Is there a Future for Information & Insight? Yes, if we learn these new skills

Last week I had the privilege of presenting at the European Pharmaceutical Market Research (EphMRA) Annual Conference in Brussels. My talk was on the important topic of the future of the Market Research profession.

My invitation came as the result of one of the committee members seeing a question I had posted at the end of last year on several LinkedIn groups: Does your organisation need a market research department? And in the future?” Whether you are a researcher or a user of research data, the following summary of that presentation should help you underst and the need for us all to change the way we work with information and data, in order to increase their value to the business. Recent studies by both IBM  and Business Intelligence about the information needs of top management in general and marketing in particular give us some great clues about what they dislike and what we need to change.

Management don’t get what they need

Executives complain that their information currently comes from numerous, disparate sources, is rarely available in real-time, cannot be easily accessed without the help of IT, and anyway takes too long to customise it to their needs. The good news is that they don’t seem to get too much; in fact it looks as if they actually want more, but more of what they need.

Executives don’t get it in the format they need

Management currently get their information primarily via emails and spreadsheets, which I find shocking.  Why do we expect them to take the time to sift through all the information to draw their own conclusions? Are we still too scared to voice our own opinions, or to make recommendations? Only one in eight receive dashboards and yet this is their preferred medium. They want someone to have thought about their needs and then to provide a simple form that is easy to scan, interpret and take action on.

Marketing needs their data in real-time

It’s a hard time to be a CMO or head of marketing these days. They are being challenged more than ever before, to prove the ROI of their spending. They want more real-time information so they can take better informed decisions. They also need consistency so they can compare across channels and link sales back to individual campaigns and lead-generation efforts.

Marketing don’t feel ready to manage even more information

More than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. They also feel that they aren’t keeping up with all the rapid market changes, even when they have the money to do so.

The solution is as easy as ABC

Taking into account what management have said about their current information sources, providing what they need is as easy as ABC:

  • Accessibility to the information they need, where and when they need it.
  • Business impact so that what they receive enables them to identify and take the actions needed.
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8 Things CEOs might question about your Marketing Plan: And how to Answer them

All marketers create a marketing plan and work to achieve the growth mentioned in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop the plan, and even more to get it approved by management.

The annual parade of br and-plan presentations is a reality in most companies. Marketers all breathe a sigh of relief when it is over and they can get back to their beloved day jobs, that of supporting their br ands.

Worried marketer answering a marketing question

However, management doesn’t always allow a marketer to get off that easily. They can just as easily spring an “innocent” question when passing them in the corridor or socialising at a company event. If you can answer the CEOs question to their satisfaction, you will shine in their eyes. Provide an incomplete or worse still no answer, and they might wonder if it isn’t time to restructure the marketing group.


So, here are eight of the most likely questions a CEO may ask and how you should answer. NEVER say you don’t know, but also never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither response will win you brownie points. Make sure you have an answer like those proposed below and your name might just be on the next list of promotions.

1. Who are our br and customers?

There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona) of a typical user, in the same way as you would describe a friend. See “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers” for further details on what you should already know about your customer.

ANSWER: Our customers are middle-aged women, whose children are in their late teens or early twenties. She shops in local supermarkets and gets advice from  friends on Facebook, about the best br ands to buy and what’s on offer. She’s been buying our br and for over two years because it satisfies her children’s hunger when they get in from playing sports. That makes them happy and she then feels proud of being a good Mum.

2. How much are our customers worth to us?

Marketing plan question about valueBesides having an average lifetime value in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your br and.

ANSWER: On average each customer spends about XXX (Dollars, Euros, Renminbi, Rupee, Real) each year on our br and, which is about YYY over ten years (lifetime value is rarely calculated further out than this). Our current average price in-store is ZZZ, but 70% of our customers thinks we’re actually worth more.

3. What return on our marketing budget are we getting?

Whilst ROI is not the best measure of marketing’s impact (see this Forbes article for more on that), you still need to answer the question. The answer to this could get very complex if you go into too much detail, so keep it simple. Say what your total budget is, how much you spend on advertising and promotions and what impact that has had on sales, in total. Continue Reading

The New Marketing Role: Testing & Tested

There have been many discussions lately about new marketing and how the function of the marketer has changed in recent years. The position has gone from a primarily creative role to one encompassing many new competencies.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, marketing is also being challenged more and more to prove its ROI to the business, whilst at the same time being “forced” to get intimate with IT. These are very tough times for marketers. That is why I thought I would add my support and sympathy with a few ideas on how to make your life a little easier.

A/B Testing

Oreo's creative marketing at 2013 SuperBowl

It is no longer sufficient to publish great content on the web. Marketers are required to constantly challenge their own thinking and to improve what they are doing. A/B testing is now C/D/E and almost every other letter of the alphabet.

Great is no longer enough and anyway doesn’t stay great for long in the eyes of the customer. They are now (too) quickly losing their first positive impressions, accept as normal what was surprising just one week earlier and are soon off looking for something better.

 

IDEA: It is essential to work out a detailed plan of online activities, just like any other section of the marketing plan. Decide who will publish what and when, and make sure it aligns with and supports your offline events. Incorporate testing of content and headlines into your plans too, but always leave a little space and flexibility for topical content should something inspiring happen in the marketplace. Think Oreos at the 2013 SuperBowl.

Prepare to be challenged

Greenpeace marketing against P&G

Although I don’t know whether P&G were prepared for last week’s direct Greenpeace attack on their Head & Shoulders br and, it is not something they can easily ignore. After a similar attack on Nestle’s KitKat last year, it is clear that customers feel empowered to verbalise discontent in a ferocious manner. For this reason, it is vital to be prepared for as many possible eventualities as possible. This is where future scenario planning can be of immense support.

IDEA: Watch how other br ands are being called up short and consider what you would do if something similar happened to one of your br ands. Spend time studying societal trends (you are of course following them, aren’t you?) and then develop a few plausible future scenarios. The easiest way is probably to identify the two most important axes of uncertainty and then to describe each of the four worlds created. Review and agree what marketing and management would need to do in each of these situations.

Proving what you’re worth

Marketing has never been so closely scrutinised nor challenged as in recent years. The wealth of information being produced thanks to new technologies makes it arguably easier to measure activities than ever before. So marketing is being challenged by the business to prove its ROI. It is no longer acceptable to claim the lack of direct relationships between actions and outcomes, because of the wealth of data available. Continue Reading

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