How to run market research on brand

As leading marketer Amanda Jobbins succinctly puts it, “brand is a shortcut to a decision”. 

Brand opens the door for the product to be sold.  High band awareness, familiarity and consideration with buyers will increase dramatically the likelihood of them buying from you. When your prospective buyer experiences one of the triggers for purchase, yours needs to be the first brand that comes to mind, and they need to know you already tick all their boxes and can overcome their barriers.

To lead a market you need high brand awareness among your buyers and their influencers.

To know your market, your brand’s position in it and the opportunities to grow sales, you need good brand research. This will direct your marketing efforts and track performance.

I recently caught up with Stephen Cheliotis, Chief Executive of The Centre for Brand Analysis and Chairman of UK Superbrands & CoolBrands Councils. His credentials speak for themselves, really. We reflected on how to run good brand research. These are some of the ground rules we agreed on – so this is my ‘note to self’ for the next time I lead this kind of research. There are many ways to approach this and I’d love to hear yours.

What you should measure

Start by researching and questioning things that Marketing can change. In fact, what you measure must be actionable for marketing to drive sales growth. Never forget, the goal must be to improve the performance of the business.

You may think you need to know about issues such as trust or quality. It terms of brand these are hygiene issues. Take trust as an example. There is no actionable insight in knowing you are trusted. As Steve pointed out, there is always a correlation between being a leading brand and being trusted, but it doesn’t mean that people buy from you (think about M&S for example).

If you must explore these issues; do it in qualitative research and probe for the underlying attributes that drives them, then test those in quant.

What you need to know

These are the things we agreed that you do need to find out because they lead to actionable insights. For each of your buyers you need to know:

  1. What are the rational and emotional triggers for purchase? What priority order do they put them in?
  2. What do they need the product to do?
  3. What barriers do they need the product to overcome?
  4. Where is the ‘headspace’ for buying your product? How and when do they buy your product?
  5. What is the buyer journey? How do they do their research? Who influences their decision? How easy is it to buy?

Running the research

Steve and I agreed on the right approach to conducting brand research.

  1. Start with interviews with knowledgeable colleagues to answer the questions above.
  2. Once you’ve consolidated that input, run sessions with wider, yet informed, group of colleagues to prioritise and fill in any gaps. [See side note at bottom of this article.]
  3. Do a small number of qualitative interviews in the key countries with the key buyers.
  4. Only then should you run a quantative survey based on all you have learned. Keep the survey short and tight. Do promoted and unprompted awareness of your brand and competitors at the end. Ask respondents whether they know or buy from your competitor set and why.

It takes about 20 weeks to do it properly. Allow a month for Steps 1 and 2, a month for Step 3 and  a month for Step 4. You can’t write the survey until you’ve completed Step 3 and it’ll take another two weeks if the survey needs translating. You will need a month for analysis, and another month to walk the findings round the business.

The analysis

What you are trying to find out is which triggers will lead to the most consideration.  This is about relevance and differentiation.

Start with your list of triggers in priority order. Which of them are you not currently perceived as being relevant for? These triggers are an opportunity to grow your market share.

Of these, which ones have the least competition for mental market share? There will be little reward in going after the triggers competitors are already relevant for. Focus your efforts on triggers that are less contested.

Take all the triggers named by respondents, and look at their frequency, and which brands they are linked with. You can get to not only which triggers are most important, but also which brands are first choice for which triggers. This gives you a mental market share for your brand.

Improving brand awareness and consideration, closing the sale

You want your brand to be first to mind in connection with a trigger. So that your brand becomes a shortcut to a decision. Focus on one trigger or a related series of triggers at a time. Devise your campaign to tick all the buyer’s boxes for that trigger and make clear that with your brand they can minimise the barriers.

As Stephen puts it; “The art of success is both in interpreting the results and pulling out the right insight to drive the strategy, but then it is also in actually crafting the cue appropriately into the creative.”

The messaging should be rolled out across all your marketing and communications. Consistency is king here. Line it all up. Spend a period of time running this campaign. You might find you can layer in another trigger, or mix multiple triggers in one execution, or choose to really, truly own one trigger. That’s the art and decision you’ll need to take based on the results.

Remember, the goal for brand awareness and consideration is to improve perception among buyers so they buy from you. When they experience one of the triggers for purchase, you need to be the first brand that comes to mind. You want unprompted awareness and high levels of consideration.

