How to Supercharge Your B2B Marketing with Research
When you order a pizza, you want it delivered quickly. It should be prepared, placed in one of those fancy heat-retaining delivery bags, and be at your door within a half-hour. Boom. Simple.
A brand transformation is not a pizza (stop the presses!). Most marketing endeavors, in fact, benefit immensely from slowing things down first. Do your research, let ideas cool off while you consider them, and make sure your efforts are built on a strong, deliberately crafted foundation. Then, order your team a pizza to celebrate a well-executed campaign.
That’s part of what Dawn Colossi, CMO at FocusVision, a customer insights company, preaches. Research is absolutely key. No matter how tight the deadline, how urgent the project, it’ll always be beneficial to start off with the research, even just a light, initial round. Tune in to this week’s episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite to hear more about effective researching, tactful surveys, and how to be more deliberate in your marketing efforts.
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Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Dawn Colossi
Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew, and we have another episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite. My guest today is Dawn Colossi, CMO of FocusVision. Welcome to the show.
Dawn Colossi: Thanks, Drew. It’s really fun to be here.
Drew Neisser: We’re recording video and audio at the same time so we may be a little awkward on the camera there but we’re gonna be really good for the audio version. First I wanted to mention to folks that my good buddy Alan Hart did an episode on Marketing Today with Dawn several months ago, and in that episode, you really talked about your first 90 days. You wrote a blog post about it. I encourage all of you, if you want, put this on pause, go listen to Episode 114, which is a great episode. I’m a fan of Alan’s show. Again, it’s Marketing Today, Episode 114, because we’re gonna just jump ahead we’re not going to cover any of that territory. Now you’re in the job for about a year.
Dawn Colossi: It’ll be a year and just a couple of weeks.
Drew Neisser: There you go. Little bit of background—I did notice one thing in your bio. Did I see Girl Scouts in there?
Dawn Colossi: Yes, I was a Girl Scout leader.
Drew Neisser: You’re right. For four years.
Dawn Colossi: I was, yes.
Drew Neisser: That must have been hilarious.
Dawn Colossi: The girls were great. I was not only a Girl Scout leader; I was a travel soccer coach.
Drew Neisser: Together?
Dawn Colossi: They overlapped a little bit. Obviously with my daughter as she progressed through her activities, and I played soccer as a child all through my high school years and everything. Yeah, I did both and it was great being with the girls. We had a lot of fun but there were a lot of similarities between the way I manage and the way I worked with my girls.
Drew Neisser: There you go.
Dawn Colossi: I could tell you a little bit of a story.
Drew Neisser: Well, I would love to hear a story about that.
Dawn Colossi: The girls, my soccer girls, had lost a very tough game, one that they played really hard for, you know, rivals and everything. They came off the field and they were all in tears and they were maybe 11/12 years old. I said, “Come over here” and I gathered them all around and I said, “Listen to me there are two places you should never cry in your whole life.” They all just sort of looked at me and I said, “Soccer field and work” and they said, “Why shouldn’t we cry?” I said, “Because it shows weakness and you don’t want to show it in either place.” To this day, now those girls are 18/19, and to this day when I meet them in places, they’re like, “I don’t cry!”
Drew Neisser: It’s a Tom Hanks line, no crying in baseball.
Dawn Colossi: There is no crying in baseball. And I tell my folks the same thing. We don’t solve world problems, we sell software. There’s no crying.
Drew Neisser: There’s no crying at work. I’ve cried at work I must admit, but generally tears of joy. As you’re telling that story I’m remembering my days as a soccer coach mainly with my son and one of the things was that you didn’t get to pick who was on your team so it’s pretty random when the kids were little. We had, I know, the worst team in the league, so I gathered all the parents and I said, “Look, we’re going to lose every game but we’re going to win snack.” We had the best snacks and it was great. All the kids had a very positive experience because \we were out there, we were trying our best, we were learning skills, and we had warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts every time.
