Perfect Your Value Proposition

Most market failures don’t result from poor marketing tactics. They result from going to the market with a poor marketing message, i.e.: not Relevant, Differentiated, or Credible to the target market.

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If your talk doesn’t say the right things to the right people in the right way, your marketing efforts will fail to produce the level of results you want.

Of course, there is more than one way to approach this, but here I’ll describe an approach that I’ve found particularly effective with B2B companies:

The Steps

Value Proposition and Messaging go hand-in-glove and are how you communicate your reason to buy to customers. They stem from your Positioning. So, if you haven’t developed your core positioning statement, do that first.

From there you build a set of Benefit Messages, then derive the Core (cross-segment/ cross-persona) Value Proposition from those. Later you can create Segment-specific and/or Persona-specific versions that are based on the Core. But we’ll just focus on the Core here.

The Core Messaging Deck

This consists of a set of statements that each describe a particular benefit and how that benefit is special or unique. Messages should first be written as an internal document but can later be converted into marketing copy for use in promotional materials.

To start with, you’ve got to be clear about what target prospects need/want so that you can match what you say about your product to the things that really matter to prospects. If you are not extremely clear about the prospect’s high-value needs/wants, you need to talk to some prospects or conduct other kinds of research to get clarity. We’re really talking about creating clear Personas here, but that’s a discussion for another article.

Your Benefit Messages must: A. express your solution in terms of those real-world needs, pains, and desired gains of target prospects; B. address their experiences with competitive solutions; and C. embody their attitudes about the value of a better solution. Strong messages hang off the intersection between customer needs and your solution. Write 6-8 of these using the following format:

[The specific benefit created] by [The special or unique approach of product]

Bolster each message with 1 or 2 pieces of supporting evidence that prove what your message is conveying. These might be drawn from be surveys or other studies, testimonials, adoption statistics, thought leader opinion, or other sources.

Core Value Proposition

Messages in hand, build the core value proposition. This is the coalescence of your messages as an overarching, customer-facing statement that can be used in promotional materials. It must be expressed in the customer’s language and must succinctly convey how the product is uniquely valuable to the prospect. Follow this format to construct it:

Lead Line: State the product’s overarching, special benefit in an attention-getting way. There’s no set format here, but it should express the idea within 3 seconds.

Example: “Reduces cost and errors so you can focus on customer service instead of customer complaints.”

Clarifying Statement: Describe how that benefit is delivered to target customers that makes it particularly valuable.

Example: “Our mobile management solution simplifies your staff’s data collection, manipulation, and reporting where they need it most- in the field.”

Supporting Points: List subordinate benefits. Prepare 3 of your key messages in customer-facing language to use here.

Example:

  • “Simplifies and speeds data collection in the field using RFID capture.”

  • “Seamless integration with your existing CRM.”

  • “Eliminates the most common data input errors.”

You Talkin’ to Me?

You get this right only if you are laser-focused on who it is you are speaking to and what is important to them, what the other guys are saying, and the kind of language they normally use and believe.

Relevant, Differentiated, Credible

Meet Your New Partner: The Sales Team

In B2B, Sales is your #1 customer.

“No, no, no… Sales is not our customer! They constantly insist that all the deals we lose are due to features, price, or because our literature sucks. It’s like they’ve never heard the phrase: ‘The selling starts when the customer says NO.’

Do you see how this thinking takes you exactly nowhere?

Sales Partnership Diagram.jpg

Bottom line: If you’re in a B2B market the chances are that you won’t be successful unless your Sales Team is successful. It’s like a marriage. There is misinterpretation of action, lack of communication, plenty of opportunity for frustration… but you are co-dependent. If you can make it work- Bliss. If you can’t- Hell. What’s more, since you can’t divorce Sales, you have to make it work. Here’s how to work toward that happy marriage.

Create a Partnership-Driven Feedback Loop

You’ve got to create a partnership-driven feedback loop with sales. Otherwise, there is just a long list of demands for stuff that sales says they want, which they may or may not actually need, and which they probably won’t use. Of course, you can’t do it all, so both parties just continue talking past one another.

