Posts Tagged ‘Marketing research

16
May
09

Just Say Nay

Don’t let the naysayers get to you. Have faith. Do what you know is right.

13
Oct
08

Marketing in a recession. What’s the difference?

Everywhere I turn I see companies attempting to leverage the much hyped “downturn” in the economy. All of a sudden, they are touting special “Recession” services and techniques to overcome impending doom. Marketing and advertising agencies are especially guilty offenders. So, in my inimitable tradition of cutting through the smoke and smashing the mirrors, allow me to deliver some straight talk (McCain and Obama aside).

When it comes to marketing, there is no difference between a recession marketing strategy versus a boom time marketing strategy. There are simply two ends of the marketing strategy continuum. On one end, there exists the Well Planned and Executed Strategy. On the other, the Wild Ass Seat of the Pants Unstrategy. That’s it. All companies are on this continuum somewhere.

If you find yourself on the right side of the continuum, you will experience more pain when the economy gets tight. It’s as simple as that.

The fact is that there are always deals going on. There may be fewer deals but even a 20% downturn means that 80% of business is still being transacted. Companies who have investing in “real” marketing strategies and programs (a customer centered message, a clear position, a consistent marketing communications effort, etc.) will naturally be in a better position to win business in this type of circumstance. Those who don’t have a best practices process in place will be victims of Market Darwinism.

So what makes a “real” strategy? Here’s a few points to help you figure out where you are on the continuum:

  1. Objectivity: If your marketing and sales programs are based purely on internal information or the dictum of a single person, it’s most likely not going to be very effective.
  2. Research: Going hand-in-hand with Objectivity is customer, competitive and industry research. Yes, it’s expensive and not as fun as building a new web site, however, if you really want to get the facts as to how customers buy, how competitors sell and how to leverage industry thought leaders to your advantage, no strategy should skip this important step.
  3. Budget: Two opposing objectives are very common in businesses: Saving Money or Growing the Business. These objectives are mutually exclusive. You can’t save your way to success and making money requires careful, investment.
  4. Commitment: Marketing programs take time to work. Pulling the plug every time the stock market hiccups destroys any momentum and equity your efforts may have created.
  5. Execution: Having a well researched, objective, adequately budgeted plan means nothing if you don’t execute. Build a team and get it done. And keep doing it until it pays off.

Good times or bad, it pays to bring your marketing programs up to par with the rest of your carefully planned business. Of course there is more to it than can be covered here. But this is a start. Marketing is a business process. The outcome (increased market share, revenue and profit)  is only as good as the process used to get there.

15
Jul
08

The single most important thing you can do to grow your business.

First let me say that I’ve been guilty of what I’m about to share with you. In the past, as the founder and owner of a successful marketing firm in Milwaukee, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about what my customers want and how they buy. My biggest mistake was thinking that my company could do no wrong when it came to servicing clients. I thought we were the best and I knew my clients knew it. The sky was the limit and my ego was pushing this limit to the max.

The irony is that my team regularly developed and executed customer surveys for our clients but we never did one for ourselves. After a particularly perplexing client phone call, I called my friend, Bill Lowell from Business Development Directives and asked him to perform executive interviews with a random sample of my clients. Something wasn’t right and I realized I was too close to the problem to put my finger on it.

Bill performed interviews with thirty past and present clients. While we scored very high in overall satisfaction, around 98%, our survey went beyond satisfaction metrics and focused on where we could improve; attitudes about pricing, buying criteria and more. After all, even a satisfied customer will still buy from someone else if the circumstances are right. We learned that many of our clients also bought from our competitors – including some we had never heard of before! I learned that clients wanted to see more of me – and less of a certain staff member who was described by more than one client as “obnoxious”. The biggest thing we discovered is that many of our clients thought our pricing was too low!

Since then, I’ve come to personally understand the importance of working with customers to refine, improve and focus marketing and sales efforts. I’ve developed a process that moves beyond mere “customer satisfaction” and provides answers to the questions that keep you up at night.

You might be wondering why I brought in Bill to do my survey when we were in the business of doing this type of work. The reason is simple. This is one of the few tasks companies should never attempt to do themselves. Of course I encourage you to have regular dialogs with your customers to gain insight and create strong personal bonds. However, customers are reluctant to tell you about issues that they think may insult you or hurt your feelings – the very issues that are hurting your business! By performing anonymous interviews with an objective, third party, customers are more willing to be completely candid.

Not just a conversation – an Executive Interview
Furthermore, a casual conversation is much different from the executive interviews performed during the research process. This process produces very specific data used to spot trends. Each question must be carefully developed and delivered in exactly the same way to ensure that respondents are not “led” by the researcher to a biased answer. The survey is done in a tightly controlled manner and is designed to answer specific questions.

Generally the surveys I implement are designed to uncover the criteria and process used to select one company over another. Is reputation more important than price? Is location important? Is industry specialization the key factor? Once this criteria is identified and ranked, we’ll ask how we compare to competitors based on this criteria. Using a combination of structured and open ended questions, (remember, this is a conversation, not an interrogation), we get down to what is really important to your customers; how you can do better, what they really think of your business, how they make buying decisions, other needs they may have, who your competitors really are, and much more. Each survey is tailored to what you need to know to sell more, increase profit and close more deals.

The million dollar question
It’s difficult to predict the outcome of these surveys. Typically, we find out that our clients’ perceptions and assumptions are about 90 percent accurate. They know their business and generally make good decisions. What makes the biggest impact is the 10 percent they are getting wrong and the customers are more than happy to set us straight. For one client, we learned that a majority of their customers felt that a certain employee’s involvement was critical to continue doing business with my client. In other words, if this employee left, the customers would leave with him. Another client discovered that a customer was buying from a competitor simply because they didn’t know my client provided this type of product. This resulted in an additional $2.5 million dollars in revenue – simply because we asked the question!

Customer surveys should be a regular part of your operations. Done properly, they can have immense impact on the success of your business. There are no shortcuts here. The good news is that your customers are chomping at the proverbial bit to tell you what’s on their minds. All you have to do is ask.




Who is Pete Monfre

CLICK HERE to visit my web site

I'm a serial entrepreneur, marketing and media guy, raconteur, writer, producer and consultant. I write this little blog to help you unravel the mysteries of marketing and selling, to expose the silliness that masquerades as marketing and help you make better decisions that will grow your business. And I have fun with it. Why not comment? That way we can have a conversation. Or better yet, hop on over to my web site and drop me a line.

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