Taking Action On A Customer-Centric Resolution

By Marci Klugman

Marci is a consultant for Noetic, and her career spans both the agency and the client side of the marketing industry. She has worked on iconic brands for companies like Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay and Campbell Soup Company and spent more than a decade at Discovery Channel. At Noetic, Marci works with clients across various industries on brand strategy, research initiatives and marketing training.

For most of us, January means making resolutions. A time to look back at the year before and identify those areas that we can improve upon. It brings about a renewed purpose, and vigor to try harderwhether in our personal or professional lives. As part of this fresh start, January is often the time of year when many businesses resolve to become more customer-centric organizations.

Let’s face it. It’s easy to think about being customer-centric and preach its importance to our teammates. Many of us are familiar with the 3Cs model by Japanese strategy guru Kenichi Ohmae that rightfully integrates customers as one of the three critical factors needed for success. Our founder, Nancie McDonnell Ruder, has adapted this model to guide Noetic’s philosophy. In her book Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale The Heights Through Art & ScienceNancie states that the first Noetic “c” focuses on “staying connected to the customer, or being customer-centric.”

But how can you achieve that goal? How can you stay connected to your customer so that you put them at the heart of your business decision making? Implementing a customer-centric approach within an organization is a challenge that takes discipline and focus. There is no one-stop shop answer. But there are actionable steps to help you live up to that resolution.

define who you’re talking to.

Can you accurately define your customers? Are you able to embody them when you’re making key decisions on their behalf? As mentioned in Jack and Jill, marketers “must be well steeped in your products or services; you live inside this environment on a daily basis. It is never going to be natural for you to be with your customers on a daily basis, unless you are physically with them.” Yes, it’s unrealistic to physically have your customers next to you. But it’s critical to keep a clear, tangible definition of your customer alongside youliterally. And you can get creative with how you bring that tangible representation to life. Noetic worked with a client that constructed a muse from a mannequin, and brought “him” to every meeting to be sure he was represented as decisions were made. Creating a clear, tangible representation of your customers, based on qualitative or quantitative data, ensures they always remain top of mind.

take your definition further.

Being able to describe your customer is a critical first step, but it doesn’t end there. As stated in Noetic’s book, “customer-centric marketing goes further. It’s about empathy—putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.” Uncovering customer insights is a crucial component of gaining deep customer understanding that ultimately leads to empathy. This is a muscle that needs constant flexing, and Noetic relies on a tried and true methodology to move from audience definition to insight. Once you’re able to uncover what your audience needs, you’re equipped to respond in the most relatable, effective and appropriate manner.

ACTIVATE customer insights.

If you’re working in a marketing research or strategy capacity, it’s likely that you’re responsible for generating audience insights. But, everyone within an organization needs to have a firm grasp on customer needs so that all have the ability to empathize. A great insight doesn’t do much good if it sits in a strategy deck filed away in Dropbox. Instead, share those insights across all facets of your organizationeither formally or informally. Everyone needs the ability to empathize with your customers in order to problem solve for them accordingly.

keep the dialogue GOING.

Once a rich insight is uncovered, customer engagement shouldn’t cease. On-going customer engagement enables you to remain customer-centric. This continuous dialogue can take on many formssurveys, ethnographies, or store visits. And all team members, from the most junior to the most senior, should be involved. The most customer-centric companies ensure executives have direct customer interaction, as corroborated by Suddenlink Communications CMO Jerry Dow in an interview featured in Noetic’s book: “Keeping frequent customer interaction, getting on the road with technicians, working a day in the store—not as an executive but
 as an employee—experiencing the customer and seeing the front line.” Having first-hand knowledge and understanding of your customers across all levels of your company maintain a customer-centric approach.

Becoming and staying customer-centric takes focus and determination. But, if you can tangibly represent your customers, understand their needs, and activate this critical knowledge throughout your organization, you can turn your business resolution into a reality.

A Time to Reflect: How Looking Back Helps You Move Forward

Note: This blog is the fourth in our ongoing Noetic series inspired by Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. This month, Noetic’s guest blogger is our own Laura Longobardi who has insight to offer to help start 2019―with purpose.

The sparkle of a brand New Year. For some, it is a blinding reminder of what was not accomplished during the past 12 months. For others, it is glowing with possibilities of what lies ahead.

I admit, I’m usually one of those people who tears up on New Years’ Eve when the clock strikes midnight. It can be a stark realization of goals where I may have fallen short.

