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Use "Small Data" to Improve Customer Experience and Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jul, 21, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

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I was listening to a webinar earlier this week when one of the participants was touting the use of "big data" to determine what a company should be offering its customers based on weather.

 

With all of the talk about "big data," don't forget what your can do with all the "small data" you already have on hand.

 

When I began advertising NyQuil 20+ years ago, we used public school absentee data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to predict flu outbreaks and drop coupons via free-standing-inserts in markets where absenteeism was high.

 

When working on Wondra Hand and Body lotion for Procter & Gamble, I was able to use Nielsen and weather data to show a strong negative correlation between body lotion sales and relative humidity. More people use body lotion when and where the air is dry -- go figure.

 

Using data to improve the effectiveness of your marketing is not rocket science, it's common sense.

 

Most recently as the director of operations and marketing for an Irish wastewater, water reuse and odor/VOC control company, I was able to show a 96.5% positive correlation between new housing permits and sales of the company's residential wastewater treatment systems based on 12 years of monthly data.

 

While it didn't save my job in the recession, it did show how strongly the U.S. housing market affected our business.

 

There are myriad ways to use data to improve your customer experience and your marketing.
 

Let me know if I can help you use your data to answer a question or solve a business problem.

 

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Tags: insights from analytics accelerate sales, regression analysis, sales performance acceleration

15 Questions for Channel Partners to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Jul, 05, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

Channel partner insights accelerate sales
Following are 15 questions to consider asking your channel partners in order to get insights that will accelerate sales.
Keep in mind a broad definition of channel partners.  These may be your employees, your ultimate channel partners, your sales force, distributors or manfuacturers' reps who sell several products or services.
Questions should be refined based on your objectives and your business.
However, do not assume you already know the answers to the questions and do expect to get a lot of different answers.
  1. How long have you been in the business?  How did you get started?  Who else have you worked with?
  2. What is a good day at work for you?  What is a bad day at work for you?
  3. What do you think makes for a good client relationship?  What do you think makes for a bad client relationship?
  4. What trends do you see that are causing customers to shift to another brand or product?
  5. Who are your biggest competitors?
  6. How do you differentiate yourself?
  7. Who are your customers?  What are their titles?  What are they like?  How do they keep up with what’s going on in the industry (i.e., websites, trade publications)?
  8. What are the steps in your sales process?
  9. Where do you add value in the sales process?
  10. Strengths, weaknesses, personifications of competitive companies?
  11. What should we do to develop a better relationship with you and your firm?
  12. How often do you want to be contacted by us?  In what form (i.e., email or telephone)?  In what information are you most interested?
  13. What do other brands you sell do well?  Where can we improve?
  14. What should we do to make our products/services leapfrog ahead and stand out among the competitors’ products?
  15. What have I not asked you that you think I need to know to improve our service to you and your company?

The first three questions are really a warm up to build trust with the channel partner and to establish the fact you are very interested in, and value, what they have to say.

Ask follow-up questions to any answers that are vague or unclear.  Ask the respondent to “tell me more about that” or “can you give me a specific example?”

Based on my experience, the less the respondent thinks you know about an industry or category, the more they'll tell you.

Begin every interview assuming you know nothing about what you are asking questions. Listen with "fresh ears." 

Let me know if I can assist you in getting consumer insights from your channel partners.

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Tags: consumer insights accelerate sales, one-on-one interviews provide consumer insights, sales performance acceleration, channel partners

Get Consumer Insights by Having "Fresh Eyes"

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jul, 01, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

Get consumer insights with "fresh eyes"

 

A lot of people I present my findings to express amazement at the types of things consumers (end users, employees and channel partners) tell me during the course of an interview.

In fact, one SVP of sales who had been in his role for 20 years stopped me in the middle of my presentation to explain, "how did you get them to tell you about that, I've never heard that from any of my agents?"

I attribute it to going into every interview with a "fresh eyes" perspective.

No matter how many interviews I've conducted, I try to go into my next interview knowing nothing.

No preconceived notions, no knowledge of the industry, I need the respondent to help me understand -- the industry, what they're talking about, why they do what they do, what's driving their perceptions of the product, service or competition.

Once the respondent knows I'm not very knowledgeable about the subject and I'm really there to get their input and listen to what they have to say, they open up and tell me things they may not tell someone who's been in the industry for 20 years because they assume that industry veteran already knows it.

After we develop a rapport, the respondent wants to help me understand their industry, their perspective and why they feel the way they do.

More often than not, this "fresh eyes" perspective leads to insights for me and my client.

Frequently these insights are common sense, or fundamentals, but no one has verbalized or documented them.

I spoke to one insurance agent who never met with his prospects in their living room. He wanted to meet at the kitchen table with both the husband and wife facing him so he could see both of their reactions to what he was saying.

I'm pretty sure my insurance client is now using that as a training point for all of his agents.

I also find that going into an interview with a "fresh eyes" perspective enables me to ask more incisive follow-up questions that deliver a depth of insights that online surveys just do not deliver.

A frequent follow-up is, "help me understand why you say . . ."

With online surveys, I find opened ended questions just do not deliver the depth of information that leads to great insights.

How do you get consumers, employees, suppliers or channel partners to open up to you?

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Tags: dialogue, emotional connection to the brand, earn your customers trust, consumer insights accelerate sales, sales performance acceleration

Listen for Consumer Insights to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Jun, 14, 2013 @ 06:06 AM

 

Listening for consumer insights to drive sales

I was having lunch with a colleague the other day and explaining how I obtain consumer insights from respondents.

