Category: Blog

Do you have the information you need to excel in your role as a marketing strategist?

Marketing is a broad field, encompassing everything from market analysis to branding to advertising to customer experience. Marketing is so broad, that some of its functions are often broken up into smaller departments or teams within organisations; common examples include customer experience, market research and public relations. So, what do we mean when we refer specifically to the role of marketing strategist?

For us at AE, marketing strategists are responsible for determining the best way to promote a product/service or gain customers. There are two broad phases: 1) market analysis to determine the overall positioning and 2) creative direction to attract ideal customers.

 

Phase 1: Market Analysis

Having agreed that marketing strategists have to conduct analysis to determine how the company will achieve a competitive advantage, the next step is to gather the data. Typically, you need data on customers and competitors.

On customers:

  • Who are they? Demographics, social indicators, values, lifestyle, attitudes, etc. Age, gender and income are simply not enough.
  • What problems are they using your products/services to solve?
  • What do they value in products/services/companies like yours?
  • How much are they willing to pay?
  • Where do they go looking for similar products/services?
  • Who and what influences their decisions (e.g. media platforms, friends and family members, research publications, and so on)?
  • Etc.

On the competitive environment:

  • Who do your customers consider to be your competitors?
  • What do these competitors offer (products/services/value proposition)?
  • How is the market divided in terms of market share?
  • What do these competitors do well/poorly?
  • How dynamic is the market? How quickly do market players respond to change?
  • Etc.

 

Phase 2: Creative Direction

Once you understand the market, have determined your ideal customers and can anticipate competitive reactions, now you need to provide direction to the company on how it should attract and retain its ideal customers and thus achieve and defend its competitive advantage. Other functional leaders within the organisation depend on marketing strategists to help them determine where to focus their investments. For example, the distribution manager needs market insight to determine which retail outlets ideal customers would frequent; product development needs to understand which features should be included in new products; and corporate strategy needs to understand how consumer trends could influence the long-term positioning of the company.

To provide this creative direction, predicting and shaping where markets will go is more useful than working solely with current information. Prediction requires an understanding of (and data on) the drivers of change. For example, in Barbados, a larger proportion of young adults in 2010 were renting than young adults a decade prior. They also were renting to a greater degree than older generations. The marketing strategist needs to understand why this is the case in order to predict how it will evolve. It is not enough to simply accept that it obtains today and assume it will continue into the future.

 

If you believe that you lack the information you need to excel in your role as a marketing strategist, we can help you close your information gaps and add even more value to your organisation and the customers you serve.

Release of the Executive Summary of the Employee View of the Employer Brand

Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative Inc. recently completed a pilot study of more than 440 employees in Barbados to shed light on how employees’ views could be influencing their employers’ brands. The concept of the employer brand encompasses all aspects of an organisation’s reputation as an employer, and embodies the idea that companies should have an articulated value proposition for its employees. If we accept that employer brands reflect an organisation’s value proposition for its employees, it is evident that employers should pay attention to three broad areas:
  1. The experience that prospective employees have with the employer’s brand when job hunting;
  2. The level of engagement of current employees and their overall attitudes towards their employers; and,
  3. The response that current employees have to internal communication efforts that reinforce the employer brand.

Job Hunting

In many instances, the first time an employee encounters an organisation’s employer brand is when considering the organisation as a potential employer. Therefore, understanding the needs of job-hunters plays a crucial role in how organisations position their employer brand. The main insight uncovered by the research is that not only are appropriate pay and corporate culture the two most cited criteria when choosing an employer, they are interlinked. 53% of respondents stated that the most important challenge when job hunting is finding a job that pays what they’re worth, while the second most important challenge is finding an organisation with a good corporate culture (38% of respondents). The study further uncovered that companies with poor corporate cultures are more likely to encounter a ‘culture tax’, an unofficial salary premium expected by employees to compensate for the poor corporate culture that they must endure. Together, the results reinforce the importance of the employer brand in attracting the best talent.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is an important concern in Barbados, and will become even more so if the country is to produce its way out of its current economic challenges. Apart from a small uptick in 2014 that was the result of decline in total national hours worked, productivity levels in Barbados have been falling since 2011[1]. Boosting employee engagement has the potential to improve productivity levels in Barbados, as more engaged employees would result in a greater return on the investment made in human capital. As an example of the potential rewards that could be received by improving engagement levels, consider a 2013 article published by Gallup on boosting productivity in the United Kingdom. The article estimated that eliminating active disengagement from the U.K. workforce could result in productivity gains between £52 billion and £70 billion per year[2].

