning films, that are worth that amount, and certainly no such offers proposed on the internet.

To paraphrase the infamous quote of Oliver Platt:

 

“Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the seller” (>>Tweet this<<)

 

How are you pricing your own product and service offerings? Do you base it on company cost or customer value? If not the latter, you may also be leaving a lot of money on the table, as your offer might actually be worth more than you are charging for it. The most important information you need to decide on your price is what your customer is prepared to pay for it; that is what value is all about. Customer centric companies know and apply this on a daily basis

Promising but not delivering

Airlines are renowned for this, especially the low-cost ones. They advertise flights at ridiculously low prices that few, if any, end up paying, since you need to add on the cost of paying by credit card, booking your seat, taking a bag on board etc. etc. Yes the advertised price attracts attention, but once you have made a few attempts at reserving these low prices, you underst and the “game” and compare before buying. And most of the time the “normal” airlines are cheaper. As I’m sure you’re heard many times and to quote Thomas (Tom) J. Peters:

 

“The formula for success is to under-promise and over-deliver” (>>Tweet this<<)

 

Zappos

Amazon and Zappos are two companies who regularly do this; in fact it’s a part of their business model. They occasionally provide priority delivery at no extra cost, as a delightful surprise for their customers. Amazon also proposes useful suggestions of other books, music or other products to buy whilst you are surfing their website to purchase something. Yes, I know it is in their interest to get you to buy something else, but it is a service and highly valued by most people. Customer centric behaviour is always a win-win for both the customer and the company.

Hidden renewals

You subscribe to a service on a free trial basis, or a one-off monthly fee as many Telecom companies now offer. What you don’t notice or remember, is that it is automatically renewed at the end of the trial period unless cancelled. Yes I know it’s written in the terms and conditions or at the very bottom of the online page if you scroll down, but I don’t read font 8 very easily, even with my glasses! And be honest, none of us reads to the very end of the terms and conditions, and the companies that use this tactic are counting on it.

Of course, when you are informed that your subscription has been renewed, you realise what has happened and immediately cancel, with hopefully only a one month and not an annual unwanted payment. Yes the company has gotten a payment it probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but they certainly didn’t make us a loyal and happy customer, did they?

If you are using this type of “hidden selling” to get customers, please stop. Customer centric companies invite people to continue their subscription, perhaps at a special price. In this way they will get almost as many customers, but they will most certainly be happier and more likely to continue to purchase from them.

These are just a few examples of how companies are intentionally aiming to get customers to buy something that is not worth the money being asked in many cases. If the product or service they propose did offer true value, then people would buy or repurchase without the need for such tricks. As Peter Drucker said:

 

“The aim of marketing is to know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (<<Tweet this<<)

 

I would go one step further and say that it is the aim of customer centric businesses.

With today’s ease of sharing experiences on the web, why do companies continue to try to cheat unsuspecting customers? It is most definitely a short-term business strategy. Unhappy customers used to tell ten people, now they tell tens of millions, with a simple Tweet. And if there are several unhappy customers who Tweet about similar experiences, then others will start to see the trend and become wary. Whilst there will always be a few disgruntled customers who complain, more than that will highlight a real issue.

This reminds me; I hate doing it but I am one of the people who have tweeted about poor customer service because I am not getting an answer when using the provided phone and email contacts. Customer service is all about taking the customers’ perspective (>>Tweet this<<) and offering multiple ways to be contacted and then responding quickly. Companies do respond to negative tweets, usually in record time and certainly faster than connections by other means. Why are companies forcing their customers to go public with their dissatisfaction to get heard? Most would be happy and would probably prefer to share their complaints with the company in private – IF they get a quick response.

So coming back to my question, the answer is a resounding yes. Most companies now speak about the importance of being customer centric, but so many of them are still doing many of the practices mentioned above, which are most definitely NOT customer centric behaviour. Are you one of them? Do you have other examples that you yourself have experienced? Why not share them here?

C³Centricity used images from the ASA in the UK, Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

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