So, how do we get that collaborative, ‘partnership-driven’ relationship going? Do two things:

Create a Sales-Centered Journey Map

You have to establish that partnership-driven feedback loop on the back of a tangible artifact- a sales-centered customer journey map.

To create that initial map, work with sales leadership and a couple of the best sales staff to hash it out together. Use the journey map model discussed in my prior article (Mapping the Customer Journey) to focus on how sales interact with prospects & customers within each segment and for each Persona that requires a different process.

This intensive discussion(s) will reveal what really happens throughout the sales process, which resources really get used or not used, and where gaps exist. You establish a common language with sales, understand the key articulation points in the sales process, and thus can then talk specifically about what can better support the sales team.

In the end, the priorities will become clear to everyone. Moreover, you’ve also established a baseline from which ongoing discussions can stem—the journey map anchors discussion, rather than simply orbiting around this week’s wish list.

Establish a Rotating Sales Roundtable

Next, set up a regular sales roundtable session (at least quarterly) to hash through what is working or not working and how the customer world or competitive tactics may have changed that suggests the need for something new.

You should have a core group for these sessions that includes non-sales folks too (e.g. product, marketing, customer service, and perhaps others). Importantly, you should invite one or two extra sales people to participate in each session who haven’t participated before- in order to keep things fresh. These folks participate for one session, then are replaced in the next.

The session focuses on the sales-centric journey map. This keeps the discussion focused and results in a changed map where everyone can see and agree to the key influence points and tactics needed for each event in the customer’s journey.

To gain enthusiasm from sales for these sessions, keep the focus positive. Ask for sales success stories. Everyone loves to share their successes. It makes them feel expert and highlights their accomplishments. You use discussion of those stories to dissect the elements that created success, and which may create success in other situations as well. Everyone wins.

With this kind of regular, refreshed, and focused dialog, the discussion changes from “We need a full brochure with everything in it!”, to something more like:

“So, at this point in the process the prospect is typically assessing us against competitors as part of their evaluation committee. So, what have you seen that works best? How can we make sure every committee actually gets just most critical comparative information/ demo/ thought leadership/ etc. that will make our advantage apparent?”

That’s the kind of focused dialog you want with sales. The kind that is partnership-driven.

What Else?

Hang out with sales people. Get to know them and establish mutual trust. You will learn far more about the intricacies of prospects and the nature of the challenges faced than your CRM system can ever give you.

(But, yes, you’ve got to look at the CRM data too.)

PR Does Not Stand for “Press Release”

Perhaps the most sought-after aspect of Public Relations is known as “Earned Media”, i.e. the coverage you get in various media without paying for it. This can be a powerful tool in B2B, but to earn your coverage you’ve got to create something worth publishing.

So, no— just posting press releases to press release brokers doesn’t cut it.

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In a B2B space, Public Relations is better thought of as “Audience Relations” because you are usually not interested in reaching the general public. Your interest lies with the narrowly focused target audience for your solutions- with the goal of changing the audience’s awareness of, or attitudes about, an ISSUE that is closely related to your solutions.

What About My Product?

No… wait, you say. My goal is to change the audience’s awareness of, or attitudes about, my PRODUCT! Yes, that is your overall goal. But that’s not the way earned media works. Publications don’t give you attention for having a product. They give you attention for addressing an issue that strongly concerns THEIR audience. Note the emphasis on ‘their’ audience. If they are going to dedicate time/space/effort to something that you bring to their table, it must appeal to their audience more than an ad. So, if what you have to offer just reads like an ad, they will happily send you to their advertising department and joyfully accept your money to purchase ad space. To stay on the editorial side of things instead, you must pitch a story about the issues that concern their audience.

Which means that when your CEO says: “Let’s get a release out on this (new product, new customer, new etc.)!”, you must step back and find the bigger picture: What key issue are we addressing that is meaningful to the audience? Why does it need to be addressed? Who thinks so? Is this issue new or long-standing? What is the scope of its impact? Etc. In the answers to these questions is the essence of the PR story you can tell.

