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Pitching MR solutions in the EU

presentation

When pitching US market research solutions in the EU, be aware of a different privacy regulative environment. The reason for this short post is that US developers of market research (MR) technologies appear to be unaware that their technologies may not be allowed in the EU (or their functionality severely limited).

In the past week, I have been contacted by several developers intending to present at the IIeX-EU event in Amsterdam that gasp when they learn that they may be subject to the EU regulative framework. For instance, many regions in Europe prohibit the use of CCTV to track customer movement, others limit the use of GPS technologies and still others prohibit the aggregation of data from different sources as it invades the customer’s privacy (basically you can identify an individual which is usually restricted). Yesterday I was asked: “How do marketers manage to work in Europe?” My answer: “They really don’t; they are confined to advertising.” That said, there is no need to panic even if you are presenting next week in Amsterdam. What you need to is this:

  • Speak with a lawyer that knows the EU privacy regulative framework inside out and outline briefly where your technology may conflict with these regulations.

  • If your technology does conflict with the EU regulations, do not despair – just open with a statement such as: “We are aware that our technology may not be fully implemented in Europe due to a stricter privacy regulative environment, but we want to demonstrate its full potential so that you may select what components may be of interest to your company.” EU managers are wary of the privacy regulations, so gunning ahead without that type of disclaimer may cause them to stop listening right there. The reason is that if they perceive it as a potential risk in terms of invading customer privacy, they will immediately decide not to explore it further.

  • Once the disclaimer is established, knowing exactly where your technology enters into the EU regulative red zone allows you to state that during the presentation itself. That removes the immediate barrier and encourages the audience to seek you out after your presentation.

  • When the presentation is complete and you are approached, find out from them what they can do with your technology. Be more ears than mouth at this stage – it will save you a lot of time and enable you to follow-up using their own ideas as to how to introduce your technology to Europe.

See you in Amsterdam.

Thinking forward

strategyPremise: The key to success is focusing on your client’s value chain, not the client’s immediate target audience.

I do quite a bit of market research for businesses, government agencies and international organizations. What I have found is that an overwhelming amount of these clients focus on their immediate customers and direct surveys toward how better to service them. The problem here is that these customers usually have their own customer-base and that configuring a survey targeting their needs does not extract sufficient information as to how their customers gain by participating in the survey. This usually leads to a low response rate.

Market research surveys need to look past the client to the end customer in order to extend the value-chain forward. When executing a survey for an international institution like the World Bank Group, asking its immediate customers whether or not a certain project would benefit them provides insufficient information as to whether they are likely to participate in that given project. Taking it forward, however, by asking them how they could better approach their own customers was the World Bank to launch said project renders the survey far more accurate as we get responses based on actual opportunities. I have found that the most effective surveys are not directed toward the immediate customers but to their customers. Example:

A website hosting firm wants to attract more business. If it directs the survey to potential customers, the deciding factors will revolve around price, security, backup, support and down-time. If it directs the survey to actual customer needs, it will revolve around how they can gain more business by doing business with that hosting firm. This approach causes the survey to double as a sales vehicle.

I was recently involved with a survey where customer needs were assessed. The problem was that it did not extend to address the needs of the target audience’s and so resulted in a low response rate. The survey was directed toward what it would take for the client – a hosting company – to attract more business but it did not address how the client’s customers would benefit from doing business with that firm or what their needs were. The insights generated revolved around price, security, backup, support and down-time which, while providing some information, did not help the client formulate an effective go-to-market strategy.

A survey that does not extend to encompass the entire value-chain (this excludes surveys intended for direct market targeting) will fall short as it skips the needs of the end-customer. Therefore, before engaging in market surveys, I prefer to map out the value-chain and transform the survey itself into a sales vehicle that, while generating the data needed for client decision-making, will present a solid argument toward its immediate customers that the client in question is the ideal choice in order for him or her to increase own revenue generation.

Market surveys are usually considered to be a vehicle for data gathering while I consider them to be partly that, partly a marketing weapon. Any individual that takes a survey is subject to what a client is offering. It is a marketing opportunity that most survey companies fail to recognize. Why ask a respondent whether or not price is a factor when it is just as easy to ask what his or her customer’s concerns are? The respondent may answer with ‘Yes’ while his or her customer may answer ‘No’. A survey that is directed toward the immediate customer does not address the value-chain whereas a survey directed toward the customer’s customers does. A survey has the target’s attention – use it!

