The Five Senses of the Brain

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 10, 2018 @ 13:08 PM



As a student of consumer insights, I am fascinated with the findings of NeuroFocus in “The Buying Brain” by Dr. A.K. Pradeep.

Here’s how the five senses are related to buying:


About one-fourth of the brain is involved in visual processing.  The easiest and most successful way to capture the brain’s attention is through great visuals.  Be sure nothing obscures you customer’s view of what they are scanning for.  Overly tall shelves that obscure the landscapes behind them, signage with dense text and no visuals, and narrow aisles all detract from your product and frustrate the brain.  To avoid being lost in the clutter, emphasize clean clear  lines delivered at eye level.  This affirms what designers have told us for years — white space if good!  For signage, outdoor and print ads place the object you are selling at the top of the ad.  Use puzzles that are easy to solve to draw in and entice the brain.  Brains will discount information that is incongruent with the visual stimuli it receives.


While only one percent of our brain is devoted to smell, smells are strongly linked to our emotions and memory.  Always take into account the smell of your offering.  Even if it’s the best tasting product in the category, it will fail in the marketplace if the package causes it to smell fake or plastic.  Women are more sensitive to smells than men and are far better at putting words to olfactory experiences.  Whereby men are particularly  sensitive to the smells of their beloved, perhaps correlating with the popularity of perfume for women.  Smell is the most direct route to our emotions and memory.  Being linked to a pleasant, iconic smell can significantly improve a product’s success in the marketplace.


Taste tends to correlate with smell.  If the sense of smell is lost, there is a serious reduction in the overall taste experience (i.e., flavor).  Anytime you show an appetizing product, be sure the consumer can see someone enjoying it.  Give food and beverages a visual “voice.”  Don’t display fake items around food, they detract from the realism and thus the appetite of the consumer for the product.  Tasting is one of the brain’s great pleasures hence the number of food brands offering taste samples in the retail environment.


Hearing is vital to survival but it also allows us to generate deep nostalgic memories associated with highly emotional moments accompanied by sound.  We mark our traditional passages (e.g., weddings, funerals and graduations) with music.  The sounds your product makes and the background “noise” of the shopping environment are critical to the image of your brand.  Likewise, the sounds that accompany the user experience are critical to its enjoyment and to retention in memory.  What we hear is specialized and tuned to what interests us.  The brain will ignore distracting or disturbing noises.


Our largest sensory organ is our skin.  The most sensitive area of our body are our hands, lips, face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet.  Products that touch those areas should be soft, sensual, pleasant, soothing and inviting.  We are sensual beings that loved to be touched.  Any product or service that is tactile must excite and invite the sense of touch.

Which of the five senses can you leverage to improve the results of your marketing?


Tags: consumer insights, scent marketing

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Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jun, 22, 2016 @ 15:06 PM

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Tags: insights from analytics accelerate sales, consumer insights, marketing automation

Big Data and Market Research Have A Lot In Common

Posted by Tom Smith on Sat, Apr, 16, 2016 @ 21:04 PM



I was just reading an article in the spring edition of Big Data Quarterly and it appears that people and companies pursuing big data initiatives would be well-served to remember some of the basics we learned in market research 101.

Know what you're going to do with the data before you start collecting every byte of it. With the proliferation of sensor data, companies can become overwhelmed with data very quickly if they collect every piece of data rather than exceptions.

Imagine a city that's measuring flows in its water infrastructure. Does the city need to know how much water is flowing through a particular section of pipe every second or even every minute? Wouldn't the city be better served to determine a "normal" flow rate based of day and time and then look for exceptions to that data that may indicate a leak or a big event taking place?

By being more strategic in why you are collecting the data and what you are going to do with it you don't have to capture, store and analyze every data point. This reduces computing time and storage costs. While those costs might seem inconsequential today, determine how much data you're going to collect over the course of 365 days, and then 3,650 days. Is the cost still inconsequential? What's the ROI on those costs?I know a lot of companies want to collect all of the data they can and then figure out what to do with it after the fact. This reminds me of all of the surveys I've seen with 30+ questions, matrices, and open-ends that take more than 10 minutes to answer - wasting customers' and respondents' time. Rule number one in market research is don't ask the question if you don't know what you're going to do with the answer. It's rude and inconsiderate to the respondent and has led to a reduction in response rates and a loss of customers.