Dawn Colossi: Yeah. It’s the experience that matters, right? Even as a Girl Scout coach, I’m not the outdoorsy type, so in my first meeting I said, “If you’re looking for a leader who’s going to go camping and do a lot of hiking, I’m not your person. If you want your girls to be with somebody other than you every week who’s going to be a strong influence and talk about leadership skills and show them some practical things, I’m your woman. That all worked out okay.
Drew Neisser: More glamping for you, maybe.
Dawn Colossi: Yeah, I mean, the Girl Scout camp took care of all the dirty stuff. That wasn’t me I was definitely more into getting into careers, going to different places for them to see how it works, and not just what I do, but we went to see how the bakery worked and we went to see how the nurses work, so just different things on how different people choose a service life.
Drew Neisser: Yeah. As I’m hearing you, I’m also thinking of what you said in Alan’s show, and one of the things you did talk about in the first three months is starting with the team. Obviously, leadership and team building is something that’s very important to you. Now we’re 12 months into this—talk about how your team has changed and what kinds of things you’ve done to really change things.
Dawn Colossi: Yes, so I talked about then when I was trying to figure out roles and responsibilities because what I found out when I came in was that nobody had a role or responsibility. It was just a team that just did whatever needed to be done to get the job done. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other, understanding what people skillsets were, where they wanted to go. If somebody is in a job that they can’t stand, they’re not gonna excel. So, we did set goals and responsibilities. I’m happy to report it’s a year later, everybody’s very happy. They are a highly productive team, a highly engaged team. We went from very low morale to very high morale. I have gotten even the most introverted people to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed being part of a team who has a purpose, who are willing to take risks, who makes them feel like they’re contributing every day. Yeah. In every job, my team’s always my biggest accomplishment no matter what I do with the numbers.
Drew Neisser: That’s a great skill and it’s funny, it goes back to one of the episodes that I did with Greg Welch who is the head of the CMO practice at Spencer Stuart. He said no one is you’ve got to be a leader. That’s it. That’s the primary thing. You mentioned the term risk and I’ve heard that a lot and that we allow our employees to take risks. Some have really gone far in that area. Talk a little bit about what risks you’ve seen the employees take. Let’s just imagine one of those didn’t work out. How does that play out in your organization?
Dawn Colossi: To me, a risk is doing something that you don’t feel that you’re an expert in. You want to learn something new; you want to do something new. I mean obviously we try things with advertising, or we try things with digital that is a risk because it’s unproven. But the biggest risks to me are putting people in places or having them take something that they’re not used to.
I’ll give you a really good example. I have a woman that works for me. Really smart woman, Ph.D., a researcher by trade. We made it part of our KPIs at the end of last year to build a personal story and to start a personal narrative because she had so much to say and she was such a dynamic person to reach out to the people that she could connect with. She was doing a lot of academic writing, but not that type, and her blogs have now turned into such a great personal narrative that ties everything together so, as a reader, you get to know more and more about the person who’s writing. It makes it so much more interesting; it makes it so much more enriching. She and I have become great partners. In fact, we’re about to do a trade show where we’re going to present and she’s going to talk about what a researcher can learn from a marketer and what a marketer can learn from a researcher.
Drew Neisser: Great topic.
Dawn Colossi: It’s been an excellent risk for her because like I said, she’s very much into the research and the academic part, and I really saw her as someone who could become a thought leader and an influencer. She really has started making that transition there, which is excellent.
Drew Neisser: I want to pause on one of the things that you said because you’re really talking about encouraging employees to have their own voice to talk about the business. It happened that this woman is an expert in your category and so you could zero in on that. I was having a conversation at breakfast the other day with Head of Digital at a very large organization and they are not allowed to blog. I find that mind-boggling because we do business with people and it’s humans. The fact that you found this person who is extremely knowledgeable and could develop her voice—you did what a lot of folks find very successful. By helping her with her personal brand, you’ve also helped the company.