The purpose of a survey is to extract information that is useful to the customer. Why not expand that to encompass the value-chain instead of limiting it to the immediate customer? I have found that by extending the survey increases the response rate significantly as respondents perceive a direct value for their own business as opposed to merely generating results useful only to the immediate client.

I would appreciate feedback and comments from other market researchers that have similar or other experiences with this.

Market research goes nuclear

IIeX_banner

When the credit system collapsed in 2008, I was asked which economy I thought would recover first: the EU or the US. My answer: “The US because it is driven by people that want to succeed while Europeans prefer to be taken care of.” This week, I attended a market research and technology conference in Philadelphia, The Insight Innovation Exchange, where this observation was not only proven but greatly amplified. I used to live in Boston where I worked in the market research field and considered myself fairly up to date as to what was at the forefront of market research technology and insight generation. Little did I know what this conference held in store.

The first day, I was exposed to presentations that made me realize that I was not a little bit behind – I needed a landspeeder in order to catch up! The first presentation was ‘Fizzy Visuals: 12 Years Evolution of Reporting Insights with Coca-Cola‘ given by ace presenter Patricio Pagani of Infotools. He clearly demonstrated how large customers can be brought straight into the development phase that results in solutions and services that are tailored to customer needs. Infotools has not only done so for Coca-Cola; they also list Microsoft, Ford, Audi, BMW, Mazda and Viacom as their clients which proves that their method works wonderfully. Listening to Patricio was a great experience and of tremendous value to entrepreneurs and solutions providers of practically any size, type and geographic location.

Next up was a presentation by Nick McCracken, Product Innovation Research Manager at Ford, titled ‘Creating a Truly Global Marketing Research Function‘. He began by illustrating what the condition of Ford was once the crash hit and car sales plummeted. For many companies, such a sudden decline in sales means downsizing upon downsizing until nothing is left and the company evaporates into thin air. Nick, however, showed how Ford managed to regain market trust and loyalty through groundbreaking market research techniques and attention to customer expectations, wants and needs, and succeeded in bringing sales back to pre-crash levels. One example that really hit home was the observation that we usually have our hands full when attempting to open the trunks of our cars. How about this concept?

ford_handsfree

There is much more going on at Ford that can be directly traced back to effective market and consumer research and this conference really brought it all out. If other conferences are hits, the IIeX is a ‘Best of‘ album. Gasping for air, I both dreaded and looked forward to what was to follow. I also realized that the US is not years ahead of Europe; it is decades as these selected presentation titles show:

  • The Power of “Wow”: Emotional Valence in Social Media (David Johnson, CEO, Decooda)
  • It’s Not The Size Of The Data, But What You Can Do With It (Zachary Nippert, Chief Marketing Officer, MotiveQuest)
  • Technology Frontiers: Text, Sentiment, and Sense (Seth Grimes, Principal Consultant, Alta Plana Corporation)
  • It’s Not Mobile Research, It’s Research In a Mobile World (Bob Yazbeck, Vice President, Digital Methods, Gongos Research)
  • Listen In: How to Gain Insights from Conversations (Frank Cotignola, CIM, Global Analytics and Digital Insights, Mondelez International)

This box of confectionaries was of course followed by a main course: ‘Expert Panel: Big Data or Big Brother? Ethics & Regulations in a Data-Rich World‘ featuring:

  • Peter Milla, Principal Consultant, Peter Milla Consulting/CASRO

This was only the first half of day one; there were two more days of this! The entire schedule is available here so you can see what you missed if you were elsewhere occupied. This is only beginning, however, so keep an eye on the IIeX; it will only get better. Now, attempting to summarize this great event in a blog is like attempting to describe the picture below using a typewriter (if unsure what a typewriter is, click here):

nebula

Each day ended in a networking event hosted by various firms involved with the IIeX conference. These events were held at bars or restaurants and enabled a free-flowing dialogue between solutions and service providers, potential customers (usually in the Fortune 500 category), VCs, consultants, and visionaries like Ari Popper, who gave an incredible lecture on how science fiction can project the future and then sent us through an exercise that forced us to really consider what the future may hold in store for us. Most of us have gone through such exercises before, but few have completed them with Fortune 500 managers on their team. The World Bank also had a presence there which indicates that market research and related technology is taken quite seriously at the highest levels and for good reason; the better we can project the future, the better our growth strategies will be (and I personally believe it will culminate in ‘individual choice‘ as opposed to ‘economic means‘).