But this year I am taking a nod from Noetic’s (Nancie’s) new book and from many of our blue-chip clients who have already begun their annual due diligence and reflection process as they look to brightly take on 2019. Let’s look at how they are using the New Year as a way to reflect and reframe their strategic and marketing plans.

1. Find comfort in discomfort 

As Barri Rafferty, Partner & President, Ketchum states, “You used to have an annual plan and a quarterly; now the scrutiny is so much tighter. You have to have the ability to bounce back. To strike out and get back up to bat again.”

Like Barri, the best marketers understand the importance of reflecting on the past to enable them to bring clarity on their path forward. They embrace learnings to become smarter, more strategic, and more adaptable. They realize that in order to be successful, we need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. There’s not a person in this world that likes to fail. But there are people who see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Those learnings are the building blocks of your road ahead.

2. Use mistakes as seeds for success

inspiration, looking forward

If you look at failure differently―even call it by a different name―you’ll realize it’s a key ingredient to success. Think about a time when you lost your footing in public. What did you do? Maybe you made it look like you meant to do it, or laughed it off and kept walking quickly to escape the embarrassment.

Sara Moscowitz, Senior Vice President, Content Marketing & Merchandising at Audible states,You cannot innovate if you are afraid to take a risk. Make sure you try to think through every possible thing that could happen and plan for it, but if something does not work, learn from it – it is not a failure.”

Many of the brands we work with use the 70/20/10 methodology as a calculated way to lead with trusted bets, but also leave room for thoughtful marketing innovation.

3. Fast forward to the future

Norman de Greve, Chief Marketing Officer, CVS Health stated in Noetic’s recent book: “I believe what you do tomorrow is more important than what you did yesterday….Just go forward and do something better. No one really knows the answers, so iterate and go forward. I don’t hold onto failures at all.”

When thinking about marketing or strategic planning with our clients, we use the analogy of having one oar in where you are today, and one propelling you where you want to go tomorrow. It is OK to be (realistically) aspirational when planning and not totally subsumed with where you are at this moment. At Noetic we apply a Who/What/How framework to ensure our clients stay narrowly future focused on goals and objectives―keeping our eyes on the prize.

As you gear up for the holidays―and that final countdown of the year inches closer―I encourage you to reflect on all that has happened. Think about the good, the bad, the scary. Remind yourself of the times you lost your footing and how you’re a little more certain of the path now. Acknowledge that you will fall again, but you’ll get back up and keep on moving. You’ll always keep on moving forward―because that is how we pave our path to success.

 

thank you mentors

Ten Seconds for our Mentors

Note: This blog is the third in our ongoing series offering key insights found in Noetic Founder Nancie McDonnell Ruder’s recently published book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science.

It’s hard being a person.

It’s also wonderful, exhilarating, and joyful—but there’s no denying that at some points in our lives, every single one of us faces challenges, personally and professionally. We hit walls, we hit ceilings, we fall. Sometimes things are just plain hard.

As we make our way through our careers, this can be especially true. It’s hard to break into a new job, into a new role, into a new market or industry. It’s hard to get the right people on your team. It’s hard to adapt to change.

We’ve all been there. Every single one of us.

The pivotal word that gets us through these hard parts is that last word—Us. It’s the people who’ve reached out to us with wisdom, kindness, and patience—the ones who believed in us until we believed in ourselves again; those who help us pull out of hard places and rise in our careers.

Borrowing Wisdom from Our Neighbor

The recently released critically acclaimed documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” surfaced a tremendously powerful moment from Fred Rogers’ 1997 Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech where he expresses gratitude to all those who helped along the way. In a tear-jerking twist, he calls on the audience to do the same, stating:

So many people have helped me to come to this night.

Some of you are here, some are far away…

All of us have special ones who have loved us into being.

Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are—those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.

Ten seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.

[Ten-Second Pause]

Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.

The power of being on both the giving and receiving ends of helping, the power of us, is critical to rising up the professional ladder, in marketing and well beyond.

Help First

At Noetic, we believe this so important that one of our core values is to “Help First.” This means that we commit to doing a kindness for another just for the sake of doing it. It’s not always about a project or a way to move an initiative forward. Sometimes our clients and colleagues just need a confidential ear as they work through an issue, or a pep talk when things feel especially hard.

We believe in actively propelling and seeking out opportunities to advance the power of us, because we’ve all felt and are grateful for the impact others have had on our successes. And it’s more than just a notion of “Karma points.” There’s immeasurable value and positive energy generated through the cycle of giving and receiving. We are energized by it, and see renewed energy in others when we are able to help.

