I've been alerted to the arrival of another Waggledancer this time Waggledance a startup in Manchester. They were nice enough to ask me first and I gather they will put a link on their site to Waggledancers so if there is any confusion people can be correclty routed. You can read abou the new agency here.
Apologies that it has been so quiet - I have a plan which involves published a list of techniques for building groups and getting everyone to vote. But right now I am a little preoccupied with Cloud of Knowing the open source group for discussing how to incorporate online content within research.
I was an Innovation Fest this week organised by Brain Juicer and Ogilvy Innovation Lab. One of the speakers was Hanne Kristiansen who introduced us to 5 Creative Creatures each of which embodies a key creative behaviour. Hanne's point is that processes and skiills are not enough. It is the behaviours of creative people. And she has codified these. There is the stimulator, the spotter, the selector, the sculptor and the supporter. It is the supporter the last of these which caught my attention - because this is waggledancer turf - the ability to draw the best out of groups of people. High empathic skills. The ability to mirror and match to the styles of individuals in the team. And the ability to manage ambiguity - to hold different even opposing points of view in tension. Hanne has invited me to one of her workshops next week so I can see the creatures in action. I also met Nicole Yershon who to me embodies the qualities of a great supporter. I blogged about her here. And you can read my blog about Innovation Fest here.
Waggledancers has been a bit stop start this year. Firstly I was due to write a book about them. Then the publisher said stop. Then I thought I know I'll write the book on the blog one post a day. Wrote to the end of January. Stop. Writing a whole book takes a lot of time and energy. And actually what makes Waggledancers tick is going out and doing it. Maybe when I have enough practical examples the book will come.
In the meantime I got very fired up at Incredibleurope - a gathering in Vienna organised by Selma Prodanovic which brought together creatives and social entrepreneurs mostly from inside Europe but actually from round the world. One of the most interesting was Gentry Underwood the head of Knowledge for Ideo the design agency. Ideo's ethnography cardset is one of my prized possessions. It is a useful credentials deck for Ideo giving one casestudy per card. But the valuable part for me is the itemising card by card of all their user centred ethnographic techniques for solving design problems and generating insights. I talked to Gentry about making another set of cards. For social entrepreneurs. Now people who do this all the time ask Why would you need to do that? Its common sense. But it isn't. Its a combination of experience and hard graft. And a lot of talent. But once you have set yourself the task of understanding how to create and motivate groups then you realise there are a lot of things you can do to help them along. That is going to be the next project on waggledancers. What I propose to do is to set up a few pages where I am going to sketch out some of the tools. Till we have a whole candidate card list. Then we can have a vote about which are the most important. If you have ideas you want to contribut or want to write them up yourself and put them on this site then be my guest. You can read about incredible day 1 and day 2 here.
This is almost the reflex of the last post the difference being that being the one calling the shots you will usually be trying to construct a framework of everything you want. If your supplier is any good (and you want them to be) then they wll challenge you out of your mindset and the two of you will get to a better place as a result. One of the challenges when working with a supplier is that you do want them to jump when you say jump. But you don't want them to tell you only what you want to here. Encouraging them to ask frank and challenging questions is also an art. You could always ask them if there's a question which they'd like to know the answer to but which they're too embarrassed to ask. We need questions which don't allow the supplier to get away with whatever but which raise the bar - so they perform better.
Criticism ought to be constructive - for their benefit and not just because you didn't get what you were expecting. But I have had difficulty on that front where suppliers have taken great umbrage when I gently pointed out that they could have done better. Perhaps I should have lost my temper and shouted and that would have been all right. But win win means that both need to come out of a conflict situation intact and hopefully improved.
Communication in marketing has been such a one way process we still regard interactivity as the novel exception not the norm. Actually apart from mass communications which are abnormal (let's remember) ALL communication is interactive. So this means that even when you are taking a brief from a customer or client, just because you are the supplier does not mean that they entirely dominate the conversation. Even if requests for proposal or RFPs as they are known for short) are far too common.
When I have been running a course for researchers to teach them how to generate greater numbers of insights one of the learnings played back to us is the importance of getting a good brief from the client. And this means asking good questions to find out what is going on. One very large research agency we trained even told us that their takeout from what they had learned from the course was that they were going to write a discussion guide - for the client briefing meeting! Normally the discussion guide is only used to run the fieldwork interviewing research respondents.
