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Archive for July, 2008

Market Research Hall of Famer Gives Insights on Marketing Consulting

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Kevin ClancyKevin J. Clancy, Ph. D., CEO of Copernicus Marketing Consulting, was recently awarded the prestigious Market Research Council’s Market Research Hall of Fame award. Clancy has co-authored seven business books, including his latest, Your Gut Is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head. Clancy gave a presentation to the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association earlier this year. I recently asked him to give his perspectives on obtaining high-quality marketing work.

QUESTION: According to your book, Your Gut is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head, there is currently an interest in marketing “from your gut,” and you strongly endorse marketing with marketing science. In the many years that you have been working in marketing consulting, has it been your observation that this trend has been gradually evolving and now people are really interested in the “marketing from your gut” idea? Or do you believe this is fad?

CLANCY: I see a definite trend, and I see a trend in two dimensions happening simultaneously. One, I see a trend toward more and more gut marketing, and I see a trend toward greater and greater marketing ineffectiveness. And they’re related, they’re causally related.

QUESTION: When a company needs to hire a marketing consulting firm, what questions should be asked to ascertain whether or not the firm is going to be producing high-quality work?

CLANCY: The first question that I would ask if I were looking for a marketing consulting firm, I would ask somebody to show me their case histories, to tell me about their case histories of marketing success. We have a lot of case histories of what I call transformational marketing. By transformational marketing I mean strategies which change brand trajectories, career paths, they sometime change entire companies and even sometimes industries—that’s a transformational strategy. So I would ask, give me an example of great case histories. Don’t just give me a presentation. I want to read something, I want to see it in writing. Because I believe if you put something in writing, it’s more likely for it to be true than if you simply talk about it. Second, I would ask whether the principals of the company are going to be involved in the engagement. For example, if you go to McKinsey for a marketing consulting project, they have a large marketing consulting practice, but the people who actually do the work are junior associates. They are people who know very little about marketing. They are kids who are fresh out of MBA programs and don’t have much experience. And they are the ones who are billing all the hours in marketing consulting. The third thing I would ask is to share with me the proprietary tools you use in your practice to develop these transformational programs. Do you have unique approaches, or are you just like everybody else?

QUESTION: If they do have unique approaches, how do you know that these approaches are effective?

CLANCY: In part because of the other two things. But in part, I am assuming in my organization I have people who can differentiate between really good stuff and not so good stuff. So I would ask people in my firm, maybe it’s the manager, maybe the director of research, or the head of IT. It all depends. But I would ask some serious people in my firm to make a serious appraisal of these proprietary tools. I would then go on to the fourth point. That is, I would ask the firm for examples of academic papers or published presentations relating to their tools that would help persuade me that they are serious people. Now a lot of companies start today by asking questions about costs. “What do you charge and how long will it take to get this done?” I think those are dumb questions. The question you want to answer is do I have a company that is proficient to accomplish the objective for which I am hiring it for.

QUESTION: When you hire other companies to work for you, what do you look for? Let’s say that you hire somebody to collect data for you. How do you know if the companies that you are hiring will do the work accurately, proficiently and thoroughly?

CLANCY: First, we don’t look for companies very often because we have a relationship with a number of firms. That goes back to the origins of Copernicus 14 years ago. I’m dealing with the same firms all the time. But if a firm came along and had an exciting new data collection methodology, we would spend our money to test them. We would give the firm a problem to work on, we would give them a sample questionnaire, a sample sampling plan, and we would treat it as if it were a real-world assignment. But it wouldn’t be. It would be an assignment just for us. We would take a test drive—at our own expense.

QUESTION: With regard to managing your own firm, how do you make sure that the people in your own firm continually produce a high-quality product? When you bring people in, what do you look for?