The Power of Mentors

This value proved a key theme in Nancie McDonnell Ruder’s interviews with top marketing leaders for her recently released book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. “Help first” was most often mentioned in the form of mentorship.

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.

–Oprah Winfrey

As Nancie described, “Most of my Jacks and Jills spoke reverently about their mentors’ roles in their learning. They cited former bosses who took them under their wings, marketing guardian angels who appeared at key moments in their careers, and role models who are ongoing influences.”

Throughout the interviews, it was as though several of the featured “Jacks and Jills” had their own “Mr. Rogers” ten seconds, pausing to reflect on those who helped them rise up.

My best mentors have been less about helping me understand marketing or strategy or management techniques; it has really been about emotional intelligence learning. Understanding how to deal with conflict, ambiguous situations, complex organizational structures, and sophisticated board discussions… how to present oneself. If you listen and you are reasonably talented, you are going to pick things up that are very important.

–Steven Schiffman, Chief Executive Officer, Cooper Media

When my boss got promoted, she asked me if I would throw my hat in the ring for her role, and I had not been thinking about that at all. Then she prompted me again, and I really thought about it—and I got the job. Having a boss who believes in you is really motivating, because it makes you feel like you can take some risks, sink yourself into the work and not worry about the political waters. If you are performance-oriented in the first place, this can really give you a launch pad.

–Amy Winter, Executive Vice President & General Manager, UP TV

Take Your Ten Seconds

Now pause for a moment and give yourself the same Mr. Rogers’ ten seconds to reflect on who helped you become who you are today…

  • Who comes to your mind?
  • What did they do that was so important in helping you become?
  • How has that experience fueled your success?
  • Who do you think would think of YOU in those ten seconds?

As we move towards the Thanksgiving holiday, we at Noetic want to express our deepest gratitude to all of you who’ve played such critical roles in our success. We promise to continue paying that gratitude forward by helping first and doing our absolute best to keep propelling the power of the greater “Us.”

The Fierce Four

Rising in Fall: Elevate Your Career with The Fierce Four

Note: This blog is the second in our ongoing series offering a glimpse at key insights found in Noetic Founder Nancie McDowell Ruder’s recently published book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science.

October. The last three months of 2018.

This final turn of the year brings a wealth of good things, like holidays, colorful leaves, candy corn. But, it may also bring a rising sense of unease, as 12 weeks doesn’t feel like near enough time to accomplish all we hope.

Thankfully, as marketers, we are uniquely armed with a keen awareness of the power three months can hold. Through our work, we know 12 weeks is the ideal amount of time to drive an effective, impactful campaign or to even begin elevating our own career paths.

Given this, NOW is in fact the right time to ask yourself, “Is my career on track to take me where I want to be by the end of this year?” If the answer is no, then perhaps it is the perfect time to build your three-month career climbing strategy.

Or in other words, it’s time to get “Fierce.”

Putting Success Into Action

Our founder, Nancie, interviewed 50+ top marketing leaders in her book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. Based on these interviews she uncovered a consistent “Secret Sauce” powering the success of these leaders.

But what really struck Nancie during her interviews with these marketing “Jacks and Jills” were four specific actions they take to get and stay ahead in their careers with a tenacity best described as FIERCE. Nancie has termed these: “The Fierce Four.”

Introducing the Fierce Four

The Fierce Four

Simply put, the Fierce Four power leaders to rise to a position of professional excellence where they are considered essential and helpful to their companies, clients and teams.

The Fierce Four, highlighted through direct quotes from the book’s “Jacks and Jills,” are to:

  1. Displace fear with learning

I simply love learning, and I believe you shouldn’t worry so much about what you know and don’t know. If you get a job you could do in your sleep, it’s probably not the right job. Push your comfort level and your boundaries of experience. Force yourself into that new environment. You should never stagnate in your career, or in life, in order to grow with the world and the consumer. If you ever get to a point where you’re no longer learning, you will lose your curiosity and your motivation.

— Ken Dice, Vice President & Global General Manager, NikeiD, Nike

  1. Seek out and commit to creative avenues to learn

I always try to be as teachable and curious as possible. I tell myself, “I may not be the expert on this now, but I will be by the time this project is over.” I have yet to come up with a challenge that I have not been able to figure out, though I do have a lot of bruises and scars, so I know with this I also have to be comfortable that there will be failure. There is a saying, “If you have a knot, patience will untie it.” Meaning, if I can work on something long enough, I can figure it out. I just take it one step at a time, go get the resources I need, partner really well, garner a lot of trust, make sure everyone is in it to win it.

