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Posts from August 2011

Overcoming the Insight Deficit

marketing metricsAs we continue to issue-sense around emerging research topics for the coming year, one thing comes up again and again: the role of data in marketing strategy. The members we’ve talked to understand that the vast amounts of data collected on customers has enormous potential for driving commercial results and delivering insightful and useful experiences, but simply having the data isn’t enough – how do we get from having it to putting it to good use?

This quarter’s Executive Guidance - a series of leadership studies put out by the whole of CEB, representing a cross-functional consensus on emerging management topics – is called “Overcoming the Insight Deficit”, and it’s all about putting Big Data to big use. We found that even as companies invest tens of millions of dollars in data and analytics, less than 40% of employees have the ability to take advantage of those investments. The report’s focus is on developing individual and organizational capabilities that make the technical investments worthwhile.

Want to learn more? You can download the report here.

Funniest Customer Service Spoofs: Part 2

The following is a guest post from Matt Lind of our sister program, the Customer Contact Council.

It’s been just over a year since we brought you the “Funniest Customer Service Spoofs”, an entry that continues to rank among the most popular in Wide Angle’s history. And if we learned (or rather, confirmed) anything from this diversionary post, it’s that customer service professionals have a healthy sense of humor about themselves and their jobs—even though we seem to get more than our fair share of ridicule.

Let’s face it, though. Despite the fact that we all strive to eliminate poor experiences that are frustrating for customers, from an outsider’s perspective these situations can be…well…absolutely hilarious. And it’s not just standup comedians and sitcoms that are leveraging the comedic fodder to be had; on the contrary, more and more companies are pushing customer service to differentiate themselves—and using some spectacularly bad examples to illustrate their competitors’ allegedly inferior service.

With that in mind, we’ve dug up a few more customer service-related spoofs, pranks, and advertisements that are sure to keep you laughing…unless, of course, you’re that frustrated customer on the other end of the line:
Read More »

Fighting A Foul Reputation

Posted on  31 August 11  by 


marketing mixThe mortgage mess and resulting global financial crisis put big banks, insurance companies and finance organizations at the top of many Americans’ “Most Hated Companies” list – a position once reserved mainly for airlines and cable companies.  According to a Gallup tracking poll, in 2011, less than one quarter of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “a lot” of confidence in banks – good news only in that it is higher than the 18% who said the same in 2010.  There seems to be a constant barrage of criticism from Washington, from the media, and, perhaps of greatest concern in today’s viral world, from consumers themselves.  Talk about taking it to the streets, I drove by this truck parked outside Citibank’s McLean, VA office every day for two years on my way to my previous job.  Not limited to just passersby, it also has its own Facebook page.

So what are beleaguered marketers at these once revered institutions to do?  In addition to the critical fundamental changes banks are making to correct the fissures in their underlying structures, marketers can take action to repair and rebuild trust.  The first step is to have a plan – a real, written, institutionally-approved plan – for dealing with reputational challenges. Read More »

The Most Important Number in B2B Marketing

B2B Marketing

By Ana Lapter

We recently surveyed over 1900 customers to uncover insight regarding B2B purchasing behavior.  The survey results were surprising:  On average (and with little variation among industries) customers will contact a Sales rep when they independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.

What does this figure mean for Marketing? Read More »

4 Lies Marketers Tell Themselves

marketing mixMarketing’s a complicated business, and, as such, it’s easy to tell ourselves lies – whether we know it or not. We talk to marketers every day, and here are some of the biggest, most persuasive whoppers in the bunch. Got more? Let us know in comments! Read More »

Retail in China – The Ultimate Marketing Playground

global marketing strategiesWhile doing some research on an unrelated topic a few days ago, I came across a string of articles, blog posts, and analyst reports about the retail scene in China. I promptly forgot about the research I was meant to be doing and dug in (isn’t the internet great?)

As I read, the key dynamic that I think was being captured is how unsettled the retail market is – and what a giant opportunity marketers have to experiment with product, customer experience, and market research strategies. China’s middle and wealthy classes – the groups most amenable to western-style consumer culture – are growing at phenomenal rates. That means, every year, millions of new consumers enter an environment where they have little in the way of habits, routines, or loyalties. That’s reflected on the retailers’ end, too: Chinese grocery market share, for instance, is remarkably diffuse. The leading chain – Shanghai Bailian – only comprises 11% of the total grocery market.

Given the relative parity between retailers, and the relative lack of hard-wired brand and experience preferences, retailers in China are experimenting with different approaches – some with the opportunity to make their way back to the US, Europe and Australia. Read More »

4 Ways to Simplify Millenial Marketing

Posted on  24 August 11  by 


As they enter the work-force, millennials increasingly form an important segment group in most segmentation exercises. Some estimates suggest that 51 million US citizens are millennials, earning a trillion dollars a year – not a market to be ignored. Given their collective financial potential, and their penchant for brands, marketers have pinned their hope on this consumer group to bail them out of their recession blues.

