VisionEdge Marketing https://visionedgemarketing.com Improving and Proving Your Marketing Mon, 16 Mar 2020 21:37:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 What's Your Edge is a series of VisionEdge Marketing podcasts dedicated to helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you. Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President clean Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President laurap@visionedgemarketing.com laurap@visionedgemarketing.com (Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President) ©VisionEdge Marketing Helping you use data, analytics, process, and measurement to create an edge for you and your customers. VisionEdge Marketing https://visionedgemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/What's_Your_Edge_Podcast.png https://visionedgemarketing.com TV-G Austin, Texas 72123593 The Power of “What If?” in Strategy Planning https://visionedgemarketing.com/using-what-if-strategy-planning/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/using-what-if-strategy-planning/#respond Tue, 24 Mar 2020 13:45:48 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47829 "What If" is one of the best methods to anticipate the future and formulate a strategy. Start your What If thinking with these 12 questions.

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The future is unknowable, which is why there is so much merit in the scouting motto coined by English soldier Robert Baden-Powell: Be prepared. He believed that one must “always be in a state of readiness.” Organizations invest in strategic planning initiatives as a way to peer into and be prepared for the future – to decide on an outcome or set of outcomes to pursue and the corresponding course(s) of action. Where does your strategy come from? How do you create one? One of the best methods to anticipate the future and formulate a strategy is asking the question “What if?”

Strategic Planning

It’s up to you to decide what winning looks like, and the more specific you can be about your version of winning, the better.

While we encourage solid strategic planning work, not every company will make the time or invest in the process. Every company, however, can carve out time to engage in the “What if?” method – a relatively simple but powerful process to explore potential upside and downside possibilities.

How to Put “What If?” Into Play

We have found that this works well in small groups and can be an excellent precursor to a more structured strategy development process, but it can be used by individuals as well. Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify the members of the group and set aside 30 minutes for each brainstorming session.
  2. Create an initial list of What Ifs to bring to the table. You might consider your company’s past success and how to continue it. Stuck or not sure where to start? See the list of What If questions below to prime your thinking.
  3. Establish the criteria for how you will prioritize your What If questions before the meeting. Sample criteria include impact on customers, most likely to occur, time to fix, cost to fix, etc.
  4. Solicit additional What If questions from the group.
  5. Make a list of all the questions and prioritize them using the criteria.
  6. Establish action teams – that is, divide the group into smaller groups who will do the leg work to address each question. This work often requires data derived from research. Teams may examine the current situation in order to identify what can be done to take advantage of or to avoid the What If.
  7. Reconvene and use the homework to decide which questions to pursue and formulate a strategy based on the options. When deciding which questions to pursue, think about where you deliver the most value and where you make your money, which customers have which problems, and so on. A key aspect of strategy is choosing which initiatives to pursue as well as which ones to forgo.
  8. Determine what it will take to execute the strategy and develop a plan. Use this step to identify the implications of your choices and any constraints your organization will face in being able to execute the plan.
Using What If in Strategy Planning

Asking “What If” is one method for anticipating and preparing for the future.

Get the Conversation Started with these What Ifs

When you craft your questions, always start with “What If…” Here are 12 questions we often employ that you can use to start your thinking process:

  1. What if ________ happens in the global economy?
  2. What if ________ legislation is enacted?
  3. What if ________ customer defects?
  4. What if ______ happens to our customers?
  5. What if we do or don’t _______ (grow/enter/leave) in a market?
  6. What if the demand for _______ (product/service) exceeds supply?
  7. What if we lose______ (supplier(s)/partner(s))?
  8. What if a competitor does ______________?
  9. What if ________ technology emerges or doesn’t emerge?
  10. What if we do or don’t make ____________ investment in ___?
  11. What if our customers/the market adopt(s)/choose(s) ____________?
  12. What if we drop the ball/miss _____________?

Forming a Strategy – What Comes After What If?

In the words of Sun Tzu “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Good strategies create a path for action. A strategy without a plan of action is inherently incomplete. Once you determine your strategy, the next step is to develop a plan to bring it to life.

Create a Strategy to Win

Keep in mind that the essence of strategy is thinking about how you are going to win.

Keep in mind that the essence of strategy is thinking about how you are going to win. Winning requires identifying what would have to stay the same and what would have to change. It also requires knowing how and why you need to do something and what resources are required. Most importantly, it takes a thorough understanding of the problem your customers are trying to solve and how and why your competitors make money solving this problem. Strategies that are directly linked to solving a problem have the best chance of performing.

It’s up to you to decide what winning looks like, and the more specific you can be about your version of winning, the better. Identify tangible, measurable outcomes that are connected to the long-term desired business outcomes. Whether or not you use the “What If?” method, take the time to be thoughtful in your strategy development efforts. Let’s talk about creating the right strategy that will provide you with an opportunity to differentiate and improve your business.

 

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Now is the Time to Revisit Data Literacy https://visionedgemarketing.com/tune-up-marketing-data-literacy/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/tune-up-marketing-data-literacy/#respond Tue, 17 Mar 2020 13:45:51 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47978 There is a difference between having data and knowing how to use it. Here are 5 ways any organization can fine-tune their data literacy.

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In their report, Gartner laments that “by 2020, 50% of organizations will lack sufficient AI and data literacy skills to achieve business value.” The Data Literacy Index – commissioned by Qlik and conducted by IHS Markit and a professor from Wharton School – found that “more data literate firms have a greater enterprise value of between 3-5%. This represents US $320-$534 million of the total market value of each business.” This data supports our contention that data literacy is essential to achieving a data-driven culture and business growth. That’s why we have written this article.

Raul Bhargava and Catherine D’ignazio from MIT define “data literacy as the ability to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data. It’s a skill that empowers all levels of workers to ask the right questions of data and machines, build knowledge, make decisions, and communicate meaning to others.” Data is, especially for Marketing, your growth machine. Almost every aspect of Marketing, from developing campaigns to launching new products and services to identifying new markets and segments to pursue, requires data.