Dawn Colossi: Absolutely. It wasn’t just a personal development piece. It helped the company because she happened to be an expert on what we sell. But I agree with you, there’s so much content today, so much, and so much of it is terrible. The content that you tend to get the biggest reaction to that you see really works is the personal content: that blog that you mentioned, “My First 90 Days?” Never expected the response I got from it, but when you’re personal and you’re sharing your personal story, there are so many other people that can connect to that, that are feeling it, that you’re validating, and that’s important in your content.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s funny. For the folks listening, we will link to that post in the show notes page and renegade.com. What I heard there, and before you read it, it was incredibly honest, and it felt very personal. That is the opposite of 99.9% of the content that you read. Part of this is, I was talking to another expert on content today at a breakfast, someone who’ll be on the show in a few months, and we were talking about how if you don’t have that really strong individualized voice, then your only hope is research and doing it based on some kind of original research because there’s no originality in between.
Dawn Colossi: Exactly. We have this conversation a lot. I’m not comfortable going out and telling people what to do because one size does not fit all. But when you can talk about it from your personal experience and what you’ve learned and what you’ve experienced, people find value in that. I’m not saying that what I experienced or what I did is right for everybody but I’m saying “I’ve tried a few ways. This is what I saw it works. Tell me what you’re finding because I want to learn from you too.” I’d like to make only 50 mistakes and not 100, and I’ll let you make the other 50.
Drew Neisser: I’ll make the other 50 for you. No problem. All right. We’re going to take a quick break and when we come back I’d like to dive into the world of research, which is what your company does.
Dawn Colossi: Yeah that would be great.
Drew Neisser: We’re back, and my guest is Dawn Colossi who is the CMO of FocusVision and I’ve just challenged her to come up with six words or less to describe what FocusVision does.
Dawn Colossi: FocusVision allows our clients to understand what their customers think, how they act, and how they feel.
Drew Neisser: You essentially offer research tools.
Dawn Colossi: Yes. Research tools, insights tools, both on the quantitative and qualitative side. Surveys, focus groups, video streaming, video qual, and a mobile diary that allows you to see people in a situation.
Drew Neisser: That’s a lot of different types of research. I remember in your interview with Alan you talked about how you were, well, you used “drink the Kool-Aid,” we like “drink your own champagne” on this show. But there you go. No Jim Jones references or things like that. No. We’ve moved on to champagne, and I’m curious about how you’ve used your own research tools to find insights to help guide your marketing.
Dawn Colossi: This has been the biggest aha moment of this job because I come from the technology world. I’ve always been in software, and in software, we believe that we’re going too fast to wait for the research. In fact, I just had a conversation with the CMO this morning who said, “Oh, I just don’t have time for that because I really have to move fast.” And I was like, “You move fast but then you end up changing directions ten times.”
We started with some big research projects which have been an absolute godsend. We started with a customer study to understand what our customers were doing, who owned the budget, who was involved there. We went on to a bigger market study on where is the market moving, who’s doing what type of research, where is it most valuable. Then we commissioned a big study, using our own tools but we used a third party, to look at the overall market: what tools are penetrating the enterprise, what are they still relying on the market for? Then we do trackers: a brand tracker, a c-sat tracker on every single product, and an NPS tracker.
I have never had so much research at my disposal and it’s so helpful. It’s been really helpful in aligning marketing with executive, the board, and with sales because it’s not my opinion. It’s not what I think, it’s not what I feel, it’s what the research and what our customers and what the market has told us.
Drew Neisser: Interesting. That’s a big comfort and helpful. One thing I didn’t hear you say is if used in year tools for employees, any kind of employee job satisfaction or anything like that.
Dawn Colossi: We do run an employee satisfaction survey every quarter and we do track that. That is part of our KPIs as an executive team to the board.
Drew Neisser: Explain that a little bit more. What does that mean that it’s part of the KPIs?
Dawn Colossi: Part of what the board cares about is if you have a happily engaged workforce because it costs a lot of money for people to come and go and to restaff and all of that. One of our KPI goals is to keep our employee satisfaction rating above a 4 (on a 5-point scale). We want people to be between that 4 and 5 because that’s the upper scale. That means we’re going to retain more, it means people are more engaged, they’re going to produce more. It’s part of what we report on every single quarter.
Drew Neisser: Pardon me while I dive in on that because part of the thesis of my next book, which is the ridiculously simple playbook for B2B innovators, and one of the things that we think a lot of marketers have backward is that they start with the prospect then they go to the customer and then they go to the employee. We think it’s all about starting with the employee because if you’re going to be a purpose-driven company and employees don’t believe in it, you’re not going to be successful.
