Showing posts with label outside-in. Show all posts
Showing posts with label outside-in. Show all posts

Get More Insights from Customers with These 4 Survey Questions

A previous article discussed limitations of typical surveys to produce valuable insights from customers.  The problem is that many surveys are constructed to get formulaic answers from customers, rather than letting them express opinions from their perspective.

Most surveys have multiple choice answers to questions because they are easy to score and analyze.  But a limited choice of predefined answers limits the opinions and feedback customers can provide when responding to a survey.  Questions with open-ended answers are more difficult to score, collate and analyze, but provide significantly better feedback, opinions and insights from the customers surveyed.

If you want to get really insightful information from your customers, try asking these 4 open-ended questions in a survey:

  1. What is one thing you think we do well and should keep doing?
    This question will help you identify what customers really like about doing business with you.  While you may have your own opinions on this, you may be surprised by customers’ opinions on what they consider as your big differentiator and/or unique value proposition.  You obviously want to keep doing these things and ensure continued focus on doing them well.
  2. What is one thing we do that you think needs improvement?
    This enables you to get real feedback on areas of your business that need improvement from a customer perspective.  Some of the customer responses may be unexpected, but this is truly valuable insight for improving your business relative to actual customer experiences and insights.
  3. What is one thing we do that we should stop doing?
    Businesses hardly ever ask their customers this question.  The problem is that many businesses do things because they think that’s what customers want, or because they’ve always done it, or because someone told them to do it, or it was someone’s cockamamie idea.  This could be something that a company spends resources on but has no or negative value for customers.  Answers to this question provide great insights for improving how you should work with customers.
  4. What is one thing we don’t do that we should do?
    There is no one better to ask than your customers – they’ve done business with many other related and unrelated companies and have seen good and bad business practices for how businesses deal with customers.  The feedback from this question can provide invaluable ideas for improving the experience for your customers and/or developing stronger competitive differentiation.
Some important points to bear in mind for using these questions in a survey:
  • Only ask for “one thing” in each question.  That makes it easy for customers to respond in an open-ended manner and not ramble on about all sorts of issues without giving you a succinct actionable response.
  • Don’t provide prompts or ideas on the type of things they should consider – you don’t want to lead them to any particular responses – keep it completely open-ended and spontaneous.
  • Customize the questions to your business or survey context but keep them short and easy to understand within the four primary areas of feedback indicated by the above questions.  The generic question wording shown above works well for many businesses.
  • Be sure to add relevant demographic and segmentation data questions for categorizing, analyzing and comparing results.
Have you tried these types of open-ended questions in surveys?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Do Your Surveys Really Produce Valuable Insights?

Like most marketers I’ve produced my fair share of surveys over the years.  And like many consumers / customers I’ve responded to a large number of surveys and abandoned some part way through.

The most frequent reason for abandonment is generally assumed to be excessive length of the survey.  But I think there’s another factor that plays a significant role in whether a respondent abandons a survey.  People are influenced to take a survey because they want to express their opinions on the issue.  But many surveys are constructed in such an inside-out manner that part way through the survey the respondent realizes that the questions and answer options don’t allow them to express their real opinion in the survey – so they abandon it.

How many times have you taken a survey and wished there were additional answer choices for the questions?

On the other side of the fence, marketers tend to construct surveys in order to achieve a specific set of results.  The questions and answer options are formulated in a manner that supports the specific outcome objective.  So the survey respondents provide responses based on the inside-out perspective of how the survey was constructed and the limited choice of inside-out answers.  Are the results from these types of surveys as insightful as they could be?

I would argue that most surveys don’t produce as much really valuable insights as thought because of the survey construction and inability for respondents to really express their opinion.  Some surveys will produce misleading results that companies use as the basis to make plans and take action.

One way to overcome this potential problem with surveys is to take more of an outside-in approach during the survey design, construction and testing process.  Involve a small representative group from your target survey audience (customers, prospective buyers, etc.) in the process.  Have them review the questions and answers to provide input from their perspective.  Have them do a test of the survey and provide feedback on suggested changes to better connect with the respondent’s perspective.

