Archive for the ‘Needs’ Category
Marc Brokenbrow’s latest Business Surgery takes a look the possible reasons behind the recent demise of high street retailer Game.
I would never describe shopping as a hobby of mine or something that I particularly enjoy. I don’t like dealing with the crowds, making decisions on what to buy, or the difficulty of knowing whether I am getting value for money. In spite of all this, I still have to shop and one thing that has certainly made my life a lot easier (and more enjoyable) is internet shopping.
Now I am not writing this blog to tell you how wondrous internet shopping is (I’m a little late for that), but how important it is to engage with your customers and to facilitate their needs – and the importance of doing this continuously. You can’t just sit back and enjoy the good years because troubles can be lurking around the corner.
One prominent and present example of this is the demise of the well known UK high street giant Game. They were dominating the video games market and only 5 years ago made the acquisition of Gamestation, their greatest rival at the time. Although this was a very successful period for Game, they were slow to compete against rival internet companies such as play.com and eBay, who were taking a share of their sales in the online market. This definitely had a detrimental effect to Game and alongside a number of other reasons has lead to them going into administration.
In my opinion, I think the fundamental flaw for Game was not keeping up with its customers in terms of their needs and shopping habits. If they had been more customer-focused they may have chosen to concentrate their efforts on online sales channels, or even considered an acquisition of a web-based rival instead.
So was market research the solution for Game?
I think the answer is yes and the key to Game remaining customer-focused could well have been achieved by carrying out a customer needs based assessment. This would have allowed Game to keep in touch with their customers and to find out what they currently wanted and what they required in the future. An Online Reportal facility would have also been a very useful tool for Game and is something that our clients are increasingly requesting. It offers real-time results from a study and can aid the client by targeting customers who are deterred by the current service they are getting. The Online Reportal could have been crucial to Game’s survival. It would have shown them how people’s shopping habits were changing and, more importantly, it would have shown them at that precise moment, giving them time to implement change.
If you would like to know more about what we can do for you when it comes to a customer needs based assessment or would like more information on the Online Reportal facility available during a project, please feel free to contact us here at B2B International.
Taking us on a tour of his opulent Beijing hotel, Matthew Harrison this week explains why segmentation of a target market remains crucial.
I am writing this latest installment to Thursday Night Insight from my hotel in Beijing. Beijing is a city I know well and I have become accustomed to its hospitality – the faultless service in restaurants, the branch of Subway that delivers my foot-long sandwich for free, and the animated army of traffic lieutenants who bark at passers-by if they so much as lean over the road when the pedestrian light is on red. Sadly they don’t afford the same courtesy to the smoke-belching construction trucks that make it their business to run over pedestrians when the lights eventually change.
Variety being the spice of life and ‘adventurous’ being my middle name, I decided to sample a new hotel for this latest visit to our Chinese office. The Japanese-run Jinglun has served me well over the years, but having been charged the equivalent of $10 for half a pint of warm Tsingtao during my last visit, I decided to venture further afield to the Jianguo Hotel – a lengthy 1-minute hike away and self-proclaimed Garden Hotel of Beijing – which for some reason was offering luxurious rooms at knock-down rates.
Upon my arrival I was immediately impressed, as I always am when Chinese hospitality is involved. The politest man in the world took my case from the cab without asking. I never saw him again, but by the time I arrived at room 739, my luggage would be waiting for me. The garden theme was plain to see, the labyrinthine corridors snaking round a series of open-air ponds and trellised courtyards. The sight of a French restaurant adjacent to an English pub at the corner of the foyer meant that I immediately assumed I was in heaven, even if the 3 photocopies of my visa, passport and credit card seemed an excessive way of granting me entry.
One of the five-strong gaggle of receptionists eventually gave me my room card, contained in a small cardboard booklet advertising the English pub, French restaurant and 3 other onsite establishments, including Shang Court Chinese Imperial Cuisine – or, as its catchy tagline reminded me, ‘The only luxurious restaurant with the imperial palace and feudal official mansion cuisine of the Shang Dynasty in Beijing’. I made a mental note to return later and find out whether the food was as stodgy as the advertising.
I headed down 3 corridors, around 4 gardens, under 2 pagodas, through a pond, over a crocodile infested ravine, up 6 floors, down another corridor and into my room. It was a sight to behold. A huge plasma screen looked down on me imposingly. A green velvet sedan-chair lazed seductively in front of the window. Beneath 2 glass shelves stocked with Dragonseal 2008 vintage, the mini-bar hummed its sensuous hum, pouting its lips and beckoning me towards it with come-hither eyes and lovestrewn promises of Heineken straight from the can.