What next

Those two indicators tell you the brand has opened the door for the product to be sold. Now, you must integrate your brand campaign with your product campaigns. Otherwise, the brand campaign is a waste of effort.

Make sure the messages line up, the creative is from the same family, and the retargeting is done cleverly. Use the journey you have mapped to provide the information your buyer wants in the right place for them. Join the conversations they are already having between themselves and with their influencers. The rough rule of thumb is 60% of your budget on brand awareness and 40% on lead generation and conversion.

Setting goals

The first research will give you a benchmark. You will see lots of indicators coming through in marketing metrics of whether there is traction: increases in website visits and dwell, product trials and conversions. By the way, brands always set their targets too high and imagine the results are going to be quick. Don’t make that mistake.

Commit to annual research. And commit to long term integrated campaigns. You will be able to layer the triggers until you are top of mind for all those you can own.

Then you reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.

 

*A side note: the first few times I ran brand research I looked at customers versus non-customers. This was a monumental waste of effort (cleaning customer databases, mobilizing marketing to get the survey out, chasing customers to answer it, having the data analysed, selling in the findings to colleagues). It told us nothing about how to attract new business from competitors. If you have a strategic issue with cross-sell/up-sell to customers, then run a customer survey specifically on that, but don’t do this as part of your brand research.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-run-market-research-rachel-fairley

 

 

“Could you say that again but using different words?” Why I don’t speak marketing.

What is the most important work book you have ever bought? Mine was Newton’s Telecom Dictionary.

I was right at the beginning of my career and working in telecoms, where people spoke in acronyms.  I would take the weighty Dictionary to meetings so I could understand what was being said.

I realised quickly that most industries speak acronym. And acronym speakers love speaking in acronym. It demonstrates their expertise and increases their credibility. It can also shortcut what could otherwise be very long conversations.

I barely used them. It slowed down my understanding of what was being said. I always unpacked acronyms whenever I heard them, and still do.

In fact, I thought I hated acronyms, but then I went to work in marketing. There, I learned about marketing speak.

My reaction was similar to reading a detailed menu in a restaurant; I’d understand all the components but would struggle to immediately understand the combination. Jargon can become so distant from its original meaning that it actually makes understanding harder.

Which is when I started asking “could you say that again but using different words?”

I’ve thought a lot about how ‘tribal’ language is and how it alienates people.

Today, I avoid marketing jargon and acronyms for a few reasons. Firstly, I can’t remember what all the terms mean and I’m more interested in the idea than the name. But primarily, when I meet with colleagues who aren’t marketers, too much marketing jargon makes them either stop listening or fake an understanding.

It may take fewer minutes to say something using marketing speak and acronyms but it will take a very long time to win back that audience.

If anyone has a marketing dictionary, do send it my way.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/could-you-say-again-using-different-words-why-i-dont-speak-fairley

11 practical lessons from tech start-up marketing.

You know you are in a tech start up when you see battered copies of Moore’s book ‘Crossing the chasm’ and Ries’s ‘The Lean Startup’ lying around. I recently enjoyed reading this article which made me reflect on my own experiences.

I’d like to share some of the practical things that I have learned.

  1. There should always be an enemy. It may be a product, organisational inertia, or a risk averse culture. Accept you need a competitor. You are never the only one in the market.
  2. Be targeted. Aim at one persona, in one industry, with one product. Then add the next persona. You will have to cross-sell, up-sell so prepare that strategy. Don’t get side-trcked by opportunities outside your plan, they will consumer resources and are unsustainable. No one offs.
  3. Map the persona’s journey. Use focus groups of the early majority. This will enable you to give them the information they need to know, when they need to know it, where they want to find it.
  4. Start your marketing with industry analysts, thought leadership, case studies, product marketing, sales enablement. Only then add the unexpected, something none of your competitors are doing, to stand out.
  5. Join their conversations. Even if your tech approaches a problem differently and better, your potential customers will already be trying to solve it. Find where they are discussing it and join in, persuade them of your new perspective and solution.
  6. Use their words and language. Read and listen to what they say. I’m also in love with tools like MozPro where you can understand search intent. I’m an advocate of using new language to describe new things. But you have to pair it with established language, otherwise you’ll either be speaking a language no-one understands or talking to yourself.
  7. UX for the early and late majority must present the new in a familiar way or the familiar in a new way. Asking people to see new information in an unexpected way is a tall order. Put aside lots of resources for training if that’s what you are planning to do.
  8. Hire versatile, digitally and tech savvy folks, who get shit done. They need to be able to think strategically and implement it themselves. They need to be willing to change focus as the business needs change. Which they will do, a lot. Don’t outsource to agencies because you can’t afford the best to be dedicated to you.
  9. Make sure EVERYONE knows the elevator pitch. The whole company needs to be clear on what your product does and what it does not.
  10. Tell your employees what is going on. Open communications work well; use tools like Slack, a weekly “What’s happening?” email or monthly ‘all hands’. Management by the water cooler, silos and gossip create a culture of politics, bitching and Chinese whispers.
  11. Consistency is critical if you want to be taken seriously. Which is why brand matters. When no-one has heard of you, delivering on your promises make, or break, your reputation.

