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.

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/

Sorting the wheat from the chaff.

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. This is having an impact on the quality of work and client servicing. More work is being produced for less budget, by a changing workforce that is less experienced in the agency’s specific approach and less knowledgeable about the clients.

“I wish that the design industry would get together regarding the issue of free pitching. The amount of work that is expected is shocking. It can put small firms out of the running and out of business”, explained one strategist.

A designer agency-owner added: “We are a profession and like any profession we should have a strong professional body to support the industry, lobby on behalf of the industry. The design agency world is guilty of continually under valuing itself and as such clients, including the public sector, are asking for more and more but for less and less fee. It’s a tough industry that in my view needs a strong professional body to stand up for the SMEs in particular. To my mind no such body currently exists.”

Clients asking for ‘safer’ work will do nothing to enhance an agency’s reputation as being at the forefront of innovation (or their own), and safer solutions may not achieve the client’s business objectives.

“This recession is sorting the wheat from the chaff. Which is a good thing. We’re still suffering the client backlash from over-selling to them pre-recession”, noted an account manager.

Download the full report.

Rose tinted challenges in the digital and design industry.

First published by Design Week on 3 January 2012.

UK digital and design agencies are facing a second year of talent exodus. Last year 56% of respondents to our Design Industry Voices survey were intending to leave their agency. These were not idle threats; in our 2011 survey 35% had been in their job less than a year. In the next twelve months 58% are intending to change employer. It is time for the industry to take this seriously.

The impact of churn

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.

Recruitment demands senior management time, fees, and further investment to train new employees on the agency’s approach and knowledge of its clients’ businesses. 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?

Clients get nervous when the ‘A’ team pitches but an unstable ‘B’ team delivers. And feeling that you aren’t on the ‘A’ team is demotivating, giving employees another reason to consider leaving.

This uncertainty can encourage clients to put their account out to pitch again. Add to this that respondents say clients are expecting more work in pitches for free (71%) and 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.” There is “too much competition. Little opportunity” said one designer.

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.
An account manager explained “There are a lot of clients demanding that something is just done the way they want despite expert opinion to the contrary… It seems lost that the clients are in fact employing experts for the skills they have and subjective feelings on the value of the work can dominate the management of project and dilute the end result.”

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.

A rose-tinted challenge

Agency leaders are wearing rose-tinted glasses. Owners are consistently more likely to rate their agency’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 perceptions of agency performance.

Respondents rate ‘has management team that demonstrates strong leadership skills’ as the agency attribute with the second highest delivery gap: -53% in 2011, and -48% in 2010. (The delivery gap is the difference between the perceived importance of an agency attribute and the perception of how well the respondent’s agency actually performs against that attribute.)

Perceived 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. Fewer staff than ever expect their agency to be a brand that is compatible with their own values.

Agencies appear to be running on empty, with staff engagement at an all time low.
What are digital and design agency leaders going to do about this?

A return to middle management

Elizabeth is an agency entrepreneur. An account director, she steers her agency and client team, always delivering innovative, creative, business results focused work. She is a middle manager: no responsibility for running the agency, total responsibility for her client’s satisfaction. Elizabeth is tenacious, she invests budgets as if the money were her own, worries about billability and profitability of the agency, is confident advising business leaders, and is a natural ‘farmer’ and business developer. A wordsmith, she always pushes studio to innovate creatively and knows when to nurture and when to begin again. Elizabeth knows the value of ideas and she doesn’t like giving them away for free.

If we can put that entrepreneurial spirit possessed by so many agency leaders and managers at the heart of the business we may yet find a way to stop the exodus.

It is time for a return to middle management. Middle managers have daily contact with clients, lead the agency team, manage the budgets and produce work that can make an agency’s reputation. They are the future leaders.

With middle management as the agency’s driving force, it’s easer to focus on profitability and engagement.

Teach managers how to increase billability and usage rates, reduce investment from overspend on pitches and projects. Improve their negotiation skills. Stop over-delivering in ways that the client doesn’t notice and instead make one-off investments in additional work that is groundbreaking, setting a new tone.

Give managers responsibility for the resourcing budget on their project so that they can staff up appropriately and allocate manageable workloads. Stop promising to clients more than your people can deliver during a normal working day for the budget. Take a percentage of the project profitability and allocate it to managers to use as a team bonus for outstanding work and for seeing the project through, helping increase quality and reduce churn.

When I see Elizabeth, or any of the other great senior manager or director level account managers, designers and strategists at work, it makes me wonder why we have executive teams. How are they helping if they are failing to lead, don’t listen to ideas and opinions, fail to reward people for going the extra mile, or ensure that workloads are acceptable? Here’s one way to save money – a slimmed down executive team and an empowered middle management.

Whatever you think of my ideas, this is an industry wide problem and it is time for fresh thinking and action.

Download the full report.

 

Design Industry Voices 2011 survey finds more employees than ever intend to change job within twelve months.

