How to get more when you think you're getting the most.
Posted Mar 1, 2007
As a marketing leader you're expected to know what your marketing investments will return and how to consistently get more for your money. Even with the best ideas, the reality is that the effectiveness of your marketing relies heavily on your business operations, line managers, and team members to reach your customers and deliver the experience your marketing promises.
If you're like most marketers, you're using some advanced data collection and data mining tools to help uncover quantitative information about your customers' experiences with your products, services, and brand. In fact, leading marketers already invest in examining the impact of marketing efforts through secret shops, tracking unit-level trial and usage statistics, and monitoring feedback from customers through surveys or focus groups.
These are essential techniques for identifying trends, determining the magnitude of problems or opportunities, and evaluating the relative performance of retail or service outlets. What they fail to provide, however, is enough intelligence for you to get even more out of what you thought was the best marketing investment.
New advances in traditional consumer and employee research methods enable marketers to better connect the dots. Organizations continue to use video ethnography to identify unmet consumer needs, typically for product development or enhancement. New video analytics, however, help to uncover and profile the patterns and choices thousands of your consumers make in different situations. Let's run through an example of how video analytic techniques can help you get more out of your marketing. Assume your current marketing intelligence suggests that your in-store merchandising efforts are not translating into the financial return you expected.
Coding and categorizing video taken of hundreds of customers reveals that in-store merchandising alters customer travel paths, increases the time spent engaging the merchandised product, and impacts time spent in adjacent areas in a store. It also isolates the factors that drive actual purchases of merchandized and related products, and uncovers unintended effects such as creating bottlenecks or low traffic areas.
What you've learned: In-store merchandising can alter the way that customers travel through a store and what they subsequently purchase. By understanding the patterns, you can use them to your advantage
Video and audio can also reveal that when employees engage customers, are visible and approachable during peak buying hours, and consistently reinforce marketing messages with customers, they have the power to convert more customers into buying customers. The video analytics help uncover the reasons for breakdowns in employee involvement, such as staffing shortfalls, positioning choices, and training level of staff.
What you've learned: Even the best marketing efforts underdeliver if your team can't pull it off, but it is possible to see, isolate, and remove the specific barriers to converting customers to buying customers.
A second advance in consumer and employee research takes surveys and focus groups to the next level. Day-in-the-life sketches help articulate the emotional experience of customers and employees, providing a closer look at how they think and behave. Techniques range from low-tech, such as written or voice recorded journals, to more high-tech, such as strategically placed video cameras and handheld devices for recording experiences and occurrences. They also range from high involvement of the target, such as self-journals and recordings, to low involvement, such as observer journals and checkpoint interviews. Like video analytics, data collected through sketches is coded and reported to bring to life the real experiences of employees or customers, from common experiences to unique and unexpected experiences.
In the example above, video analytics revealed that your staff is not engaging customers the way you expected to maximize the impact of your in-store merchandising efforts. Day-in-the-life sketches provide insight into why employees make the choices they do--and this information is critical for developing solutions that will stick.
Written journals and interviews reveal that many managers believe their staff should spend more time engaging with customers, but that other activities are perceived to be more urgent. More effective managers, however, have developed a common approach to leading that allows them to make better choices, anticipate issues, and react more quickly.
What you're learned: Managers face competing priorities that can reduce their focus and time spent on marketing. By isolating effective marketing practices, you can target manager training to increase probability of the right interactions with customers.
Creating day-in-the-life sketches across retail units reveals three primary causes of employee willingness to engage customers: (1) a climate where it is the norm to go above and beyond to engage customers, (2) rewards and recognition directly tied to financial and customer experience goals, and (3) good staff fit--individuals with the disposition to consistently engage customers. You can use root cause insights to improve your merchandising efforts, and to build the right foundation for impacting the customer experience.
What you're learned: Employees may be initially uncomfortable or unmotivated to engage customers the way you've asked. However, knowing how to create a better service climate with your employees can motivate them to engage customers the way you expect.
Today more than ever, knowing the impact of your marketing efforts is critical. But understanding why they are working (or aren't) and how to make the right targeted changes can be essential to getting the most out of your investment. By applying traditional research tools with an innovative twist, you can unearth deeper insights about the where, when, and why of the behavior of your employees and customers. Once you get a taste of the breadth and depth of information these techniques provide, you'll start thinking about your marketing investments in a whole new way.
About the Author
Ron Halverson, Ph.D., is the founder and principal of the Halverson Group, Inc. Please visit
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