Translating Marketing Information into Action
With marketing information and research results collected, it’s now the responsibility of marketers to share this information internally with people who need to understand it. It’s standard practice to hold meetings with appropriate team members to walk through the research findings and brainstorm together about how to apply the results to marketing strategy and operations. It’s also good practice to make the research report available on a company intranet or other central forum, where people who need the information can readily find and access it.
The reception to research results may vary from person to person or from team to team. In some cases, where marketers have been waiting on the research results before they move forward, the new information fills a gap in their knowledge. They are likely very eager to take guidance from the research and charge ahead. In other cases, marketers may have a vested interest in continuing to do the things they’ve always done—perhaps because they dislike change or because they think the original course of action is still working. In these situations, if the research suggests that a course change is necessary, there may be significant resistance.
Start Conversations About New Customer Insights
To help encourage a better reception of what the organization is learning from marketing information, it may be useful to review the original problem the research is trying to solve. Remind team members that the goal of using marketing information is to gain new customer insights that will help make the organization more effective. With this in mind, marketers should think about how the research results can help them better understand customers and translate this understanding into adjustments to the marketing mix to better address customers’ needs. By framing research results around a deeper or broader understanding of the customer, it can help defuse resistance and make people feel more informed and empowered to make good marketing decisions.
The following section lists the types of questions marketers can explore as they brainstorm about how marketing information and research results can help them adjust marketing strategy and improve the marketing mix. These questions are a useful jumping-off point for deeper conversations about new customer insights and how to put them into action.
Using Marketing Information to Shape Marketing Strategy: Types of Questions to Explore
- What new insights do we have about our target segment(s)?
- Which problems should we be solving for our customers?
- Are we targeting the right segments?
- What attracts customers to our products?
- What improvements would make them even more attractive to our target segments?
- What types of messages will make target segments want our products?
- What types of promotional campaigns will work best for each target segment?
- Who do our target segments listen to, and what are they saying about us?
- How are we doing at providing good value for the price?
- How does our pricing affect customers’ willingness to buy?
- How would changes to pricing affect sales?
- Are we offering our products in the places and times that target segments feel the need for them? If not, how can we improve?
- How can we make it easier for customers to find and buy our products?
- Are there more efficient ways for us to get out products into customers’ hands?
Don’t Forget to Measure Impact
As marketers begin to apply the research findings and recommendations, it is essential to track the impact of the new strategy to determine whether the original problem or challenge is being addressed. For example, if the original marketing problem was focused on improving the messaging associated with a product, then the organization should start to see improved lead generation, inquiries, and/or sales once the new messaging is adopted and implemented. If the original marketing problem was focused on which segments to target and how to reach them, organizations should be able to track improvements in interest and sales among these segments after they have begun to implement a market mix focused on these segments.
This link between taking action and measuring results is important. It provides a continuous stream of marketing information to help marketers understand if they are on the right path and where to continue to make adjustments. Eventually, this process will surface new marketing problems that warrant attention through the marketing research process. In this way, the process of using marketing information to solve problems becomes a continuous cycle.
What does this process look like in the real world? Let’s examine two examples.
Example One: Procter & Gamble Goes to China
For decades, the consumer products company Procter & Gamble has been a visible leader when it comes to relying on marketing research and using it to guide marketing strategy decisions. In particular, it has focused on ways of entering new markets and establishing a leading market position. As it explored opportunities for market leadership in China, one standout product category was disposable diapers, a profitable category for P&G in the U.S. and other global markets.
In the early 2000s, the company rushed in to launch Pampers in China, its leading disposable diaper brand. The effort flopped. Culturally, Chinese parents did not see the need for the new American disposable diaper product. They were doing fine using cloth diapers and kaidangku, the open-crotch pants used traditionally for infants and young children. Instead of pulling out, P&G turned to marketing research for additional insights about ways of generating demand for Pampers. The research focused on identifying the “winning qualities” of disposable diapers that would make Chinese mothers interested in trying the product. It concluded that improving infants’ sleep quality could become a powerful motivator.
In 2007, P&G launched a campaign called “Golden Sleep” to promote the idea that Pampers disposable diapers can help babies fall asleep faster and sleep with less disruption. Marketing research was directly responsible for P&G’s adjustments to product positioning and promotion strategy. The campaign invited parents to upload pictures of their sleeping babies to a Chinese Pampers website. This reinforced the link between Pampers products and the message of “better sleep for babies.” The ad campaign also featured research results linked to Pampers and infant sleep such as, “Baby Sleeps with 50 percent Less Disruption,” and “Baby Falls Asleep 30 percent Faster.”
“Golden Sleep” was a tremendous success, moving Pampers to a leading market position and creating broad demand for a product category that was previously almost nonexistent in China. P&G attributes this success to the insights generated by a marketing team and research effort focused on better understanding and addressing customer needs.
Example Two: Shaking Up the Milkshake
A fast-food restaurant chain identified milkshakes as a focus for improving sales. Initial marketing research efforts were focused on creating a “typical” milkshake-drinker profile. The researchers then found people who fit the profile and were willing to help them understand what constituted the ideal milkshake: thick or thin? Which flavors? Smooth or chunky? These efforts led the company to tinker with its milkshake products, segmentation, targeting, and promotion strategies, but sales still did not improve.
The company hired an outside researcher to help the company understand what they might be missing about milkshakes. This researcher spent time in a restaurant observing and documenting milkshake sales, as well as talking to milkshake buyers about why they had made their product choice. A couple of key insights emerged about milkshake buyers. First and somewhat surprising, 40 percent of milkshake sales took place early in the morning, and the buyers were commuters on their way to work. Second, the ideal milkshake for these customers was thick and substantial but easy to consume during a commute. Third, another key buyer audience was parents purchasing a treat for children, but the ideal milkshake for them was a thinner product children can drink quickly with a straw.
Acting on these new insights, the company adjusted its marketing strategy. Instead of focusing on a single “milkshake buyer” profile, it reformulated its milkshake products and promotion strategy to better fit the needs of different types of target milkshake customers. It offered a thicker, chunkier “morning milkshake” to appeal to commuters who wanted a satisfying alternative to a morning donut or bagel. The chain also introduced a different milkshake positioned as a kid treat, which offered the thinner, easier-and-quicker-to-drink benefits parents wanted. Persistence and perseverance in the marketing research process led the company to dig deeper to understand customers, their unique needs, and how to adjust marketing strategy in response to this new information.