— Meg Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing Officer, NPR

  1. Strengthen both art and science sides of marketing

If you are more of a scientific MBA kind of marketer, you can rise up in the world of marketing to the CMO level and move outside marketing if you want. If you are more of a creative marketer, at some point you have to wrestle with the other side. As much as I pride myself on making this jump, it is hard to be as energetic about it; it requires a new context for your energy. This is the challenge in the world of marketing today: bringing together these equally powerful aspects of marketing, and doing it in a way that gets to the right people to grow the business, to get the right ROIs.

–Ken Dice, Vice President & Global General Manager, NikeiD, Nike

  1. Surround yourself with strong teams

I believe a leader cannot be successful on his or her own. You have to work together, give credit, be surrounded by great teams with different styles. I think there is a spectrum [of art and science], and a successful team is going to have this spectrum.

— Barbara Goose, SVEP & Chief Marketing Officer, John Hancock

Get Fierce!

Start by asking yourself:

  • Which, if any, of The Fierce Four am I activating in my career?
  • Which of The Fierce Four could I take action on immediately?
  • What areas of learning should I target and why?

We all have room to grow in our careers, so don’t be anything other than excited by your answers. Be invigorated to set a few goals for the rest of the year. Give yourself the gift of rounding out the year strong – getting ready for a fierce 2019!

Pass the Secret Sauce: Winning Strategies for Senior Marketers Coming this Fall

By: Lauren Stradley

Climbing to the top of the marketing hill isn’t easy. And staying there can be even more precarious. We know, because a big part of what we do is to help clients navigate the complex, ever-changing marketing landscape.

Confronted with a dizzying array of new platforms and constant content consumption, how do we, as successful senior marketers, cut through the din?

Noetic is built upon a research-based approach that uncovers insights clients need to overcome challenges and achieve goals. It’s the heart of what we do—with every client success strengthening our heartbeat. This past year, we set out to do more.

Introducing Jack and Jill 

Noetic Book Jack and Jill

We launched an effort to augment our focus on  company, branding and marketing objectives to include guiding marketing leaders to overcome professional challenges. We applied our IDEA methodology to help senior marketers elevate their careers. That project became a book. And, we couldn’t be more excited to announce the upcoming launch of Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science, authored by our fearless leader, Nancie.

To write Jack and Jill, Nancie drew upon her own 25-year career and insights from Noetic’s work with big brands like Nike, Wells Fargo, and Discovery Channel. She reached deep into our team’s networks to get firsthand best practices and lessons, and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 50 of the world’s best marketers, learning exactly what makes them tick, what drives them, and what helps them stay relevant.

The Secret Sauce of Marketing Leaders

Nancie found many commonalities among these marketing rock stars, including an elusive “secret sauce”—the uncanny ability to combine what she calls the “art” and “science” of their discipline. Every tidbit—often straight from the marketers’ mouths—is “news you can use,” including activation-ready insights and tools, like The Fierce Four, The Noetic 3c, and The Noetic 4p. Jack and Jill also offers a toolkit, featuring a powerful assessment to determine where readers are on the marketing art/science continuum and help them ascend from there.

Coming soon!

The book is just several months from release, and we can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime, visit our Jack and Jill page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get inspired and start exploring the key themes and career-altering advice of Jack and Jill!

Resilience

Want to Succeed in Work and Life? You’re Gonna Have to get Gritty.

by Nancie McDonnell Ruder, Founding Partner, Noetic Consultants

JILL IS RESILIENT. BE LIKE JILL.

This year I have been exceptionally focused on the importance, and underpinnings, of resilience. Life is long and challenges come up for all of us. How do I best navigate these challenges, and help those I care deeply about—my children, family, friends, and, of course, clients and colleagues—cope?

Resilience, grit, courage, strength. These terms are close cousins and we employ them frequently to admire those who overcome much in chasing accomplishment. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” the inventor Thomas Edison famously said. Dale Carnegie also valued “grit.” “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all,” he said.

Grit and resilience in life are hard to come by, certainly, but in marketing a special breed has it in spades. These exceptional folks are the focus of a book I have been writing that will be published in the fall, “Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights through Art and Science—and You Can, Too!” I interviewed more than 50 successful senior marketers for this project, and saw that resilience is a key attribute all share.

