Providing More Value
by Bonnie Janzen
Whether we work in a corporate environment or for an agency, we are all looking for ways to discover and provide better insights to our clients (either internal or external) so that they can excel in this highly competitive environment.
The first step is to work on your relationships with your clients. They should feel comfortable discussing all the aspects around the business issues with you, whether they are “the good, the bad or the ugly.” Your past performance on previous client projects is the foundation of your relationship with them. You should look for secondary data, trends, or news releases, and frequently share them with clients when the information relates to the types of decisions they are trying to make.
During your briefing meeting with your clients, certainly ensure you are giving them your undivided attention. You need to think about what is being said and what is not being said. Asking the right questions demonstrates your knowledge of the business, the category, the economic backdrop, and impactful trends. “Question Asking” is an art form. It allows you to help your client solidify their needs and objectives, as well as to compile a history of actions taken around their business issue in the past. There are numerous good books about question asking, such as:
- The Art of Asking: Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers by Terry J. Fadem
- The Art of Asking Questions by Stanley L. Payne
- Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change by Frank Sesno.
Example of the types of questions you may want to ask in the briefing session with your client include:
- What is the history of the brand or business? (How did you get to this point? Role of technology? Regulations?)
- What do you think this initiative could do for your business? (How would you define success?)
- What are the risks of this business initiative? (Risks of introducing it? Risks if it never starts?)
- How would your target audience be described? Could it be expanded?
- What are the consumer and economic trends that will provide support for the idea? (Conversely, what are the headwinds for the idea?)
- How does technology and globalization potentially impact the idea in the future?
- What are the competitive forces at work? (Could be from outside your product category)
- How would manufacturing, supply chain, or logistics issues impact the idea?
- How could this idea morph in the future? (Future proofing aspect)
- If there were no limits, what would your dream be for this business initiative?
After the briefing session, stakeholder interviews are highly recommended (if there is time). They are especially important for riskier or higher-profit-potential opportunities. Not only do they help round out the key issues for the research design, but they also provide a great line of communication with the stakeholders about the business opportunity. Interviews could be done by phone or in person, depending on the deadlines and stakeholder availability. Even though including this step will add time, it will be time well spent, as these stakeholders and and their involvement is a critical part of the success of the business initiative..
As you start uncovering consumer insights about the target market, often the ideal next step is to conduct qualitative research, such as a couple of focus groups or several depth interviews. Then you can design the right quantitative next step, whether it’s concept testing, advertising communication testing, pricing analysis, shelf design, a packaging test, segmentation, volumetric forecasting, choice modeling, etc.
After reviewing all the data (qualitative and quantitative), you can now pull together the story of the insights you have unearthed. If available, trend data, sales data from the client, and any secondary data should also be used to tell a more complete story. Typically there are at least two versions of the presentation: the key takeaways (typically shared with the C-suite) and a more comprehensive report with video clips to share with the key stakeholders. Video clips are often necessary because they actually show your target audience expressing the ideas and viewpoints discovered in the research. The video-enhanced reporting makes your “target audience come to life” and makes a much more impactful presentation to your clients. Finally, a work session to review the key learning and insights, as well as to determine the implications and next steps for the business, is the perfect way to wrap up the entire process. This could be hosted by an agency or by someone trained in facilitation at the client’s office.
As the pyramid earlier showed, the relationship is really the foundation—it is the key to delivering value at every step in the process of discovering and providing insights. Multiple touchpoints with clients and stakeholders along the way, and then “wrapping things up with a bow” in a workshop, help to not only enrich the relationship, but also ensures the business intelligence gathered from each step is action-focused, which helps set your clients up for success.
About the Author
Bonnie Janzen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Executive Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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