Slow and Steady (and Well Researched) Wins the Race

CMOs, when joining a team, are often immediately tasked with boosting marketing effectiveness. Unfortunately, only a small percentage actually ask for or are given the time they need to properly evaluate the situation, and plan accordingly. Starting the shake things up quickly without getting your footing is dangerous. It can make it difficult for even the most creative marketer to successfully start driving revenue growth with their new, marketing machine. After all, the saying isn’t just “fire,” there’s usually a “ready… aim…” that comes first.

As CMO of FocusVision, a market research company, Dawn Colossi admittedly would benefit from changing the oft-employed, quickly-shake-things-up culture in marketing. After, FocusVision empowers those who take the time to research, to research more effectively. However, she (ironically) has the research-based evidence that research-based marketing programs are much more effective, both internally and externally. A few extra months of planning time usually pays off in the long run more than getting off to a quick start. Hear more on the subject in highlights from her recent interview below. Plus, you can listen to her full interview here.

Why focus on 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.

How has research informed your own B2B 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.

What’s the cutting-edge as far as finding your audience these days?

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.

Where do you fall on brand tracking?

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.

Got a couple dos and don’ts for marketers 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.

How have you approached building and developing your team?

When I first joined, nobody had a role—it was just a team that did whatever needed to be done at the time. So, we spent a lot of time getting to know each other, understanding what skill sets people had, where they wanted to go. If somebody is in a job that they can’t stand, they’re not going to excel. After that, we set goals and responsibilities. I’m happy to report that, a year later, everybody’s 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 with a purpose, willing to take risks. They feel fulfilled, like they’re contributing every day. In every job my team’s always my biggest accomplishment, no matter what I do with the numbers.

How have you aligned everyone internally?

We’ve rallied around this purpose of helping our customers find their customer truth. We’ve started using that language everywhere. But to really get people on board, you need to define it. For us, that definition is: why your customers do what they do, how they think, how they act, how they feel. We help our people understand the why, and that builds a personal connection that is so important.

Can you talk about the role of risk-taking in your marketing?

To me, a risk is doing something that you don’t feel you’re an expert in. You want to learn something new, do something new. Obviously, we test things with advertising, or we try things with digital— those are often risks because they’re unproven. But the biggest risks, to me, are putting people in places they’re not used to. I have a woman that works for me. Really smart woman. PHD, researcher by trade. We made it part of our KPI’s at the end of last year to build a personal story and to start a personal narrative. That woman had so much to say, and was such a dynamic person, and she was doing a lot of academic writing. Now, we’re having her blog, and the blogs have turned into such a great personal narrative. You get to know more and more about the person who’s writing it, it makes the content so much more interesting, so much more enriching. 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. It’s been an excellent risk for her she’s always been deep into the academic side of things, and now in this new blog, thought-leader role, she’s really thriving. And, there’s so much content today, and so much of it is terrible. The content that tends to get the biggest reaction, that you see really work, is the personal content. Things like the blog she writes, one article I did about my first 90 days—I never expected the tremendous response I got from it. But when you’re personal, and you’re sharing your story there’s so many other people that can connect to that that are feeling it that you’re validating and that’s important and your content.

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