The story you pitch should follow this general structure:

  • Important issue that the audience should be aware of. (Topic fits within the editorial interests of your target publications.)

  • Key impacts of the issue and why it is important to address this issue now.

  • Authoritative voices chime in to reinforce. They describe the kind of solution that can be effective. This just happens to be your kind of solution.

To Whom it May Concern

Knowing who you want to reach, and what effect you wish to have, will determine what vehicles are best able to touch your target. Make a list of outlets and rank them in terms of reach and influence. These may include trade publications, websites, blogs and other social media outlets, analysts, etc. Determine the reach that each has (how many people in your target are reached), and how influential it is (i.e.: from trusted authority to passing opinion).

Ventriloquism

With targets in hand, you must assure that the story is interesting, objective, and written in the publication’s voice (not your company’s voice). In order to understand these factors, you need to speak with the editor to get a feel for what he/she is looking for and to understand the publication’s acceptance criteria for articles. They are only interested in topics that fit their target subject matter and perspective, which can also fit into a space on their editorial calendar. That said, editors also understand that publications need money to run. So, proposing a package that includes an allocation of paid advertising can grease-the-skids of acceptance and also buy some content latitude.

Earn It

So, the next time someone presses you to “put out a press release”, press back and first develop a story worth its weight in earned media.

Mapping the Customer Journey

Land maps exist to record the actual terrain, not an idealized view of the terrain— the REAL terrain that you will have to traverse, like it or not.

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With this real-world understanding of the terrain you can plot the most effective path through it. [Of course, if you fail to identify a cliff or a river on the map, the path you plot may lead to tragedy.]

Customer Journey Maps do the same thing-- for the path your prospects take.

The path of B2B buyers traverses multiple channels and stages: from the prospect’s first recognition of a need through their adoption and reordering (or referral) of your product. If you don’t know in what stage of the process the prospect is currently, you don’t know what to say that will be relevant and compelling. Likewise, if you don’t know how to reach the prospect at that stage, you can’t.

Stuck at the Trail Head

There is no, single ‘right’ way to layout a Customer Journey Map. Just do a search on the topic and you’ll find hundreds of different approaches. As a result, many product and marketing managers get stuck before they even begin-- trying to determine the exact, ‘right’ form that their Customer Journey Map should take. As a result, their journey mapping effort ends up going nowhere. Ironic huh?

The following, core approach can get you un-stuck.

Use a spreadsheet to build-out the customer journey information in matrix form:

Phases & Events

On the horizontal axis (columns) list the core phases of the journey:

  • Awareness (Demand Management)

  • Consideration (Lead Management)

  • Decision (Opportunity Management)

  • Experience (Loyalty Management)

Break each phase down into a set of sub-events. For example: during the ‘Awareness’ phase the prospect’s first event is likely their ‘Realization of Need’, followed by a ‘Need Clarification’ step. Each ‘event’ is represented by a column in your spreadsheet. You’ll likely end up with several columns under each phase once you think it through.

Guiding Insight

On the vertical axis (rows) create a row for each category of key information that can guide your actions across the various events of the journey. Create rows for:

  • Activities (what prospects typically do during the event)

  • Success Criteria (what do they want to achieve during the event)

  • Your Objectives (what do you want to achieve during the event)

  • Feelings (how prospects typically feel during the event)

  • Touch-points (how you might reach them during the event)

  • Influence (how you can exert influence at these touch-points to achieve your objectives)

Then, fill-in the key, relevant insights at each intersection of your matrix as concisely and clearly as you can. You’ve created a Customer Journey Map!

A Living Document

Despite the fact that when you do that search on ‘journey maps’ you will find all manner of very graphically handsome journey map depictions, your journey map doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be true and digestible by everyone in your organization. There is time to pretty-it-up later if needed. But beware, Customer Journey Maps must be living documents that you update frequently. So, don’t let the process of creating pretty graphics delay communicating what you are learning about customers, or you’ll be stuck going nowhere again.