When I think about what matters with employees, obviously employee satisfaction and monitoring that is really, really important because then you can know that you’ve improved it. Have you been able to see as a result of some actions that you’ve been able to move the needle in that area? Marketing could play a role in that. In my opinion, marketing can play a role in employee satisfaction. Have you seen any movement there?
Dawn Colossi: We have seen positive movement. I’m not sure that I could take credit in the marketing department for doing that. If I was drinking my own champagne, I would say a company that feels united, that feels like the purpose is understandable, and we all understand what we’re working towards and what we’re trying to do. We’ve all rallied around this customer truth, that we’re all working to help our customers get to their customer truth, to understand what their customers think. Having that one purpose and that one goal really aligns the whole company and it says, “Okay, we understand why we do what we do every day.”
Drew Neisser: So, are you in the customer truth business?
Dawn Colossi: Absolutely.
Drew Neisser: I’m interested in how you articulate that and how that comes to life. I understand that you’ve gone through the process of helping understand what your customer truths are, and I love the notion that you can bestow that upon them. That’s what your business is, to help them find their truth. How have you articulated that? That sounds like a very internal kind of language. Have you used that language and how have you brought that to life?
Dawn Colossi: Yeah, we’ve started using that language everywhere in uniting, and obviously you need to define it. That definition is why your customers do what they do, how they think, how they act, how they feel, which is what, as marketers, we’re all trying to get to because what you’re trying to do is engage your customer and get them to respond to you. You can’t do that unless you understand who they are on that level.
As marketers, we’ve been collecting behavioral data now for five years, maybe a little bit less. We all claim we’ve been doing it for five years, but I don’t believe that at all, so it’s been a little bit less in our big data quests and building these huge marketing stacks. You understand what they’re reacting to, but you don’t understand the why. As we talked about earlier, that personal connection is so important because there’s so much noise, there’s so much content, there’s so much stuff being thrown at us all the time. We’re always online, we have short attention spans, so understanding and being able to connect to somebody’s why and what they think and how they act and how they feel creates that personal connection.
Then all the other stuff tells you yes, we’re doing the right things, no, we’re not doing the right things, maybe we should try that, maybe we should try this. But if you stay true to your customer truth, then your personas are right, your target audience is right, you understand what emotional triggers there are to get somebody to respond to you which is why the content being personal and understanding other people’s struggles is so important.
Drew Neisser: That was a lot to digest and I’m going to try to break it down a little bit, or as they say, I’m going to unpack it a tiny bit. When we think about customer truth, I’m just curious—were there some surprises to you as you were doing the research about what your customer truths were?
Dawn Colossi: When I entered FocusVision, the belief was that we were selling to the insights professionals—that’s a new name for researchers—and the big brands have built insights teams because they’re trying to build customer experiences. When we did the research—and the belief was that it was all being done through agencies—the research has proven that 60% of the research is starting out of marketing. It’s really the CMO who’s trying to figure out who is their customer, what do they think, what do they feel.
Why is the CMO trying to figure it out? Because the CMO is pretty much in charge of experience and we all know that experience is what’s driving customers now and customer loyalty. That was an aha moment: “Okay, we need to continue to talk to the people who are actually doing the research, but we need to talk to the people who are feeling the pain and need to know.” That helped us in defining our personas.
The other thing we learned was that while we believed most of the market was using market research agencies—and we work with 95% of the large market research agencies—it’s starting to shift to a DIY model. The reason for that is because things move so quickly, were in the past, brands we do one, two, three big studies a year and that would set their path for the next year. Things move way too fast for that to be the case. Quick touchpoints you’re getting back from your customers are so important so that you’re always improving and you’re always changing and responding to what they want.
Drew Neisser: Knowing and discovering that it’s not the researcher but it’s the CMO who is your target, how did that impact your go-to-market strategy?
