helping you master customer insight leadership

Event: Forrester Customer Insights Council 2014

Forrester ResearchIn May 2014, I attended this council run by Forrester Research. For those not familiar with Forrester they are one of the biggest global research firms providing independent advice on technology and suppliers (another being Gartner). Unlike Gartner, I have always found Forrester to be more open to focussing on business decision makers and the technology needs of Marketing, Operations and Insight leaders. Gartner has some very able thinkers (including Ed Thompson and Gareth Herschel), but their US parent seems to keep pulling them back to focus on the needs of CIOs and their IT teams.

Anyway, thanks to the kind invitation from Jeff Brown (Principal Advisor on CI and my key contact when I had a seat with them), I attended my second CI Council and once again found it helpful. One of it’s key benefits is the absence of consultants and suppliers (I was still working for Lloyds at this time). Plus Jeff and his team do well to attract the actual Customer Insight leaders from the organisations represented, so there is real understanding of one another’s challenges. It tends to be a small select gathering (15-20), with both Banks & Insurers disproportionately represented, which suited me fine.

It is a confidential, Chatham House rules, meeting (which is also helpful) so I am limited in what I can share. But I thought it would be useful to both let my readers know that this exists (ask Jeff if you’d like to attend in future) and to highlight a few topics which were covered this year:

  • Innovating your Customer Insights offering to add value (inc. assessing CI capability – something that I also offer);
  • Leveraging Marketing Technology for Improved Results (inc. marketing automation);
  • The Tools CI Pros need to usher in Customer Obsession (inc. strategy & processes – again I also offer this service).

If you are considering paying for Forrester’s services, rather than just negotiating a free attendance, a few learning points from when I paid for their services: (a) Remember that they are a research company not a typical consultancy, so think of where research or best practice models can help you not just general support & advice; (b) Especially when arranging calls with a specific Forrester expert, you will get out what you put in – i.e be sure to have a very clear brief and clear focus for the call, otherwise you can waste time explaining your internal language or trying to cover too many points at a superficial level.

Anyway, I hope that’s of interest and helped – let me know if not! I have no relationship with Forrester but am grateful to Jeff for the invite and wanted to let other Customer Insight leaders know that this forum is available and worth considering.

Do comment below if you have ever attended and have any thoughts on where Forrester can add value (or not) for CI leaders.

Poll: Which breed of CI leader are you?

Colourful BullIf you watch the actions and listen to the language used by most CEOs, especially where they choose to focus their time, you can often guess their background. What I mean is their functional leadership background, whether that be finance, marketing, operations, sales, etc. This, of course, is only natural and probably reveals their area of greatest interest or where they feel most comfortable. As a leader we can all have the tendency to spend a little too much time in our comfort zone or pet projects.

This got me to thinking, does such a bias affect customer insight leaders? Do leaders with a background in IT, Data or MI lead their whole team differently than those with Analytical backgrounds in Finance or Research or Marketing backgrounds? It is an interesting question and a potential blind spot for leaders.

So, I thought I’d start by gathering some data through a quick poll. Apologies if the categories don’t work for you first time, I’ll refresh this as I get more qualitative feedback…

Segmentation

photoSegmentation is one of those customer insight and marketing terms which divide opinion. Leaders have their favourite approaches. Boards can be ardent fans of the need for a segmentation, or complete unbelievers in what is perceived as marketing “spin“. One of the reasons for this appears to be, the mixed fortunes of implementing segmentations. Some companies extol real benefits, and focus that have come as a result, whilst others bemoan wasted spend with consultants and agencies.

My own experience is that appropriate segmentations can add real value and enable a clearer understanding to focus on appropriate target audiences. But a few misconceptions need to be addressed.

The chief misconception I would cite is, the belief that any company or market only needs one segmentation. One of the guiding factors for selecting the most appropriate segmentation approach is the purpose for which that model will be used. A segmentation to guide market participation strategy, is a very different challenge, to one for new proposition development, or to target different customer treatments. For this reason, it can be beneficial for a company to have more than one way of segmenting it’s customers (even if one is considered primary when seeking to embed in culture of organisation). One analogy for this is the benefit of having a Rubik’s cube set of segmentations for decision making.

