Jul 252014
 
The customer relationship

Most companies claim to be customer centric, but when you look at what they do you will see that the customer is all too often treated as a cross between an outsider and an enemy – someone to be persuaded, entrapped, or smooched, not somebody in true partnership with the brand or organisation.

I think there are two reasons why so many brands talk about being close to customer while at the same time failing to achieve it:

  • They don’t realise that doing it right can make the business more profitable and more sustainable – so they just talk-the-talk.
     
  • They don’t know how to operationalise a relationship with tens of millions of customers – so they don’t try.

I think both of these positions are wrong and I have set out my observations and findings about how some companies are truly putting the customer into the decision making process in a new (short) book. In the book I highlight cases and show the tools they are using and the rewards they are achieving.

The four main points I make are:

  1. 1. Customer engagement comes in three layers, Listening, Crowdsourcing, and Co-creation – and the best companies do all three, using a variety of tools and approaches. Companies as diverse as Molson Coors, Kimberley-Clarke, SingTel, and Avianca are all using multiple strategies to sit side-by-side with customers.
  2. 2. Research from the likes of IBM, Aberdeen, and Forrester show that customer involvement can increase revenue and profits.
  3. 3. With the rise of the collaborative economy, for example Uber, AirBNB, and Kickstarter brands cannot sit above the fray, they need to be part of the answer or they will be part of the problem.
  4. 4. In the past brands and companies had product differences, but in most cases these have been eroded. The final competitive advantage for a company lies with its customers – not with the product or the service, but with what customers can help create and sustain. However, the overarching message from all these cases and examples is that brands have to mean it, they can’t just talk about involving customers, they have to believe in it and they have to make it happen.

If you’d like to read the full book you can download it from the Vision Critical website (in exchange for handing over a few details about who you are).
 

May 022014
 

One of my favourite social media/listening books is Stephen Rappaport’s Listen First!, so I was delighted when his new book ‘The Digital Metrics Field Guide’ was announced, and even more delighted to get a copy to review.

The book has been produced and published by the ARF and you can download an interactive PDF from this link on the ARF site. The Field Guide is free for ARF members and $29.95 for non-members.

To produce the book Stephen reduced a list of about 350 metrics to 197 and backed these up by referring to almost 150 studies, which illustrates the claim that online is the most measurable medium. The book covers four digital channels: email, mobile, social, and the web, and produces a really easy to use reference for anybody interested in the area.

To make things easier Stephen has organised the information in three ways, Alphabetical, Category, and Marketing Stage – to deal with different tastes and preferences.

12 Fields per Metric
The book is organised in terms of 12 fields per metric, including: where it fits in Paid/Owned/Earned, its category, a definition, and the sorts of questions it answers. The use of a standardised format makes it much quicker for the user to find and locate a specific piece of information.

Examples of metrics covered include:

  • Average time spent on page – including issues such as tabbed browsing and download time.
  • Brand Lift – Did exposure to the advertising impact brand lift measurement?
  • Conversation – How many conversations are people having about the brand?
  • Direct Traffic Visitors – how many people came to the site directly?

Who should buy this book?
I think anybody who, over the next year or so, needs to check on the meaning, use, or definition of more than three or four of the digital metrics should buy a copy of the book. If you only need to refer to one or two, you could simply Google them, find some links, read some articles and come to a view. But, if you want a handy, well-researched, well laid out reference – this is the book for you.

Note, you will not want to necessarily sit down and read this book cover to cover, it is much more of a reference than a good read (but see next note on the essays).

Viewpoints/Essays
The book finishes with a series of 12 essays and viewpoints, from people such as Gunnard Johnson from Google and David Rabjohns from MotiveQuest. Unlike the rest of the book, these should be read as opposed to referred to. Whilst I don’t agree with all the points made in the essays, they are valid and interesting points, and ones that anybody engaged in the medium should be familiar with.

Timely publication
For me the publication of Stephen’s book is very timely as I am working on part of the IPASocialWorks project, looking at a guide to ‘measuring not counting’ in social media. The focus of our work is much more about the strategy and best practices of measuring social phenomena, but Stephen’s book provides a great reference to the variety of metrics available.

Talk Like Ted – Book Review

 Posted by on March 26, 2014  Books, Business, Marketing, Presenting  Comments Off
Mar 262014
 
Talk Like Ted 2

I am a fan of books on presenting, especially good ones, and this new book by Carmine Gallo, TALK LIKE TED – The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, is definitely a good one. The approach Gallo has taken is to analyse over 500 Ted talks, looking at the videos, interviewing the speakers, and working with the people involved in making it happen.