By virtue of the field, they know standing still means stagnation. Instead, they move, try, fail, and then try again. Each time when they–or their ideas–get knocked down, they simply get back up. Through my investigation of this topic with these remarkable individuals, I have identified four critical factors that enable “Jacks” and “Jills” to keep on keepin’ on, no matter the conditions. (The Noetic team and I look forward to sharing more about these “Fierce Four” factors, and other insights from the upcoming book, with you in future posts!)

Savor the Climb. No matter what’s on the other side.

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Miami for a two-day event where I was honored among women business owners. During this time I had the opportunity to meet so many successful women, and was struck again and again by their amazing stories of resilience. One of these formidable women shared her story of emigrating from Somalia as a child and building her business from scratch after putting herself through school. Now that she is established and successful, she is pouring her efforts and resources into helping young girls in Somalia have the resources to do the same.

Another woman with a $100m business sat uncomfortably next to me at the pinnacle awards dinner. She was embarrassed to be called to the stage so late in the meal, because the awards were being given by company size–hers being among the largest. I turned to her and asked, what was most difficult as you built it? She shared that she has five children, and her husband died in a plane crash at 42, when her kids were two to 13 years old.

“What did you do?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “I didn’t want to get out of bed. But then I thought, am I going to let the kids stay in bed? No. So I got up. And I just kept getting up. And now I am here. It was a mountain that I climbed one step at a time. I am still climbing, slow and steady. And I enjoy it.”

Pace yourself. identify your stress release valves and use them to recharge.

The most resilient among us also understand that a continual 24/7 grind is not the way to sustain for the long haul. They find ways to recharge so they can show up and shine again. One senior marketer, whom I interviewed for the book, put it this way: “The pressure is particularly intense in the world today. I think some people get personally burnt out on the process. I am a huge believer in a mental AND physical competence, building your own stamina and your own stress release valves. Everyone does this a bit differently. For me it is getting up early and doing yoga and meditation, taking walks outside when traveling….ways of getting the physical energy. I also think you have to build a level of confidence.”

Be continuously passionate in areas that authentically interest you.

Angela Duckworth who authored Grit, offers that the grittiest among us are thoughtful about what they pursue. “Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance…even if some of the things they had to do were boring, frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring.”

Don’t hold on to failure, or even label it as such.

Innovative marketers understand that lack of success means valuable learning toward the next effort. Another talented marketer I interviewed explains it like this: “I believe what you do tomorrow is more important than what you did yesterday…just go forward and do something better. No one really knows the answers so iterate and go forward. I don’t hold onto the failures at all.”

Stepping forward when others might stand back and raising a hand when others might sit on theirs, are both important parts of resilience. This means seeing opportunities where others may not see them, or at least won’t have the courage to seek them out. Successful marketers see these avenues and determine that they can be a change maker by taking them on. They persevere with passion. I am grateful that my observation of them feeds my own passion and perseverance to accomplish more. I look forward to sharing again with you soon!

Nancie

qualitative research

Research: The Foundation of a Sound Strategy

We are already a month into 2018. This means most of us are beginning to execute our 2018 strategy. But, first, consider the role of research in your strategy. Research is often thought of as a tool to validate a new product or to understand your evolving customer landscape. While these are great reasons to initiate a research project, research is an imperative step for any project or strategic planning effort. It is powerful for: validating an investment, achieving internal buy-in on a project you feel strongly about, or exploring a big new question in your industry.

Spending the time and resources up front for research ensures you are headed in the right direction strategically. You might think this will cost you momentum, but quite the opposite is true. Getting halfway through an initiative and realizing it is not strategically sound will cost you much more. Strategic marketers and business planners are wise to conduct this due diligence at the beginning of any project.

What is the Big Research Question?

Research should always be designed to lead to a decision, and not simply to reduce ignorance. While eliminating ignorance is never useless, it is not the most powerful and strategic investment of your dollars and time. Start with the decision you are trying to make, or the question you are trying to answer. Then, determine the data you need to make an informed choice. For example, you could be in the alcohol industry and need to know how the legalization of cannabis will alter your customer messaging now that consumers have new choices. This is an example of researching to answer a big question.

Research is a powerful first step to take to approach your projects in the most strategic manner. It is easy to overlook among those projects that don’t seem to demand it. However, it is a very powerful lever to pull to strengthen your strategy and give you an edge against your competitors. But, research is an umbrella word that covers many different methods. Which is the right type for the decisions you are trying to make?