Taking these extra steps could produce markedly better surveys, lower abandonment rates, produce more trustworthy results and more valuable insights for your business.

I’ll share another approach for getting more valuable insights from customer and prospective buyer surveys in my next blog post.

What are your thoughts about the quality and relevance of surveys and how to improve the results and insights from surveys?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Is your website wewe-ing?

Working on a project this past week that had me browsing through a number of business software vendor websites looking for information; I noticed two common practices that indicate the top 10 business software vendors are still inside-out oriented with their communications. I’ll discuss one of these practices in this post and the other in next week’s post.

As I was reading through a bunch of web pages looking for information, it struck me how often the information presented was from the vendor’s perspective. The websites were full of “we do…”, “we can…”, “we have…”, “we are…”, “our product…”, “our staff…”, “our technology…”, “we provide…”, “Companyname has…”, “Companyname is…”, etc. – you get the picture – it’s all about the vendor. I wasn’t specifically looking at their content writing style, but it was rather noticeable after a few sites and several pages.

Not wanting to be judgmental without supporting evidence, I remembered reading about Roy Williams asking "Are you wewe-ing all over yourself?”. So then I found this WeWe Monitor from FutureNow that analyzes whether a website or other content, speaks about the customer or themselves. Next step was to enter the information for the software vendors’ websites I’d been looking at, to see how they ranked.

The average Self Focus Rate for 10 major business software vendors is approximately 88% - i.e. they speak about themselves 8 times more often than they speak about their customers or buyers on their websites. How do these vendors think that comes across for customers and prospective buyers? It’s all about them, not about their customers or buyers. The best Self Focus Rate in this group was just 82%. One well-known major software vendor scored 96% which means they speak about themselves 22 times more often than they speak about their customers or buyers, and that wasn’t the worst score. So the impression I got while reading through these websites that they were self-centered and inside-out, seems substantiated.

These disappointing results got me wondering who has better ratings in this category. So I ran a list of 10 smaller business software vendors’ websites through the WeWe Monitor. The average Self Focus Rate for these vendors is approximately 78% - a better average score, but a mixed bag. 3 of the 10 vendors had 100% Self Focus Rate (they only speak about themselves), one had an excellent 33% and another had 52%.

"If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think." – David Ogilvy

Although I’m not entirely surprised by these results, it’s disappointing that after all these years, the majority of business software vendors are still talking about themselves rather than relating to their customers and buyers. I wonder how much this exacerbates their current sales, customer retention and revenue problems?

While the authors of the WeWe Monitor state that “a score between 60% – 70% seems to have the most natural tone”, I think that’s way too high. IMO a score of 33% would be a good customer oriented tone – which means speaking about customers and buyers twice as much as yourself.

How do your website and marketing materials score on the WeWe Monitor?

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

The Buying Cycle Disconnect

Talk to salespeople about their process to engage with prospective buyers and you’ll hear all about the sales methodology and sales life cycle they use. Marketing also has a life cycle for designing, developing, launching and executing campaigns plus another life cycle for managing, nurturing and distributing leads. These life cycles are all necessary and important.

However, these are all inside-out processes on how you want to engage with prospective buyers or how they should engage with you. That’s an unrealistic perspective.

Prospective buyers have their own buying life cycle that they will follow. Whether or not it’s a defined methodology, all B2B buyers will follow a similar process for acquiring whatever product/service/solution they need. Customers want to go through their buying life cycle processes and will buy when they are ready. You can achieve much better results by understanding and connecting with your prospective customer’s buying life cycle. I’m not suggesting you put the customer in the driver’s seat – sales still needs to manage and control the process, but to better align your marketing and sales processes with the buying cycle and the outside-in perspective.