The book highlights great Ted Talks, such as those by Hans Rosling, Amy Cuddy, and Amanda Palmer, and uses these to describe the lessons we can all learn from them. Gallo divides these lessons into three groups of three, and includes many of the well-known points about passion and storytelling. However, because TED talks are available via the web, we can read his descriptions and check out the videos – increasing our understanding of the points he is making, seeing them in action.

No book is going to be a complete solution, and I could quibble with some of the advice. For example, I would like the book to focus a bit more on identify the needs of a specific audience, and in my professional world I often have to deal with speakers and/or audiences who don’t share a common language, which can produce a different balance of words and images.

Most of the advice in the book is very sound and following that advice, watching the videos, and being more self-analytical would help any reader be a better presenter.

 

Feb 072014
 
Ask Measure Learn

I’ve just finished reading this book and I would strongly recommend it to anybody seeking to understand the methods and challenges of measuring phenomena in social media. The book is probably stronger on talking about things that don’t work, as opposed to things that do work, but in this time of hype that is probably no bad thing. For example, the book shows why the ROI of many types of activities can’t be measured without making some large assumptions about how things work, and point out that in many cases it is the ‘R’ in ROI that is the problem.

Key themes addressed by the book include metrics for different sorts of social media activities, the problems of assessing causality, the tension between influencer models and homophily, and the difference between reach and intent. The book provides an excellent list of links to further sources (especially if reading the ebook), and provides a great overview of measurement in areas such as social media marketing, CRM, sales, and PR.

This is the best primer on the subject I have read so far and it is, at the moment, sparklingly up to date.

The print copy of the book is not currently available in the UK (and probably lots of other places too as it was only published in the US in January 2014) but it is available on Kindle, and if you buy it directly from O’Reilly Media there is some sort of update/extension deal available.

 

Feb 042014
 
Esomar book booth2

A new edition ESOMAR’s Answers to Contemporary Questions book is being produced, with three new chapters, International, Mobile, and Opinion Polling. This post is a shout out to crowd source the key questions for Opinion Polling.

What do you think about?

  1. What do market researchers mean by an Opinion Poll?
  2. Who uses Opinion Polls?
  3. What other types of polls are there?
  4. What are the key requirements of an Opinion Poll?
  5. Why might two Opinion Polls sometimes give different results?
  6. Why do Opinion Polls sometimes cause public outcries?
  7. What information needs to be published with Opinion Poll results?
  8. Must all Opinion Polls be published?
  9. My client wishes to publish a statement which is not supported by the findings of the Opinion Poll, what do I do?
  10. How can I find out more about Opinion Polls?

One of the things the chapter needs to do is to draw a distinction between something conducted according to the guidelines of the key associations, and the ‘voodoo polls’ that are popular on websites in the media.

 

Feb 012014
 
NeilGains

Neil Gains has been kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, Brand esSense and I wanted to share my thoughts about this useful book.

In the title to my post I say it is two books in one. The first three-quarters of the book do a great job of taking the reader through a well annotated and easy to read overview of the role of senses in marketing and market research and the way these link to the way people make sense of the world around them. This sense making focuses especially on symbols, signs, storytelling, and archetypes.

Most market researchers and marketers have an incomplete understanding of the senses, somebody might be quite good on taste, but less familiar with the body of learning about touch, or familiar with symbols and semiotics, but less familiar with the use of brand archetypes. Neil’s book facilitates a levelling up of one’s learning, highlighting to the reader areas where their knowledge might be weaker, giving them an initial grounding and signposting options for further reading.

The final quarter of the book shows how Neil has developed methods of utilising the approaches described in the earlier part of the book – which he terms the esSense of the brand. Neil illustrates how to find the esSense of a brand and how to apply his esSense framework.

The book is an easy read for anybody broadly familiar with brands, the senses, and qualitative research. Even for people deeply steeped in the area, there are nuggets in there that they will find illuminating or useful. So, I would warmly recommend it.

As I flick back through my annotated copy (I have become an inveterate scribbler in text books – ones I own), I can see plenty of things I highlighted for review, and only one or two where I put an exclamation mark (my sign for disagreement). My only double-exclamation mark was the reference to Mehrabian and the extent to which language contributes to presentations – when you read the book see if you agree with my concern, and if you do you might enjoy this short presentation from Russ Wilson.