In Barbados, addressing employee engagement could provide an immediate boost to productivity, as our research estimates that the employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) for Barbados in 2017 was -52%, i.e. for every employee that is willing to promote their employer to others, there are five more that are detractors that may be damaging their company’s reputation through negative word of mouth. Furthermore, only 51.8% of employees consider their job to be a career, and 43.9% would like to be working somewhere else within the next 12 months. The eNPS score, along with these results, point to notable dissatisfaction amongst workers in the country. The results also raise the possibility that their dissatisfaction could be negatively influencing their employers’ brands.

Internal Communications

An organisation’s internal communication efforts are typically the only formal attempt to articulate the employer brand to current employees. Organisations can use internal communications to drive home messages around its values and culture as well as communicating more practical information about financial performance and strategy. And, in today’s era of widespread social media usage, getting these messages out can be not only interactive and fun, but could also lead to useful insights that could further strengthen employer brands.

The results of the study show, however, that organisations in Barbados may not be fully taking advantage of internal communications to strengthen their employer brands. 40% of employees that took part in the survey stated that their organisation’s management team did not communicate with employees on a regular basis, and 48.6% believed that their personal values and their organisation’s values were not aligned. In both cases, these employees had lower eNPS scores than their counterparts who benefitted from more frequent communications as well as those that believed their personal values and their organisation’s values were aligned.

How to Access the Executive Summary

In the report, we suggest ways in which organisations can strengthen their employer brands by paying attention to these three areas: the employee experience while job hunting, employee engagement and internal communications. To read the entire executive summary, click here. By downloading the report, you will automatically be signed up to receive notification when the full report is available.

To learn more about the Barbados Business Dashboard, a collaborative research undertaking of Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative, please email Stacia at


[1] Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (2016). Barbados Social and Economic Report 2015. Government of Barbados.

[2] Gallup. 2013. Solving the U.K.’s Productivity Problem. [ONLINE] Available at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/165947/solving-productivity-problem.aspx?g_source=productivity&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles. [Accessed 4 September 2017].

Are you ready for election year?

Barbados

How economic forecasts and scenarios can strengthen financial planning

It’s already mid-December 2017. Your organisation has already started (or maybe even finalised) your plans for 2018. You have targets and budgets and tactics lined up to take you confidently into the year ahead. But, did you remember that 2018 is an election year in Barbados? Did you factor that in to your organisation’s financial plans?

Election years are typically characterised by increased government spending (which is often accompanied by increased consumer spending) and greater economic confidence. All of the campaigning and promise-making usually puts everyone in an optimistic frame of mind. Given the state of fiscal affairs in Barbados and the generally depressed economic confidence levels, however, maybe 2018 will buck this trend and it will be more or less business as usual. Or maybe the pessimists amongst us will win the day and 2018 will be the worst year, from an economic standpoint, that Barbados has ever experienced. Has your organisation considered the impact of any of these scenarios?

It has been my experience that the economic forecasts included in corporate financial planning exercises are only baseline forecasts. What do I mean by ‘baseline’? Baseline forecasts typically assume that the future will continue more or less in the same fashion as the recent past. In the case of Barbados, therefore, the next 3 to 5 years – i.e. the usual planning period for corporate budgets – will be characterised by:

  • low levels of inflation
  • a fixed 2:1 exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar
  • economic growth rates around 1%
  • unemployment around 10%
  • debt levels over 100%, and,
  • fiscal deficits over 5% of GDP.
But what if one or more of these assumptions no longer holds?

What if the deficit worsens? What if the exchange rate is adjusted? What if the economy slips back into a recession? What if the country is forced into a programme with the International Monetary Fund? What if 2018 is not business as usual and it’s not a typical election year? What impact will these scenarios have on your organisational plans?

And did you consider how economic policy may change depending on which party is elected?

Each party has different ideas on how the country should be run and where emphasis should be placed. Therefore, depending on which government wins the elections, your plans may no longer be relevant.

Including economic forecasts and scenarios into corporate financial budgeting exercises can help you plan for various plausible futures. Not only will you feel better prepared, whichever outcome, but you will also have a better understanding of the likelihood of each scenario, which would allow you to adjust your resources accordingly. Antilles Economics offers a comprehensive range of economic advisory services – for example, workshops, customised forecasts/scenarios and internal stakeholder briefings – that can provide forecasts and scenarios. And, there are various government agencies that publish their expectations about the future, as well as IMF reports and advisories from the international rating agencies. Once you’re confident that you can translate that information into meaningful intelligence for your organisation, they are reliable and trusted sources of economic data.

