Posts Tagged ‘consultant’

Maximize Your Research ROI

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Research is expensive.  Whether you’re in the lab (measuring the properties of your new polymer, for example, or the selectivity of the catalyst you just invented) or out in the marketplace (testing consumers’ reaction to your new product prototype or measuring customers’ level of satisfaction with you and your competitors), you’re spending precious time and dollar$.

Here are 5 Rules of Research Strategy that will assure you get a handsome ROI from your research investment, whether you’re in the lab or out in the marketplace.

1.  Precisely define the business problem you need to solve or the business opportunity you’re trying to capture.  Is solving this problem sufficiently important and valuable to justify the resources you’ll need to solve it?

2.  Specify the information – technical, market, competitive, etc – that you must gain to be able to resolve the problem or realize the opportunity.  What are the key questions your research must answer?

3.  Identify key information sources.  What resources and which people are most likely to have the information you’ll need?  How will you know that the information you’re getting is objective, reliable, and complete?

4.  Develop a detailed ‘experimental design’.  What methodologies – what experimental plan – will most effectively extract, organize, and make sense of the information you need?  How will you actually execute your ‘experimental design’?

5.  Organize and present your research results in a way that maximizes their impact on solving the problem or realizing the opportunity.  How can you work with the rest of the team to make sure your results are most effectively integrated into the solution?

An independent consultant – like Marketing Intelligence & Strategy Assoc – can bring you the specialized expertise you need to optimize your Research Strategy, design and execution.

Know Thy Customer … To Become a More Successful Supplier

Monday, May 18th, 2009

No matter who you are – a doctor or lawyer selling your expertise, a giant corporation selling industrial equipment or telecomm services, a shop owner selling latest fashion to upscale teens – the most successful competitors in your business are typically the competitors who most nearly give the customers what they want.

“Well, duh,” you might say, “I don’t need some outsider to tell me that, or to tell me what my customers want. After all, I talk to them every day.”

Unfortunately for most business leaders, from the smallest one person shop to the mega corporation, those customer conversations are usually dominated by immediate, urgent priorities – fixing a problem, collecting an overdue invoice, negotiating a price, scheduling a meeting or a delivery. In these discussions, too little energy is directed toward creatively discussing the future – to contemplating product development, offering enrichment, and growth strategies.

Companies grow and prosper by identifying and satisfying customers unmet needs. Seems simple enough: if you don’t already know what your customers need, then just ask them. Problem is, it just isn’t that simple. Ask the question “What are your unmet needs,” and you’ll likely hear “Lower price!” and “Hmmm … That’s a good question.” The truth is that unmet needs are unmet NOT because we ignored them, but because they are so hidden and ingrained in the way the market does things that we never recognize the possibility of a better way.

Uncovering and explaining those hidden issues is the role of marketing research. Whether you do it yourself, rely upon your company’s market research department, or bring in an outside consultant, digging into your customers’ business environment and developing honest, dispassionate insights about the world they live and compete in is the key to serving your customers better – and to making your business more a desirable and successful supplier.

Value-Adding Services in B-to-B Markets

Monday, May 4th, 2009

A writer posed a general question of the role of value-adding services in B-to-B markets, particularly in an industrial context. While there are, of course, service components intrinsic to every sales transaction, sellers often use additional services to make their offering more attractive. There are many possibilities for value adding services that most customers would be happy to accept, for example:
– services related to a specific order or customer relationship: payment or delivery terms, custom packaging, warehousing, partial shipments, consignment, etc
– technical services: analytical lab service, applications design assistance, facilities engineering help, etc
– market development assistance: joint application development, market research about your customer’s customer, co-funding of advertising, trade show, etc
– business support: health/safety/environmental expertise, HR expertise, etc.

Services such as these are expensive, however, and the provider must carefully assess the cost / benefit implications by addressing three fundamental issues:
1. Which services are most interesting and valuable to particular customer segments and which are less relevant?
2. What is the actual Dollar value of the additional service to each customer segment?
3. How can you capture that added value from your customer – as a premium price, as an additional invoicable event, or as some other contract obligation?

There are good, workable answers to these questions, but finding and confirming them will typically require careful, intense evaluation of each particular case. This sort of investigation would include in-depth conversations with many people in the customer / end user space, a healthy dose of competitor analysis, some detailed economic assessments, all leavened with business judement and a touch of practical psychology.

Engaging an independent consultant is often the best way to address a large, one-of-a-kind task like this.