Data Literacy is an Essential Skills

Consider the six capabilities below and the degree of proficiency in each for every person within the Marketing organization

Keeping your data literacy skills in tip-top shape is essential. There is a difference between having data and knowing how to use it. Your ability to compete depends on your company being able to utilize data. The Corporate Data Literacy study found that “even companies that have data literate employees across every business unit are not likely to be turning data into useable information as effectively as they could.”

How do you know if you have data literacy? Consider the six capabilities below and the degree of proficiency in each for every person within the Marketing organization. How many members of your team have mastered or are proficient in each of them? How many of your people are competent? If the answer is only one or a few compared to most or all, then it may be time to address the data literacy of your team.

Most members of the Marketing team can:

  • Conduct and interpret statistical analysis, such as averages, standard deviation, and correlations
  • Acquire and analyze the data necessary to construct a business case
  • Explain the impact of Marketing with specific quantifiable measures and metrics
  • Employ algorithms needed to construct models (journey maps, segmentation, adoption rate, etc.)
  • Understand whether data is valid, why the data is important and in what context, and where it comes from
  • Recognize relevant patterns in the data and what action to take

How to Tune Up Your Data Literacy

Based on your responses above, if you need to build some additional data literacy proficiency for all the people on your team. Here are five ways any organization can fine-tune their data literacy.

  1. Brush up on statistics. Statistics are the base language for understanding data and gaining value from analytics. If it’s been awhile or you have folks who shied away from math and statistics, take a course as a group. Bring someone in or sign up for an online program.
  2. Clarify what you want to learn or what decision needs to be made. While data for the sake of data may be interesting, the ultimate goal is being able to use the data to the benefit of the business. Therefore, make it a habit to write out a statement about what you want to learn or what decision you want to make before you go diving into data and end up being sucked into what we call the data vortex.
  3. Aim for comprehension and manipulation. When we all first learned to read and write, a key test of progress was comprehension. That is, did we understand the words we were reading? Over time we learned how to use the words to create and communicate. The same applies to data literacy. Learn how to read data and demonstrate that you understand what the data you are reading means. Analytics is what enables us to manipulate the data. Start with simple analytics to derive useful insights. If necessary, reach out to data scientists inside or outside your organization for help.
  4. Immerse yourself and everyone in data. Like any language, the more you immerse yourself in it, the more fluent you become. Immersion takes access. Make sure everyone has access to data. Part of enhancing your data literacy is to actually use data. Take the time to work with data and use it to inform decisions. It may seem like it is faster to trust your experience or instincts. And you may come to the same conclusion using the data as you would have trusting your gut, but your gut in not always right. Practice is a key aspect of becoming more literate. The more you practice the better you’ll become.
  5. Set up performance targets for literacy. How will you measure your team’s data literacy? You can apply a rating scale to the capabilities above as a starting point, with the goal that some percentage of your team will achieve some performance target for all six capabilities. Setting, monitoring, and reporting on performance targets signals to the team that these capabilities are important.

Keep Your Data Literacy Skills in Tip-Top ShapeTo stay competitive in a data rich world, every part of the organization, including Marketing, must be prepared to leverage data to inform their business practices and decisions. Without data literacy, it will be extremely difficult for your organization to determine the right data, acquire and analyze it, and use it to derive insights that inform critical decisions. People on your team who are data literate have the skills to create models, apply a critical eye to insights derived from data, and communicate these insights in a way that is relevant to key decisions. In our data intensive world, everyone, especially everyone in Marketing, needs to be data literate. Whether through self-learning or expert consulting, achieving business success depends on solid data literacy. Until you have these capabilities nailed or when you have more complex questions, consider hiring and collaborating with external experts to serve as trusted advisors.

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How Your Competitors Can Help You Improve Your Performance https://visionedgemarketing.com/how-your-competitors-help-improve-your-performance/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/how-your-competitors-help-improve-your-performance/#respond Tue, 10 Mar 2020 13:45:55 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47223 Outperforming and outmaneuvering your competitors is vital for success. It is also one of the biggest challenges most companies face.

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Most of the companies we’ve worked in or have had the privilege of serving face fairly stiff competitors. Competition is a fact of life, whether it’s one team or individuals pitted against another on the playing field, or students competing for scholarships for academic studies, nonprofits fighting for donations, or businesses competing for customers and market share. Outperforming and outmaneuvering your competitors is vital for success. It is also one of the biggest challenges most companies face.

Direct competitors are typically pursuing the same goals as you, such as accelerating growth – for example by finding new market opportunities for products and services, entering new markets, or retaining and growing the value of their customers. While it seems obvious that the key is to outperform your competitors, it often is not that simple.

At minimum, to be competitive in your market you must excel at:

  • Understanding and delivering solutions that solve customer problems.
  • Properly positioning your solutions and developing a compelling and relevant value proposition.
  • Becoming proficient in strategy development and execution.
  • Rapidly adapting to changing market dynamics and customer behavior.

Outperforming and outmaneuvering your competitors is vital for success.

Even when you are a strong competitor with a solid competitive advantage, there’s always a rival you are challenged to overcome or a new one on the horizon nipping at your share and attempting to poach your customers.

Sometimes rivalries are very public, such as Uber vs. Lyft, or Intel vs. Samsung, or Oracle vs. Salesforce. Rivalries are good. Strong competitors can often be the very motivation you need to help you excel. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers wrote in their book, This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-Shirt Cannon, that there is “something about having an opponent that gets us to dig deeper, into otherwise-untapped reserves.”

How a Little Rivalry Can Maximize Your Marketing Effectiveness 

Your competitors will help you take your Marketing up a notch and enable you to make your Marketing more effective. Gavin Kilduff documented how rivalry can lead to an increased effort to succeed when he published the results of his study of long-distance runners in “Drive to Win: Rivalry, Motivation, and Performance” in Social Psychology and Personality Science.” He chose to analyze runners for three reasons:

  1. “Competition occurs frequently.”
  2. “There is a fairly clear link between motivation and performance.”
  3. “Performance is largely independent, mitigating issues with studying the effects of rivalry on competitive performance in team sports.”

