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We met with a client to think through a strategy to protect its organization’s market research knowledge. Protecting its market understanding was especially important since its market research analysis staff shrunk dramatically the last few years with no replacements planned any time soon.

As with many companies, this one has undergone dramatic brand strategy changes: old brands have gone away, new brands have emerged, and significant alterations have taken place nearly everywhere else. The central question was what historical market research data to re-organize and retain along with what market research data to let go.

Our recommended strategy called for retaining and prioritizing four types of information from market research reports. If you’re also facing a situation of tremendous change and a proliferation of available data, this list will help in considering what market research to retain:

  • Methodology / Structural Background – Hang on to what you’ve learned about the right and wrong ways to use market research in talking with your marketplace. There’s never a good reason to re-learn the ins and outs of doing market research in your particular business, particularly when you don’t have as many people in place to do the actual market research. Another keeper? Market research surveys which allow you to reference specific survey questions that have been productive.
  • What’s Important to Customers – You want to preserve tracking information on what’s important to buyers, especially if it’s derived importance data (i.e., statistically determined insights on what predicts customer behaviors and perceptions).  If your market research budget is squeezed and you have to move to stated importance on surveys (where customers simply say what they think is important), it’s beneficial to have derived importance data as a reference point, even if it’s slightly dated.
  • Keep Inputs for Market Sizing and Forecasting – For many business markets, there are no readily available sources of syndicated or third party data to actively size a market, especially in specific niches. In those cases, primary business-to-business market research may be the only reliable source to gauge market trends. Make sure to keep elements which help estimate sizes and forecasts for the markets you serve. Even with change going on, you can adjust and modify when you start with a solid, even somewhat historical, knowledge base.
  • Work that Will Demonstrate Value – Even if dated, retain market research reports which demonstrate where research contributed value to the business previously – backing up positive business decisions, challenging what were (or would have been) poor strategic decisions, or forward-looking predictions that ultimately come to fruition. You always want the raw materials to demonstrate value you’ve provided when trying to make a case for greater customer understanding.

That’s our take on the subject. What types of historical market research data do you prioritize within your company? – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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This is for all those business people who still operate under the mistaken belief brand strategy is simply about logos, colors, and design.

A recent court decision has to be a rude awakening – at least in the area covered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – where watching and participating in food being prepared in a restaurant is considered an integral part of the customer experience for a brand.

The ruling against Chipotle restaurants was based on a claim by Maurizio Antoninetti (who is confined to a wheelchair) that the Chipotle chain’s 45-inch dividing wall around its food prep counter prevented him from participating in the “full Chipotle experience” as his food was being prepared.

Chipotle offers a variety of accommodations to disabled patrons, including letting them view ingredients in cups, taste ingredients, and have their food prepared tableside. All of these, however, were found insufficient substitutes in presenting the full customer experience of the brand. As a result of the ruling, Chipotle has begun retrofitting the walls and changing future restaurant designs to comply with the ruling.

There you have it brand strategy fans.

A customer’s active co-creation role in selecting and guiding the preparer in how a food item is assembled is an integral part of the customer experience for a brand.

While some are raising questions about the plaintiff’s motives and whether the court decision makes sense, our brand strategy angle in covering the story here is there’s legal proof that even tangible products have customer experience and co-creation dimensions in their brands. That’s a strategic branding judgment you’ll find all kinds of support for here at Brainzooming! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Geoffrey Allison, the SIX STRING cpaTM , reached out on Twitter recently about guest posting on strategy and planning. His tweet led to an in-person lunch where I learned more about Geoffrey’s career and his combination of finance and music.

With over 17 years of business experience, Geoffrey holds two undergraduate degrees, Business Administration and Accounting, as well as an MBA.  The title of one of his first compositions was “The Six String CPA”, and he now thoughtfully merges his love of both rock guitar and finance in his consulting work via his trademark SIX STRING cpaTM.  When Geoff is not busy working on various ideas and ventures he is building up a new charity, Building a Bookshelf, that he started with his wife.

I’m always a huge fan of whole-brain finance people (especially those similar to long-time reader Cory Christensen who combine the mathematical underpinnings of music and finance), so it was great to get to know Geoffrey better and share his take on strategic planning with you:

Strategy Development: A New Take

Spend any time in the business world and you will quickly learn building a successful business is as much art as science. And one can approach the building of their business similarly to creating a musical composition. Put the pieces together in a manner so that you create a business that is a unique expression of what you need and want to accomplish. More importantly, creating a unique business establishes a competitive advantage that is harder for competitors to mimic and may create increasing value.