Beyond Just the Facts. 

What Kind of Research Do I Need?

Broadly speaking, there are two buckets of research: quantitative and qualitative. Each encompasses a variety of methods that are useful for different decisions. Quantitative research tells you the what and the how of your audience. These are important questions to answer to make informed messaging and channel decisions. Quantitative research distills who your customer segments are, the key attributes that describe them, and validates qualitative research conclusions. Quantitative research requires a large sample size and includes methods like conjoint analysis and surveying.

Alternatively, qualitative research uses smaller sample sizes and uncovers the why. Qualitative research goes more in-depth and provides rich consumer learnings that lead to insightful actions. It allows you to explore and diverge with your customers, to truly understand why they make the choices they make. Qualitative research often uncovers a primal need state that your organization can leverage to be customer-centric. Because qualitative research operates with a smaller sample size, it is often less expensive and faster than quantitative research.

As an example, Noetic worked with a Senior Living Community on a brand positioning project. We began with a series of 1:1 interviews with current residents to understand how they felt in their new home. Through the research, we uncovered that there was a lot of initial fear about the uncertainty of moving to a new home. Residents felt like it was a closure of their life, with possibilities now limited. As a result, our findings directed this organization to position their messaging around new and expansive opportunities, to address and soothe this fear.

Setting an Informed Research Formulation

Qualitative research is something Noetic specifically champions because of its ability to uncover those key consumer insights. A strong insight is the basis for all strategy, especially marketing strategy. It is our experience that most people associate qualitative research solely with focus groups. Focus groups are one great tool. However, they are not the only qualitative research method. There are many ways to conduct qualitative research.

  • 1:1, Dyads and Triads: In depth interviews are typically 1-2 hours in length and involve 1 interviewer with 1-3 interviewees. This method is time intensive. Yet, it is one of the most powerful methods to truly understand the motivations of your customers. Noetic worked on a B2B marketing strategy for a higher education nonprofit. We conducted in-depth interviews across 3 different audience segments: states, businesses, and other nonprofits. We uncovered that each segment had differing motivations for degree attainment among their respective constituents. Our client was then able to tailor their messaging to best communicate with each audience. Organizations that resonate the most, will achieve the most.

 

  • Social Listening: Social listening is a method of qualitative research that analyzes various social media channels to determine the sentiment of your brand across customers, as well as compare the sentiment for your competitors. It is a bird’s eye view, and should not focus on one-off mentions. Look for consistent themes that lead to actionable insights. Social listening allows your organization to rapidly respond to shifting dynamics and remain relevant. The ability to create actionable strategies differentiates social listening from social media monitoring. For example, Tesla realized that many customers were complaining that drivers would leave their cars parked for hours at charging stations. This inhibited other drivers from charging their cars. Because this was a consistent theme, Tesla was able to address customers with a communication from Elon Musk that this would be taken care of.

 

  • Ethnography: Ethnography is a qualitative research technique borrowed from anthropology. It involves observing consumers in their natural environments to uncover hidden pain points. Observation can often uncover subconscious habits or need states better than consumers self-reporting. As marketers, we are most curious about what consumers do vs. what they say they do. If this method sounds time consuming and expensive, that is because it is. However, it often produces some of the best insights for research & development, as you observe subconscious pain points consumers are not even aware of themselves. Boston Consulting Group employed ethnography techniques in their book Rocket. They studied brand advocates of the most successful brands in their natural environments and homes.

Getting Started.

There are many ways of approaching research. What is most important, is that you do in fact embed research as an upfront step to any initiative. A well-informed strategy that is founded on actionable consumer data is powerful. Customers will resonate with your brand or messaging because they will feel known and understood by you. In today’s world, customers expect this, and will reward the brands that put in the effort to do so. Let us help you create the strongest strategies based on key consumer research this year!

Marketing Objectives

Starter Guide: Get Started on Your 2018 Marketing Planning with Objectives, Goals and KPIs

With 2018 right around the corner, you have likely started setting marketing objectives for the new year. This is always an exciting exercise. I feel invigorated by the possibilities a new year holds, and I imagine you do, too. But, how do you know the right marketing goals to set that will meet your objectives? And how will you measure for success? Setting clear marketing objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) are how you do just that.