He found that in the presence of at least one rival, runners were as much as 4.92 seconds faster per kilometer — meaning that in a 5K race (3.1 miles), a runner could improve his time by nearly 25 seconds with a rival in the race, as opposed to a race against no rivals.

Whether you’re doing a sprint or trying to go the distance, competition, especially strong competition, can go a long way toward helping you fine tune your capabilities and improve your overall effectiveness.

Making the Most of Your Competitive Intelligence 

Competitors can motivate you to work harder.

There are three ways right out of the gate where your competitors can help you improve your performance.

First, strong rivals provide opportunities to learn where you’re weak and where you can use your strengths to your advantage. Solid reconnaissance provides insights into how your competitors perform. In the business world, primary research, social listening, and secondary research can provide these insights. Post-game analysis can also be very enlightening. In the business world this often takes the form of win/loss analysis. Such insights can compel you to modify and innovate offers, channels, and processes.

Second, competitors can motivate you to work harder, be more customer-centric, stay focused on your outcomes, and take a little more risk. In the business world this often translates to good planning, solid strategies, and being in tune with customers through the use of advisory boards and voice of customer and customer success initiatives. Small wins can make a big difference and can impact key measures of success, such as improvements in share of wallet, increases in your customer referral rate, and expanding your category ownership and margin of victory. This data and metrics-based approach requires you to know and track your numbers.

Lastly, rarely are your competitors at the same stage in their development as you. Those that are stronger and further ahead on the performance curve can give you a glimpse into what will and won’t work in the market. As a result, you can gain insight into effective strategies and tactics and avoid potential pitfalls and costly mistakes.

Scope out and track your competition, especially your strongest rivals. Invest in regular competitive analysis to understand both what to do and what not to do. Yes, learning from your competitors takes time, money and people. But it is one of the most effective analytical tools for improving your performance, accelerating your growth, and creating more customer value. Need an outside perspective to determine where you stack up in the competition? Schedule a call today.

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The Powerful Relationship Between Culture and Growth https://visionedgemarketing.com/growth-culture-plays-powerful-role/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/growth-culture-plays-powerful-role/#respond Tue, 03 Mar 2020 14:45:43 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=48267 What can you do to impact the growth of your company? Listen in as we explore the importance of a customer-centric growth culture.

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There is a powerful relationship between culture and growth. David Altounian, the Associate Dean of Academic Programs and the MBA director at the Bill Monday School of Business at Saint Edwards and Linda Ginac, CEO of TalentGuard, share their perspective on culture, a fundamental part of the axle component within the Circle of Traction, the framework presented in Fast-Track Your Business. Listen in as they give their thoughts on the impact of a customer-centric culture on growth.

“One of the things that I’m very concerned about is: as the digital transformation has taken off, people have focused more on the downstream marketing of digital marketing – the messaging, Google ad words, social media marketing, really good on the metrics of how you do ad placement,” said David. “And they’ve lost some of the fundamental basics of market segmentation, product market fit, some of the really important meat and potatoes that if you don’t get them right, how good you are at understanding the metrics doesn’t matter. Fast-Track Your Business explores how you do the baseline work to make sure that your market strategy upstream is strong enough to support the downstream, and that the messages and pieces you put together are going to be critical for the customers you’re targeting.”

“The better you are at identifying the customers, and the needs of those customers, and delivering them, and then doing the downstream to target them in the right place, the more profit you deliver while you also delight the customer. The Circle of Traction framework in the book provides really, really specific direction and guidance of how to do that. And I think it’s probably one of the best tools right now.”

Culture and Growth and What That Entails

As David continued to present his remarks, he highlighted that, “growth has a huge impact on culture. People like working for growing, successful teams and they have a hard time dealing with decline. And so, you know, culture and growth are very close together. One of the benefits of growth is it helps attract talent, funds, investment and you know, clearly drives increased profits.

“For all this to work, the most important thing in trying to start on the value equation is understanding the customer, the customer is the beginning of everything. Of what, you know, what is going to drive demand, what’s going to drive you know, lower marketing costs because you have word of mouth. What can drive higher marketing costs because of word of mouth. I mean I think you really have to pay attention to that.

“Customer-centric companies do really, really well. Customer-centricity means knowing who they are, knowing what they want, knowing where they get the information, knowing what they value, knowing what they’re willing to pay. And that doesn’t happen just by talking to people or by osmosis. It takes process. And I think Fast-Track Your Business lays out a really easy to follow guidebook of how to do that.

“There’s two pieces that [Laura Patterson, President of VisionEdge Marketing,] has in the book that I think are super powerful. One is this concept of a circle of traction and all the pieces around that. But most important is this hub. And in the hub is organization and culture. People in skills, infrastructure and tools. And then the actual data. And I think having all those pieces, and then knowing how to use them is critical to driving a successful, growing business and having it in a way that you can easily follow – it is really powerful. Her book sets out a structure and a set of frameworks to create customer-friendly, customer-desired products, and to do it in a profitable way. To have a tool that is easy to use, easy to read, easy to follow, and actually have action-oriented things in there is, is rare today.”

The Customer Mission is the Center-point

Linda Ginac joined the conversation with these key ideas.  “When I actually got the early copy of the book, I was really excited because in the book, even though it says be customer-centric, when I read that book, I thought, “Oh my God, every CEO, every HR person needs to read it because she’s not really talking about customer-centricity, even though it really is. But it’s really about how do you focus on data to drive transformation in your own organization, to drive transformation with your employees, to help the employees understand transformation within the customer environment. And I mean, I really took that to heart.

“So how do we engage our employees around the customer’s mission? There are two things that go hand in hand and they’re really inseparable. So I always say, well, I put talent first and if I put talent first and the customers first, but really it’s about who are the customers that you’re serving? What is that real pain point? What does that need that it’s going to help you grow your company in and keep it growing and keep customers coming back. You want your employees to be as passionate about the customer solution as you are. And that is a culture thing. And when that happens, when they believe that they’re winning and they’re contributing and that they’re, you know, they’re a part of the customer solution, other people want to be part of that too.”