Phrasing is a very powerful technique in the musical world. A portion of the Wikipedia definition for Musical Phrasing says : “Phrasing refers to an expressive shaping of music, and relates to this shaping of notes in time. Phrasing relates to the manner of playing the individual notes of a particular group of consecutive notes; and the way they are weighted and shaped relative to one another…”  For example, if I am developing a rock riff for electric guitar, I can end the riff by playing an “A” note located on the fifth fret of the low “E” string or  by playing the open fifth “A” string.  Numerous other combinations and permutations exist too. The result of phrasing is very interesting. Not only does the riff sound slightly different but changing the phrasing of the riff allows the composer to plan ahead and setup the next phrase.

Phrasing in a musical context adds uniqueness, expression, flair, originality and makes it more memorable. In the world of popular music, being memorable means a much higher chance of commercial success.  So to me, it only makes sense that we start to think of strategy creation and business planning in a similar context, and I use the term Business Component Phrasing™.  There are so many components to every business endeavor: capital, labor, materials, creativity (entrepreneurship), marketing programs, customer service, training and development, manufacturing processes; etc.  It is enough to make even the smartest, most well intentioned business owner go cock-eyed. Organization is clearly needed!  Organization is so important that that is represented by the letter “O” in the R.O.CK. Star Business Method™ that I created.

An overarching strategy clearly defining an organization’s vision, mission and purpose guides the decisions on how to develop, fund and execute against all of these various business components. Many business owners never take the time to employ any type of strategy development whatsoever, knowing intuitively that an organized approach through strategy development will make their business more successful.  So why isn’t strategy development done regularly? Because strategy development is boring – Snoozeville? As someone who spent years in strategy development roles I can say that it can be. But it does not need to be if some methodology is employed that allows strategy development to generate from a creative and fun perspective.

Business Component Phrasing™ is a way to inject some creativity into business planning and strategy development by reminding the business owner to think about what “NOTES” they want to emphasize in their business. Determine how you want your business to be different and ORGANIZE it in a manner that drives the business in that direction, building competitive advantage(s) along the way.  Think of the Organization of your business endeavor as your unique musical composition and think of strategy development as nothing more than the phrasing of various business components (like the notes in a song). You will be much more likely to be energized when engaged in the process.  Get out there and proactively build a unique enterprise; make it memorable; and make it your own! - Geoffrey Allison, the SIX STRING cpaTM

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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Besides being researched based, another common characteristic of the books I’ve covered this week is they are provocative. Not provocative in the Lindsay Lohan or Glenn Beck sense, where people do or say outrageous things to get attention that leads to, well, more attention (and, seemingly inevitably more money).

Instead they are provocative in the positive sense. They provoke thought, provoke more informed conversation, and provoke changes in behavior.

Communicating Change, Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals, by TJ Larkin and Sandar Larkin is the most provocative of the lot. It is also the most challenging to fully embrace.

In many large organizations there are two givens when it comes to communicating with front-line employees. The first is that the people in charge of that communications are professionals in execution. They have strong skills in writing, editing, producing videos, laying out publications, etc. The second is that corporate leadership doesn’t really trust anyone but itself to own the message, particularly when it is a message about important changes in the organization.

The result is that most employee communications is slick in execution and top-down and one-way in presentation. It is also, if you believe the research and conclusions in the Larkins’ book, mostly ineffective and at odds with what employees want and value in terms of communications. To quote from the book’s major premise:

“Frontline employees distrust information from senior managers, don’t believe employee publications, hate watching executives on video, and have little or no interest in corporatewide topics. The boundary of the frontline worker’s world is his or her local work area. If the communication doesn’t break through this boundary, it is wasted.”

That’s hard for those of us who value our skills and abilities as communicators to accept. It’s a tough message for senior manager’s who are sure that all workers are awaiting the latest quarterly results and next year’s strategic plan with the same level of anticipation that they are. Particularly if they, the senior managers, are delivering it ex-cathedra.

In point of fact, the Larkins say that type of communication is not only suboptimal, it is counter productive. They present, with excellent sourcing and well-designed studies, what they call the three facts about the best ways to communicate change to employees in large companies. 1) Communicate directly to supervisors, 2) Have those supervisors use informal face-to-face communication with frontline workers, and 3) Communicate relative performance of the local work area.

The other, overriding message of Communicating Change is that all communication should change behavior in a positive, immediate, and measurable way. That’s not a bad mantra to keep in mind whether you are communicating with frontline employees, putting together an ad campaign, or making a sales call. I think Ogilvy, Cialdini, and Rackham would agree.  – Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When I began in sales, the training/teaching in the field was dominated by the Zig Ziglars, Earl Nightengales, and Tom Hopkins of the world. The answers to the “Why?” and “How do you know?” questions were all rooted in their specific experience and preconceived notions of what went into a successful sales approach.

That approach largely focused on creating good first impressions, learning a myriad of ways of handling objections, and mastering and continually using very specific (and often deceptive) closing techniques.