SETTING MARKETING OBJECTIVES

A marketing objective could be considered your marketing strategy for a particular area, and it will likely include your goal. It should tie back to a specific business situation, and ultimately, support your company’s enterprise wide goals. Think of a business situation as a potential challenge or opportunity, that if addressed, will help achieve those broader enterprise wide goals.

3 Steps to Setting the Right Marketing Objective

Step 1: understand your business situation and write a few draft marketing objectives that could address it. This will be a brainstormed list that you will refine later.

Step 2: research the key factors that influence your company holistically: customer, business, brand and landscape. Analyze these aspects to inform which draft marketing objective is strongest, or possibly evolve an existing objective.

Step 3: identify your best, refined marketing objective, and create specific goals that further define what success would look like. Aim for 1 to 3 specific goals.

Let’s consider an example where your competitors have significantly larger social media audiences than you do. If this is the case, your marketing objective could be to increase your social media follower base. Your goal would go a click deeper and could be: To increase your brand’s social media follower base on Facebook by 5% in Q1 of 2018 among your A-list customers. You want to ensure your goal is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Lastly, ensure your goal coincides with where your target customers are in their journey with you as a brand. These journey phases are: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure, and post-purchase. For example, the social media goal we described above is specific to A-list customers, who would be in the post-purchase phase, and already aware of and loyal to your brand.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT KPIs

KPIs are a measurable value that demonstrate how effectively you achieve your marketing goal. With your defined goal as a guide, list the 1–3 specific KPIs that track your progress toward achieving that goal.

3 Types of KPIs

There are 3 types of KPIs: operational, performance, and diagnostic. Operational KPIs are the degree to which customers successfully accessed or interacted with your product or service. A Performance KPI measures the success of a specific effort, such as the number of Call to Action responses. Lastly, a Diagnostic KPI is an internal measure that helps you determine your progress, like how many new accounts you followed on social media to grow engagement.

To identify the right KPIs to track, take your marketing goal and cascade it across these three types of KPIs. Take a moment to brainstorm what KPIs in each category you could track. I like to call this the diverge stage. Next, look at this list and converge on which KPIs would be the most hardworking to capture that truly measure the success of your goal. Looking back to our social media marketing objective and goal, you would likely want to track KPI’s such as the number of Facebook followers and posts with highest engagement (shares, likes, and comments).

New Year, New Goals

So, with the new year right around the corner, I hope you feel empowered and inspired in your planning. By choosing few, clear objectives – you will be set up for great success. I know I speak for the whole Noetic team when I say, we can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the New Year!

Brainstorm for quarterly tasks

Strong Communication Builds Strong Teams

At Noetic, our clients often hire us to help them understand their “WHO”—their customers and clients who make up their target audience. As a marketer, I always stress the importance of knowing the needs and desires of your target customer. This allows you to best communicate with them. It is paramount to understand this external audience. But, I want to share how it is just as important to know your internal WHO: your own team members.

Teams that communicate effectively enable each person to feel motivated, valued and understood. With this base, the sky is the limit on what you can achieve. Yet, communication styles vary greatly. So, it is many times easier to be misunderstood, or at least not understood fully. Noetic uses a tool to help teams know and understand each other better by simply understanding each other’s different communication styles. At the end of the day, communicating clearly and effectively internally, enables you to also communicate well with those outside of your company. And that is always the goal!

Communication Styles

As individuals, we all have different and unique ways of giving and receiving information—of communicating. We should celebrate and embrace our differences! They enable us to be nimble and versatile as a team, if channeled correctly and intentionally. Noetic uses a proven approach, first developed by Kirk Bridgman (2010), to help unlock communication differences for teams. Bridgman’s approach distills these differences into 4 styles: demonstrators, contemplators, narrators, and assertors. Let me show you a few examples.

A demonstrator is fast-paced, people-oriented and prefers an informal atmosphere. Demonstrators are our friends who are results oriented and run full steam ahead. They can be easy to spot, too – literally! They usually wear bright colors and sit in an open posture. If you have a demonstrator on your team, focus on relationship building and put everything down in writing. This ensures they can remember the important takeaways later.

Like all differences, communication differences can bring tension to our relationships if we are unwilling to try to understand the other person. Each style is predisposed to tension with certain other styles. Using the example above, a demonstrator is particularly susceptible to tension with a contemplator. Contemplators are task oriented, and are more indirect and slower-paced than their demonstrator team members. They are analytical, detail oriented and pride themselves in orderliness and accuracy. These are some significant differences from their demonstrator counterparts—so it makes sense how misunderstandings could arise.