Although buying cycles vary by industry, product, service, solution, etc. there are common processes that most buyers want to step through. The diagram to the right outlines the major steps in a generalized B2B customer buying process:B2B Buying Cycle

  1. Sidelines – the vast majority of your prospective buyers are sitting on the sidelines, not actively looking to buy anything related to what you’re selling.
  2. Awareness – prospective buyers are aware of the general category or type of product/service/solution you are selling, but have not identified a need for it yet.
  3. Interest – the prospective buyer has identified a problem or opportunity that needs to be addressed and explores the issue in greater depth.
  4. Research – the prospective buyer defines their requirements and actively researches a long list of possible solutions for the identified problem or opportunity.
  5. Consideration – the prospective buyer finds suitable solution sources, gets more detailed information and does comparisons to compile a short list of possible solutions.
  6. Decision – the short list solutions are evaluated in various ways including customer defined demonstrations, tests, in-depth analysis and other methods to find the most suitable solution. The buyer could also decide not to buy anything. Marketing is usually disengaged at this point.
  7. Purchase – the purchase is made and everyone is happy for a fleeting moment. Sales usually disengage at this point.
  8. Implementing – the implementation process to get the solution installed and working for the customer in the manner they expect. Vendor or third party professional services usually assist customers with this step.
  9. Implemented – the solution is actively working for the customer. Vendor engagement with customers is primarily through support services from this point forward.
  10. Achievement – the customer (hopefully) begins to realize the benefits they set out to achieve from the solution.
  11. Loyal Customer – cultivating a satisfied and loyal customer has many benefits including additional purchases and referrals.
Although some of these steps in the buying cycle may seem beyond the interests of a marketing and sales discussion, I’ve specifically included them because they are frequently overlooked opportunities for marketing and/or sales to be engaged.

In the next several blog posts, I’ll delve into each step in more detail to explore how marketing and sales can engage more effectively and productively in the customer buying cycle to produce better results.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

How do you define Customer Value?

I’ve referred to customer value in several of my previous blog posts. The key point being that marketing should always clearly articulate the value of the product/service/solution within the customer’s context.

But what does ‘value’ within a customer context really mean and how do you define it? James Womack & Daniel Jones who popularized the Lean Enterprise business approach, define 6 attributes of customer value in their book ‘Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together’. Because these attributes of customer value are defined from the customer’s perspective, they can provide valuable insights for how we should position, message and market our products/services/solutions.

The 6 attributes of customer value defined by Womack & Jones along with my marketing perspective interpretations are:

  1. Solve my problem completely – define exactly what customer challenges or opportunities your product/service/solution addresses, the extent to which it does, how it does it and how it works with other solutions. Don’t leave the customer in doubt or searching for additional information.
  2. Don't waste my time – get to the point and don’t make the customer have to do things you want in order to get the information they want. Remember that their buying process takes precedence over your marketing or sales process – they’ll go somewhere else if you waste their time by making them jump through hoops to get information.
  3. Provide exactly what I want – your product/service/solution should have packaging flexibility according to how customers want to buy, not how you want to sell. Make it easy for customers to buy just what they want right now – they’ll be more inclined to buy more subsequently.
  4. Deliver value where I want it – clearly define at what point(s) in the customer’s business value stream your product/service/solution delivers value. Overly broad or vague claims of applicability and functionality don’t connect with specific customer requirements or how the customer envisions a solution that would benefit their business.
  5. Supply value when I want it – not all your prospective customers are ready buy at the same time and definitely not immediately. The important issue here is to gear your marketing programs to the various time frames your prospective customers have for buying and helping them reach that point.
  6. Reduce the number of decisions I must make to solve my problems – business customers buy something to solve a problem or pursue an opportunity. Offering too many choices, options and alternatives only makes things more complicated for customers to make a buying decision. Communicate with prospective buyers in their context and avoid unnecessary complications or decisions they need to make.
Remember that the interpretations for each attribute are just my views – think about how you would interpret these attributes to your circumstances.

“Value can only be defined by the ultimate customer’ – James Womack & Daniel Jones

Understanding and defining customer value is a key part of being outside-in as discussed in an earlier post. Considering these 6 attributes of customer value during our various marketing processes should help us connect more effectively with prospective buyers.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Breathing our own exhaust?

An ex-colleague who read my recent post ‘Are you Inside-out or Outside-in?’, sent me an email about an expression I use that he really liked – “are we breathing our own exhaust?”. This expression relates to being outside-in and the acid test we should always apply when we launch a campaign, write content or promote a specific value proposition – does this really create value for the customer within their context?