 

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When You’re Focused on Upstream, What do You Measure? https://visionedgemarketing.com/measure-upstream-marketing-accountability-metrics/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/measure-upstream-marketing-accountability-metrics/#respond Tue, 25 Feb 2020 14:45:34 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47860 Which metrics demonstrate Marketing’s value regarding strategy and upstream marketing? Two concepts help spark your thinking.

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In several recent conversations about Marketing accountability, a question consistently surfaced about which metrics demonstrate Marketing’s value regarding strategy and upstream marketing? It’s a great question. We have some thoughts on metrics and what to measure, but before we launch into these, let’s be sure we’re on the same page about what is meant by Upstream Marketing.

How to Distinguish Upstream from Downstream

In his book Profitable Growth is Everyone’s Business, Dr. Ram Chara, who has taught at Boston University, Northwestern University, and Harvard’s Business School, explains the difference between upstream and downstream Marketing. Dr. Chara defines Downstream Marketing as efforts such as advertising, promotion, brand building, and other forms of communication and engagement, including PR, events, and content. He proposes that the purpose of Downstream Marketing is to motivate customers to adopt existing products and services.

Upstream Marketing, Dr. Chara says, refers to “the strategic process of identifying and fulfilling customer needs.” This is achieved by developing clear customer segments, analyzing how the customer uses the product or service, and determining the competitive advantage needed to acquire the customer. Based on this thinking, Upstream Marketing includes everything from deciding and defining which markets and customers to pursue and when and where to approach them, to the methods, offers, and messaging to use to acquire their business.

Putting a Number on the Value of Upstream Marketing 

Let’s delve deeper into the measures and metrics. Measures such as open and clickthrough rates, website traffic, Marketing generated qualified leads, and qualified lead-to-deal ratio are examples of downstream measures. These measures and metrics provide insight into demand (small d) generation and program effectiveness and efficiency.

Upstream is about creating Demand with a capital D – Marketing’s ability to create the desire among existing and potential customers for your business’s products and services that motivates them to purchase.  This is

Measures and metrics such as preference, adoption rate, and segment penetration rate begin to come into play in the Upstream

where measures and metrics such as preference, adoption rate, and segment penetration rate begin to come into play. Being able to establish performance targets and measure them against these types of metrics takes a different set of data than relying on Google analytics, CRM, or MAP (marketing automation platform) data.

Let’s examine two of these concepts to explores measures for Upstream Marketing: preference and penetration.  Preference is typically defined as liking something more than the alternative, suggesting an inclination to purchase a specific product, service, or company. Preference, unlike awareness, has an economic implication. Therefore, we could measure preference in terms of the difference in revenue from a customer given the option of your offer versus an alternative.

Every day, we make choices about what we will buy. Some of these choices are strictly made on price – we do not perceive a difference in the value of one option over another, so anything will do. Preference suggests a perceived difference in value. This is why it is a good example of a measure for Upstream Marketing.

Establishing a preference target and measure will require data from analysis such as conjoint analysis, which allows you to estimate overall preference for a combination of attributes, including those that represent goods or services that are not currently available. This enables you to establish a preference measure even when potential buyers don’t have well-formed preferences.

Measure and Metrics for the Upstream

Businesses needs measures and metrics for Marketing performed in the Upstream.

We’ll examine one more measure, market or segment penetration rate, to illustrate the importance of establishing measures and metrics for Upstream Marketing. Charles Hill, in his book Strategic Management Theory: An Integrated Approach, explores market penetration as a business strategy. This entails developing and implementing plans to enter markets or segments, new or existing, and successfully expanding within them.

Here’s a quick approach for how to create and leverage market/segment penetration as a metric:

  • Use the total available market to set a realistic penetration target. Let’s say you determine your ideal customers are US-based mid-market business-to-business companies who buy X widgets per year. You can use the SIC database to determine the total number of mid-market companies who meet these criteria, and data for the average run rate for this type of widget. You now have a number that reflects what we’ll call the SAM (service available market).
  • Determine the normal market penetration for your product in your SAM. Some experts suggest that the normal market penetration for a business product is between 10 and 40 percent.
  • After accounting for any existing customers on the list, identify the potential new customers. For example, perhaps today you serve customers in the oil and gas sector and your widget is also an excellent solution in the mining and chemical industries. In this example, you would identify mid-markets in these specific verticals along with your existing vertical. Calculate the totals in terms of customers and potential revenue for each vertical or geography. This is your penetration target. Remember to conduct a sanity check for your targets by analyzing how your number stacks up against the normal market penetration analysis and adjust accordingly.

You can use this method to determine whether expanding into the market is financially wise by using the penetration target and the price to calculate the potential revenue and profit of the segment. Just as important, you have a way to measure the value and contribution of the strategy.

These two examples are intended to spark your thinking about how to measure the value, impact, and contribution of Upstream Marketing. Want to discuss these or other measure for Upstream Marketing? Let’s set up a time to talk.

 

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When it Comes to Data Go for Best Not Perfect- What’s Your Edge? https://visionedgemarketing.com/best-data-takes-good-data-management/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/best-data-takes-good-data-management/#respond Tue, 11 Feb 2020 14:45:16 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47246 The type of data, how you store it, and how you manage it makes all the difference when it comes to results. Here are some tips on good data management.

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What Grilling Has to Do With Data Management

Good data stimulates good decisions.  This takes good data management.  Living here in Austin, we can pretty much use our outdoor grill throughout the year.  While we were recently grilling  we were also talking about data.  It occurred to use that one of the concerns about food quality relates to data quality.

Studies show that grilling meat can form carcinogens, that is, substances or agents that can promote cancer. Cancer cells differ from normal cells in many ways that allow them to grow out of control and become invasive, essentially corrupting normal functions. Perhaps you can relate this idea of out of control and corrupting normal functions to what’s happening with data.

