If you are full, well-rested and financially strained, you survived yet another Thanksgiving holiday. As we begin December and look ahead to January, we shift our focus to 2014 planning.
Keith Finger, a B2B marketer and NicheLabs partner, shared his thoughts with us, which we would like to share with you. In his post, Keith highlighted the importance of tapping customers and prospects to for valuable insights into both what we are doing well and what elements of our marketing approaches need tweaking.
How do you obtain reliable, external input? NicheLabs welcomes you to share your thoughts on this topic one-on-one, as well.
Is Your Marketing Plan a Turkey?
It’s November and hopefully you’ve done some planning for 2014. I’ve found that companies frequently make strategic decisions based on their unique view of reality, and without any external input. Of course, the way we look at our own businesses is vastly different from how prospects and even customers view us.
So how do you get reliable input? Here are some thoughts:
1. Do NOT talk exclusively with customers. They know you and may not give you the candid input you’d receive from non-customer. While customer feedback is important, don’t rely on it exclusively for planning purposes.
2. Do NOT rely on focus groups. It’s all too easy in a focus group for a few outspoken people to dominate the discussion and cause others to stay quiet or change their opinions, even with a good moderator. They’re also expensive.
3. DO talk with companies who are not your customers. This is the best way to get info on unmet needs, perceptions of the marketplace, competitors, etc.
4. Do NOT gather info from prospects you’re also selling to. It’ll make the sales process awkward.
5. DO gather info using one-to-one interviews, conducted by an inquisitive marketer. Find people to interview using LinkedIn and association websites. Send an email asking for their input for research and be sure to state the length of the call and assure them it is not a sales call in disguise.
6. DO interview at least 10 people. Twenty is even better. You need enough info to allow you to see patterns and make some judgments on actions to take. If you get an especially insightful response from one person towards the end of your calling, contact previous respondents to get feedback and confirmation.
7. DO prepare a basic list of questions but don’t read them off like a bad telemarketer. Be conversational. Also, it’s okay to veer off-course and probe particularly insightful responses.
7.5 One more point: hire a facilitator to run planning meetings. You’ll end up with better results if everyone participates and someone doesn’t also have to also run the meeting and log comments.