The room was as confusing as the hotel itself. As if the boastful attention seeking of the plasma screen wasn’t bad enough, its brash identical twin was suspended just feet away. I counted at least 4 waste paper baskets – why? The bath had 3 taps, one less than the number of telephones dotted around the room. 5 mirrors vied for space with 6 cabinets, a desk, and a mysterious contraption that looked like a zimmer frame for a man with 3 legs.
20 hours after leaving home, I threw the 17 decorative cushions onto the floor and collapsed onto the king-sized bed, determined to let fatigue take its toll. The minibar hummed with dejection whilst the Dragonseal glared its hateful blood-red disapproval.
But this room would not let me sleep. It was just too much. Too much attention, too much fuss for a half-asleep Englishman. This beautiful hotel, this monument to sino-european chic, was not for me. I began to long for the wide wildlife-free corridors and blanched, single-screen rooms of the Jinglun hotel. The Jianguo was wasted on me.
This hotel was forgetting the basics of segmentation, which divides a target market into groups with distinct needs, the supplier charging each segment a price aligned with the benefits received. In selling me this room, the Jianguo made a crucial mistake – it provided me with a luxury offering at a bargain basement price. The effective segmenter would have dealt with me in one of 3 ways:
Segmentation should be regarded as a strategy, not a tactic. Whilst it is tempting in the short term to ‘leave value on the table’ in order to ensure a sale and increase cashflow, in the long term this is just as self-defeating as raising costs too high. High costs will eventually erode margins and alienate the target audience that is prepared to pay for the benefits you offer.
In her latest Thursday Night Insight, Carol-Ann Morgan points out that our best intentions are not always quite as well received as we might hope.
In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton compiled his three laws of motion. The third law is commonly reported as…
The environmental story has been hovering around the top of the political agenda for some time now and, consequently, there is considerable attention given to the issues being debated in the press. However, we are having trouble grasping the arguments, as they are so equivocally defined and incalculable to the man on the street. Whilst experts argue amongst themselves as to the level of influence from our behaviours, and even the value of action, most of us are left confused as to what we should do next.
Excited by the idea of developing alternative fuels which reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere and potentially threaten the long-term future of the planet, the growth of some crop-based biofuels has now been shown to carry some responsibility for recent global food shortages. Similarly, engines developed to reduce emissions appear to have created social tensions and increasing hardship amongst communities living and working around the platinum mines.
Examples such as these can be found all around us, and they demonstrate that there can be counter-reactions to most of our actions, particularly so in the commercial environment. These counter-reactions can be both positive and negative; delivering business opportunities or threatening our existing business operations or offerings. This is where research plays a strong role. Testing concepts and new business offerings in the marketplace can throw up any unexpected or unwanted reactions, which then prepare us for the future. Being in possession of this knowledge enables us to take advantage of new opportunities and also mitigate threats to the business.
Change and development are critical to the future of most businesses; spotting the needs of the future before they are in full view, and responding to them, is critical. However, Newton’s law serves to remind us to ensure we are aware of, and give due consideration to, potential unwanted consequences which may be harmful to the future security of our business.
It is true that the buzzword in industry is analytics. This seems surprising to us in the market research industry. Data and analytics has been our baby for the last 50 years. When you drive your car, of course you need to look out of the window, but you would be a fool to set off without checking your fuel gauge or occasionally looking at your speedometer. A map may come in useful or, more likely today, a Sat Nav (GPS). Our industry has long provided much of the good data on the company dashboard and the Sat Nav to guide your journey.
The problem is that data is fast becoming a commodity. There is so much data handed out for nothing. It is in front of you in the newspaper. It hits you from the television. It sits under your nose in your company and, of course, it abounds on the net. In fact, most of us are paralysed by too much data.
However, there is some data that is almost invaluable. Just think of the things you would like to know about your market. Which customers are likely to be buying the products or services you sell in the next few months or weeks? And when they do buy, what will drive their decision? Where do you sit in their consideration set? What are the unmet needs in your market and how could you satisfy them? What will your market look like in five years’ time? Who will be the competitors to wrestle with then? The list could go on and on.
What do you think? Will data be the new plastics?
By Stefan Stern
Last week a very wise man – OK, it was my chief executive – said a smart thing. “Data is the new plastics,” he declared. This was a sly reference to a famous scene in the film The Graduate. What he meant, I think, was that the unlikely subject of data has suddenly become fashionable. It is now the sort of discipline you might encourage your son or daughter to pursue.