If you ask a customer a question and the customer answers it, it's incumbent upon you to thank the customer for their response and let them know how you'll address it. Granted there are very few companies following this "best practice" today; however, as companies become more customer centric, they'll be more conscientious about following up with customers who take the time to provide their invaluable input.

I've worked with clients that didn't even read the results of their customer surveys before creating a new website or developing a new product or service. Why did they waste their customers' time with the survey? It is any wonder customers aren't engaged with these companies? The companies sure aren't engaged with their customers.

With more data being collected on prospect and customer actions, customer expectations of your company, and the water company, are going to increase. If the city knows my water main is leaking, isn't it incumbent upon them to let me know rather than wasting water and sending me a water bill I can't afford? Today they may get away with it. In five years, they'll have no excuse of taking advantage of their customers or wasting a precious natural resource.

While the customer experience (#CX) bar is very low today, customers will become more savvy about the data companies are collecting and how they are, or are not, using that data to improve the customer experience. If you can save a customer time, make their lives simpler and easier, you can earn a customer for life. What if your competitor beats you to the punch? You'll lose a customer for life.

With all of the data you're collecting on your physical plant, how much are you saving on energy, water, and operating expenses? How much space is being wasted and how will your next building use the data you've collected to be a smarter building? How much are you improving the employees' working environment so you attract the type of employees you need to be successful?

Big data is new and exciting for companies; however, few companies have figured out how to use the data to improve their business, reduce cost, improve revenue, and customer satisfaction.

Ultimately the companies that figure out how to use big data to improve their business, across many areas, will be successful while those who do not will fall by the wayside.

Are you using what you've learned from big data to inform your strategic planning or just collecting data?

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Tags: consumer insights, big data, market research

Become Customer Centric - Get To Know Your Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Mar, 08, 2016 @ 12:03 PM



I just read a great article about Dominique Ansel, whose brainchild, the cronut has made him a baking "rock star" in New York and beyond - if he wasn't already.

While I've never had a cronut, and never will due to allergies (wheat, milk, refined sugar), Dominique has a great perspective on the importance of engaging with customers to become more customer-centric.

As he shares, "The experience is crucial to what we do. I always put myself into the customers' shoes and think, what would make me happy?" How many of us are putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers? If you're not, you need to in order to create informed buyer personas and to view the problem to be solved from the customer's perspective.

Other quotes from the article that indicate that Dominique "gets it:"

  • "It's about giving people something true and authentic."
  • "They're emotional dishes that connect with people."
  • "It's more important for me to interact with people in person and communicate with them myself."
  • "People can sniff out when things lack soul."
  • "Don't be afraid of trying: trying new things, or trying to understand the customer base and what they like."
  • "Emotions are very important."
  • "It's about connecting with people and knowing what they like and why they like it."
  • "Understanding your customer is the most important part of the business."

I've written blog posts on all of these topics, but Ansel's quotes get right to the point.

Big data will provide a ton of data that will encourage you to take certain actions and predict what customers will want and do. However, nothing replaces having a face-to-face dialogue with your customer to provide insight into:

  • What makes your brand "different and better?"
  • How did you find us?
  • Who do you consider to be our customers?
  • What could we do to make your life simpler and easier?
  • What could we do to provide a better customer experience?

When in doubt, talk to your customers.


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Tags: consumer insights, VoC, customer centric, face to face communications

Improve the Customer Experience (#CX) by "Checking In"

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Dec, 02, 2014 @ 00:12 AM

customer experience satisfaction and improvement









Once you or your company has made a sale of a product or service to a customer what do you do next?


Do you know if the customer was satisfied with their purchase?


Did they find value in what they bought?


What's working or not working for them?


What are they telling others about you and your product or service?


Customer experience management and customer satisfaction and retention are still woefully underfunded and underemphasized relative to demand creation, lead generation and sales even though an existing customer is more likely to buy from you again than a new customer is for the first time.


Once a sale is made, let the customer support team know so they can send the new customer a satisfaction survey to learn how the buying process went.


When the company engages with the customer after a transaction, it makes the interaction feel more personal, like a relationship is being formed, rather than a one-time experience.


The insights you gather by interacting with customers will be invaluable.


Get sales, marketing and customer service to sit down and map the customer engagement experience you would like customers to have and then use you marketing automation platform or customer service reps to implement the multiple touch-point program.