CLANCY: We have a set of criteria, that’s down on paper for every position that we hire at our company. So we know what we’re looking for. For example, at a junior level, we’re looking for either a Ph.D., an M.S. or an M.B.A. in marketing or some related discipline like psychology or sociology. And the person should be very smart, should have graduated at the top of their class and should have strong recommendations from faculty. They should be able to articulate an interest in marketing consulting and/or marketing research and an interest in Copernicus. You’d be really surprised how many people come through these doors, and when asked what makes you interested in marketing consulting, “Well, I don’t know, you know, somebody told me it was a really interesting field.” “Why are you interested in Copernicus? “ “Well, that’s why I’m here, I don’t know anything about Copernicus.” So we’re looking for people who know what they’re doing and where they’re going and know a lot about us before the interview moves very far. And then again, at the junior level, we’ll give people an assignment to work on, in their own time and at their own expense. I would say that 30% of the people are not interested in doing a written assignment. So boom, they’re gone. But those who are interested in a written assignment, they’ll do it. They’ll submit it, and we’ll have a couple of people take a look at it. In the last analysis, there will be maybe five or six people in the company who interview each of these candidates. Based on their background, their ability to articulate a personal vision, their performance in our own exam, and the sense of the interviewers, we make a decision to hire or not.

QUESTION: Do you have people that specialize in different fields, different areas of marketing or special kinds of analytical techniques?

CLANCY: The answer is “yes” to the latter. People get pigeon-holed here into functions like statistical analysis, modeling, consulting versus general management. We make decisions pretty quickly as to which people are going to be out facing clients every day, as opposed to which people are not good at that—they’re going to stay working in the back rooms.

QUESTION: How do you decide that?

CLANCY: By watching them.

QUESTION: How they interact with clients?

CLANCY: Yes. We take everybody to client meetings. Some people are really good. Some people don’t talk or have a habit of saying dumb things. If I had a bigger company, maybe we’d take the time to retrain them. A lot of these characteristics have been imprinted in people from the time they were 13 years old, and they don’t change very much over time. I’m thinking of people in our firm who couldn’t give a presentation when they first came here. And 10 years later still can’t give a presentation. But we make a decision as to whether somebody is a consultant or a researcher. If they’re a researcher, are they into statistical analysis or not, are they an inside person, are they an outside person, and then, we just see what happens over time.

QUESTION: How do you evaluate the quality of people’s work?

CLANCY: Every project has a project manager or project director, typically somebody who has been with us for six years or more, like tenure in a university. Their responsibility is to monitor the work that goes on for the people who work for them. The project manager is responsible for every single thing shown to a client. And the project manager gets compensated, in part, based on the client’s delight with respect to that project. In addition, this is not a big firm. Between here and our other offices, we have maybe 100 people. And the senior partners in all of our offices in Boston, in Wilton, Sao Paolo, Brazil, in Rio—the senior partners see all the work that’s going out to a client before it goes out.

QUESTION: How many people do they oversee, on average? Do they oversee a couple of people or larger groups?

CLANCY: The groups are small, on average, maybe about three.

QUESTION: So they have a lot of direct contact?

CLANCY: It’s an important part of our business.

QUESTION: Do you emphasize that people in your company have an overall perspective of what is happening in the marketing community or what is happening in your firm? Is it more hierarchical?

CLANCY: It’s very important that everybody know something about everything. It’s also very important to us that our people are the best at what they do. I’m very competitive. My partner Peter Krieg is very competitive, and we run the company to be very competitive. In another life, we’d be professional football coaches. Our objective is to be the best. When we go into a meeting to give a presentation to a prospect or to a client, we think we’re giving them the best they could ever buy. That means that the young people in the firm are trained to deliver the best that money can buy. It’s important to us.

QUESTION: You state in your book [Your Gut Is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head] that what you really advocate is “careful analysis of unimpeachable data” combined with “judgment and experience.” In your many years of experience, which experiences have added to your keen sense of judgment?

CLANCY: I’m not sure that it’s any one, or two, or three experiences. If you were a surgeon, and you did the same operation over and over again for a period of years, you would become very, very good at what you do. You have come to learn which way of slicing the body is less invasive and less painful afterword. You just learn a lot. I was a pretty smart guy when I came into this business. I’ve learned as much about the business as I could over the years, and I have had a lot of great experiences with my clients.

The Green Media Show Conference & Expo

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

AMA-Boston has become a sponsor of SustainCommWorld - The Green Media Show & Conference. The conference will bring insights into how to create and maintain sustainable green marketing programs.

The conference aims to get bring marketing teams up-to-speed, exposed, excited, and knowledgeable about what they can do to make media, advertising, and marketing choices more green, more sustainable, more responsible, and more profitable.