By framing the interaction with the client as equally important and insightful as interviewing customers you will find a valuable new source of information. More than that the way in which you ask questions will partly structure how the project is run. What you doing is constructing a conceptual framework. That's the point.
Here are some good questions to consider:
Who is the ultimate client? What are they expecting?
What have you done in the past? Are you looking for something different?
What do they think they already know?
What do they need to know?
What will they do as a next steps from this project?
What are the consequences of not doing this project?
There's something else which you should always look for. But you usually can't directly ask for. And that is What is the real brief? The one you can't tell us about? It may be personal, political, it may involve a damaging or humiliating admission. By the end of the project you will know it. If you don't it will probably bite you. But you will kick yourself and will gain so much more understanding if you watch for it at the start. There is always an aspect to the brief that the client won't want to talk about. And its the most important bit.
As a rule of thumb the individual will always tell you (not in so many words) but using hesitations and changes in direction. Just as an experienced researcher knows that people don't say what they mean or mean what they say so the same rules apply even at the briefing. Watch for it. I have focussed on the briefing in particular because normally the flow is all the other way. And even a briefing is a conversation which takes two (baby).
We've spent the last 2 weeks of January to looking at each of the components of waggledancing - Location, Motivation and now we come to at Communication. Which is not about what you might want to tell customers or the marketplace. But how to clearly convey to those who are going to take the idea to the next stage where it is and what to do with it.
And we start with a question. A hard lesson for marketing people to learn because mostly marketing is used to starting with a budget - and an audience is guaranteed. Which is why we set up long meetings to agree the message and then how we wrap up the message in a creative idea. And so on. This is not normal. Marketing has been like a division of artillery. And it isn't nearly as much about firing communication shells as it used to be. And the rest of the world doesn't work that way. So start with a question - what will engage those you are communicating with? What are they expecting to hear from you? Slightly more risk question - what do they think of you? You are not trying to inform them but to get them moving. And to do that you need to engage. This isn't a party political point about modern advertising. Its a fact of nature for all communication that matters. It was only the concentration of media in the middle of the 20th century that enabled those with a lot of money to ignore their audience and to stream messages at them. For your closer audiences you will need to think about what they are scripted to do by default.
Its not all bad news - most are paid to produce - they are project driven. So give them the correct inputs and off they'll chug. That's how companies work. It may not be the most effective way of moving your idea along. They may merely transport it to the next stage and ensure it arrives on time. The idea will be even better if they put some of themselves into it. But recognise by default they may not bother or freel they have permission to do so. The reason for starting with a question or two is that instead of deciding who has to help and what they need to do you might want to think about the terms of engagement - if they were to do an outstanding job then what would that be like and how can you persaude them to do that. This is why brainstorms get tried a lot even if many of them aren't that effective - because they are capable of creating that sense of participation which draws individuals in.
To summarise this post. Communication starts with involving those with whom you're commumicating. The measure of your success is how involved you can make them. Through this week I will post about a number of different audiences - corporate customers or clients as they are often known, suppliers, team members, and bystanders.
I have left hard measures until now. Of which the usual culprit is return on investment. Accountants also like net present value which allows them to see if they could have done something more useful with the money while you were using it. The danger about ROI and financial measures is that as long as you get your money back the assumption is that somehow that is the end of the matter, you spend money to gain money. Marketing most of the time is creating value that is a good deal more useful than immediate payback. So ROI type measures consistenly underestimate the value. And if allowed as the only or primary measure will nudge you to do things which are less risky and more immediate. In other words to have a corrosive effect. So I would urge you to look at some of the meaures with which I began earlier this week.
So to summarise what we have been looking at this week if you want to create motivation then start with measures don't leave it until someone requires you to produce a business case. That way you can choose measures which are relevant to the project and which will motivate you and those you work with to do their best. And don't forget personal measures as well. If you don't build a culture of measurement which makes a difference to you personally then you will miss a valuable source of motivation.
The soft measures beloved of advertising agencies are the self reported measures of brand and advertising recall, and claimed behaviour and attitude changes. They are used so much we can't avlide considering them. And they may be used because there aren't a lot of other ways of measuring advertising short of sales - which is rarely a useful measure for advertising.
In recent years there has been more of a focus on an advocacy ladder. In other words how many non users have you got, how many are aware of your product, how many would consider buying it and so on right through to repeat buyers and advocates. By measuring the number in each group and trying to migrate people upt through the levels you have a better impression of the impact of communications.