The book is published by Kogan Page and is available from all good online bookstores. From the Kogan Page website you can download a sample chapter.

 

Jan 192014
 
Flower

As part of the book on Mobile Market Research that we are working on we are including some tips on how to stay up to date in terms of mobile market research.

Here is the list we have at the moment:

  • Workshops and conferences organised by research bodies such as ESOMAR and MRS.
  • The MRMW series of conferences (Market Research in the Mobile World) organised by the Merlien organisation.
  • The Global Market Research report (annual) and the Global Prices Study (every two years) from ESOMAR.
  • The yearly GRIT report from GreenBook.
  • The Confirmit Annual Market Research Software report.
  • The Mobile Course provided by the University of Georgia’s Principles of Marketing Research course.
  • Online events and recordings at NewMR.org, and its Mobile reference page NewMR.org/mobile.
  • Useful sources of data and information include ITU, press releases and reports from IDC and Gartner, and reports available from the Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org/).
  • Useful news sites/blogs include: Mashable.com, Techcrunch.com, ZDNet.com, and cnet.com.

Thoughts?

Jan 072014
 

As part of the book on mobile market research that Sue York, Navin Williams and I are writing we need to give an overview of mobile qual, before going into depth. Do you think the image below helps?

Thoughts?

  • What are we missing?
  • What would you change?
  • What about the titles for the segments?

By WE-research we mean projects where participants are recruited to capture a variety of qualitative data about their lives. They might be asked to capture images of waste, or videos of travel problems, or audio comments about the school run, for example. The term WE-research was introduced by Mark Earls and John Kearnon a few years ago. But, do you have a better term for this type of research?

We are planning on three chapters on qualitative research, indeed we have written three chapters, an overview which covers all four segments above, followed by chapters specifically on the top two segments. Our view on techniques like passive tracking, Google Glass etc is that there is simply not enough material yet to have a chapter on it, there is too little experience around.

If you’d like to help by reviewing one or more of these three chapters, please email ray.poynter@thefutureplace.com – we’ll acknowledge you contribution in the book :-)

Jan 012014
 

Ray Poynter, Navin Williams, and Sue York are writing a book on mobile market research, which will be published in August/September by Wiley, with the support of ESOMAR. The book has been provisionally titled, The Handbook of Mobile Market Research, and is a companion to The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research.

Are you or one of your colleagues, or your organisation, interested in helping us in any of the following ways?

  1. 1. Reviewing one or more chapters and letting us have your thoughts and suggestions?
  2. 2. Supplying case studies or Research on Research to help illustrate points in the book? Ideally, material that has already been published on your website, at a conference, or in articles.

We will, of course, fully cite and credit any help you and your organisation are able to offer.

Timelines are horrendous, of course! We’ve finished the first draft of the book and sent it to the publisher. This draft is very rough, if you have a look at any of the chapters you will spot errors and notes to ourselves in the text. The final text is being sent to the publisher 31st January, so we’d need any feedback or help before then.

So, if you are able to help, please email ray.poynter@thefutureplace.com and tell me which draft chapters you’d like us to send you. You are welcome to ask for as many or as few as possible. In doing so you are of course agreeing to not make these draft chapters widely available, as they are the copyright of Wiley, the publisher.

The chapters are: (the titles will change a bit)

Dec 232013
 
The material below is an excerpt from a book I am writing with Navin Williams and Sue York on Mobile Market Research, but its implications are much wider and I would love to hear people’s thoughts and suggestions.

Most commercial fields have methods of gaining and assessing insight other than market research, for example testing products against standards or legal parameters, test launching, and crowd-funding. There are also a variety of approaches that although used by market researchers are not seen by the market place as exclusively (or even in some cases predominantly) the domain of market research, such as big data, usability testing, and A/B testing.

The mobile ecosystem (e.g. telcos, handset manufacturers, app providers, mobile services, mobile advertising and marketing, mobile shopping etc) employs a wide range of these non-market research techniques, and market researchers working in the field need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. Market researchers need to understand how they can use the non-market research techniques and how to use market research to complement what they offer.

The list below cover techniques frequently used in the mobile ecosystem which are either not typically offered by market researchers or which are offered by a range of other providers as well as market researchers. Key items are:

  • Usage data, for example web logs from online services and telephone usage from the telcos.
  • A/B testing.
  • Agile development.
  • Crowdsourcing, including open-source development and crowdfunding.
  • Usability testing.
  • Technology or parameter driven development.