It was all very rote. You would ask A, the prospect would respond B, you said C, and they said D. That was great if the prospect indeed said B and D, but if they said 7, you were on your own. SPIN Selling changed that.

I was introduced to SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham at a DMA conference in Washington, D.C. I remember the author, Neil Rackham, standing beside an overhead projector with a stack of transparencies in his hand—yes, before PowerPoint—describing the sales approach that the Huthwaite Corporation had developed. Light bulbs went on for me.

He described an approach also based on experience. But it was experience gleaned from the systematic observation of 35,000 in-person sales calls. Rackman and his colleagues had gone along on those calls and had tracked what types of questions and behaviors resulted in positive outcomes and what types of questions and behaviors resulted in negative outcomes.

That observation, categorization, and insight, i.e. that research, determined that successful sales indeed was the result of asking questions. But not the objection handling and closing questions of Ziglar and Hopkins. Rather, questions with specific intent and customer focus. Specifically: Situation Questions, Problem Questions, Implication Questions, and Need-Payoff Questions. Thus the S, P, I, and N of SPIN.

I bought SPIN Selling within a week of seeing Rackham present. I’ve read it—or later editions and iterations—at least a half a dozen times in the intervening years. I’ve taught it to hundreds of college students.

Oh, by the way, Rackham found that: 1) first impressions aren’t particularly important, 2) if you are generating objections you are probably already in trouble whether you know 16 ways to overcome them or not, and 3) the earlier and more often you try to close, the more likely the sales call is to end in failure. That’s real Why? and How do you know?   - Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Oh, you mean I need to include a call to action?

Amazingly one of the things we often forget in marketing and marketing communications is that in the end we have to persuade someone to do something. We develop good products, use effective sales and distribution channels, understand what media reaches our target most effectively, write witty headlines and use imaginative images to catch their attention.

But we forget to persuade them.

Robert Cialdini’s Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion will make that much harder for you to do. Based upon literally hundreds of research studies, the book organizes persuasion into what Cialdini describes as six weapons of influence, though I’ve always preferred to think of them as tools.

The Weapon/Tool My shorthand way of remembering
Reciprocity When I take a free sample at Costco, I feel an something of an obligation to buy the four pound package of the stuff—even if I have no idea how and when I will consume that much.
Commitment
and consistency
My Mother told me to always keep my word (be consistent) and that’s what I’m going to do. Besides if I’m not true to my favorite brand, how will I ever choose among the 100s of drink options at the convenience store. Huge time saver.
Social Proof Some of you figured this out in high school, some of us didn’t. If everyone else is doing it, it is the right,or at least the safest,thing to do—particularly if we don’t want to be a social outcast.
Liking This one works both ways. We evaluate the message based on whether we like the messenger, rather than whether we believe the content. Also, if someone likes us, that shows their good judgment and makes them an obviously credible source—in other words, “Flattery will get you somewhere.”
Authority They didn’t call the show Father Knows Best for nothing.
Scarcity We always want what we can’t have. Make information seem privileged or items seem rare and that watch the perceived value increase.

After you read the book you will notice that effective ads and marketing communication vehicles have something in common. Nearly every one will incorporate one or more of these tools. You will also notice something about the ones that aren’t effective. They don’t use any of these tools. Read your organization’s sales materials, look at your ads, watch your videos. Are you using the tools?  - Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you regularly watch—or as I am, are addicted to—the television show Mad Men you will have heard passing references to David Ogilvy.

I tell students in advertising or marketing (or anyone else in the fields that will listen) that if you are only going to read one book on the subject, it has to be Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy.

Now it was written nearly 30 years ago. Some of the styles are quaint, products unusual and brands long vanished. You won’t find one reference to the Internet. But it is hands down the single best book on advertising ever written.

It is well organized, hansomely illustrated, and Ogilvy is a great copywriter and a natural story teller. Additionally, the book has a wonderful Reading List that will introduce you to other gems that you may not be familiar with.

But a huge part of what makes the book valuable is that so much of what it contains is research based. Ogilvy recognizes that advertising is both science and art, but that without the science you will only be successful if your art is both good and lucky. He attributes this point of view to his background working for the Gallup organization.

The book is a bit of a Rorschach test for people who work in marketing communications. Those who find it hard to live with the fact that advertising is about selling stuff, lots of stuff, are stifled by Ogilvy’s lists and guidelines and how-to’s. Those who are able to recognize that they are using their skills at innovative thinking, creativity and strategy to reach sales goals find those same lists, guidelines and how-to’s freeing.

After all, if you don’t have to worry about what typeface to use in the brochure (according to Ogilvy serif fonts will greatly increase readership in print), you can spend that time and effort—and creative energy—on how to engage the reader and convince her to buy what you are selling.  - Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you. 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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