Marketing to the millennials hasn’t exactly turned out to be the way marketers envisioned it. Despite their best intentions to cut into the millennial pie, marketers struggle to achieve predictable outcomes with millennials. There are two very important factors responsible for this: Read More »

Of Earthquakes and Marketing Plans

marketing mixAs you may have heard, there was a little dust-up today on the East Coast. MLC headquarters, located in lovely Arlington, VA, was the scene of several overturned trash cans and a mildly anxious evacuation (yes, West Coast folks, we know it wasn’t that bad – but we don’t gloat when you complain about the humidity). After safely making it to the bottom floor of our building, the team, taking advantage of the resulting structural check, decamped to the nearest watering hole – where we found the scene to your right. At 2:00 PM.

Having worked in the restaurant industry, I can tell you that most bars and restaurants have a staffing plan that basically calls for more staff when there’s more likelihood of high demand. Depending on the place, restaurants staff up for weekends, happy hours, Mother’s Day, Christmas – the list goes on. But I doubt there’s a single restaurant on earth ready for that kind of foot traffic at 2:00 PM on a Tuesday.

Now, we can’t fault a restaurant for not guessing – or even having the capacity to handle – the inevitable surge of office workers evacuated after the second-strongest earthquake in the history of the East Coast. After all, with limited resources and the vanishingly-tiny likelihood of an unexpected surge in customers at that hour of the day, it would be uneconomic to have extra bartenders and waiters on hand.

But the bigger your organization is, the more products you sell, and the larger your geographic footprint is, the greater the likelihood of some kind of unexpected exogenous shock – whether the literal one we experienced in the DC area today, or something as innocuous as a rap lyric that mentions your product – can present an opportunity to serve more customers, strengthen your brand, or gain market share. And here’s the thing about shocks: they very often present an opportunity for breakout growth, as opposed to the more mundane linear variety – just look at the interest in Moscato before and after the rap lyric that brought it to renewed fame.

To me, shocks help explain why a lot of what marketers go through in the planning process is silly, wasteful and even dangerous. Geologists can’t predict earthquakes, weathermen don’t do terribly well with the weather, and marketers and executives aren’t going to be able to truly, repeatably identify and prepare for the kinds of shocks that can deliver huge returns to a brand – and that makes planning, at least as its traditionally done, an exercise out of touch with the real, unpredictable world.

So what can you do to prepare for earthquakes, literal and metaphorical? First, build agility into your organization and processes – my colleague Ana actually wrote about that very thing this week. Invest in staff – like our New Media Ringmaster – with proven records of accelerating organizational responsiveness; they won’t help you predict the future, but they’ll make you a whole lot better at reacting to the present as it happens. Consider strengthening your social listening capabilities; these can help you pick up on trends before they hit the mainstream. As you plan, keep it simple: members love Mastercard’s Plan on a Page for a reason. Most of all, stay loose and ready to tackle opportunities as they come – even if they aren’t “in the plan”.

MLC members, for more on marketing planning, please visit our topic center, and consider registering for our upcoming webinar on Agent-Based Modeling – one tool that can help remove some of the uncertainty around the future.

10 Agility-Building Steps for Turbulent Times

marketing strategy

By Ana Lapter

Dealing with the future is a difficult task by nature, but this year’s planning process is further complicated by the tremendously uncertain global economy.  Recession fears, slow economic growth, lower consumer spending, feeble employment rates and depressed housing markets across much of the developed world are some of the factors that are weighing on executives, adding a new layer of volatility to any strategic planning exercise.

Uncertainty was the main modus operandi for marketers during the 2007-2009 recession. But even though the recession is technically over, recent stock market swings exemplify the uncertainty that is quickly becoming part of the new norm. From a strategic planning perspective, dealing with uncertainty means allocating resources for two critical human capital capabilities: organizational flexibility to cope with unexpected challenges and opportunities, and change management.

To cope with uncertainty, a great human capital strategy should consider the following ten principles: Read More »

iPad: A Pharma Marketer’s Dream?

messagingLast week, Rick Karlton over at the Sales Executive Council wrote a great post on the role iPads and other tablet computers are playing in re-shaping the pharma marketing landscape. Playing off a Wall Street Journal article from a few months back that posited a link between increasing tablet use and declining sales employment in the pharma space, Rick makes the point that fewer salespeople are almost certainly a function of a slowing R&D pipeline, not technology.

Since a key role of pharmaceutical salespeople is product education, it’s expected that the relative importance of Sales might decrease as pipelines slow. But the relative importance of Marketing only increases as fewer products enter the market, and marketers will need a way to reach healthcare professionals with a potentially-smaller sales staff.

Given the restraints that pharma marketers are likely to face, there is absolutely a role for an intimately-personal technology like tablets to step into the void. But marketers should be careful not lose sight of how doctors trust various channels. Read More »