Recently while at a family Thanksgiving dinner I had the pleasure to sit next to one of my favorite cousins. She’s bright and we have a lot in common as we both work in marketing, communications and research. My cousin works for a rapidly growing CPG company in the sporting goods and sporting fashion niche and was telling me a bit about some of their wins as well as some of their challenges. This has gotten me to thinking quite a bit lately about the role of research and customer research specifically within a company. This discussion has also raised some thoughts about Market Research Projects vs. Institutional Market Intelligence.
1. Creating a Sound Market Research Intelligence Operation
You’ve seen those spy movies where by the main character always seems to be one step ahead of the bad guy because he or she has better intelligence. Your organization, unless you have no competition, is no different. Intelligence gathered and disseminated across the entirety of an organization can yield huge profits. By simply arming your organization with the intelligence it needs to differentiate, identify unmet customer needs, and take action can make the difference between an industry leader or an organization fading into obscurity. This, as you know is not as simple in practice as it is in theory.
2. From the Bottom to the Top – Strategy and Culture
One of the insights that I gleaned talking to my cousin was that the people at the top of the company were directing initiatives without the feedback from those on the ground floor. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The boardroom is all too often far removed from reality and views the company in charts and graphs. The most proactive companies and I believe the ones that will thrive are the companies that have their ear close to the ground floor. What are customers happy about, what are employees struggling with and how many opportunities are being missed because the C-Suite has initiatives that align poorly with customer and employee feedback?
3. Break Down the Silo’s – Reason Number 10,401.
Marketing does marketing, PR does PR, Accounting does accounting and on and on and on. Each one of these organizational silo’s believes that the companies success hinges on their inputs and they are likely right. However creating an organization that shares intelligence across all business units is going to be one that learns faster and promotes for the growth of the organization rather than the growth of a certain function or facet of the business. Too often it is the C-Suit that promotes these organizational silo’s and interdepartmental wars that halt the sharing of critical intelligence.
4. Start Small – Finding Natural Intelligence Integration Points
Changing company culture overnight is next to impossible and in most cases not healthy. Start by identifying two departments, campaigns or initiatives that would benefit from the same market intelligence. Maybe marketing is running concept tests that provide them great statistical insights on product design and copy. While this intelligence is critical the sales department may have insights that can be added from the ground floor. These sales people that are with clients on a daily basis listening to everything from product praise to service complaints bring a qualitative layer of data to the table that would otherwise get lost and ultimately cause strife between the two departments. How many marketing and sales departments have you seen that work harmoniously together? Exactly!
Leverage the insights across an organization and watch it flourish. Feel free to share your thoughts on creating a more integrated organization. What are the benefits and pitfalls you see?