It's a misconception that a company or market only needs one segmentation Click To Tweet

Once the challenge of identifying the purpose of a segmentation is overcome, using incisive questioning, then a CI leader needs to select the most appropriate tool for the job. Here there does appear to be a degree of fashion influencing choices over the years. Many years ago, simple demographic segmentations were popular and can still perform a useful function. At the height of influence from market research teams, attitudinal segmentations were favoured and are also more viable than many believe. Since the success of Dunn Humby and others, behavioural segmentations took centre stage. Directors, particularly finance directors can favour value-based segmentation and operations directors can favour simpler life stage/“needs based” segmentations.

As all these segmentations have had their day, and still have their advocates, it is not surprising to find more organisations these days with hybrid segmentations. Popular combinations for hybrids appear to be value + life stage  or behavioural/trigger + value based segmentations. Having once achieved developing a rich attitudinal segmentation, from substantial quant research and then producing predictive models to overlay this onto a data warehouse for targeting – I regret how much attitudinal segmentations are dismissed nowadays.

However, my guidance to customer insight leaders is, to be aware of as many potential approaches as possible, and then to focus your efforts on being clear as to the purpose for any one segmentation. At the end of the day, it is not a ‘universal truth’ about customers, it is just a model to enable appropriate action.

Which roles make up today’s hybrid Customer Insight Leader?

hybrid customer insight leader

I was struck by this graphic published by Visually that was trending on Twitter a couple of days ago. Although about marketers, it set me pondering about today’s hybrid Customer Insight leader.

the-modern-marketer-part-artist--part-scientist_5175880e42760_w540

Apart from being an eye catching infographic and ringing true as to the challenge for modern marketers, it prompts an equal or bigger challenge for insight leaders. Over the years this role has evolved into one requiring CI leaders to have an even more hybrid mix of talents than their marketing peers.

The need to wear many hats, if you like (which puts me in mind of De Bono’s thinking hats).

I’d be interested to hear your views, but from my experience I’d say the ideal Customer Insight leader is a hybrid of:

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Book Review: Time to Think by Nancy Kline

time to think

Do you have time to think in your leadership role?

I first read this book over a decade ago, but it made such an impact that I have kept coming back to it over the years.

It is not specifically about customer insight, although it’s implications for how to create a ‘thinking environment‘ should be of interest to researchers and those designing customer experiences. However, for me the biggest lessons from this book are for leaders (including customer insight leaders).

As you read through the initial chapters on the ten components of a thinking environment, it’s easy to be struck with how different these are to the typical corporate working environment. Giving colleagues time to think for themselves, use of appropriate incisive questioning to help them problem solve and giving regular appreciation can all feel very alien from being ‘part of the machine’. (more…)

Poll: Follow-up to Org Design Post (your experience)

As a follow-up to my latest post on customer insight team structures, here’s a quick poll to gauge the popularity of different models.

Please answer the question below and I’ll share results and reflections once I have sufficient volume.

Has CI yet found the best org design?

Org DesignIt may seem like one of the curses of modern corporations but org design and regular reorganizations are now a fact of business life. I’m sure as an insight leader you will have seen your fair share.

As you’ve risen up the hierarchy you’ve probably changed in your role with regard to these events; from recipient to author. If you haven’t experienced this then I would encourage you to seek to be an author of such change.

From my experience two major opportunities exist for customer insight functions in this regard.

The first is to bring together the different technical areas who can best collaborate to provide deeper and more actionable insights. These include teams that are often located in different functional “silos”.

In line with my definition of Customer Insight, I would recommend bringing together: Customer Data, Analysis & Modelling, Research and Database Marketing teams. Suitably integrated and with an outcome focussed culture, these teams can together for an ‘Insight Engine‘ that produces not just technical output but actions that result in both commercial impact and improved customer experiences. (more…)