I’m looking forward to 2018. I think it will be a very interesting year from an economic standpoint. But what may be interesting for us economists, may be devastating for profit-making enterprises. Make sure you’re prepared.

Being Comfortable With Uncertainty

I once heard a manager proudly tell a new analyst who joined her team that in their business, you have to get comfortable with not having information and making decisions in an environment of great uncertainty. She was not talking about the future and the uncertainty it brings, she was talking about right now. You see, this company did not have good customer or competitor information and over the years she became comfortable with not knowing. She simply assumed that once sales trends were in line with her assumptions, her assumptions about what was happening in the dark were correct. Concepts like coincidence and business cycles never occurred to her. Furthermore, she became adept at convincing others of the same thing and took great pride in the fact that she was comfortable navigating in the dark. After all, it takes a lot of experience to navigate successfully in the dark.

She is not unique. We all seem to accept that we are feeling around in the dark and advise others to get accustomed to not seeing their fingers in front of them. We have become so comfortable with the dark that the light actually scares us. What if the light reveals that we are not where we thought we were? Or that those who we thought were with us have long gone? So we choose to continue operating in the dark, crossing our fingers that we don’t stumble into anything too unpleasant. We actively decide to NOT even turn on a flashlight. I mean, it won’t show us everything anyway, so why bother? Plus, it’s not like we’re uncomfortable.

But does that make sense? Wouldn’t even a little light be better than none at all? Wouldn’t it be better to be sure about a little about your market than nothing at all? Isn’t the investment in a flashlight worth it?

Using forecasts and scenarios in strategic planning

One of the biggest travesties to me in strategic planning – yes, I know I’m being dramatic – is that companies do not incorporate economic forecasts and scenarios into their strategic plans.

I don’t count mentioning the outlook in the background section when you’re setting the tone for the rest of your plans. To me, that’s like when you’re interviewing someone and you ask about their education. It’s an ice-breaker. It is only relevant if they’ve learned something practical and can put it to good use in your organisation. Otherwise, you’re just giving them an opportunity to relax a little. Many companies use economic forecasts in the same way: as introductory material to break the ice and help other people relax in the knowledge that they’ve given this a little thought.

Another common use is as an item to check off a list, which happens frequently in institutions where employees have to compile economic indicators and send to their executive team or board of directors. They couldn’t tell you what the numbers mean or what the implications are for their company, but they’ve ticked the box and can happily move on to something else. What’s worse is that often the executives and board of directors also tick the box that says they’ve seen it, and no one discusses what the numbers mean.

Maybe I should be happy that they’re at least doing this bare minimum, but it’s hard to watch when there’s so much more value that can be tapped.

Here are a few ways that our clients have used economic forecasts and scenarios to help ground their strategies:

  • An insurance company used our forecasts of economic growth, unemployment, insurance claims, insurance premiums and new policyholders to adapt their strategic plan immediately following the 2007 global financial crisis. They were able to brace for the economic slowdown in Barbados before it arrived by implementing revenue-enhancing and cost-control measures as a matter of urgency.
  • Our client in the global consumer goods industry was considering expanding their operations into the Caribbean. They hypothesised that the size of the middle class in the Caribbean was growing and could represent a lucrative market. We estimated the size of the middle class and forecasted its growth, which the company then used to select the best countries for investment.
  • Amidst all of the discussion about potential downgrades to the Barbados dollar and further austerity measures, our client in the financial services industry commissioned an economic scenario building exercise to investigate the impact of various options being debated in the press. The resulting discussion included senior leaders and was designed to ensure that each area within the organisation understood the likelihood and potential impact of each scenario.

There are many other ways that economic forecasts and scenarios can be used in companies. The most important thing to remember is that your organisation does not operate in a bubble; it is part of a wider network of interconnected companies, government institutions, international agencies and consumers. You affect and are affected by the decisions that each player makes. Staying on top of economic trends, and using them to your advantage, is just as important as staying on top of consumer trends.

Defining your target market with precision

Do you find that when you’re asked to identify your target market, you respond with something like ‘millennials’ or ‘people living in this area’ or ‘young families’? That’s specific, right?