Dawn Colossi: It’s made me a whole lot more vocal, which is an uncomfortable place. I had no intention of becoming a spokesperson, but I have found through my writing and through the work that I’ve been doing that I’m connecting because we’re all shifting. The world is changing so fast. Marketing isn’t what it was two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. I am going through the same things that my counterparts are that I’m trying to help, so the fact that I can share my experience, what I’ve learned from that research, how it’s helped me through an existential crisis. When I start doubting if I am doing the right things, I’ve been able to go back to the truth, which has helped us stay on a path.
Drew Neisser: Speaking of staying on a path, we’re going to take a break, and then we’re going to come right back and keep talking about the use of research, state of the art, what that means, some of the surprises that you’ve found, and some of the lessons that you think other CMOs could really benefit from. Stay with us.
Drew Neisser: We’re back, and we’re going to wrap up this episode with Dawn Colossi, the CMO of FocusVision, and as it turns out, your targets are CMOs. CMOs come up through a lot of paths. They come up through the PR path, a lot of them come from the agency side, some come through media, but very few come through research. They’re not experts in this area and they’ve relied on experts, external experts, for a long time. What you mentioned is that they’re now building these skills in-house and part of the reason they’re doing that, which is really the tech stack.
You’ve got 35 people so now you have marketing ops people who make all the tech talk to each other. But there’s still this gap in terms of being able to process all of the data and find the insights, so as we look at CMOs and some of the ways that you’re doing it, what is state of the art right now in terms of tackling target audience discovery?
Dawn Colossi: First and foremost, you need to understand who’s buying you, whose problem are you trying to solve, what is that paying 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.
Drew Neisser: That part I get. Let’s talk tactically. Are there some tools that you guys have developed or that you’ve used of late? Everybody knows qualitative and quantitative and surveys and we had Leela Srinivasan, the CMO of SurveyMonkey, on the podcast, and we talked a little bit about getting the most out of research. I’m curious—from your perspective, where are your clients looking and going, “That’s a new way to get some information.”
Dawn Colossi: Surveys are definitely the most prevalent methodology because it’s easy, right? Nobody buys anything anymore without getting a “Hey, will you answer my survey?” While surveys are still important—and we do have a survey platform because they get you big picture and statistical—just doing surveys and not doing the qualitative side, you’re not getting full insights. I think that’s where most fall down. They think that if they’ve got a survey set up and they’re asking, “How is your flight?” when you get off, they’ve got it covered.
Drew Neisser: Okay, so qual. I love qual and I’ve loved years and years and years of sitting through focus groups and many groups at Chiat/Day. Everything went through the many groups, and packaged goods, you always did the focus groups and so forth. What’s difficult in focus groups is that you’ve got ten people in the room, it’s somewhat dependent on how they connect with the moderator, you have the classic people who try to dominate, and there’s a tendency, in my opinion, when you do quantitative to try to find the averages as opposed to the outliers. I always look for the outliers, but I’m curious—from your standpoint, what’s a good use of qual, and did you do any qual for yourself?
Dawn Colossi: We did. Video open ends—we allow that in our surveys. Not all surveys allow that. It’s a way to gather qualitative research through your survey so you don’t have to do a survey and do a focus group. What that showed us and we did when we did our big study on who’s buying—what that does is it really gives you nuggets of understanding of why that happens or why they make the decisions. One of the nuggets we had gotten from our qualitative open-ended question was that the reason why CMOs are asking for so much research is because of this charter.
It’s all on me to design an experience, but nobody’s listening to me, and every time I go into a room, I get killed by the case study of one. The case study of one is somebody saying, “Oh, well, the last customer I spoke to said…” We wanted to be able to have a whole bunch of gatherings so that when somebody says, “This is what our one customer said,” you can say, “Well, here’s five or six or ten or twenty-five, and we’ve taken the highlights out of that so that you can see the consistency across those answers.”
Drew Neisser: I love that aspect of the story and I’m just thinking—I’m imagining the surveys because if you’re surveying quantitatively thousands, you may end up, and let’s say that this is a customer survey, depending on how they answer, you could trigger the video. It’s based on what rabbit hole they went down, and you could have that pop up. Just that little bit of integration makes a lot of sense, so it’s quant to qual based on the responses.