Clever people talk knowingly about “analytics” – managing better with the use of data – as if they have discovered the secret of business success. Perhaps they have. Software companies are certainly pushing the concept hard.
Last month the consultants Accenture announced a partnership with the IT company SAS. They are forming an analytics group which will offer what they call “predictive solutions”. This means getting hold of useful data fast and interpreting them intelligently, to try to anticipate sudden changes in your market, or to spot gaps others have not yet seen. IBM is touting its analytics capabilities aggressively, while SAP is also talking a good analytics game.
I was recently given a briefing by Vivek Ranadivé, the chief executive of Tibco, a Nasdaq-listed software company, on the emerging possibilities of our data-rich world. Mr Ranadivé is something of a visionary in this field. His first book, The Power of Now, was published 11 years ago. This was followed in 2006 by The Power to Predict. His latest book, The Two Second Advantage, will be out this year.
Mr Ranadivé is dismissive of what he considers outdated approaches to the handling of data. “We have 20th-century infrastructure trying to solve 21st-century problems,” he says.
During the past two decades, companies have become good at storing large amounts of data. Databases contain historical information about transactions that have been carried out. But what about all those near-misses, when customers visit your website, stay a while but leave without buying anything? A passive database will not record any of that activity. It will not even know that such things have happened.
Mr Ranadivé says we should think of business in terms of events, not transactions. Near-misses are customer events, too. The latest approach to data tries to spot these events in real time, so businesses can make use of that information quickly. In the jargon, this is called “in-memory analytics”, so called because memory has become a cheap and almost infinite commodity, and all that customer activity can be monitored live, as it happens.
Faster transmission of information makes a lot of things possible: marketing campaigns that react quickly to what customers want, smoother-functioning supply chains, even the introduction of the “smart grid”, which can spot possible power outages much sooner.
Last month Thomas Davenport, professor at Babson College, and Jeanne Harris, director of research at Accenture’s high performance institute, published Analytics at Work, a primer for managers who want to introduce a more rigorous approach to the use of data. It is a challenging read, in part because it makes plain how much work has to be done to capture and use data effectively.
But even academic experts agree that, however sophisticated your approach to data, you still need judgment to make good decisions. When Prof Davenport met a pilot at a party and started discussing analytics, he received this reply: “Oh yes, we’ve got lots of that in modern airliners – avionics, lots of computers, ‘fly by wire’, and all that. But I still occasionally find it useful to look out the window.”
Others are even more sceptical. Paco Underhill, a retail guru and chief executive of the consultancy Envirosell, says that today it is almost too easy to accumulate data. Instead of going to witness things first-hand, managers do a lot of their thinking sitting down, staring at spreadsheets. He is a great advocate of rubber-soled shoes. Get away from your desk, he says, and go and see for yourself. Wear rubber soles at your Envirosell interview if you want to get hired, Mr Underhill advises.
Not everyone will be fired up by the idea of plunging deep into a world of data. In the 1960s, bright young graduates, like the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie, did not all choose to pursue a career in plastics. But one young chap at General Electric did. Welch, I think his name was. Things seemed to work out pretty well for him.
This week Director Matthew Harrison draws the key marketing lessons from his (now dormant) seduction techniques.
Each and every year, the month of March is a joyous occasion for me. The brutal New York winter dissipates and makes way for 8 months of glorious sun. The English football season reaches its climax, as along with the rest of the Western world I fix my attention on Nottingham Forest’s promotion challenge. Most importantly and joyously of all, the month of March marks the anniversary of my wedding, which I should highlight (just in case she’s reading) was a day of unparalleled perfection.
And so this week my mind took a surreptitious walk down memory lane to a warm September day in 1997, a lucky 13 years ago. This was the day when I targeted my now-wife and (eventually) convinced her that I would fulfil her every need. Now, as a marketer first and lady-magnet second, thoughts of this distant time got me thinking. What, if anything, could my seductive exploits of the late 90s teach me and the wider marketing community about appealing to their target audiences? If I can successfully target that most notoriously demanding of audiences, the attractive female, surely there is no limit to my marketing prowess?
That sunny day in 1997 had been an inauspicious one, at least from a professional point of view. My finest achievement had been to break the photocopier and spend 90 minutes failing to fix it. As I returned home at 5.30, I frankly needed a beer. I delicately broached the subject with my housemate Dave, who pondered my request before suggesting we go to the pub immediately.