But yet when you place your ad – which everyone agrees is fabulous – in the media outlet that your target market is exposed to, the results are less than outstanding. Or when you create that product that is perfect for your target market, there’s such little uptake, even though you know your market is aware of your perfect product.

Maybe you’re only attracting the early adopters … or maybe you haven’t defined your market with sufficient precision.

AE’s approach to target market definition consists of 5 levels of precision. Let’s use the example of targeting millennials.

Level 1: Demographics (male millennials, i.e. persons born between 1980 and 1996)
Level 2: Interests (male millennial sports fans)
Level 3: Lifestyle (male millennial sports fans that watch sports while hanging out at bars with their friends a few times a month)
Level 4: Attitudes (male millennial sports fans that watch sports while hanging out at bars with their friends a few times a month and believe that winning is more important than how you play the game)
Level 5: Values (male millennial sports fans that watch sports while hanging out at bars with their friends a few times a month and believe that winning is more important than how you play the game and highly value their traditions)

The best products, market campaigns and corporate strategies require Level 5 targeting.

How would you get their attention if you defined your target market using only Level 1 criteria versus if your target market was defined up to Level 5? Would you still be considering the same media outlets, the same imagery and the same products?

For more information on how you can use this approach in your business, contact us at 246.253.4442 or .

 

 

Do you map your customers?

A map of customers on a real-world map, created from data, reveals things as they are and takes some of the guess work out of reaching customers. Industries from healthcare to retail to finance to utilities are using location information about their customers and assets to drive superior customer experience, improve process efficiency and lower risk level. Advancements and innovations in geo-spatial technology are driving a new wave of interest in location solutions. Not only does geo-spatial analysis allow companies to use location data to derive unprecedented levels of understanding of customer’s habits and behavior, they also provide the platforms to deliver beneficial information, direction and other support directly to customers.

The ability to visualize your customer base using geography opens up a level of knowledge and understanding not available through any other method. Some of the most important insights that marketing, development and delivery professionals are trying to capture from the value of location data are:

  • Where are your customers located in relation to your stores, warehouses and other points of contact? Or, alternatively, where should your distribution centres be located to ensure proximity to your ideal customers?
  • Which areas have a greater level of penetration?
  • Are your lapsed customers coming from certain areas?
  • Which areas have a similar profile to your current base (or your best customers)?
  • What’s the fastest, cheapest or safest route to take to deliver your goods to end-users?
  • How are your assets – such as poles, meters, towers and stores – distributed across a geographical area? Is this distribution optimal given your intended target market?
  • Is store performance linked to geographical location?

Managers in a wide variety of fields are coming to understand the competitive advantages that come with the savvy use of location data, and a few examples are noted below.

Identify Opportunities with Radius Maps

Radius maps, also known as buffer maps, are useful when you need to understand your data in relation to its proximity to other features. They are often used as coverage maps to see where you may have gaps or overlap of coverage of your shops, services, and operations. For instance, you may need to be able to visualize how many customers you have within a 10-mile radius of your office locations, or how many customers you could serve in a particular region if you build a new outlet.

Save Time and Costs with Route Maps

Geo-spatial software can take your chosen stops and optimize a route to reach them all. With options for a round trip, different start and end points and all the intermediate points, you can plan your route in minutes. By optimizing your route, you make sure your sales team’s time is spent in the most efficient manner, saving time and money.

 

 

 

Manage Your Sales Territories

Enhance your maps by combining it with additional visualization tools, such as charts. Charts can give viewers an immediate summary of the data on the map. Geo-spatial software can produce various types of charts which can be added to a map, including bar, line, pie, area, and scatter charts.

Competitive advantage analysis

By overlaying certain location information, such as population density, the road network and store location, organizations can analyze and understand their competitive advantages and disadvantages in the market. Geo-spatial software, together with the appropriate data, can help managers visualize the relationship between the location of your competitors, customers (current and potential) and sales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on how customer maps can provide valuable marketing and strategy insights, contact us at

Sources: Antilles Economics and www.espatial.com

Want to improve your customer’s experience? First you have to understand it.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience can be thought of as all of the ways that customers engage with your company and brand throughout the entire lifecycle of their time as your customer. Through this lens, it includes everything from customer care to advertising, packaging and public relations to product and service features to reliability and ease of use. It is therefore a broader concept than solely what a customer experiences when they enter your store, as it involves both direct and indirect contact with your company, as well as emotional and subjective responses to it.