Still wondering what grilling even has to do with data management? It will become clearer if we understand how carcinogens are created during the grilling process.  Recent research suggests that there is a relationship between the types of charcoal and level of carcinogen formation, as well as the type of meat and the types of cancer it may induce. Similarly, the type of data, how you store it, and how you manage it makes all the difference when it comes to results.

5 Important Aspects for Good Data

The recommendations for avoiding these potentially harmful agents when grilling aptly apply to collecting and analyzing your data. Let’s look at five tips for good data management.

  1. Keep it Clean.  Leftover bits of food and grease on your grill, especially from animal proteins, contain carcinogens. The more they’re scorched by the heat, the more concentrated the cancer-causing agents become. It’s strange how easy it is for little bits and pieces of data to accumulate. Dirty data costs companies millions of dollars each year. Errors and omissions in master data, incomplete data, duplicate data, inaccurate data, inconsistent data, all contribute to dirty data.  It’s recommended that you clean the grill surface every time you grill so leftover pieces don’t get transferred to your next meal, potentially creating a health risk.  The same applies to your data.  Make sure it’s clean every time before you use it. We’re doing a project for a customer right now where we’re finding that close to 50% of the data is bad.  It’s costing time and money to find workarounds.
  2. Proper Prep. In cooking, it common to apply a marinade or rub to prepare the food and add flavor. It just as important to address data prep. Informatica.com defines data preparation as “a pre-processing step in which data from one or more sources are cleaned and transformed to improve its quality before its use in business analytics.” Data prep is important before you merge different data sources with different structures and different levels of data quality in order to produce a clean, consistent format. When it comes to grilling you want to use alcohol and acid-based marinades because they hinder the release of a cancer-causing chemical produced when animal proteins are cooked at a high temperature.  Prep your data by pulling it into an environment where it can be safely analyzed and manipulated.
  3. Avoid Free Radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage the growth, development, and survival of cells in the body. Their reactive nature allows them to engage in unnecessary side reactions causing cellular impairment and eventually injury when they are present in disproportionate amounts. When it comes to Bar-B-Q, we can use antioxidant herbs and seasonings to help decrease free radicals that are created when you grill. When it comes to data, the key is to apply the principles of validity and reliability to your data.  Sloppy and inconsistent data will compromise your analysis and your insights.
  4. Think Thin. Fat dripping into the fire which results in flare ups is one of the primary trains of thought connecting grilling and cancer.  It’s recommended to use thinner cuts of meat to reduce cooking time or to steam the meat before grilling to reduce the risk of juices dripping into the flame. For most organizations today, the lack of data isn’t a problem. It’s the opposite: there’s often too much information available to make a clear decision. Think thin – be clear about the question or questions you want to answer. Then only choose the data you need to inform your decision and draw an accurate conclusion.
  5. Cook Thoroughly but Don’t Char. According to the National Cancer Institute, grilling meats at high temperatures results in the formation of chemicals known as HCAs, which can increase the risk of cancer. Blackened and charred meat contains three and a half times more HCAs than medium-rare meat. Avoid over-analyzing your data. Data analysis is not about perfection. It’s about deriving an insight that will enable you to take the best step with the greatest impact. Go for best not perfect.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Data Healthy

I truly enjoy grilling and find that it makes food look and taste better. Data when used properly make fosters better decisions. Thanks to more sophisticated technology, today it is easier to obtain and analyze data. And there’s a strong push to take a more scientific and data-derived approach to decisions over hunches, gut feel, and experience. With these five tips, you can keep your data from going out of control, corrupting your capabilities, hindering your decisions, or derailing your growth.

Hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? Helpful. What’s Your Edge? Is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing.  VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you.

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https://visionedgemarketing.com/best-data-takes-good-data-management/feed/ 0 The type of data, how you store it, and how you manage it makes all the difference when it comes to results. Here are some tips on good data management. The type of data, how you store it, and how you manage it makes all the difference when it comes to results. Here are some tips on good data management. Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President clean 5:59 47246
When and How to Use Focus Groups – Even in a Virtual World https://visionedgemarketing.com/use-focus-groups-six-situations/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/use-focus-groups-six-situations/#respond Tue, 04 Feb 2020 14:45:29 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47690 Focus groups are still a valuable research methodology. There are six situations for which focus groups are ideally suited and will yield the best results.

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Organizations today have numerous options for acquiring customer insights, from social listening to voice of customer research to customer advisory boards. Given the proliferation of research online and the growing interest in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for gauging preferences, we wanted to respond to a question posed in a recent discussion on the topic of research: Is there still a place for traditional focus groups? Yes, there is.

The need for customer insights continues to rise. In his INC. article, John Koetsier, VP of Insights at Singular, found after talking with 200 CMOs that over a third said their biggest priority is to “unearth insights.” A great deal of this research is being conducted virtually – according to Statista, over 50 percent of market research today is conducted online.

how to use focus groups

Traditional focus groups are valuable even in a virtual world.

Before delving into focus groups, a quick disclaimer. We believe in-person interaction is still the best way to secure answers to questions that try to understand why and how – Why did you choose this platform? Why are you loyal? Why would you switch? How would you describe your experience? How would you evaluate this provider? How does this capability help you succeed? Why do you prefer this approach? and so on – questions that probe the customer experience to find answers about what they bought or didn’t, why, where it is used, how, and when.

Questions like these are excellent for individual interviews, which take a long time and are expensive, but focus groups are also well-suited to gather this information. One of the benefits of focus groups is that it enables you to collect data through group interactions. Commonality of experience is an essential characteristic for participant selection  – you want to recruit your participants with a certain degree of homogeneity so they are able to participate in a focused and lively discussion of the topics you want to understand more about.