And that’s ironic too.

Can you and your stakeholders actually see your Position?

When you present your product’s Positioning to others, can they see it?

(“Position” reflects the way your product delivers value to customers that is different from competitors. It’s the center-point of your feature decisions and how you are marketing and selling.)

Your stakeholders really need to understand and buy-in to your positioning. You can make it very clear to all by using a quadrant diagram to visually depict your product’s distinctive position from that of the competition. When they can literally see what you’re talking about, your audience will say: “Ah Ha!” 

Here’s how:

Pick Two Key Product Attributes

  • This can be whatever is important to your market- e.g.: cost, ease of use, integration, performance, ROI, quality, security, etc. (These are general examples, but you want to use whatever attributes are really key to your market.)

Rate the Products

  • Pick your (1-4) most important competitors and rate each on the two, different attributes (scale 1-10).

  • Likewise, rate your product.

Set-up the Diagram

  • Put one attribute on the X axis and the other on the Y axis

Plot

  • Plot your product and the competitor products on the quadrant diagram.

Do you overlap with competitors? If so, identify alternative key attributes where you don’t. (If you can’t come up with any, it’s time to rethink your product. You need distinctiveness that matters to your market.)

Conducting a workshop is a great way to get results quickly:

Jumpstart the process: Send me Positioning Workshop Information

[more about workshops]

Making Concepting and Prioritization a Process

Addressing business challenges and goals starts with insightful ideas. But even when an organization has lots of ideas, these are sometimes based upon prior assumptions/conditions that may now be invalid. So, it’s valuable to have a process for generating/assessing ideas that meet the criteria of being: relevant, current, promising, and actionable, along with a way to cull the list and prioritize ideas for action.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

Establish Objectives

  • Define the business goals to be accomplished by the ideas.
  • Get clear about the market/segment/persona(s) to be addressed, and what problems/goals apply.

Generation

  • Unrestricted idea generation using techniques such as the Four Actions Framework, Provocation, etc. to create a catalog of ideas/concepts. (Get in touch if you need help.)
  • Review and decompose any pre-existing ideas that may be added to the catalog.

Clarifying

  • Refine ideas enough to clarify key elements for common understanding. Determine what assumptions/hypotheses underpin the ideas.
  • Identify any existing solutions that are similar while noting the differences.

Grouping

  • Group ideas/concepts by category (e.g.: problem or persona focus, approach, cost/price level, strategy, other…).

Culling

  • Filter the idea catalog by ruling out ideas/concepts that do not leverage the company’s core strengths and resources (consider capabilities such as marketing/sales, manufacturing/operations, capital, etc.), or that do not align with its strategy, positioning & brand.

Prioritizing

  • Use techniques such as a scoring matrix, product/market factors mapping, or others to establish priority of the concepts that align well with business strengths, position, and goals.

Validation

  • For top priority selections, clarify the assumptions (& unknowns) that must be validated (e.g.: market need/interest, business model, willingness to pay at a price, market size, adoption pattern across market cohorts, etc.).
  • Identify how could the idea/concept be pretotyped (rudimentary early prototype) for validation, and how target stakeholders could be recruited to evaluate ideas/concepts.
  • Conduct enough validation activities to test your key assumptions and fill-in the unknowns.

 

Conducting a workshop is a great way to get results quickly:

Jumpstart the process:  Send Me Ideation/Prioritization Workshop Information

[more about workshops]

End-of-Year Focus

Results from our "Micro-Survey". The Question posed:

"What is the best way to focus your time during the last couple months of the calendar year so as to assure a great start next year?" (Note that the answer options provided did not include the regular year-end things that we must all focus on such as: ‘make the numbers’, ‘performance reviews’, and ‘reporting’.)

[Rate:1-10   1=Not Important – 10=Extremely Important]

*Not shown here is the response item: "Holiday Parties", which came in at 3.71. (Really folks, where's the joie de vivre?)