Update 14 August 2017: Thanks to LinkedIn folks for sharing their best practice. #12 would be Make sure sales and marketing are joined at the hip.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/11-practical-lessons-from-tech-start-up-marketing-rachel-fairley

‘Be still and know’. Why a personal brand is worth having.

I recoil when I hear talk of ‘personal brand’And I sigh when I am asked for my personality type, ENTJ if you’re asking. I have learned not to roll my eyes when someone tells me; ‘you really must blog’ or ‘you must be active on social media’.

I’ve often wondered why I feel this way. Is it about my privacy? Is it the vacuous and insubstantial nature of social media? Is it a lack of confidence?

Recently I was challenged by a tech investor to put myself ‘on the record’; to crystalize my knowledge and share it. This is the first argument for blogging that has resonated.

So, this is my first blog in ages. In the spirit of crystalizing and sharing knowledge, any advice and constructive feedback will be greatly welcome.

I had an epiphany a couple of years ago about what motivates me. I’m not motivated by the promise of being rich; bonuses, share incentive schemes. I am not motivated by titles or power for the sake of it.

Then, last September, I had a rather large brain tumour removed. You won’t be surprised to read  the experience has changed me. My university motto kept coming back to me; ‘Be still and know’. I have spent six months thinking about what I am good at, what I want to be better at, what I need to stop beating myself up about, and what makes me happy.

I like solving big hairy problems and getting shit done. I can’t bear it when the discussions are circular, and the procrastination is companywide. Debate, commit, execute.

Most marketers have come up through product marketing or lead generation. I’ve taken a brand route in, and worked both agency and client side. I’ve been worrying about my legitimacy as a marketing leader who has had an unorthodox or unusual career path.

I don’t have a marketing degree and was debating undertaking one. Over slices of toast and coffee, a brilliant CMO I know challenged me; ‘Who asks you about marketing qualifications?’. She said if you do a marketing diploma, know you are doing it for yourself.

I realise I don’t need a certificate. I’ve never been competitive even with myself. I want to feed my curiosity. I want to do new things and learn new ways to do the same things. There is a lot of good training and reading available online so I’m going to start there. Recommendations please!

I met a CEO who hires people who are ‘keen, clever, get shit done’. I’m so drawn to that kind of culture. I live in London and love its diversity. Companies that value diversity are so attractive.

And I won’t work where #everydaysexism is acceptable any more. Life is too short to feel like you constantly have to adjust your response as a woman to fit in. Hard enough being a marketer!

‘Be still and know’ has helped me in so many ways. I understand what drives me. I believe that I have genuine, unique expertise that has come from following my curiosity. I now have the confidence to use and share that expertise to make a difference.

Rachel Fairley.

Formalise training in the design and digital industry.

The design and digital industry is an exciting place to work.  It is a world where people change jobs often and experience working in different creative environments on new projects and with new clients all the time. It is an industry that is used to churn and where freelancers are embraced. This year’s Design Industry Voices Report shows that it is also an industry where salaries are growing and bonuses are being paid.

The challenge is providing people with the skills to lead the industry. The report shows that while formal training through a degree or a course is the best way into the design and digital parts of the industry, there is no comparable route for those in account management or strategy.

In account management and strategy, agency staff value learning by working their way up from a junior position. However, agencies are poor at supporting professional development or growth, and respondents do not consider fellowships and internships that useful. The industry needs to find a formal, structured way to provide the skills needed for successful account management and strategy.

Agencies are affected by the commercial realities of their clients in tough economic times. The client demands for more work for less money, the increased free creative pitching and the reduction of budgets reflect a tough, new reality.

It is staff in account management and strategy that must understand those pressures. They must ensure that clients realise the value of the work they commission and be able to demonstrate its impact.