In the case of insurance agents, I asked them to take me through the process of finding a lead, scheduling an appointment, the appointment itself and how they closed.

Since the agents knew I had never sold insurance, they were very precise in telling me about their procedure and I asked follow-up questions about certain steps in the process.

One of the most interesting points one of the agents made was that he typically scheduled a meeting with a husband and wife together since most insurance decisions are made jointly.

When he would get to the prospect's home, if they wanted to sit in the den or the living room, he would suggest that they sit at the kitchen table with the husband and wife sitting on the same side of the table so he could see both of their faces at the same time.

A simple, but powerful and effective methodology.  This agent closed 80%+ of his prospects at the close of the initial presentation.

When I presented the findings of my 20 one-on-one interviews to the senior vice president of marketing, who had been managing these agents for more than 20 years, he stopped me 10 minutes into my presentation.

I had already told him three things he had never heard from his agents before.  He wanted to know my methodology.

It's very simple. Ask questions and listen. And if you want to know more about something, ask, "can you tell me more about that."

It's that simple and the more you learn, the more you'll be able to accelerate sales by improving product, services, sales methodologies and customer experience.

I also think if you are talking to someone who knows that you don't know as much about the subject as they do, that they're willing to open up and tell you more.  

The insurance agents wouldn't tell their boss the same things they told me because they would assume he already knew it.

What have you learned by listening intensely to your customers, prospects, channel partners and sales reps?

What could you learn?

 

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Tags: dialogue, consumer insights, accelerate sales, alignment, sales performance acceleration

Empathy Helps Obtain Consumer Insights to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jun, 13, 2013 @ 06:06 AM

Empathy helps obtain consumer insights to accelerate revenue

 

Having empathy for your customers enables you to get more insights.

When a customer, or a respondent in a one-on-one interviews, sees and knows that you care about what they have to say, they will tell you more.

Regardless of what the data says, every person has a different story.  Are you sincerely interested in hearing it?

I believe it's incumbent upon us as marketers to hear those stories and to use what we hear to create products, services and customer experiences that meet, and exceed, the customers' needs.

Steve Jobs was famous for saying he didn't ask consumers what they wanted because they didn't know. That may be true, but by listening to customers, we are able to discern what the different needs and wants are and come up with a unique and remarkable solution that meets those needs.

Dialogue is critical if we are to get consumer insights from qualitative research that drive innovation and accelerate sales.

As a group of executives were disbanding from listening to a two-hour focus group of 10 respondents, everyone missed what I thought was a great summary by one of the participants -- our client was more like Nordstroms than Wal-Mart and shouldn't be ashamed of that fact.

I used this insight to help convince the client to not engage in a price war with their competition. It was inconsistent with their brand and would kill their margins. Ultimately, the client agreed.

It amazing what you can learn that will help your business if you are empathetic with those with whom you are working and targeting.

Listen to what they have to say, you might learn something, or better yet, it might spark the next big idea for you or your firm.

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Tags: earn your customers trust, consumer insights accelerate sales, sales performance acceleration

Increase Employee Alignment for Sales Performance Acceleration

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Jun, 07, 2013 @ 06:06 AM

Increase alignment to accelerate sales

 

Nice article by the Gallup Journal entitled Your Employees Don't "Get" Your Brand.

Having worked with more than 100 companies over the course of my career, I wholeheartedly agree.

From my perspective, there are three reasons why:

  1. Companies fail to identify their vision, mission, values and strategic positioning.  A lot of senior executives think vision, mission, values and strategic positioning is b.s.  They either don't understand or don't see the value of differentiation.
     
  2. Companies fail to articulate their vision, mission, values and strategic positioning in a way that resonates with, or can be remembered by employees.  This is most easily accomplished with powerful brand stories that exemplify what your company stands for and how it's different from competitors.
     
  3. Companies fail to determine the level of understanding or alignment across the organization or with customers.  A company with whom I worked thought their management team was completely aligned and that they knew exactly what their customers thought of them.  Sadly, neither was true.  This was one of the most siloed organizations I have seen.

So what should you do?

First, pull out your vision, mission, values and strategic positioning.

I you don't have it, you need to create it.  You, your management team and your employees.

I'm happy to do it for you but you know your company better than me.  I'm also happy to facilitate a meeting that will help you identify them.

Second, ask your employees to tell you what they think the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of your firm are. Treat your employees like consumers and get their insights.  

Once you identify the gaps in alignment, you can begin to address them via corporate communications or regular discussions with your employees.

Third, ask your best customers what makes your "different and better" than your competition, and who your competition is in their eyes.  You may get a surprise.

If there's a gap between what your customers think makes you "different and better" and your vision, mission, values and strategic positioning, decide how your going to close that gap.

Perception is reality and today the consumer defines brands and companies.

Educate and empower your employees to tell a consistent brand story and exemplify the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of your company -- starting with the management team.

Ensure the members of your management team are delivering a consistent and aligned message to the folks that report to them.

Remember the kindergarten game where one person told another person something and then you went around the circle repeating the same message?  Imagine what happens when you have multiple managers attempting to communicate the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of your firm.

Do not assume everyone is saying the same thing. Listen to your managers talking to employees and then ask employees to repeat back what they heard.

What do you do to ensure employees "get" your brand and deliver on the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of your firm?

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Tags: consumer insights, alignment, sales performance acceleration, empowered employees