These are stil soft measures because they depend on self reporting. In other words the person who you are interviewing talking about what they remember. And people are notoriously bad at reporting their own behaviour and attitutes reliably and consistently. So use with care!
The other major weakness for setting up these kinds of measures to get an impression about the impact of communications is that it is difficult to isolate the effect of a particular advertising campaign. The reason why they are so enthusiastic may be because they use the product a lot not because they have been exposed to a lot of communication material. They won't be able to tell you this! So act with caution. I gave you a list of other kinds of measures back in Waggle 13 so you can see there are plenty to consider as alternatives.
The last soft measure is the netpromoter score - a measure invented by Reicheld - to measure the proportion of people who will recommend your product. If this increases after what ever you are planning then that can often be taken as a useful measure. Even if it is difficult to attribute this increase exclusively to what it was that you did.
This concludes my list of softer measures. I am not negative about them. But I am realistic about how much they can be taken as a measure of communications activity. Famous advertising doesn't in itself drive sales. So it may be that you might do better finding more behavioural type scales instead of measuring that people remember famous campaigns.
It may surprise you that the less certain you are about what you are measuring the more I would encourage you to try to measure what ever it is you're not sure about. It seems counter intuitive but the trouble with not being certain is making no measures at all. Then I can guarantee you won't be surprised by what happens. Because you had no expectations in the first place.You need to put a finger in the air. You need to test the water.
The reason for making an assumption or two and attaching a measure or two to them is that reality will be different. But your initial measures because they won't work the way you expected will shape your understanding of what happens. You will actually learn something.
Making predictions and measures and having to justify them at least to yourself is a great way to pull out the assumptions you are working with which no one will ever challenge because you have never articulated them. Set up a measure or two and you will be challenged and you will have to bring out your assumptions to defend yourself. That's why this is so valuable as an exercise. It forces you to make explicit what is implicit and inarticulate. That is hugely valuable. the more you do it the more likely you are to be trading on useful experiences - predictions which start to be borne out by the facts because you learned from experience. So don't be afraid to set a measure and justify your choice. You'll be doing everyone a favour. And you will be taking the first step towards getting valuable experience.
We're looking at the kinds of measures that can be set right at the start of a project when we want to give some parameters by which success might be measured. Yesterday we looked at personal measures. Now to turn to harder measures - here's a list. We can start with the 'hardest' of measures the financials expressed as sales and gross margin, closely followed by product sales. We can turn to customer based measures such as transaction value, year to date or moving annual total customer spend, lifetime value. Or customer's share of basket - in other words are they buying more of our products than those of our competitors. We can look at frequency of purchase. We can look at new customers, incremental expenditure. We can look at loyalty and loss of business or customers through attrition. Closer in we can look at sales through different distribution channels - and the availability of the product. We'll come back to the softer brand and communication measures tomorrow.
The point I am making is that this is a huge list of measures. ROI does not begin to cover all of the things you could measure. It is useful in showing how you multiplied your investment but the guarantee of future sales comes from other factors entirely. Here's a chart I used a very long time ago to convince a hardbitten M&S director that he had a major sales opportunity. At that time they measured wine sales by total value. And boasted they killed products in minutes based on the rate of sale. Using observation (on instore security cameras) I was able to find that it was taking up to 15 minutes to buy a single bottle of wine. And using TGI that customers were only buying a quarter of their wine there. It only needs a calculator to demonstrate the impact of the business if customers bought half their wine at M&S. These measures were simple to obtain but invisible to the cash till.
The measures you select will give the task you set yourselves a particular character. That's why it is so important that you agree up front what you are trying to do and what change you are bringing about. Using a long candidate list of measures also helps to address the kind of project manager or client who wants to win on every single kind of measure. It can't be done - so we have to prioritise the most important measures and may have to leave out some of the others.
For the client who says there is no budget to research anything so we have to stick to financial measures I would still say that there should be a discussion about what constitues success. Otherwise you won't know what you are setting out to do. So agree measures anyway - it makes it easier to then persuade someone to spend some money to see what actually happened.
By contributing to this site! Once you become a member you can contribute to the forums, set up your own questions. You can even add to the blog and links and postings to the other pages on the site. I may have to do some policing but I hope to do as little as possible.
Secondly you can copy the contents of this site, any or all of it and set up your own webjam - and invite your friends to that one.
In this way I hope we can build a hive of waggledancers each contributing content and comments and encouraging others to join.
Join if you want to see community-only content and contribute with your content.
Its not how much nectar you find - its how much you can persuade everyone else to carry