Account managers have to carefully manage the relationships, juggle the budgets and not only win pitches with new clients, but also to continually win existing clients through day-to-day delivery. Good strategists must learn the art of finding an insight and ensuring that the creative is effective.

This will, I think, also help agencies continue to be profitable and successful in the very different world they and their clients now inhabit.

For the full report please download here

Clients expect more for less finds 2013 Design Industry Voices survey.

The headlines

  1. Clients are putting pressure on agencies to do more for less. The number of free creative pitches for existing clients is perceived to be rising. The longer pitch process continues to be an issue for the industry.
  2. Over half (53.7%)of respondents intend to change job and about the same proportion (58.6%) perceive that agencies are employing fewer permanent staff. These proportions are a little lower than those found in 2012.
  3. Almost two thirds (63.4%) of respondents have received a pay rise in the last two years. Pay rises in the last year have outstripped inflation. A quarter of respondents (27.7%) have received a bonus in the last year.
  4. Working your way up from a junior position is considered the best form of training in the industry. Design and digital are the areas where a relevant degree or course is most highly rated as a form of training. Two fifths of respondents (40.5%) still consider that agencies perform badly in terms of supporting professional development.

For the full report please download here

Digital and design agencies face second year of talent exodus in 2012.

First published by Left Foot Forward on 3 January 2012.

A sense of gloom hangs over small business owners as they make their turkey sandwiches this week.  With the Euro crisis dragging on, the Chancellor’s latest credit easing initiatives still to be felt, and official unemployment figures at 2.64 million, the highest since 1994, many will be reaching for another glass of sherry just to drown out the recent memory of their struggles in 2011 and the forecasts they’ve read for 2012.

Economists at global banking giant Standard Chartered say the UK economy is likely to be in recession going into 2012, eventually recovering in the second half of the year. It feels like the tough times for small businesses have already lasted years, but with public sector clients experiencing cuts that will accelerate from next April, and Standard Chartered forecasting 1.5 per cent growth in 2013, the belt tightening is here to stay.

Many are simply adapting to the new economic reality. I’ve been surveying people working in digital and design agencies about the economic outlook for three years now, and it is striking the way that the longest UK recession in history has changed the culture of an industry based on pitching for business, piece meal contracts and unpaid interns.

Agency leaders are facing a second year of talent exodus. In the next twelve months 58% of respondents are intending to change employer. Churn has far reaching consequences that SMEs can ill afford in this uncertain economy. It impacts on reputation, profitability, quality of work, client and talent retention and acquisition.

Recruiter Karina Beasley of Gabriele Skelton says: “high staff turn-over means extra costs. Finding and recruiting new staff, then inducting them and getting them up to speed to take over accounts all adds to costs and eats into margins. In the current jobs market, agencies that advertise are being swamped with applications meaning that short-listing takes far longer than it used to and candidates rarely get feedback and often do not even have their applications acknowledged.

Too many are relying on freelancers and unpaid interns. Over half (58%) of respondents told us their agency is employing less permanent staff, 43% that they are using more unpaid interns and 55% that they are using more freelancers. Is it any wonder that 32% say that the quality of work has declined?

Stef Brown, MD of On Pointe Marketing, says: “clients are increasingly nervous that the ‘A’ team pitched, but an unstable ‘B’ team are delivering. And feeling like you aren’t on the ‘A’ team is demotivating, giving employees another reason to consider leaving. Not only this, but producing creative work for free during pitches means agencies are giving away their most valuable commodity: their intellectual property. I can’t think of any other professional services business where this is tolerated, or even considered an option.”

Not only do respondents say clients are expecting more work in pitches for free (71%) but that once you’ve won the account more work for less money (85%). One agency owner told us “Yes, budgets are killing us, everyone wants something for nothing and without good reason and if you don’t agree they all go elsewhere.” One designer said there is “too much competition. Little opportunity.”

The movement of people between agencies can make or break reputation through word of mouth. This is increasingly true as a growing number of respondents are using the social web to talk about their professional experiences (30.4% in 2011, up from 19% in 2009).

Clients asking for safer work (54% of respondents) will do nothing to enhance an agency’s (or the client’s own) reputation as being at the forefront of innovation. Safer solutions may not achieve the client’s business objectives. One design director pointed out: “It’s increasingly being dumbed down and made more obvious and commercial as the clients are frightened to try anything new. They tend to patronize the audience and don’t assume that the consumer can pick up on edgy subtleties.