Customer Journey Mapping

Land maps exist to record the actual terrain... not an idealized view of the terrain-  the REAL terrain that you will have to traverse-   like it or not. 

With this real-world understanding of the terrain you can plot the most effective path through it.

[Of course, if you fail to identify a cliff or a river on the map, the path you plot may lead to tragedy.]

Customer Journey Maps do the same thing- for the path your customers take.

There are three situations where you need a Customer Journey Map:

Maximizing Existing Product Performance

  • Here you have a product that is already in the market. 
  • A Customer Journey Map can define all the interaction and communication touch-points you have with customers to understand the tripping points and where you can improve. 

Planning a New Product

  • Here, you want to understand the ins & outs of the customer's world, so the product you design and sell can best meet their needs in the ways they need it to.
  • This type of Journey Map plots the workflow and experiences of potential customers, to clarify what problems need solving, and what's in their neighborhood. 

Launching a Product

  • Here, you already have a product that you believe solves customer problems and you are getting ready to launch it.
  • This kind of Journey Map can help you to define the key communication/interaction touch-points so you can plan how you'll influence prospects toward a purchase

 

Creating a Journey Map is much easier if you: 

A. Start with a proven, core template then modify it as needed to suit your purpose.

B. Start by holding a Journey Mapping workshop with you and your extended team.

[More Information]

Share Research to Maximize Gains

35% of those who have done research DON’T share the results internally within their organization. 88% fail to hold an interactive workshop of some kind to discuss the findings. These are lost opportunities.

Best Practice:

Setup a Big Tent

If you are going to do research, share the results. It’s in the sharing of new (or confirmed) insights that the real learning and problem solving happens. But do so using a ‘big tent’ approach- i.e. include everyone who contributes to product success (right down to customer service and finance). Not only does this create the efficiencies that come from mutual understanding, it is often surprising what great insights come from unexpected people.

Make it a Dialog- Not Just a Presentation

Whether your big tent is in a conference room, web conference, or several small meetings—make it (them) interactive Q&A sessions. Present the findings, but throughout the presentation encourage (require) discussion about what the findings mean and the further questions it may raise. This is where you get the real value.  

Too Many Balls in the Air?

Below are the results of a quick survey conducted among information industry professionals. While the sample is small, some of the insights are interesting. Do these match your experience?

Biggest Issues (notice the top 3 box scores- rating the factor an 8, 9, or 10)

·         Difficulty getting products built and deployed (52%)

·         Difficulty developing concepts that really address market needs (46%)

Internal Factors (notice the top 3 box scores- rating the factor an 8, 9, or 10)

·         Too many ‘balls-in-the-air’ (74%)

·         Internal process issues (61%)

External Factors (notice the top 3 box scores- rating the factor an 8, 9, or 10)

·         Technology changes (48%)

·         Customer budgets or value demands (43%)

Focus Group Focus

You can learn much from Organizations, Buyers, Users, Influencers, and Channel partners by focusing on the questions for which Focus Groups serve well:

Understand Market Needs

Discover: Problems/Needs. Aspirations. Currently used solutions. Business impacts and context. Trends. Purchase drivers. Segments/Personas.

Test Concepts (product or marketing concepts)

Discover: Existing knowledge & attitudes that impact the concept. Competitor position. Relevance and impact of the concept. For whom. Context. Barriers.

Gain Product Feedback (on concepts, prototypes, or current products)

Discover: Impressions of use (suitability to purpose and satisfaction). Unmet or new needs. Competitive comparisons. Test adoption assumptions.

When planning, also be sure to limit focus groups to no more than 8 participants in order to assure that everyone gets enough ‘airtime’ to express their views.

The Competitive Analysis Stack

Customers evaluate your products relative to competing products. So use a structured approach to assess competitors. (Hint, it’s not just a feature matrix.)

Pick the top 2 competitors and analyze each using this stack. (Don’t forget that a key competitor may not be a competitor at all, but rather, a non-product substitute for the value that your product would provide.) 