So, to spiral back to where I started, the IIeX conference is a prime example why the US will, in my opinion, maintain its leadership position as far as innovation and market drive are concerned, at least in the foreseeable future.  Where else in the world can a blender like the IIeX be established that allows businesses to form partnerships, seek mentors and advice, forge strategic alliances, meet privately with major corporations, interact with VCs, give presentations to a highly receptive audience, and become a part of something much larger? This is a new model that creates energy of a type I have never experienced before. It was as if the air itself was electrified and when conference came to its conclusion, I not only felt up to date; I felt as if I had gained a vision of what is to come over the next 3 years (I want to say 5 but that is an eternity given current pace of things). To finish, this entire concept is cooked up by a handful of visionaries that have both the ability to envision it and to execute it to perfection!

It is the US that will propel the world forward through futuristic thinking and innovation while Europe hesitates to take risks and overthinks everything. Life is about taking risks for safety leads straight to stagnancy (as Kyle Nel, International and Multicultural Research, Lowe’s Home Improvement, pointed out during our panel titled ‘Data Philanthropy: Channeling Information To Drive Public Sector Innovation‘. That is where I fear Europe is heading unless the Horizon 2020 EUR 80 billion EC fund is deployed with actual monetization strategies and growth targets as leading concerns. Play is safe and those billions will be wasted. Bring in that market savvy and business drive from the US as part of the free trade agreement between the two regions, and Europe may find itself with more business intelligence firms than just SAP. Europe has slept for too long; it is time to wake up.

I want to thank my good friend Lenny Murphy for igniting this torch and the Gen2Advisors and Greenbook teams for making it all happen. You guys simply rock! It is an honor knowing you.

To app or not to app

Many businesses fire out smartphone apps that are completely useless and actually cause more damage than good they fall victim to the fallacy that apps are necessary to make them look current. A good app is a great promotional tool whereas a bad app is the sibling of bad publicity. Does the business need an app? Will the app:

  • Boost efficiency: reducing execution time by automating processes currently handled manually?
  • Increase turnover: capturing a larger slice of the target audience (or opening up an entirely new market segment) in combination with a marketing campaign adding a marketing weapon to the business’ arsenal?
  • Capture insights: trackingcustomer behavior and serving as a market research tool?

If the projection is that the app will boost efficiency, increase turnover, or capture insights it should be designed to optimize these capabilities. The app’s effect on a business should also be considered. If the app is an efficiency-boosting tool, it most likely affects frontline operations such as ordering, booking, and inquiries and may in some instances cut down overhead arising from these services significantly. It also boosts capacity as more customers can be serviced simultaneously and basically has a similar effect as homepages did two decades ago. The cost of developing an app of this type is measured against current service time and load on frontline personnel, and as such goes into the realm of activities-based costing (the stopwatch scenario)

Businesses measure apps based on payback time verses market penetration and all too often believe that lower app development costs result in faster payback. I prefer to use app effectiveness verses investment required since an effective app will end up paying for itself with interest. An app is a sunk cost, but its purpose is to recover the investment through other channels. It therefore has no direct – or measurable – payback period as such.

As a marketing weapon, the app is expected to create additional revenue which means that the investment is linked to a projected increase in sales volume and turnover. In order for this to happen, the app must have that ‘coolness’ effect that makes the market snatch it up like free candy at Halloween. Saving money on look, feel and appearance is not a good idea as that may cause the app to become inefficient and therefore a loss. Apps are wonderful marketing weapons as they offer plenty of cross-marketing possibilities. A store may develop an app that also offers mobile payment. Instead of the store, the telecom, and the financial transaction entity (bank or credit-card company) placing individual ads, the bundled solution means that they can double the campaign budget, but end up spending less each on the campaign. They can then piggy-back off each other for months once the initial blast is complete and reminder ads are run, tripling the exposure at no additional cost. Cross-marketing campaigns pack tremendous power and apps are ideal for such scenarios.