Dawn Colossi: Exactly.
Drew Neisser: That’s very cool. I think that’s an interesting one and I wasn’t as familiar with that. The thing that I do think is also interesting from what you said about the focus group of one is that when you’re trying to do voice of the customer research, it is easy to get lost. Lots of people ask for this and a famous one is Dell. They had their whole cloud-based resourcing and people said, “We want a Linux computer!” Well, nobody bought it. But lots of people said they wanted to, so you can’t necessarily trust these results of what people say versus what they do.
Dawn Colossi: It’s classic Steve Jobs, right? They don’t know what they want?
Drew Neisser: Yeah. Well, that part is true. It’s funny—I did finish that book recently and there’s a certain arrogance there that goes with that. Not all of us are the geniuses that he is. Some of us need some help like research.
One of the things—maybe you can solve this problem for me. In my ridiculously simple scenario, I would love to have one blended metric for employees, one blended metric for customers, and one blended metric for prospects. You mentioned NPS and I have a real problem with NPS because it’s just a moment in time or we’ve heard that question so many times. We know that someone isn’t going to get paid if we give them a two and it’s just way overused and it doesn’t ever give you an insight as to why anyway.
Dawn Colossi: It doesn’t give you a whole scope of the whole company either because it’s usually the person who answered the phone, or the person who was on tech support, or your website didn’t work exactly the way I thought it should work. I think the brand survey and the way you ask those questions and set that up is a much bigger indicator. If you pick the right attributes that you want to be measured on, you want to be communicating, and then you have a good mix of your customers and the outside market, you understand if your message is resonating, if you’re making a difference, if it’s sticky enough beyond your website metrics, beyond your digital metrics and everything else that you’re measuring.
Drew Neisser: I want to dig into that because, in the research that we did before the book, we asked on these B2B CMOs how many of them had brand tracking in place. The number was shockingly low. That to me is just, how can you be a CMO and not have brand health tracking in place? If we just talk about brand health tracking for a moment, what are some of the key things that you think really do matter, and maybe what matters for your business and maybe some of the customers that you work with?
Dawn Colossi: If I could make a comment on that though, I can tell you that at my last company we did one brand tracker. It was $1.2 million dollars. 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. The importance of a brand tracker is one, that it needs to be simple. I think, as marketers, we overcomplicate, overshoot, overengineer everything.
Drew Neisser: Music to my ears.
Dawn Colossi: It needs to be simple. Who are we trying to get to? What do we want them to think about us? And is it working? Those are the three things that you’re trying to get to because like I said, you have metrics coming from everywhere else. If you can get that, that’s really important. Now the brand tracker predates me. Because FocusVision is a research company there was a tracker in place, and when I started the CEO said, “Are you going to stop that?” I said, “Why would I stop that? I’ve never had one before. It’s like a shiny new toy.”
As we started to build our program and our message and our content and all of that and get an engaged audience, we started seeing incremental climbs in the three attributes that I identified as being important to us. In the first quarter was a 0.1 climb and I was so excited. The researchers said to me, “It’s not statistically important.”
Drew Neisser: Yeah, exactly. We’ll burst that bubble!
Dawn Colossi: I said, “But it’s a directional. It’s better.” And now we’re getting into the third quarter and we’ve seen that 0.1, so it’s a trend.
Drew Neisser: Can you share what those attributes are?
Dawn Colossi: Yep. Solves all of my technical needs, teaches me how to use research, and is a problem solver.
Drew Neisser: What I like about that is that you’ve said that, as an organization, you want to get at this customer truth and it’s funny—those are very touchy-feely matters. How do I feel about working with the company? How do they make me feel? It’s really interesting.
Dawn Colossi: I want them to feel empowered and knowledgeable and get information from us. If we’re just trying to sell from survey to survey, there are free tools out there. That’s not what we’re trying to do.
Drew Neisser: If you’ve done a lot of research in your career, you know that there is actually a science to designing research studies. What I’m shocked at is how many people ignore that science and say, “Oh, you can just ask any question, any way.” And there are actually professionals because we worked with a client who did this kind of recently—how you ask a question matters.
