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Today I’m pleased to share part one of a two-part guest post by Paul Laughlin.

I often write about topics like better target marketing or marketing effectiveness measurement. So it seems like a natural next step to cover how to ensure you develop the right stuff to market in the first place. Do you know how to generate insights to do this?

Are you working effectively with your proposition development colleagues? Do you both agree on the need for customer insight-guided design?

Perhaps in these times of companies falling over each other to have the most customer-centric strategies, you may feel inundated with requests for deeper or richer insights that provide a platform for proposition developers to start designing.

Does Customer Insight have a role to play in guiding design of propositions your target customers will want, need, and actually use?

From my experience, the answer is yes. (This is also another marketing area badly in need of holistic customer insight rather than assuming only research or only analytics will do).

That said, ironically, I’ve found that this is a skill where sectors rich in behavioral data (like financial services) can learn from those who have been much more limited in consumer data and have had to rely more on research and combining imperfect data sources.

Many leaders will be familiar with the renowned expertise in marketing that has been taught for years in FMCG firms like Unilever or Proctor & Gamble. Brand marketers have probably also heard of the marketing capability built at Diageo and the best practice that their “Diageo way” offers in  fields like marketing effectiveness measurement and generating the insights needed to develop the right products and services. For those of you interested in the marketing culture that led to such capabilities, this interview with Philip Almond (before he moved to the BBC) is still worth a read.

To generate such a customer insight, which if acted upon effectively has the power to motivate consumers to buy/retain/use your new products or services, requires more than just a superficial approach.

How do they do it? Where should you start?

Here’s a simple overview, just to whet your appetite. In summary, a collaborative approach bringing together multiple teams from across your business in structured workshops, using material curated by your insight teams, has huge potential. I’ve seen this approach work well with multiple clients, and it often involved something like the following six steps:

  1. Identifying priority opportunities (consumer needs or ‘jobs to get done’)
  2. Identify key consumer questions/challenges/barriers
  3. Big ‘brown-paper exercise’
  4. Identify convergence of evidence/themes/understanding
  5. Explore mindsets or motivations that drive behavior exhibited
  6. Idea generation for solutions

From my own personal experience participating in such exercises, here’s a whistle-stop canter through those, just to give you a feel for them…

Identify priority opportunities
Sometimes the business priorities are obvious, but it can be worthwhile to workshop what is most important to your target markets. What jobs are customers trying to get done? Why does anyone buy from you? Why do some people choose your competitors? What does a fully-satisfied customer look like? Which urgent or important needs in the minds of the consumer are motivating competitor advertising this year?

As with all these stages, multiple sources of information are worth reviewing (data, analytics, research, MI). However, for this stage, market and competitor intelligence can be particularly useful. Try to force the discipline of selecting one top priority “job to get done” or consistent need in the lives of your target consumers.

Identify key consumer questions/challenges/barriers
This requires reviewing the research already available on why consumers don’t currently buy/retain/use your current offering. Once again, all potential sources of insight can be worth considering (including behavioral analytics of non-purchasers), but your goal is to understand what might be stopping consumers from acting as you wish. What do they think, feel, and do about “getting this job done?”

One of the reasons more than only behavioral analytics or only attitudinal research is needed is the inherent challenge to start “connecting the dots” to show why consumers are making the choices they do. Highlighting at this stage what appears to be in the minds of consumers, when making a key decision, can begin the journey of identifying their limiting beliefs, emotional associations, or behavioral biases. Understanding those will empower you to focus marketing creativity on the real challenge (which may be quite different from ‘reasons to buy our product’).

Big ‘brown paper’ exercise

At this stage, a workshop can be designed. Now, if there is one thing marketers enjoy even more than “coloring in,” it’s a big sheet of brown paper covering the wall and an opportunity to get creative. The reason for this method is to create an opportunity to review relevant potential sources of insight, physically cut out relevant parts, and stick them up on the wall – to enable visual grouping and connections. For some reason, this is much easier to do visually, with physical activity involved.

Two elements of such a workshop have in the past differentiated those with greatest success: (1) the quality and relevance of material to work with, and (2) the breadth of business and customer expertise present in the room.

Achieving the first is a curation challenge for customer insight teams. The first two steps should have created a clearly-documented challenge and potential barriers. Experts from all four quadrants of Holistic Customer Insight teams (data, analytics, research, and database marketing) should identify reports and graphics that pass two tests: they need to be both relevant to the challenge and not easily misinterpreted (avoid or improve any with low statistical significance or any ambiguous language/visualisations).

The second goal is to achieve broad representation in the room. Ideally, you want expertise from across your business (marketing, sales, service, finance, IT, HR, etc.), as well as a range of seniority (from cal
l center workers to senior execs). There will be a balance here, and you will need to consider both personalities and experience in selecting the right participants. Choosing the right teams can make all the difference. You want people with a genuine passion to make a difference, confident to speak up, and willing to “leave job titles at the door.”

Entered with the right attitude, this workshop can be an immersive and thoroughly enjoyable exercise (which some firms even extend to co-creation with their customers, but that needs some additional expertise and facilitation). Our next step will explain more as to what you do in this workshop – beyond the stage where delegates sift through slides to cut out and stick up those that strike them as important.

Tune in next week for part two of this series, where I’ll go deeper into how to generate insights.

Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.