As a market research tool, apps offer a dimension homepages don’t – GPS positioning. Apps can be made to not only track customer travel but also direct the customer to specific destinations. A range of apps exist that track runners and bikers as they train, map their pulse, speed and distance and map it out for instant posting on Facebook. Advertisers can use apps for the exact same purpose except in their case; they can track campaign effectiveness using a combination of radio psychoacoustic signals (NielsenArbitron) and GPS proximity triggers. I was involved with such a project last year and the possibilities in that realm are virtually limitless. WCC  is doing some very interesting work in that area and so are others leaders in the market research field.

Well truly what the project requires is a marketing budget,” says Lisa Steinmann, Director of Developer Relations at Mobilewalla. “App discovery is the biggest challenge app publishers face. If you don’t have a marketing budget for your app, then don’t bother, unless you have a built-in marketing machine in place or a hot commodity. Justin Bieber can sell anything immediately as millions are hanging on his every move; an average app of any kind, will not succeed without a marketing effort.When selecting a developer ask them if they have a marketing team, or a standard marketing plan. Most developers leave the marketing up to you, but there are some very specific marketing issues regarding app title, description and keywords (which must be chosen prior to publication) that are vital to launching a successful app.”

A business desiring to develop an app in order to boost efficiency, increase market share or gain greater insight into its customer base should keep in mind that:

  • The app itself is not a sales item. It either saves or generates money directly or indirectly.
  • The app has to be easy to use. It is not a web page with tons of content; it has to be focused on a specific task and execute that task perfectly. Also, limiting text content makes the app much easier to translate into other languages.
  • The front and back intelligence behind the app has to be clearly defined before any programming takes place. This may call for a server that is configured to intercept, process, and redistribute the data relayed to the app (as is the case with our Jupiter platform). This is vital for market research apps and highly recommended for other types as well.

There are exceptions to this, but an app intended to increase profitability while also generating direct revenue can cause confusion and sidetrack the project. In my opinion, it’s better to focus on the app as a profitability boosting tool or a sales item, not both.

When the purpose of the app has been defined, a business is faced with the challenge of selecting the right development firm to actually build it. Here we run into price verses. track record. Is a cheap development firm with a limited track record worse than an expensive firm with a massive record? Then again, a company with limited experience will have less pre-made stuff on the shelf to help you make your app cheaply, which can easily lead to a cheap deal ending up costing more. I urge businesses to select their app project leader with great care. An experienced project manager will be able to communicate clearly to the developers what is to be built as he or she has fine-tuned the company’s app framework, leaving no room for error or misunderstanding on either side. The project manager will also know what technological components already exist and can accurately estimate their price. Finally, the platform that best matches the target audience has to be selected. The iPhone is marketed very aggressively, but for a while it appeared that Android would win that war. The tables seem to have turned again (click on image to read the related article):

Android Market Share Declines In US, Apple iOS Gains Ground As iPhone 5 Expected To Strengthen Growth

App developers are great and are here to stay. What apps offer for market research, it tracking mobility; for advertising, influencing customer behavior live by guiding them to specific destinations. Apps is a new technology and there is no doubt that we will see more and more spectacular uses for it as it matures.

Targeting in time and space

Most of us are used to thinking of marketing research data – or data in general – in terms of aggregates that change over time. While valuable at the macro level, it is not very useful when attempting to determine customer behavior which in turn drives the marketing strategy and resulting promotional campaign. Internal systems (POS) indicate when a transaction occurred, its monetary value and even who executed it. It is even possible to know whether the transaction is new or repeat business and it can easily be extended to link media exposure and campaign effectiveness directly to sales. Add data mining tools, CRM filters and a range of models and analysis gadgets into the mix, and strategic planners should be ready to fire out a bulletproof strategy based on historical data and probability. That is not the case; an important component is missing: sequence of events.

A customer that buys Nike running shoes and a Reebok track suit is the equivalent to one or two points in the data stream based on whether it is treated as a single event or two. Alone, this information is completely useless. With 100 additional customers of which 9 buy Nike running shoes and Reebok tracksuits, a pattern begins to emerge. Are sales of these two items the result of a promotional campaign, does it have to do with the weather, was there a blockbuster movie featuring these items, a special price or offer, or just fluke chance? What if we had this scenario:

Four of the nine customers that bought the two items had seen the same blockbuster movie less than three days earlier where the items were featured. This information can be gathered once smartphone shopping develops to the extent of competing with credit and debit cards (this is already happening). The day they bought the items, outside temperature has risen from chilly to warm and rain had given way to sunshine and clear skies. There was no special promotion in place nor discount pricing. Is this an indicator that the movie affected sales or was it the combination of the movie and the sudden change in the weather? While the former scenario was limited to internal information, this second scenario takes external information into account. Still, the ability to track customer spending behavior before the actual purchase is valuable but still not good enough. We need to know exactly why the customer came to the store in the first place and why nine customers bought the exact same items (as they bought two brands, we can eliminate brand loyalty to some degree, although they may be loyal to a brand for specific products). A third scenario could be along these lines:

All retailers featuring Nike running shoes and Reebok tracksuits and are located less than a 5 minute walk from a movie theater showing the blockbuster movie experienced an increase in sales of these two items three days after the customers saw the movie. If this happened at the national level, we are talking about a major statistic that can be used for strategic planning (and extends to outlet planning, distribution channels and campaign management). Also, if other retailers offering the same items but not located near the movie theater showing the blockbuster did not incur sales increase, it further supports the probability that the movie and item sales are related. Lastly, if retailers experiencing rain and continued chills in their area fail to experience the sales increase of the two items, we also know that weather does have effect which means that the movie alone is not enough. Our insight to the market has become so much greater than in the first scenario where our visibility was confined to data originating within a closed network.

Whereas the first scenario limited visibility to internal data and the second expanded that view to customer external and internal transactions, the third scenario includes data that lies outside the realm of traditional market research. The Big Data concept will not work unless it renders sales influencers and drivers useful for the end customer, which in this case are marketing managers and researchers. As such, they should not have to browse for anything or generate derivative indicators but get the final result delivered directly into their own strategic marketing model. This means that they will get information from competitor internal systems just like they themselves share internal information with competitors. I expect someone to gasp at this point and for good reason; who in his or her right mind would share internal data with competitors? The very idea is ludicrous … or is it? What if the data shared is of derivative nature instead of relaying actual values?

A useful tool to determine chain of events is correlation. If the correlation between any two indicators is strong (positive or negative), they either directly influence one another or are both influenced by a third indicator. Internal systems can yield this information but they cannot extend that ability outward as comparable data is locked inside other internal systems. Sharing the output of these systems directly is not an option for competitive reasons, but it is still possible to establish a data communications network that protects the internal data while making it available to the outside world, even competitors.

As long as data remains confined within organizations or institutions, long-term strategic planning will contain a great deal of uncertainty. With a mechanism in place that can explore emerging patterns as they develop, that uncertainty is largely reduced and opens up an opportunity for real-time strategic marketing models that shift based on what is happening right now and estimate with a high degree of accuracy what will happen further down the timeline. This does not mean that the entire strategy is constantly being updated, but is does provide the means to adjust it based on changes in market drivers. Such changes may happen very quickly and completely blindside a company. Now what does it take to make this real?

The solution is very simple as far as the framework is concerned. The challenges lie at the backend. Like adapters used for household appliances, the Derivative Data Sharing Framework (DDSF) transforms all data stream plugged into it into a common metric (or common current to continue the electricity analogy). These streams can be of any type, frequency, scale or nature and are used for the sole purpose of generating a running indicator as to how they are related. For the retailer in the scenarios above, there would be no need to look at internal or external data to figure out what the sales drivers in that particular case are. By selecting the Nike running shoes, the DDSF yields all internal and external quantifiable measures that show a relationship within the range set by the user (usually +/- o.8 or above) regardless of origin. The result is a fourth scenario:

Selecting Nike running shoes shows strong positive correlation to other similar products on the market and negative correlation to McDonald’s french fry sales. Temperatures ranging from 10-15°C show a +0.83 correlation while the range 15-25°C increase correlative strength to +0.88. Air humidity levels between 40-60% also reveal strong correlation but so does low inflation, comparative strength of the domestic currency, a drop in unemployment levels, increased labor force, increased demand for studio apartments in downtown Chicago and grain export to Canada. Suddenly, the marketing strategy is no longer confined to internal processing systems and external research entities, but takes the entire planet into account.

This is the theory in a nutshell. Implementing it may appear difficult but it is not as complicated as many would believe as long as the processing power to manage this kind of data flow is available. The bottom line is that it will be possible to estimate sales development based on factors that are located far ahead of actual point of sale just like a domino that falls on another eventually affects the last brick in the chain. Harnessing all data flow is to my knowledge the only means of achieving this, but the only way to do it is to configure the data so that actual values are completely concealed.

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