The good news is agency leaders are still wearing their rose-tinted glasses, perceiving their company’s performance higher than their employees. This may be helpful if they are to successfully lead their agency through the economic downturn and back to prosperity, but they should be aware that their employees do not share their point of view. Staff perceive agency performance is getting worse: there is too much poor leadership, that doesn’t value ideas and opinions, and fails to reward people for going the extra mile when there are excessively high workloads relative to staffing levels.

Agencies appear to be running on empty, with staff engagement at an all-time low. Lets hope that the entrepreneurial spirit possessed by so many small business leaders can be reinvigorated at the heart of the agency, so that we may yet find a way to stop the exodus and find a path to growth.

Download the full report

Design Industry Voices survey 2012 sees fluid workforce trends continuing.

The headlines

1. More staff than ever intend to change job within a year (59%). Agencies are employing fewer permanent staff, more freelancers and more interns.

2. The widest perceived delivery gap is for ‘has a management team that demonstrates strong leadership skills’ (-53.1%). Owners have a rosier view of agency performance than their staff.
(The delivery gap is the difference between the perceived importance compared to perception of how well an agency currently performs in relation to an agency attribute.)

3. More staff than ever write their personal thoughts about work on social networking sites (34.6%).

4. Clients expect more work for less money to make up for budget cuts. Agencies are expected to do more work for free to win pitches and the pitch process is taking longer. Clients want ‘safer’ work.

5. Only 9% of respondents say clients demand accessible designs and fewer than half (45.7%) agree that they understand how to design in a way that improves accessibility for people with disabilities.

Download the full report and press release

A crisis of leadership in digital and design agencies.

There is an ever increasing instability within agency workforces. There are fewer permanent staff, more freelancers and interns. A record number of people are intending to change job within a year (59%). This year almost half of respondents (49%) have been with their agency less than two years, so it appears that unhappy employees are following through on their intention to change job.

A substantial change in those responsible for the day-to-day client relationships and client satisfaction may have an impact on the agency’s ability to service and farm existing clients, as well as to seize new business opportunities as the market begins to pick up. The resulting churn means agencies are spending precious budgets on recruitment fees and investment in getting people up to speed on their way of working and building staff knowledge of the agency’s clients.

This makes clients nervous that the ‘A’ team pitched but an unstable or more junior ‘B’ team are delivering. And feeling like you aren’t on the ‘A’ team is demotivating, giving employees another reason to consider leaving.

The movement of people between agencies can make or break reputation through word of mouth. This is increasingly true as a growing number of respondents are using social media to talk about their professional experiences (34.6%, up from 18.8% in 2009).

Respondents perceive a crisis of leadership. For the first time the perceived delivery gap is widest for ‘has a management team that demonstrates strong leadership skills’ (-53.1%). Part of the issue is that owners have a rosier view of agency performance than their staff. Staff complain of inappropriate staffing levels, a lack of strong sense of teamwork throughout the organisation, their ideas and opinions not being valued, and they are not being rewarded for going the extra mile.

For the full report please download here

Failing the blue pound.

10 million disabled people live in the UK with a combined annual spending power in excess of £80 billion – the Blue Pound. Nearly three-quarters (73%) are heads of households and 48% are principal shoppers.*

Business opportunities are being lost to secure the Blue Pound because clients and agencies are failing to understand and address their needs, resulting in a ‘walk away pound’.

A survey of the opinions and shopping habits of disabled customers by Business Disability Forum and Disability Rights UK people found that 83% of disabled people had ‘walked away’ from making a purchase, unable or unwilling to do so – ‘the Walk Away Pound’. What emerged was a picture of informed consumers who will reward good customer service and punish providers who don’t make any effort to meet their needs. Amongst the cited factors that discouraged disabled consumers from spending were poorly designed products, inaccessible premises, and poor or inappropriate communications including inaccessible websites and printed information.

Only 9% of respondents agree that clients ask for all designs to be accessible to people with disabilities. Fewer than a quarter (21.9%) agree that clients ask for website designs to be accessible to people with disabilities. Fewer than half (45.7%) agree that they understand how to design in a way that improves accessibility for people with disabilities.

The European Commission proposes that all public sector organisations will be required to ensure that disabled users of their websites have the same access to certain content and services as other internet users by the end of 2015.** This offers market opportunity for designers who understand accessibility.

Sources:
* Business Disability Forum website. Business Disability Forum and the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (now Disability Rights UK) Survey 2006.
** www.theregister.co.uk/2012/12/05/web_access/