By Drew Neisser
Most new CMOs arrive with a mandate to find ways to make marketing more effective. Ironically, only a small percentage ask for or are given the time they need to assess the situation—let alone provided the time they would need to research a meaningful customer insight that could have a material impact on their marketing efforts. As such, a ready-fire-aim approach is the norm, while “agile” has become a cover phrase for insight-free but speedy execution.
As CMO of FocusVision, a market research company, Dawn Colossi admits she has a vested interest in changing that approach. But she also has the evidence that research-driven marketing programs are more effective, with both internal and external audiences. In this candid interview, Colossi shares her insights on how CMOs can use research to their best advantage, improving impact and, in turn, increasing longevity, assuming of course, they buy a few months to get their strategy right the first time around.
FocusVision, essentially makes research tools, so I imagine you’re a fan of doing research?
I’ve always been in software; and in software, people often believe that we’re going too fast to wait for the research. So, they just go for it. The problem is, when you just go for it, you move fast, but then change directions 10 times. It’s ultimately pretty unproductive and inefficient. Starting with big research projects has been an absolute godsend, everyone should always start with research.
Can you talk about how you’ve used research to inform your marketing?
We started with a customer study to understand what our customers were doing, who owned the budget, who was involved where. We went on to a bigger market study next, on things like who’s doing what type of research? Where is it most valuable? We also do brand on every single product, and much more, often with our own tools. I have never had so much research at my disposal, it’s been really helpful in aligning marketing with the board, and other executives, and with sales. This is because, with research, it’s not my opinion, it’s not what I think, it’s not what I feel—it’s what the research, our customers, and the market have told us. On top of all that, we’re researching employee satisfaction to ensure that things are going well internally, and that we have a happy, engaged workforce.
In terms of target-audience discovery, what is state of the art right now?
First and foremost, you need to understand who’s buying your product, whose problem are you trying to solve, what is that pain point, where is the budget coming from—and you need to understand where the market’s going. Is that through an agency, or an end user, is it B2B or B2C. You can’t guess, because otherwise everything in the organization is splintered. To start getting this info, surveys are definitely the most prevalent methodology. They’re easy. But just doing surveys and leaning on a more quantitative side won’t give you the full picture. That’s where most fall down, you need some qualitative. You need to ask more open-ended questions as well.
What aspects of brand tracking do you think really matter?
At my last company we did one brand tracker, and it was $1.2 million. We went through an agency, and it took a long time to put together, and then of course we could never afford it again. And the executives didn’t believe it anyway. A brand tracker needs to be simple. We, as marketers, tend to overcomplicate, overshoot, and overengineer everything. It needs to be simple. Three broad elements to focus on in that sort of research: Who are we trying to get to? What do we want them to think about us? Is it working? With our FocusVision tracker, it’s like a shiny new toy for me. As we started building our program, and our message and content, we started seeing incremental in three attributes we value: Does it solve my technical needs? Do they teach me how to use research? Is it a problem solver? It was great.
Do you have two dos and a don’t for new CMOs out there?
Absolutely. First, do the research. It could be as simple as a survey with an open-ended question, something to base your initial actions on. Next, follow up later with a bigger, more intensive research project. The lifecycle of CMO is less than four years and everybody’s in a rush, so you need to move quickly, but you need to start with some quick research, but make sure to follow it up. The don’t? Don’t skip it.