Dawn Colossi: Oh, it does. And that’s another thing from having a researcher on my team, which has been excellent. We are right now working with a couple of well-known analyst firms and companies that do research. They’re doing the research, they’re going to do the commentary they’re going to do the content around it, but I’ve had my researchers very involved in how we ask the questions. It’s amazing—after the first meeting, one of my researches said, “I can’t believe that we’re paying them so much and that’s the way they were asking the questions.”
Drew Neisser: All you analyst firms out there, yes, take notice. There’s a name for the person who has that expertise. Do you remember? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. The point is that while doing research is better than doing no research, there is such a thing as bad research.
Dawn Colossi: Absolutely.
Drew Neisser: It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know, and trust me, how you word a question really matters. Now, one of the things that is in the ridiculously simple playbook for B2B innovators is doing research that does multiple things at the same time. Let me explain that. We recommend that you do a benchmark employee study before you launch a new brand campaign because you want to move the needle when you’re done.
The other thing that it does is it gives you the opportunity to get employees involved from the get-go. That’s a twofer right there. Similarly, if you do customer research or prospect research, there’s an opportunity to create content that can be PR-able if you write the study correctly. You get this twofer opportunity and I think one of the ways that research can be rationalized, it makes it easier, is if you can extend the value.
Dawn Colossi: Absolutely. It’s part of this story that I’ve been telling you in the research that we’ve been doing. We are extending the value because we’re starting to do presentations on it, we’ve just built some content around it. It is, “Here’s our experience, and here’s what we’ve been doing.” Zoe, who is the lead researcher, the SVP of Research, she does the whole “What have I learned from the marketer?” and I do the whole “What have I learned from a researcher?” and bringing those two and being able to see the customer through that dual-lens has been amazing.
Drew Neisser: Yeah. That’s great. All right. Well, we’re running overtime in that we just have to imagine the folks that are on their subway ride or in their car are about to approach work and they want us to wrap up. Maybe you could provide two dos and a don’t for CMOs who are new in the job and they have no research in place. Give us two dos and a don’t.
Dawn Colossi: Absolutely do the research. That could be as simple as a survey with a video open end, so at least you’re getting something that you’re basing your first actions on. Do follow it up later with a bigger, more intensive research project. The small one is because we can’t wait that long. The lifecycle of a CMO is less than four years and everybody’s in a rush. You do have to do something to get out quickly, so it has to be bite-sized, it has to be digestible. Do absolutely invest in that bigger study to understand the landscape so that you can continue to improve what you’re doing. Don’t skip it.
Drew Neisser: Don’t skip it! That’s funny, you know, there is the CMO turnover. I wanted to mention one of the things that I liked and you said to Alan was that in your interview with your CEO, you level set his expectations and what you thought marketing could and couldn’t do. I think that’s so important. In fact, in my last book, the first chapter was essentially managing expectations because if you don’t have that right, you’re going to fail. But I do think, and I see this all the time, there is a rush and it’s particularly true in software.
The result of that rush is that, usually, marketing is not built on a solid foundation and then it becomes disposable. It’s so hard to build a real brand and build it and get everybody in the company behind it and get all the customers behind it and then start prospecting. The notion of doing that in a week or two weeks and rushing to judgment, I know everybody’s under pressure, but you’re just pushing…
Dawn Colossi: You’re just pushing it down the road. You’re wasting more time because in six months you’re going to end up having to change direction, and six months after that, you’re going to change directions again.
Drew Neisser: There you have it, folks. We’re recommending even in this digital age as you’re trying to do digital transformation, even if you have a scrum and a six-week rush to fix your software as all the folks in software do, marketing, particularly when we’re talking about brand transformation and digital transformation, can’t and shouldn’t happen overnight because it needs a solid foundation that can be informed by research. be What a perfect way to wrap up. I want to thank all of the listeners as always. First, Dawn, thank you for being on the show.
Dawn Colossi: Thank you. It was really fun.
Drew Neisser: And all the listeners, thank you. Don’t forget to keep sending texts to me. We need show ideas, people topics. Until next week, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.