Don't stop there. Ask your customers about what they think of your plan.


This will vary depending on the type of product or service being sold, as well as what the customer defines as a positive, or better yet, outstanding customer engagement experience.


Learn when to send a Net Promoter Score survey and how to follow-up on the results of the survey. Have a closed-loop process for handling feedback and resolving all detractor comments.


Determine how many times you should touch a customer who has bought an annual subscription/contract so that they're not just hearing from you in month 11 when it's time to renew.


Mapping the customer experience journey, measuring customer satisfaction and then committing to improve it is a great way to generate more revenue from the same customers and have customers for life.


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Tags: customers for life, consumer insights, customer experience, net promoter score, connecting emotionally with customers, customer retention, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement

Use Voice of the Customer (#VOC) to Reduce Churn

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 22, 2014 @ 11:10 AM

voice of the customer resized 600









Do you know what your customers think about the products and services you and your firm are providing?


Are they likely to buy from you again?


Will they renew their contract?


If you don't know, you should ask them.


The insights you receive from a proactive voice of the customer program will let you know what is, and is not, working for your customers.


A customer who complains, and whose complaint is resolved, is more likely to be a long-term customer than the one who never provides you any feedback at all.


Customers that take the time to share their thoughts with you are engaged with you and your brand.


Don't you want to know the level of engagement your customers have with you?


Ask your customers about your transactions, as well as your relationships.


I prefer using a three-question Net Promoter survey. I find this to be an quick and easy way for the customer to let us know how we're doing and what we can do to improve.


Surveying heavy cell phone customers enabled us to learn how they wanted to be rewarded for their loyalty. By learning that customers wanted the lastet and greatest technology, we ensured they did and subsequently reduced churn by 9% and prevented $16 million in lost revenue.


For a swimming pool OEM, we surveyed 3,289 pool and spa distributors to learn what we could do to positively differentiate our products and sevices from the market leader. The insights provided by these B2B customers enabled us to make changes to our products and services that enabled our client to move from third-place to first-place in the industry.


As you can see, VOC can be used in both B2C and B2B markets.


After all, we're still people selling to people. It's important to understand what's on our customers' minds rather than assuming we know.


Consider spending time and money to prevent customer attrition rather than focusing all of your effforts on getting new customers. 


How have you used voice of the customer to reduce churn and improve the customer experience in your business?


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Tags: consumer insights, VoC, voice of the customer, net promoter score, connecting emotionally with customers, NPS

Use Social Media to Outsell Your Peers

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Oct, 02, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

social selling









According to Jill Rowley (@jill_rowley, #socialselling), sales reps that use social media outsell 78% of their peers because they:

  1. Establish credibility with compelling social profiles -- including professional photographs, accomplishments and references.

  2. Build relevant networks of prospects and like minded individuals that help maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospects and channel partners.

  3. Promote thought leadership that captures attention, builds their personal brand and attracts inbound opportunities.

  4. Listen to customers and prospects to understand needs, priorities and topics of interest.

  5. Measure their social activity to understand what's working, what isn't and to refine their approach.

Given that sales are all about relationships, then social media is a great way to initiate and enhance relationships. 



Are the members of your sales team using social media to make their calls more efficient and successful?


Give me a call if you'd like some help teaching them how.


Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues


Tags: consumer insights, trust, VoC, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, connecting emotionally with customers, people do business with those they know like and t, customer relationship management, channel partners, Trustability

Customer Journey: From Funnel to Circle

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 16, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

customer journey









McKinsey & Company noted the change in 2009. The customer journey is no longer a funnel, it's a circle.


The traditonal purchase funnel of: awarness, familiarity, consideration, purchase and loyalty has been made obsolete by the internet and social media.


In today's digitally driven marketplace, the customer journey is more like a circle with four phases: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure and post-purchase.


In order to provide customers and prospects with information of value, you need to know where they are in the journey and what information they want at that particular point in the journey.


Begin mapping the customer journey by understanding all of the places your customers go for information before they ever interact with you -- search engines, social media, reviews, other online channels.


Understand what information the customer is trying to get at each touchpoint and strive to provide some information of value at that touchpoint.


The more information of value you provide, the more awareness and trust you build with your prospective customer.