Usage data

The mobile and online worlds leave an extensive electronic wake behind users. Accessing a website tells the website owner a large amount about the user, in terms of hardware, location, operating system, language the device is using (e.g. English, French etc), and it might make an estimate of things like age and gender based on the sites you visit and the answers you pick. Use a mobile phone and you tell the telco who you contacted, where you were geographically, how long the contact lasted, what sort of contact was it (e.g. voice or SMS). Use email, such as Gmail or Yahoo, and you tell the service provider who you contacted, which of your devices you used, and the content of your email. Use a service like RunKeeper or eBay or Facebook and you share a large amount of information about yourself and in most cases about other people too.

In many fields, market research is used to estimate usage and behaviour, but in the mobile ecosystem there is often at least one company who can see this information without using market research, and see it in much better detail. For example, a telco does not need to conduct a survey with a sample of its subscribers to find out how often they make calls or to work out how many texts they send, and how many of those texts are to international numbers. The telco has this information, for every user, without any errors.

Usage data tends to be better, cheaper, and often quicker than market research for recording what people did. It is much less powerful in working out why patterns are happening, and it is thought (by some people) to be weak in predicting what will happen if circumstances change. However, it should be noted that the advocates of big data and in particular ‘predictive analytics’ believe that it is possible to work out the answer to ‘what-if’ questions, just from usage/behaviour data.

Unique access to usage data
One limitation to the power of usage data is that in most cases only one organisation has access to a specific section of usage data. In a country with two telcos, each will only have access to the usage data for their subscribers, plus some cross-network traffic information. The owner of a website is the only company who can track the people who visit that site (* with a couple of exceptions). A bank has access to the online, mobile and other data from its customers, but not data about the users of other banks.

This unique access feature of usage data is one of the reasons why organisations buy data from other organisations and conduct market research to get a whole market picture.

* There are two exceptions to the unique access paradigm.
The first is that if users can be persuaded to download a tracking device, such as the Alexa.com toolbar, then that service will build a large, but partial picture of users of other services. This is how Alexa.com is able to estimate the traffic for the leading websites globally.

The second exception is if the service provider buys or uses a tool or service from a third party then some information is shared with that provider.

A complex and comprehensive example of this type of access is Google who sign users up to their Google services (including Android), offer web analytics to websites, and serve ads to websites, which allows them to gain a large but partial picture of online and mobile behaviour.

Legal implications of usage data
Usage data, whether it is browsing, emailing, mobile, or financial, is controlled by law in most countries, although the laws tend to vary from one jurisdiction to another. Because the scale and depth of usage data is a new phenomenon and because the tools to analyse it and the markets for selling/using it are still developing the laws are tending to lag behind the practice.

A good example, of the challenges that legislators and data owners face is determining what is permitted and what is not, are the problems that Google had in Spain and Netherlands towards the end of 2013. The Dutch Government’s Data Protection Agency ruled in November 2013 that Google had broken Dutch law by combining data together from its many services to create a holistic picture of users. Spain went one step further and fined Google 900,000 Euros for the same offence (about $1.25 million). This is unlikely to be the end of the story, the laws might change, Google might change its practices (or the permissions it collects), or the findings might be appealed. However, they illustrate that data privacy and protection are likely to create a number of challenges for data users and legislators over the next few year.

A/B testing

The definition of A/B testing is a developing and evolving one; and it is likely to evolve and expand further over the next few years. At its heart A/B testing is based on a very old principle, create a test where two offers only differ in one detail, present these two choices to matched but separate groups of people to evaluate, and whichever is the more popular is the winner. What makes modern A/B testing different from traditional research is the tendency to evaluate the options in the real market, rather than with research participants. One high profile user of A/B testing is Google, who use it to optimise their online services. Google systematically, and in many cases automatically, select a variable, offer two options, and count the performance with real users. The winning option becomes part of the system.

Google’s A/B testing is now available to users of some of its systems, such as Google Analytics. There are also a growing range of companies offering A/B testing systems. Any service that can be readily tweaked and offered is potentially suitable for A/B testing – in particular virtual or online services.

