Archive for the ‘Dan Attivissimo’ Category
Daniel Attivissimo this week looks at the defining steps that will make or break a market research project.
What do a doctor, automotive mechanic, and market research professional all have in common? Their ability to provide conclusions and information on solutions relies on the mastery of one fundamental step – defining the nature of the problem.
Peter Drucker, influential management consultant, once stated, “The truly serious mistakes are made not as a result of wrong answers but because of asking the wrong questions.” This simple and almost elementary observation outlines one of the leading causes behind many marketing research project failures.
To put this theory into everyday terms, I’ll use a relatable personal experience as an example. Recently, I had the pleasure of breaking down on the highway which led to my car being worked on for the better part of a week. The symptoms were obvious, the car wasn’t running at all, but the underlying problem was not as apparent. Working with only the symptoms would not have been enough information for the mechanic to properly address and fix the problem. It was necessary to dig a little deeper into the underlying causes behind the problem before deciding what the best method of fixing the car would be.
Sounds pretty understandable, right…..?
Well, the marketing research process is very similar to the example I just gave, in which the process is integrated and iterative – meaning, that no step is independent and the results of the previous steps affect the design and outcome of the following steps. That is why the most important step of all is the first step, defining the problem at hand – not just describing the symptoms (i.e. declining market share, decreasing profit margin, etc.). It sets the course for everything else in the research design, from the objectives and methodology to the questionnaire design all the way through to the presentation of the results to the client.
By definition, our responsibility as marketing researchers is to provide our client (typically some form of management) with information that aids in decision making. One of the most disastrous outcomes of a marketing research project would be reaching the end of the project only to find out that the information obtained holds little to no relevance in addressing the true nature of the business issue. The waste of time and money would be likened to the mechanic returning your car only to find yourself broken down a few miles down the road – but at least you have that new oil filter and full supply of windshield wiper fluid.
To effectively accomplish the task of identifying the problem (or opportunity), we must first gather all pertinent information to fully understand the background of the business issue. Three useful steps would be:
Below, is a comparison of the example of a mechanic and a general business issue that many companies face:
Figure 1: Identifying The Problem To Design The Research
please click on the image to enlarge
In the end, because of the mechanic’s ability to effectively define the problem causing my car to not run, he was able to provide me with a cost effective solution.
In the same way, the research team at B2B International is expert at providing its clients with actionable insights because of an acute attention to fully defining the background to the business issue, translating it into a research problem, and designing an appropriate approach that will effectively provide our clients with information that addresses the problem.
This week Dan Attivissimo argues that understanding your customers’ needs – vital as that is – may not always be enough.
In a Market Research World article written by Mauricio Adade, CMO of DSM, the author talks about the importance of market research as a tool to enhance a company’s customer value proposition (CVP). Not only does he feel that utilizing market research can uncover insights into direct customers’ needs, but also serves as a great way to position your value to your clients by better understanding the customers of your customers. He goes on to say:
A company operating within any business-to-business industry may see many different layers and moving parts where their products are used. Businesses that cater to multiple sectors should heed the above stated advice even more so. With a variety of end-users and applications in their value chain, each value proposition will resonate differently with every “piece” down the chain. To that end, understanding what your customers’ customer values most will help you communicate and provide that extra piece of value added service.
Take, for example, a materials supplier – a company that may simply produce a strong material that can be used for many different applications, like protective gloves, fishing lines, or even rope. Purchasers of this material are likely to be the manufacturers of those types of products just mentioned. Their customers will either be distributors, retailers, or even end-users. As we move further down the supply chain, each “piece” or business interacting with the material will have a different reason for purchasing that material. For the materials supplier to best understand how they can position their value proposition to their customers (manufacturers of the different products), they’ll need to uncover the different reasons why their material is valued for each of the different applications. After all, someone who is purchasing gloves will have a different set of what’s important to them than someone who is purchasing rope.
As a market research supplier it’s our goal to not only obtain but translate insights to our clients so they can then be used in a strategic manner. Helping our clients align themselves with their own customers’ needs takes more effort than simply developing a customer satisfaction survey. Sometimes we, as market researchers, must “peel the onion” and probe into the different points of a value chain to fill in the gaps. This means talking with both end-users and distributors of that material for each application so that we can help our client maintain a line of communication and offer a more clear customer value proposition through each channel.
In his first Thursday Night Insight, Dan Attivissimo this week discusses the merits of playing to your strengths.
Early in life we are conditioned to improve our weaknesses rather than enhance our strengths. As an example, as students (at least when I was a student) it’s all too common that parents and teachers spend more time and extra effort on subjects that are below our higher subject averages. (A subject with a B- will receive more attention than a subject with an A.)
Now, I am not making an argument for letting grades slip below average or even suggesting how parents and teachers educate children. I will ask this though – what if more time was spent enhancing the skills in the subject receiving a higher grade? What if the student who is excellent with percentages and decimals was now taught how to apply that knowledge to basic financial concepts? What if the student who has a gift for writing spent extra time learning how to develop stories? One may become a future all-star accountant and the other an industry-renowned journalist!
What does all this have to do with the B2B industry?
I also think that companies can apply these truths to their business. Companies, like people, also have a set of strengths, but typically they are drawn up before the company becomes operational (through a brilliant idea, business plan, mission statement, goals, objectives, experience, and refinement over time, etc.). After all, it’s what distinguishes a company from its competitors. Unfortunately, just like some students, businesses sometimes allocate more resources toward improving their weaknesses as opposed to enhancing their strengths. How many times have companies invested in product lines or services so far-removed from their core business that it becomes a failure before it even takes off? Or worse, continue to invest money and human capital into a division that isn’t competitive or profitable!
My hypothesis is, those who truly excel in certain activities, whether professional, personal, or sport, are those who have developed and perfected what they are naturally good at. So why can’t the same idea apply to businesses operating in the B2B industry?
What if companies focused more on developing their core strengths rather than expanding into a variety of unchartered territory, eventually reaching death by diversification? What if companies focused on being the best in a particular industry as opposed to having a small market presence in many industries?
Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, makes a great point that companies with long-term, sustainable growth achieved their greatness by being experts at understanding and investing into what they are strong in, what they are known for, and being the best at it. If certain opportunities didn’t fit within a company’s strong area it simply wasn’t pursued, saving the company from possible disastrous debacles.
What I have found in my recent experience is that people and companies are not all that different when it comes to exploring, developing, and exploiting strengths. Both can find their strengths through a systematic way of asking the proper questions and analyzing the answers (market research). Once a set of strengths has been established, both people and companies seem to perform better when they operate within relative distance of their core strengths.
I say don’t just play the cards you’re dealt, but play your best cards!!!