Engage with customers during the pre-shopping, decision-making process. Do what you can to simplify their life, save them time and make a confident, well-informed decision.


When mapping the customer journey, make sure you are able to indentify barriers to the purchase process.


If you're able to remove the barriers, you've just simplified the buying journey, and the customer's life.


I buy running shoes from an online retailer. I'm also a "VIP" so I can get discounts and free shipping. However, this site is unable to recognize my VIP membership so I always end up having to call them to order what I want. A major barrier.


So far, they've overcome the barrier by being available by telephone; however, at some point, I'll just buy from Zappos since they are the masters of providing an outstanding customer experience.


Don't forget to follow-up after the sale to ensure your customer is happy with their purchase and that your product or service is solving the problem your customer purchased it to solve.


This follow-up is critical to ensuring satisfaction, building loyalty, obtaining feedback and referrals -- online and in person.


Don't assume you know the customer journey. Once you've mapped it, share your perceived customer journey with a few of your best customers and get their insights on what they really do and where they experience barriers in the process.


What have you learned by mapping the customer journey?


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales 

Tags: dialogue, loyalty, consumer insights, customer satisfaction, satisfied customers, customer journey, referrals

ISO Opportunity to Use Analytics and Insights to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 22, 2014 @ 06:08 AM

use data to accelerate sales







In reading the latest edition of Direct Marketing News, I came across the following statistics:

  • 80% of CMOs cite a lack of in-house talent to implement an effective omnichannel strategy.
  • 85% of CMOs attempting to implement omnichannel marketing are challenged by lack of access to data and inadequate tools/technology.
  • 82% of CMOs say inability to measure cross-channel performance is interfering with implementing an effective strategy.
  • 75% of retailers rate omnichannel fulfillment “very important.”


During a recent webinar, an executive from Adobe noted the lack of experienced marketing professionals with: 1) business logic; 2) buying cycles; and, 3) marketing automation skills.


During a meeting with the Triangle AMA Marketing Automation Special Interest Group (SIG) this week, I met a young man who’s been in marketing for four years.


He expressed concern that the companies for which he has worked did nothing to help him understand how his email marketing, social media marketing and marketing automation were supposed to be integrated with the rest of the firms’ marketing efforts.


While these skills appear to be lacking in many companies, they are skills I have personally employed successfully for numerous clients.    


I have used analytics to solve business problems throughout my career.


I’ve been using, and evaluating, marketing automation software for the past five years.


I have ensured that traditional, digital and social media marketing were all integrated and communicating a consistent message to prospects and customers.


Are you and your firm using the data you have to create buyer personas, understand and map the buyer’s journey and create a sales and marketing process that will generate more awareness, traffic, leads and sales?


If not, give me a call. I can help.


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: consumer insights, VoC, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, CRM, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, MQL, SQL, customer relationship management

6 Insights Into What Customers Want, . . .

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 12, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

dialog with customers







. . . but companies aren't giving them.

This is taken, and expanded upon, from the book, What Customers Really Want, by Scott McKain.

The book was written in 2005, but many of the lessons are just as today as I have written in a number of blog posts.

Here are the six things customers really want and what most businesses are giving them:

  1. Customers want a compelling experience.  Businesses are giving them customer service, and not very good customer service at that. As Peter Shankman has said, all you have to do to be better than someone else is not "suck."
  2. Customers want personal focus.  Business provides a product focus. Sell benefits for the individuals rather than the features the engineers think are cool.
  3. Customers want reciprocal loyalty.  Businesses supply endless prospecting.  How much does your company spend on branding, lead generation and demand creation versus customer satisfaction.  If it's less than 80/20, your company is doing better than most.
  4. Customers want differentiation.  Businesses offer sameness.  Companies are getting better about offering differentiation within a range.  The ability to custom design your Nike shoes online comes to mind.
  5. Customers want coordination.  Businesses offer confusion.  This problem is getting worse rather than better as customers interact with companies across multiple channels when the companies remain siloed in terms of structure and where customer data resides.
  6. Customers want innovation.  Businesses want to maintain the status quo.  Apple effectively took online digital music from Sony.  One was innovative, one wanted to maintain the status quo.

Are you more focused on your products and services or on your customers needs and wants?

Do you have an open and ongoing dialog with your customers?


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: consumer insights, transparency, trust, customer experience, dialog