Thoughtful Communication Avoids Misunderstandings

The best way to show you care about your team member is to communicate with them in the way they best receive information. So, perhaps try using less small talk with the contemplators on your team, and be well prepared with precise data. As you can see, knowing the various styles on your team minimizes relational misunderstandings that spring up because of different, and likely subconscious, communication preferences. Without knowing and understanding the differing styles on your team, it is easy to peg someone as lazy or disorganized. These types of misunderstandings can really damage your team synergies and efficiencies—and sometimes, can just be plain frustrating. We can’t help you with all the frustrations you might face on the job. But, we can bring clarity to your team’s communication. Let me share an example with you.

Real Story of Communication Breakthrough

We recently had the opportunity to help a company work through their internal communication roadblocks. This company was a global media content provider about to embark on their annual planning. They hoped to bring the team together more cohesively as they planned and prioritized initiatives for the coming year. Through an exercise on communication styles, each was surprised and enlightened to learn their own style. They were also surprised to see how many demonstrators were on the team. The sole contemplator came to understand why he often felt frustrated or misunderstood. Similarly, the other team members gained new insight in how best to communicate with him. Bear in mind, there are no wrong communication styles. But, there is a wrong way to handle these differences. By leading this communication style identification session, Noetic illuminated a path forward for the team to better understand each other and be more cohesive.

Unlock Communication for your Team

Do you know how your colleagues like to communicate? Do you know your own communication style? To be honest, when I first used this tool on myself, I was really surprised by the level of self-awareness I found! I learned so much about my own communication, but even more so about that of my colleagues. I realized the many ways I was susceptible to misreading others. From now on, I am able to better assess the style of any person I am interacting with. This awareness allows me to proactively adjust my communication, so we can better understand each other. I see a tremendous difference with this on a nearly daily basis.

Noetic is passionate about helping teams really communicate. We would love the opportunity to unlock communication for you and your company. We want you to be the best team you can be… ready to best serve and communicate with your customers.

The Power of Divergent Thinking in Marketing

As marketing consultants, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we advocate taking the time to flesh out a marketing strategy. We often see our clients rush into execution – we can all be guilty of this! One area we see this most often is in messaging. The temptation is to narrow in on one message right away in order to quickly execute on a marketing campaign. But, we recommend strategically thinking through the various options first.  I want to share the power of diverging before converging on one message. When you skip the diverge stage, you risk leaving value on the table by overlooking a message that resonates more deeply with your consumer. I want to help you have the most valuable conversations with your customers!

DIVERGE: THE MESSAGING MATRIX

We recently worked with a global energy company to help them craft the right messaging strategy. We began with purposeful divergent thinking. The first step in divergent thinking is to take a key insight for one of your target audiences. Then, list messages that connect this insight to a benefit your product or service has. Benefits could be primary, emotional, or functional – you want to list as many benefits as possible. For our client, their customer was dealing with anxiety due to instability in the energy industry. So, we connected this insight to benefits that directly addressed it. Lastly, we developed a list of testable reasons to believe that our client could fulfill this product benefit. You should repeat this process for each of your audiences.

CONVERGE: THE STRONG TEST

After going through the diverge process of forming various messages for each audience, it’s time to choose the single, right message to share with each. The average consumer sees nearly 250 marketing messages a day, so being targeted and clear is essential! This is the art of smart messaging, or picking the one thing you should be, and letting go of all the other things you could be. This is the second step of messaging: converging on the right one. To test the messages we constructed during the first step, we use the acronym STRONG:

  1. S: Single minded
  2. T: Targeted and relevant
  3. R: Real reasons to believe
  4. O: On brand
  5. N: New take
  6. G: Goals

Evaluate each message against this STRONG test, to see which messages pass. Just like the Survival of the Fittest, only the strongest messages should be used to engage your customer.

DIVERGENT THINKING: MARKETING’S SECRET WEAPON

Bringing us back to our example, we provided our client with 4 powerful messages – 1 for each of their main audiences. Using this 2 step process of diverging and then converging, we knew our messaging was powerful and would build trust and value with their audiences.

I hope you have been convinced of the power a marketer can leverage through divergent thinking! When we engage in this process, we are able to ensure our messaging is as strong as possible. Without this first step of divergent thinking, we risk picking the most obvious message to share. By diverging to see all the possibilities, we are sure to secure the BEST message that connects with our audience in a deeper way. And isn’t that the main purpose of marketing, anyways?