It’s all too easy to get carried away with all the internal hype from product management, development, marketing and other internal sources. Add to this management pressure to produce better results, time constraints for marketing to deliver, continual daily interactions between marketing team members, and we easily slip into blindly believing ourselves without outside validation – or to put it more bluntly – breathing our own exhaust.

Problem is, it’s not always apparent that we may have this problem, since we may be too close to the situation to step back and recognize it. However, if we don’t recognize it before the campaign, content or promotion is launched, we’ll inevitably face a mediocre result at best or abject failure at worst.

During the review process for any campaign, promotion, content or other marketing output, always ask questions to qualify whether it really connects with the prospective buyer within their context and current circumstances:

  • What research do you have to support this?
  • How was this tested?
  • What did the test reveal?
  • What outside-in validation do you have?
  • What are competitors doing? How does this compare – what is different or similar?
  • Ask the ‘breathing our own exhaust’ question – it’s a fun question that isn’t easy to answer and usually gets a good discussion going.
This is just a starter list of the type of questions to consider – develop your own to suit your circumstances. Be careful not make it feel like an inquisition; just ask good questions to do some constructive self analysis to ensure that the campaign, promotion, content, etc. is on the right track.

“The question should be, 'Is it worth trying to do?' not 'Can it be done?'” – Allard Lowenstein

An approach I particularly like that helps avoid the typical ‘breathing our own exhaust’ syndrome is to have a geographically distributed marketing team. That way, everyone has different daily exposures, interactions and perspectives and are less prone to breathing each other’s exhaust in the same location day in and day out. Having input from these different daily experiences will also add more value to the creativity and review processes.

Ask the ‘breathing our own exhaust’ question or your variation of it when something is being developed – ask yourself, ask you team members, ask the group.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Are you Inside-out or Outside-In?

Anyone who has worked with me has probably heard me refer to ‘outside-in’ versus ‘inside-out’ more times than they care to remember. While these are familiar terms and concepts to marketers, seems that many of us are easily captivated by all the wonderful new things our companies are doing with products, services and technology, causing our messaging to be inside-out. This appears to be more prevalent in B2B and particularly Information Technology companies.

Take an example of a Distribution Company that needs an operational system to expand their business for new opportunities in after-sales services. They make some inquiries, visit websites, receive emails, white papers, etc., but most of the information is about “platforms”, “services oriented architecture”, “next generation technology”, “software as a service”, product feature/functions, product brand names and other inside-out jargon, all of which are meaningless to them. The prospective buyer begins to question whether anyone actually has a solution to meet their business needs.

“Nobody cares about your products and services (except you)” – Pragmatic Marketing

Outside-in begins with customer value. The ‘customer’ is not just research, demographics and statistics about some market segment. It’s about the current problems, challenges and opportunities that real companies and people face in markets you plan to serve. What roles these people have in companies, what they worry about, what solutions they really need, how these businesses operate and many other factors.

Value is defined by the customer or prospective buyer – it’s not your list of perceived benefits, ROI and other claims. The value is expressed in terms of how your solution creates value for customers by meeting their real needs within their context.

With this deeper understanding of what, where, who and how to provide customer value, you’ll be ready to formulate an outside-in marketing strategy with value propositions that connect with the real needs of these customers. To make the outside-in value connection, messaging should start with value in customer terminology and context, along with specific messaging for the roles of key influencers and decision-makers.

A good consequence of the outside-in approach is that you will have more definitive market segments comprised of sets of companies based on their specific needs and the value you provide. Expanding on the Distribution Company example – you may find a common trend that industrial distributors are facing a slowdown in their traditional business, but some are seeing more demand for installation and maintenance services. If you can create value by providing a solution for them to quickly establish the necessary capabilities for a services business extension, then that would define a very specific target market segment.

Businesses are always looking for growth opportunities. Being market-driven and following an outside-in marketing approach are excellent strategies for driving growth.

There’s a lot more to the outside-in / inside-out discussion I’ll revisit in future blog posts. Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.