Ensure Your Focus Groups Will Yield the Best Results

Focus groups serve as a vehicle to collect qualitative in-depth information. They enable you to explore and identify individual attitudes and behaviors as well as trends among the group. In addition, a group discussion often sparks ideas and insights. There are six situations for which focus groups are ideally suited and will yield the best results:

  1. When you want to delve into complex processes, such as the customer buying journey
  2. When you want to uncover what influences buying behavior, including switching
  3. When you want to test new products or reactions to something you want people to see and touch
  4. When you want to explore the why behind satisfaction
  5. When you want to dig into brand and service quality perception
  6. When you want participants to come up with their own solutions to address a problem or scenario
Focus group insights

Make sure your focus group research yiels actionable insights.

In our experience, focus groups are the only way to address number six on this list. With customers being more in the driver’s seat than ever, there’s tremendous value in co-creation.

Know What You Need to Know

To yield the best results from any research, the best place to start is with the question you want to answer. When conducting a focus group, come prepared and avoid shooting from the hip. The process matters, and it helps to leverage experts. In 1987, Alfred Goldman and Susan McDonald published The Group Depth Interview: Principles and Practice, the first focus group textbook. Since then, a variety of useful books have been published. Some we recommend include (in alphabetical order by author):

  • The Handbook for Focus Group Research, 2nd Edition, by Thomas L. Greenbaum
  • Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research, 5th Edition, by Richard A. Krueger and Mary Anne Casey
  • Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, 2nd Edition, (Qualitative Research Methods Series 16) by David Morgan

If you have other sources to recommend, please share them in the comments!

Focus group research considerations

There are six situations for which focus groups are ideally suited and will yield the best results.

Online research methods, including online focus groups, have merit and will continue to grow as preferred research methods because of accessibility, versatility, and cost. However, face-to-face, live group discussions provide a method to physically observe the reactions of respondents in your target market. If you’re looking to understand how people experience your product or services and the motivations behind their decisions, focus groups remain one of your best research methods. Not sure how to get started on how to use focus groups for your next customer or market research effort? Let’s set up a time to talk and see how we can help.

 

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Why You Need to Bolster Your Business Acumen https://visionedgemarketing.com/bolster-business-acumen-improve-performance/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/bolster-business-acumen-improve-performance/#respond Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:45:21 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47880 If you’re looking to rise up through the ranks, business acumen is an essential skill that underlines credibility and influence. It's critical to serving as a member for the business team. Start with these four steps to enhance your business acumen.

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It’s hard to be taken seriously by members of the leadership team if you can’t demonstrate a solid understanding of the business. As Marketing leaders and professionals, it’s easy to be focused and passionate about our work. However, if you’re looking to rise up through the ranks, business acumen is an essential skill that is pivotal to your credibility and influence, and thankfully, it’s a skill you can improve.

In the insightful words of author Rebecca Solnit, “Credibility is a basic survival tool.” Credibility is based on a number of factors, such as your expertise, reliability, and something known as believability. Each of these factors is tied to how well you understand the business and how well you help it move forward. Kevin Hogan, in his book The Science of Influence, tells us when you have credibility, you have influence. Business acumen helps you achieve credibility and one of its benefits, influence.

Improve your business acumen

Employ four ways to polish and demonstrate your business acumen.

Before we delve into how you can build or refine your business acumen skills, let’s be sure we agree on what it means. Business Acumen reflects your ability to assimilate information from many different sources in order to make good decisions quickly and devise appropriate strategies. In our research over the years Marketers who consistently demonstrate business acumen are more likely to be considered among those who earn high marks from the leadership team for their ability to positively impact and contribute to the business. These marketers, while good at the details of Marketing, are also skilled at looking at the big picture. This capability enables them to see how the decisions they make affect the rest of the organization and effectively communicate with all the functional areas within the organization.

Four Ways to Cultivate Your Business Acumen

With solid business acumen you can more easily see and take advantage of opportunities and manage potential pitfalls. Here are four ways you can polish and demonstrate your business acumen.

  1. Serve as a member of the business team. This will require you to think of yourself as a member of the business team first and a marketer second. This statement has many implications. First, it may require that you increase your knowledge of how your company operates and what’s top of mind for your leadership team. Members of the business team know information such as the company’s annual revenues, profit, and losses, gross margin by product, most valuable customers, most significant competitors, key business priorities for the coming year or longer, and key industry and economic trends.

Perhaps this recent conversation with a CMO helps illustrate the point. This CMO mentioned that they were having trouble getting the ear of the CEO. When I asked what the CEO is focused on, “improving the customer experience” was the answer. I then asked, “What’s the business problem the company is trying to solve by addressing the customer experience? Is there a customer retention issue or a customer share of wallet issue that your leadership team feels is being affected by customer experience?” The CMO didn’t know but promised to find out. Using opportunities such as this to demonstrate business acumen and explore how your role can address the problem could positively impact customer experience.

  1. Remember you are part of a whole. A marketer with business acumen understands the overall workings of the organization. This often requires that you cultivate relationships with people inside other departments. Seek out and create these relationships as a way to learn more about what they do, how to work together, and how by collaborating, Marketing can serve the business better.

Back to my conversation with a CMO. As we talked further, I asked, “Who outside of the Marketing team has insight into customer experience, and how deep is your relationship with those people?” I was informed that the company is very siloed, organized by product lines, applications, and regions. While the CMO is responsible for new customer acquisition and cross-selling and upselling, the connections and conversations were primarily with marketers and salespeople in the field who support the business units and regions. It appeared to me that the team is a good service provider, but not necessarily a good business contributor.

What could the CMO do better? I suggested that it is probably time to connect directly with other customer-facing teams as well as the product line, business line, and regional managers and leaders. Concerns were raised about the time this would require and whether it would mean stepping outside the lines. I said, “You are investing the company’s time and resources. How do you know you are making the right investments?” Developing and honing your business acumen isn’t something you do when you have a few extra minutes. You must make a conscious decision to dedicate time to develop this skill.