Positioning

What mind-space (accepted value proposition) do competitors hold in the customer’s mind. (e.g.: most current; easiest to use; most cost effective; etc.) Why?

Value System

Assess not just benefits and features, but the entire product value system of competitor products (including such things as service, distribution, integration, etc.) Any of these may represent a key competitive factor that you must address.

Business Stance

Assess competitor performance, funding, spending, marketing/sales details, and business objectives.

PEST

Add critical context by assessing the Political/Legal, Economic, Social, and Technological trends that are impacting competitors (and you).

Strategic SWOT

Competitor SWOT is not just their catalog of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats- but an assessment of the approaches that competitors are/may implement to leverage strengths against their opportunities and threats, as well as how they are/will mitigate weaknesses against opportunities and strengths.

A more in-depth understanding of competitors can point the way to improved positioning, selling, and market performance for your product.

Post Launch, No One is Patient for Results

Your products were built with a good understanding of the market, came out well, and you launched them (or are in the process). You have some traction, but you need to keep improving the results. And no one is patient about it.

A ‘Lithe’ approach to continuous improvement leads you to gracefully adapt to market realities. 

Objectives

Establish what you want to accomplish in the market, e.g.: Grow customer base; Increase revenue per user/transaction; Etc. [more]

Dynamics

Determine what is happening in your market right now, looking at such things as: Average sale trends; Competitor analysis/ trajectory; Etc. [more]

Root Causes

Assess what is behind the results you are currently seeing, e.g.: Price/ price model/ price-feature mix/ bundling; Purchase experience issues; Etc. [more]

Market Mix Options

Adjust any of the options you have at your disposal, including: Product; Place; Price; Promotion; & for services: People; Process; Physical Evidence [more]

Achieving market success is a never ending process. Following a cyclical, flexible, nimble approach assures that you can lithely accommodate impatience with intelligent, ongoing market decision making. [more]

If Your Message isn’t Relevant, the Medium Doesn’t Matter

Notwithstanding Marshal McLuhan’s famous pronouncement that: “The medium is the message”, the message is actually the most important thing when it comes to product marketing. Without relevance, even your most creative messages won’t be heard.

6% of marketing program failures are due to poor advertising methods or vehicles, while 94% result from going to the market with a poor marketing message. Here’s how segmentation and positioning feed your construction of a messaging platform that can defeat the odds:

Segmentation

Answer these questions: whom will we serve; what are the jobs they need done; what pains and potential gains do they have; which are users, buyers, or influencers; how many are there and where; what are their current behaviors & product use; how do they make purchase decisions; etc. Create personas for each.

Positioning

As Jack Trout puts it: “Your customers are already either strongly or weakly held by competitors”. Even if customers don’t presently use the competitive product, that product still holds a place in the customer’s mind against which your product will be compared. This is a hurdle that your competitor controls. Positioning is a matter of staking claim to new ground (think benefits) that your competitor doesn’t already own. (You go around the hurdle.) Not just better- different.

Messaging Platform

For each target segment define: your benefits (based upon your positioning), how you’re differentiated from competition, and information that supports your key points. From these stacks, create your messages. Remember, messaging is not ad copy- that comes later. The messaging platform is simply a set of clear statements that define the story you want to tell to each segment. It becomes the map from which promotions, advertising, and sales approaches are plotted, and which can also keep the product development team focused on the core objectives of the product. 

With differentiated messages that are well positioned for your segments, your media can be relevant enough to be heard by customers. 

Do you have a ‘chasm’ in your market to get over?

Often there are differences in how readily customers will adopt your product. Early adopters may exhibit very different purchase criteria than later adopters. If so, you have a ‘chasm’.