Two hours and 5 pints of Kronenbourg later Dave and I were deep in discussion, our agile minds flitting between the meaning of life and whose turn it was to buy the next drink. I was just about to walk towards the bar when I noticed the door open and two girls in their early twenties walked in. I salivated, ordered another round and began plotting my next move. My mission: to make the blurred, dark-haired girl on the right fall in love with a drunken photocopier-wrecker. Mercifully, Dave told me a joke about Camilla Parker-Bowles, distracting me for the rest of the evening.
Several evenings later, a group of friends and I decided to meet up in the same bar. Word was that a selection of females would be present, some of whom would be more than happy to meet the man of their dreams this evening. Even better, one or two discrete enquiries amongst the local cognoscenti revealed that the blurred girl was called Caroline and would be making an appearance along with her friends.
I sensed my chance, and quickly set about polishing my shoes, getting Dave to iron my shirt, and splashing myself in enough Fahrenheit to make a cactus wilt. I donned my leather jacket and, fusing debonair cool with rugged Anglo-Saxon masculinity, unbuttoned the top 2 buttons of my shirt. It would be no exaggeration to say that I looked irresistible.
Scanning the bar as I arrived mid-way through the evening, I immediately saw Caroline, chatting with her friends in the far corner. She was tall and slender with long, dark brown hair. Her dark knee-length skirt and tailored jacket clung enticingly to her figure and her top revealed a hint of décolletage. Her outfit reminded me of the perfect hors d’oeuvre: just enough to keep the interest; not quite enough to make me feel queasy and rush for the exit. I wonder if anyone’s ever delivered a finer compliment than that to her? I do hope so.
Rather than striding confidently towards her and delivering a killer chat-up line in front of her friends, I bravely decided to wait until she was on her own and then pounce. This must have been my lucky day because a few minutes later I found myself standing next to her at the bar.
We started talking. Now when I talk to attractive ladies, I have something of a magic touch – I start talking and they immediately disappear. Strangely, however, for an apparently sane woman with all of her faculties intact, Caroline responded – and not with a restraining order. She laughed at my jokes. She nodded as I told her all about my big-shot job in the photocopying room. She gasped with relief as I finally asked her a question. She seemed to believe me when I said that it must be the man behind me that stank of vinegar.
We met up a few more times over the following week or two, each encounter becoming slightly more relaxed than the last. I took her to a restaurant and tried to show off by buying some expensive wine that I’d never heard of. We went to a football match with a group of friends. Gentlemen, I hope you are learning as you read this. After 4 or 5 ‘meetings’ we were officially an item and I was congratulating myself on my marketing expertise.
So, when I look back at the seductive marketing techniques I employed in my early 20s and reflect upon how they changed the course of my life, I am struck by how similar the art of attracting a business-to-business customer is to the seduction of a beautiful woman. I therefore leave you with my key tips on how to attract and keep the most demanding of b2b customers:
Make the first impression count – A sober, well prepared marketing approach is always likely to be more effective than an impulsive dash in the direction of the target customer. This applies to all aspects of the marketing mix, from promotional materials and interpersonal contact through to pricing and proposal preparation. By the time you get to undoing an early bad impression, the object of your desire will already be looking elsewhere.
Expect the sales process to take 4 or 5 contacts – Business-to-business buyers, like women, are complex creatures. The quick ‘hard sell’ is far less suited to their multifaceted needs and their focus on interpersonal contact than it is to the more impulsive and impersonal world of consumer marketing. It is critical to take the time over a number of conversations to understand customers’ rational and emotional needs, before providing a personalized solution built around these.
Ask lots of (intelligent) questions – Like the most boring of inebriated men, bad b2b marketers focus so much on their own offering that they forget to ask the target customer what makes them tick and what would make their lives better. This is a fatal mistake when each target customer has needs that are often technical, complex and unique.
Always leave them wanting to find out more – Successful business-to-business marketing is a long-term, dynamic process built around frequent conversation and mutual exploration. The effective b2b marketer answers every question concisely, whilst hinting at new, intriguing ideas that make the target customer want to find out more next time.
Tell a coherent, authentic story and stick to it – This is the most difficult and most critical trick of all. Just as the single man identifies an overall impression he wants to project to the fairer sex and attempts to dress, smell and speak in a way that authenticates that impression, so the successful b2b marketer must identify the story that target segment wants to hear and ensure that every customer touchpoint authenticates that story. This requires consistency, and – most fundamentally – a deep and accurate understanding of what the target market wants from you. Master these two basics and you are on your way to becoming a seductive b2b marketer.