  1. Be in the Know. Read everything you can from other departments within the company and everything you can about your market, customers, products, competitors, and industry. Why? Because you need context for your decisions. When the opportunity presents itself, you want to speak from strength of knowledge and current facts. People perceived to have business acumen are people who perform thoughtful analysis, which often entails making connections between and among various data sets. Acquire as much relevant information as possible and use this information to make sense of the complexity associated with your industry and those of your customers. This type of information helps you to see potential patterns and how the future might unfold. Armed with this information you are in a better position to anticipate and make strategic recommendations.
  2. Manage performance from the perspective of the business – not the function. Most marketers have an extensive number of tools at hand to measure the “work of Marketing.” There’s a wealth of measurement data and ways to capture and report measures such as website, email, digital, and content marketing activity. Marketers with business acumen understand what metrics are meaningful and relevant to business performance and how to translate this information into action. They implement processes and tools that enable them to communicate more than Marketing’s performance. They are able to communicate Marketing’s impact on business performance.
Move Business Acumen to the Top of Your List

If you are interested in moving up the ladder, move business acumen to the top of your skills development list.

Marketers who can combine business acumen capabilities with change-, time-, and people-management skills are valued for more than their Marketing talent – they are considered valued members of the decision-making team. If you are interested in moving up the ladder, move business acumen to the top of your skills development list. There are lots of great courses and books focused on business acumen skills development. Prefer to discuss our recommendations or talk about how your team can gain credibility and influence by improving business acumen? Let’s schedule a call.

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Are you good at the long and short game for performance excellence? | What’s Your Edge? https://visionedgemarketing.com/marketing-performance-excellence-long-short-game/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/marketing-performance-excellence-long-short-game/#respond Tue, 14 Jan 2020 14:30:38 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47252 Marketing performance excellence takes being proficient at the the long game and short game. There are 12 clubs that every high-performance Marketing team should know when and how to use well. 

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Marketing performance excellence takes building skills to succeed at both the long and short game.

Marketing Performance Excellence Takes Proficiency at Both the Long and Short Game

Golf. Not my game but I’ve learned a lot about it over the past 30 years.  I’ve been exposed to the game of golf at least weekly as my husband enjoys both heading out to chase the white ball and watching the tournaments on tv.  It’s an interesting game because you are playing both against the course and the competition. I’ve learned many factors affect the game. Things the golfer can’t control, such as weather and the type of grass on the course, and things they can control, like how well they can read the green and their ability to use the clubs to play both the long game and the short game.  I remember hearing Jimmy Walker in his post-game interview after he won the PGA championship expressing how important it is to be proficient with every club in the bag.  This concept of proficiency struck me as being particularly relevant to organizations striving for Marketing performance excellence.

Marketers who work in an organization where the CEO expects the Marketing function to drive revenue and growth, own the customer experience, and bring data-based insights to the table to outsmart the competition, need to be proficient with all the Marketing “clubs in the bag” and be able to excel at both the long game and the short game.

What does it mean to be proficient? Proficiency means to be thoroughly competent.  Not merely competent, that would be capable. There is a nuance to proficient in that it suggests skillful expertise. The amount of time it takes to reach an expert level of proficiency depends on several factors.

One of these factors affecting Marketing performance excellence is how quickly you can come up with the learning curve. The length of your learning curve plays a key role in determining how fast you’ll be successful when you embark on acquiring a new skill. With the surge in data, the proliferation of channels, and customers taking more control of the buying process, marketers are faced with needing to work daily to keep their game sharp. It was only a short time ago marketers were learning about digital marketing.  Now it is a fundamental skill – a standard club in the bag.  The focus on customer insights and performance management is forcing marketers to come up with the learning curve on data, analytics, and metrics, as these too are becoming standard clubs in the bag.

Marketing Performance Takes these 12 Marketing Clubs

On several levels, golf provides a wonderful metaphor for marketers.  Each course is unique and has a slope and course rating (degree of difficulty) that offers a variety of challenges from teeing off to putting in.  Even if you play the same course, the play is seldom the same because the hole is deliberately and regularly changed on each green. Wind, something beyond a player’s control, also plays a role.  As marketers, every customer journey and market is unique.  The customer journey is subject to change and there are aspects of each journey beyond your control.

Profiency with all the clubs in the bag is the key to Marketing performance excellence

Golf, like Marketing is a game of effectiveness. A game of how well and accurately you hit the ball. It is also a game of efficiency.  Each golfer has the same opportunity at the start of each game with the key objective to reach each “hole” in as few strokes as possible. Golfers use different clubs depending on their skills, the course, the conditions (such as the type of grass), distance to hit (driving versus putting), and type of ball strike.  This is what Jimmy meant by being proficient with all the clubs in the bag. Being able to skillfully and expertly select and use each club at the right time for the right purpose.

If you’re only competing in Putt-Putt golf, then, by all means, stick to your putter and hone your putting skills.  For marketers who want to move beyond this type of play, they must be able to follow Jimmy’s advice and be proficient with every club. The standard golf bag includes 12 clubs: 3 woods, 8 irons, and 1 putter.

What clubs do Marketers need in their bag?  To play the long game and short game, there are 12 clubs that every high-performance Marketing team should know when and how to use well.

  1. Data and analytics to derive business, competitive, customer, and market insights and intelligence
  2. Strategy and a plan to execute the strategy that creates value for customers and the company
  3. Customer Engagement and Experience
  4. Enabling the teams on the front line – sales, partners, and customer support/service
  5. Working the ecosystem and channel – including influencers such as analysts and industry experts
  6. Demand generation campaign creation and execution for customer acquisition
  7. Defining and launching new products and solutions to the market that deliver on the company’s brand promise and create a competitive advantage
  8. Positioning of the company and its products
  9. Customer retention and loyalty
  10. Process development and management to improve effectiveness and efficiencies
  11. New tool employment and implementation
  12. Operational excellence

Every Marketing organization should be able to adeptly apply these clubs based on whether you are driving for new customers or working to grow business with existing customers. It takes time and the right resources to become proficient in using all of these Marketing clubs.

Shorten Your Learning Curve

Take steps to shorten your learning curve.