The concept of A/B testing has moved well beyond simply testing two options and assessing the winner, for example:

  • Many online advertising tools allow the advertiser to submit several variations and the platform adjusts which execution is shown most often and to whom it is shown to maximise a dependent variable, for example to maximise click through.
  • Companies like Phillips have updated their direct mailing research/practice by developing multiple offers, e.g. 32 versions of a mailer, employing design principles to allow the differences to be assessed. The mailers are used in the market place, with a proportion of the full database, to assess their performance. The results are used in two ways. 1) The winning mailer is used for the rest of the database. 2) The performance of the different elements are assessed to create predictive analytics for future mailings.
  • Dynamic pricing models are becoming increasingly common in the virtual and online world. Prices in real markets, such as stock exchanges have been based for many years on dynamic pricing, but now services such as eBay, Betfair, and Amazon apply differing types of automated price matching.
  • Algorithmic bundling and offer development. With services that are offered virtually the components can be varied to iteratively seek combinations that work better than others.

The great strength of A/B testing is in the area of small, iterative changes, allowing organisations to optimise their products, services, and campaigns. Market research’s key strength, in this area, is the ability to research bigger changes and help suggest possible changes.

Agile development

Agile development refers to operating in ways where is it easy, quick, and cheap for the organisation to change direction and to modify products and services. One consequence of agile development is that organisations can try their product or service with the market place, rather than assessing it in advance.

Market research is of particular relevance when the costs of making a product are large, or where the consequences of launching an unsatisfactory product or service are large. But, if products and services can be created easily and the consequences of failure are low, then ‘try it and see’ can be a better option than classic forms of market research. Whilst the most obvious place for agile development is in the area of virtual products and services, it is also used in more tangible markets. The move to print on demand books has reduced the barriers to entry in the book market and facilitated agile approaches. Don Tapscott in his book Wikinomics talks about the motorcycle market in China, which adopted an open-source approach to its design and manufacture of motorcycles, something which combined agile development and crowdsourcing (the next topic in this section).

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is being used in a wide variety of way by organisations, and several of these ways can be seen as an alternative to market research, or perhaps as routes that make market research less necessary. Key examples of crowdsourcing include:

  • Open source. Systems like Linux and Apache are developed collaboratively and then made freely available. The priorities for development are determined by the interaction of individuals and the community, and the success of changes is determined by a combination of peer review and market adoption.
  • Crowdfunding. One way of assessing whether an idea has a good chance of succeeding is to try and fund it through a crowdfunding platform, such as Kickstarter. The crowdfunding route can provide feedback, advocates, and money.
  • Crowdsourced product development. A great example of crowdsourcing is the T-shirt company Threadless.com. People who want to be T-shirt designers upload their designs to the website. Threadless displays these designs to the people who buy T-shirts and asks which ones people want to buy. The most popular designs are then manufactured and sold via the website. In this sort of crowdsourced model there is little need for market research as the audience get what the audience want, and the company is not paying for the designs, unless the designs prove to be successful.

Usability testing

Some market research companies offer usability testing, but there are a great many providers of this service who are not market researchers and who do not see themselves as market researchers. The field of usability testing brings together design professionals, HCI (human computer interaction), ergonomics, as well market researchers.

Usability testing for a mobile phone, or a mobile app, can include:

  • Scoring it against legal criteria to make sure it conforms to statutory requirements.
  • Scoring it against design criteria, including criteria such as disability access guidelines.
  • User lab testing, where potential users are given access to the product or service and are closely observed as they use it.
  • User testing, where potential users are given the product or given access to the service and use it for a period of time, for example two weeks. The usage may be monitored, there is often a debrief at the end of the usage period (which can be qualitative, quantitative, or both), and usage data may have been collected and analysed.

Technology or parameter driven

In some markets there are issues other than consumer choice that guide design and innovation. In areas like mobile commerce and mobile connectivity, there are legal and regulatory limits and requirements as to what can be done, so the design process will often be focused on how to maximise performance, minimise cost, whilst complying with the rules. In these situations, the guidance comes from professionals (e.g. engineers or lawyers) rather than from consumers, which reduces the role for market research.

Future innovations

This section of the chapter has looked at a wide range of approaches to gaining insight that are not strengths of market research. It is likely that this list will grow over time as technologies develop and it is likely to grow as the importance of the mobile ecosystem continues to grow.

As well as new non-market research approaches being developed it is possible, perhaps likely, that areas which are currently seen as largely or entirely the domain of market research will be shared with other non-market research companies and organisations. The growth in DIY or self-serve options in surveys, online discussions, and even whole insight communities are an indication of this direction of travel.


So, that is where the text is at the moment. Plenty of polishing still to do. But here are my questions?
  1. Do you agree with the main points?
  2. Have I missed any major issuies?
  3. Are there good examples of the points I’ve made that you could suggest highlighting/using?