The event is October 1 and 2 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. There are pre-conference workshops on Sustainability 101 and Design for Sustainability. AMA-Boston will be holding our October meeting at the event with a panel discussion about sustainability.

As a special benefit to AMA-Boston, members will receive a $500 discount off the cost of the conference or a $99 off each pre-conference workshop. The first 300 conference registrants will receive a signed and dedicated copy of the poster artists Peter Max created for this event. Attendance to the expo is free with advance registration.

Full conference discount code is: 5164:523
Sustainability 101 discount code is: 3348:523
Design for Sustainability discount code is: 3749:523

To learn more about this conference, download a brochure and/or take advantage of the discount, visit http://www.sustaincommworld.com/

Nonprofit Marketing….Really?

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Is there such a thing as nonprofit marketing? Of course there is!

In this first post, I hope to interest you new ways to think about nonprofit marketing that will help you achieve your programmatic goals and provide an opportunity for dialogue. Marketing is alive and well in the nonprofit sector. It is used to:

• Enroll people in a significant program or initiative
• Increase awareness about an agency’s mission, its services, or the response to a crisis in your community, and/or
• Raise the visibility of an organization as a basis for successful fundraising or “buy-in” (acceptance) by your constituencies.

Using one marketing tool – a conference – can set the stage and create momentum for other objectives.

Using a meeting to accomplish several objectives - An interfaculty initiative associated with Harvard – and required to raise its own funds – planned a small invitation-only international conference on improving coordination of humanitarian efforts in the field. The conference was designed to accomplish several things at once.

• Draw in several different important audiences
• Increase knowledge and excitement about the efficacy nd challenges of humanitarian aid efforts during disaster and war
• Assemble a broad spectrum of potential funders, i.e., corporate, individual, nongovernmental organizations (NGO).

For all these audiences, the meeting agenda supplied information about critical issues in the field that need both intellectual and financial support, making the case to CEOs of NGOs, for example, that their support is essential for advancing the field. Finally, the meeting provided a forum for the initiation of a humanitarian aid future leaders program. Its intent is to bring younger, talented field workers into these discussions and into new relationships with senior leaders as mentors.

A marketing plan may be narrowly defined or multi-layered and integrated. (More on integration in a later post.)

Focusing on local visibility to ensure enrollment – A child welfare agency in central Massachusetts offers residential programs, outpatient services, family stabilization programs and foster care. The children served by this nonprofit organization are referred by the state’s child welfare services agency. The organization’s business model relies upon payment per services provided, so success requires a continuing stream of appropriate referrals.

Thus, the leadership of the organization decided on a relatively narrow marketing effort to enhance reputation and keep the programs at capacity. The marketing plan currently has three main thrusts: focus groups to assess service quality; a persuasive campaign video available on its Web site; and constant relationship building with local leaders via special events, breakfast meetings, facility tours, etc.

Creating the time to learn more – Joanne Edgar, a consultant and former head of strategic communications at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, writes about reasons to communicate. Her “Using Strategic Communications to Support Families” published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is an excellent brief guide to planning. The reasons to communicate will be familiar to those of you who have devoted your lives to social change: to get attention,to create a buzz, to inform, to inspire, to build trust, to organize, to change public perception, to disseminate information, and many more.

And to get your creative juices going, dedicate a half hour several times each week to review some of the current nonprofit marketing literature; there is so much available online. Think of yourself as an emerging expert – ultimately, you will have to pick the sensible approach or set of tools that works for your agency. Painfully, many of us have learned that a large or small communications effort scattered over disparate audiences, without integration into a solid plan, can waste time and money.

Find a marketer who has a blog whose perspective you respect: I like Shel Holtz’s blog:  Consult organizations like the Society for New Communications Research; its portal is rich with information and opportunities. One of the great things about learning about social media is that examples suggested by experts like Shel are always embedded in a real live context. So you can know and feel immediately how it might be useful to your agency – or file it away in your memory bank for future use.

In the nonprofit world of the Northeast, where I live, marketing is an accepted concept. But how many times have we heard a nonprofit CEO express frustration that a valuable program does not have sufficient enrollment?

Ironically, some nonprofits fail to engage in or implement a viable marketing plan due to a worry that there isn’t enough staff or money to handle the response. So some of the best nonprofit work continues to be a well-kept secret, just the opposite of what we really need or want.

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.