Shorten Your Learning Curve

Consider these three techniques used by successful people to come up your learning curve faster and facilitate Marketing performance excellence.

  • First and foremost, these people seek out a coach. Coaches provide honest feedback, help you measure your progress, and bring proven techniques and processes to learning.
  • Second, learning takes practice – a lot. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus concluded from his studies that learning is more effective when it is spread out over time rather than jammed into one intense session.
  • Third, successful people hold themselves accountable. As part of being accountable, they establish objectives, set deadlines and define measurable milestones.

Hope you find this episode of What’s Your Edge? Helpful. What’s Your Edge? Is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing.  VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you.

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https://visionedgemarketing.com/marketing-performance-excellence-long-short-game/feed/ 0 Marketing performance excellence takes being proficient at the the long game and short game. There are 12 clubs that every high-performance Marketing team should know when and how to use well.  Marketing performance excellence takes being proficient at the the long game and short game. There are 12 clubs that every high-performance Marketing team should know when and how to use well.  Laura Patterson-VisionEdge Marketing President clean 6:22 47252
A Quality Message Map Makes a Powerful Competitive Weapon https://visionedgemarketing.com/quality-message-maps-makes-powerful-competitive-weapon/ https://visionedgemarketing.com/quality-message-maps-makes-powerful-competitive-weapon/#respond Thu, 09 Jan 2020 14:45:26 +0000 https://visionedgemarketing.com/?p=47569 A comprehensive message map anticipates potential counter-messages by competitors. Create an effective counter measures message map in 5 steps

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One of Marketing’s primary jobs is to develop the positioning and messaging for the company and its products and services. The key messages and supporting points are often captured visually in what is referred to as a message map.

A quality message map serves as a tool to ensure consistent messaging cross-functionality internally and across channels and touchpoints externally, supporting your customer-facing teams and preventing them from being ambushed when they engage with prospects and customers. Examples of this would be sales personnel being told in a meeting with a prospect that they heard about an issue with the product from a competitor or your customer support team being informed by a long-term customer that the competition is questioning the quality of your service.

A comprehensive message map anticipates potential counter-messages by competitors. Marketing should incorporate potential competitor responses into the message map and include both offensive and defensive messaging. You’ll need to create your message map first.  Then you can begin to create effective counter messages. If you’re new to creating message maps and counter messaging, here are five steps to get you started.

How to Create an Effective Counter Measures Message Map in Five Steps

We highly recommend using this approach in a workshop-style environment, ideally with an objective third-party facilitator.

  1. Key Messages. Before you create your map, you need to define your key messages. Key messages are the main points you want your target audience (influencers, customers, partners) to remember. Key messages should be clear and concise and explain what’s better and different about your company, why someone should buy your products, why they should partner with you, etc. Frame your messages and the supporting points from the perspective of the customer as much as possible. Now you are ready to consider how your competitors might try to ambush you.
  2. Consider Your Competitors. For each of your primary competitors and for each audience, answer the following:
  • What is their primary product message and what evidence do they have to support the message? For example, this might be the material they use, if that’s unique and compelling, or it might have to do with their design of the product. Think features and functions here.
  • What is their primary product-related message and what is their evidence? This is something that is needed to make the product work. Ease-of-use messages, warranties, or return or replace with no-questions-asked messages typically fall into this category.
  • What is their primary non-product message and associated evidence? For example, deep domain expertise, technical training, or special certifications or licenses.

If you’re not sure of the answers to these questions, scour your competitors’ websites, read press releases and articles written about them, and check out their social media pages. If you have additional resources, invest in research and regularly conduct competitive audits.

Use this research to produce an image that looks something like Figure 1 for for each audience and competitor.  This is the beginning of anticipating your competitors moves and your counter measures.

Be Ready to Counter Competitors Messages

Figure 1: Message Map Illustration. VisionEdge Marketing, Inc.

  1. Prepare Your Responses. For each of your competitors’ messages, craft your offense message and your defense message. You’ll be creating something that resembles Figure 2.

For example, let’s say your competitor uses a product message that claims their product eliminates more impurities than your product with evidence to support their claim.

  • Offense message: Your product is made of a material that can withstand temperatures between X and Y degrees, which applies to Z% of situations.
  • Defense message: Your product exceeds the industry standard.

 

 

 

Prepare Offense and Defense Messages

Figure 2: Message Map Counter Message: VisionEdge Marketing, Inc.

 

  1. Anticipate Competitor Countermoves. Now, begin to consider what your competitors might do or say next. Step into the shoes of each competitor and imagine what messages they might use to counter your points. Continue from one response and counter-response to the next until you feel you’ve addressed each of the potential moves. Add all of these to your message map.
Anticipate and Prepare for Your Competitors Messaging

Figure 3: Continue to expand on your map until you think you have anticipated the most likely moves and countermoves. VisionEdge Marketing, Inc.

  1. Finalize and practice. Once you’ve finished, you should have a picture that serves as a solid playbook for how to handle potential countermoves by competitors. Such a playbook is of no value if after you develop it, it remains unused. Integrate the message map into sales and customer support training and product demos. Incorporate it into your company presentations and content. Use the map as part of your employee orientation. Role-play with your team to practice using the message map so they are prepared when those uncomfortable moments in a conversation surface, such as when a prospect brings up a competitive message.

How Your Map Helps You Go on the Offense 

There’s another valuable purpose of this kind of message map: it creates an opportunity for you to lay landmines and ambushes for your competitors.

As you create your map, you’ll be identifying important holes in your competitors’ messaging that you can exploit to your advantage. While brainstorming ways to counteract their criticism with product-to-product messages, you might find that you have strengths in areas where they are weak. For example, perhaps your map reveals that you are stronger in the onboarding or implementation process. Explore how you can use this information to go on the offense. This approach enables you to turn the message map you’ve created into a competitive weapon.

Don’t have the resources, time, the expertise or data to develop this important deliverable? Contact us to tap into our expertise, and proven practices including knowledge transfer so you can update and maintain your message map going forward.

 

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