Many companies focus on the direct contact a person has with their company, during the purchase transaction, when using the product or service, or during any after-sales service interactions. Indirect contact is often overlooked, but could potentially be just as, or sometimes even more, important. Indirect contact typically takes the form of unintentional contact with your company’s products, services, brands or personnel; for example, word of mouth recommendations or criticisms, news reports, advertising, impressions of brand representatives outside of the store, and the list goes on.

As such, the experience a customer has with your brand starts before you are even aware that they are a potential customer.

Most companies only track customer satisfaction, which implies that they are gauging their success at wowing customers only at the time of purchase or when they have a problem to be resolved. But, what if you were never given the opportunity to wow them because they had a negative experience with your brand before one of your sales representatives even knew they existed? How disappointed would you feel if your sales team delivered exceptional service, but the product arrived defective or late because your outsourced transportation provider dropped the ball? Or, what if through some hiccup in the administrative process the customer decided not to do business with you after all?

Understanding customer experience

Understanding your organisation’s customer experience first requires an understanding of how customers interact with your organisation before they become a customer, during all direct transactions and interactions with your organization, right up to the end when they are no longer a customer. This is known as the customer journey. During this journey, customers will interact with your organisation both directly and indirectly through various touchpoints, such as customer service, product and service delivery, websites, advertising, after-sales service, and so on. And these touchpoints exist within an ecosystem or network of your organisation’s customers, employees, suppliers, vendors and overall operating environment. The quality of your organisation’s customer experience, therefore, often involves more than just your organisation.

Measuring Customer Experience

The key to enabling positive and memorable customer experiences that turn customers into brand ambassadors lies in understanding the journeys that they take, the touchpoints that provide direct contact and the overall ecosystem within which they are engaging with your company. You cannot manage customer experience if you cannot measure it. Through a range of techniques – such as surveys, focus groups, ethnographic and other observational studies (‘shop alongs’), customer diaries, product co-design activities and internal analytics – we suggest measuring three broad areas:

  1. how well your company met your customers’ needs;
  2. how easy it was to do business with your organisation; and,
  3. how enjoyable it was when doing business with your organization.

When identifying the metrics that will form your customer experience monitoring system, think about the entire customer journey, your various touchpoints and the overall ecosystem. Successful management hinges on a comprehensive view of the entire customer experience and determining which levers to pull to foster as positive and as memorable an experience with your company as possible.

Want to learn more about improving customer experience in your organisation? Contact us here.

Inviting Customers Into the Product Design Process

Customers buy in the modern world where expectations have changed, where patience is short, where exceptional service and delivery are expected, and where they expect things to be either value for money, incredibly simple or very fun. Satisfying the customers’ needs and expectations should be the driving force behind any product creation. Customers like being engaged, listened to and taken seriously. They like to provide feedback and solutions to help products become more user friendly. So why not take advantage of customers’ willingness to share ideas and experiences?

The process of design involving two or more people sharing ideas, is known as co-design. Customer co-design enlists the services, knowledge and ideas of current and future customers to design, develop and maintain a product, process, system and/or experience. Co-designing with customers is mutually beneficial. Customers will feel valued and understood. You will be able to design solutions that really work well for them, resulting in faster acceptance of new offerings and greater customer loyalty. By working side by side with customers, the people in your organization gain valuable insights into customers’ needs. By acting on those insights, your team gains faster adoption of new products, services, or processes. Customer service, an integral part of most organizations, is the first place to look for customer requirements and for customer co-design opportunities.

It is suggested that you proactively engage with customers and develop a customer co-design atmosphere. Here are a few opportunities to achieve that.

  • Form a Customer Advisory Board (CAB), where you recruit your most insightful customers to help identify and assess their and other customers’ unfulfilled requirements;
  • Incorporate the Voice of the Customer (VOC) into your organization’s culture. This entails encouraging customers to talk among themselves in focus groups, forums, social media etc. and observing how they offer solutions to each other’s problems;
  • Design the processes that impact customers to be more efficient and effective by understanding how customers perceive the processes and incorporating their suggestions for improvement;
  • Take advantage of the business network that supports your customers’ other needs. Your organization cannot provide everything that your customers need. Partner and collaborate with other organizations and your customers to provide all-round satisfying products and services.

The future of business competition and prosperity is based on the successful processes of co-design and co-creation, where customers play an integral part. The key to designing a successful product is to use customer co-design early and often. Give your employees, at all levels, the authority to interact with customers to obtain firsthand knowledge of what they would like from your products and how they would use it. The intelligence that you will gather from customer interactions will be priceless.