The headlines

  1. More staff than ever intend to change job (58.3%) within twelve months.
  2. Clients expect more work for less money to make up for budget cuts.
  3. Agencies are expected to do more work for free to win pitches and the pitch process is taking longer.
  4. Clients want ‘safer’ work.
  5. Agencies are employing fewer permanent staff, more freelancers and more interns.
  6. The perceived delivery gap has continued to widen across all agency attributes. (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.)
  7. Owners have a rosier view of agency performance than their employees.

Download the full report and press release

Design Industry Voices survey 2010 perceived agency performance worse than last year.

The headlines

  1. Over half of respondents (55.7%) intend to change job within a year, compared to 38.4% last year.
  2. Staff are more discriminating about what they expect from their agency than they were in 2009.
  3. The perceived delivery gap (the difference between the perceived importance compared to perception of how well an agency currently performs in relation to an agency attribute) has widened over the last year.
  4. Age has an impact on what is considered important and how performance is perceived in an agency.
  5. Owners and executive team disagree that their agency ‘has good pay and benefits package’.

Download the full report and press release

Design Industry Voices Survey 2009 reveals 38% are planning exit when market picks up.

Industry employees voice dissatisfaction in their agency’s performance in the areas that matter most to them.

In late October 2009 we asked people who work within UK design and digital agencies to anonymously share their views on how it feels to work within their agency right now. The first Design Industry Voices Survey 2009 by Fairley & Associates, Gabriele Skelton and On Pointe Marketing was published in December 2009. Here are the headlines.

Day-to-day client satisfaction at risk

38% of employees responsible for day-to-day client satisfaction are planning their exit when the recession ends, with almost three quarters intending to stay in the industry.

36% of directors, 53% of managers and 47% of coordinators and assistants intend to change employer, compared to only 19% of the executive team. We found that strategists are least likely to change employer (21%) whereas designers (43%), account managers (44%) and those working in other roles in the agency (36%) are most likely to leave.

A substantial change in those responsible for the day-to-day client satisfaction and delivery may have an impact on the agency’s ability to service and farm existing clients. There is also a risk of losing knowledge and experience. Agencies are likely to face the need for financial and time investment in the recruitment and training of new talent, which they can ill afford.

Stef Brown, Managing Director of On Pointe Marketing, says: “Agencies are all about people. Building relationships and satisfying existing clients is one of the best ways to weather any downturn. If agencies start losing the key staff that deliver the work, they risk damaging those relationships to the point where clients may decide to look elsewhere. They also risk being so stretched that they’re unable to seize new opportunities as the market begins to pick up.” 

Perceived agency delivery gap is major factor in deciding whether to stay or go

We asked respondents to tell us how important a series of agency attributes were to them personally and how well their agency is currently performing against those attributes.

Across the industry, people agree on what makes a good agency.

We then measured the difference between importance and performance, which we call the delivery gap. We found that employees who intend to change job perceive bigger agency delivery gaps than those who wish to stay. The median gap is just 13% for those intending to stay and 36% for those intending to leave.

The five attributes in which there is the greatest difference of opinion between those intending to leave and those intending to stay are: ‘rewards people for going the extra mile’ (39% difference); ‘has a management team that demonstrates strong leadership skills’ (35%); ‘helps employees to manage stress’ (33%); ‘supports professional development and growth’ (32%); and ‘is quick to change in reaction to new situations’ (29%).

Rachel Fairley, Managing Director of Fairley & Associates, believes: “Employees agree on what makes a good agency and on how their agencies are letting them down. For two-fifths, enough is enough. It isn’t about money; everyone knows money is tight. It is about respect and appreciation. Agencies must empower their managers to lead, coach and nurture their teams so employees are involved in ensuring their agency’s and their personal success.”

Crucial deficits in agency performance in the psychosocial work environment

For those intending to leave, the greatest delivery gaps are in the psychosocial work environment such as job demands, job control and workplace support/training.

The perceived delivery gap for those intending to leave is significant: ‘rewards people for going the extra mile’ (64%); ‘supports professional development and growth’ (60%); ‘provides training’ (55%); ‘helps employees to manage stress’ (55%); ‘appropriate workload for staffing levels’ (53%).

Jobs with high demands and high control are generally considered the most rewarding whereas jobs with high demands, low control and poor workplace support are worst for mental and physical health. To retain talent, agencies need to nurture their employees. This may also improve their perception of the leadership skills of their management team.

Karina Beasley, Managing Director of Gabriele Skelton, says: “As a recruiter, of course we are reliant on people moving from one agency to another. However, we also want our agency clients to thrive, and from the results of our research, many are risking their future success by not paying attention to nurturing, and therefore, retaining their employees. Bearing in mind the level of redundancies in the first half of 2009, many agencies are now down to teams comprised entirely of their key people – the very people they can least afford to lose when the upturn comes. It is vital that they look at how to reward and recognise their people – something which doesn’t have to cost a fortune.”

Download the full report and press release