The chasm concept comes from Geoffrey Moore’s ground breaking book, Crossing The Chasm, and normally applies to the adoption of high-tech products. But more broadly, the concept can be used to think about how your value proposition may need to evolve in order to appeal to the more reluctant adopters of your product- who typically make up the majority of your potential market. If adoption of your product has stalled, you may have a chasm to cross. Here are three things to ponder:

Receptivity

Are some customers anxious for the change my product will bring, while others are relatively satisfied with the status quo? (Gather input from a broad cross-section of the market- not just enthusiasts. Here, qualitative research techniques work best.)

Refinement

What further value/refinement/relevance might be needed to make the product appealing to those less-anxious customers? (e.g.: a different business model; additional features; better integration with customer’s existing workflow; etc.)

Review

How can we test these assumptions? (Make the proposed ‘solution’ as tangible as possible, e.g. via rapid prototyping, and engage non-early-adopters directly to assess its value to them.)

However tightly circumscribed, your market is probably not monolithic. Don’t be deceived by the enthusiasm of early adopters. Find those who are less-anxious in order to understand how what they value may differ.

 

Prioritizing Your Initiatives

Do you have in mind which initiatives you want to do next? How do you prioritize?

Often, parsing out the key, individual decision factors can get everyone on the same page. Creating a Decision Matrix is a great tool for this:

  1. List the items under consideration.

  2. Enumerate the factors that will make the most difference in product success- whatever factors make sense for your product/market. Weight these factors in importance.

  3. Pull together a team session to quickly gain consensus on each factor’s impact for each initiative. (Including an outsider in the group can really help get over group-think.)

Use this simple tool to break down the essential elements of decision making and turn argumentation into data-point discussions.

Thanks for the Wisdom

Good judgement is the result of experience. Experience is often the result of bad judgement…

The goal in our pursuits is NOT, not to fail. The goal is to learn. Even if that means failing fairly often.

Learning requires challenging assumptions, bringing in new knowledge and perspectives, trying something different, and being willing to pivot when plans don’t work as planned.

In all these things, there is the risk that your judgement will have been less than perfect. In all these things, there is risk of failure. In all these things, learning will occur that may lead to the wisdom that brings good judgement.

So be thankful for your failures. They point the way to better things. 

Have You Done Your Homework Yet?

3 core research projects you should start now for a strong start on your next wave

Win/Loss Analysis

Institute a structured program to collect feedback from customers/prospects that tells you what you’re doing right or wrong

  • Create a template and a regular process for collecting feedback
  • Works for both B2B (won/lost contracts) and for B2C (won/lost consumers)
  • Tells you: Specific things you can do to improve results

Trend Discovery

Conduct some quick research activities to see where things are headed so you start the year with fresh perspective

  • Conduct trend-finding focus groups during fall/winter conferences, and/or conduct quick online surveys to reach decision makers/influencers
  • Examine the broad trends, not just your product
  • Tells you: The important political/regulatory/legal, economic, social, technological issues that will impact your customers and your business in the near future

Competitive Intelligence

Gather insights about what your competition is doing so you can plan your response

 
  • Execute product-use surveys to get customer evaluations of competitive offerings & claims, and to gather news of what competitors are announcing to customers
  • Use targeted online ad buys to drive competitor customers to your survey
  • Tells you: What competitive drivers you should focus on

The goal is to consistently know more than everyone else- with data in your pocket and able to support your decisions about what to do next

When to Use QUALitative VS QUANTitative Research

To better understand your market/product/stance, start broadly with qualitative research, then refine with quantitative research.

 

Start with Qualitative research to ask “who, what and how” questions: What are the problems? Who has them? In what context? How are they currently resolved? What is the buying process/experience? What might be better? Etc.

  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Win/Loss feedback
  • Site visits/ shadowing
  • Shopping studies
 
 

Follow with Quantitative research to answer “how many” questions: How many prospects have each particular problem? How are they segmented? How often does the problem occur? How much is spent/ how much would a solution be worth? How much market share? Etc.

  • Surveys
  • Purchase data
  • Usage data

Qualitative research teaches you what you don’t know and establishes the issues in play.

Quantitative research refines that learning and provides the data needed to make decisions.


Bill Haines