Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Facilitation first aid - be ready.

I was at a client sales meeting for several days recently and participated in a planning exercise with breakout groups. It was all run by a third party that provided some planning tools and facilitators. While the exercise was good, it could have been better if the facilitation was a bit more skillful.

If everyone in Marketing Management should be able to write an effective presentation, I think they should also have some basic facilitation skills to actively lead a meeting.  Anyone can be a reasonably good facilitator with a little practice and few rules to keep them between the lines. Even if you are not the person holding the marker, you may well be a participant who can help out in a pinch if it’s not going well.

At the meeting there were two common mistakes worth pointing out. In the breakout, the facilitator acknowledged someone’s comment but did not write it down with the other notes on a flip chart. I thought that the contributor had made a good point, so I jumped in and said that.  I could also see that he was a bit miffed.  Despite my “piling on” the facilitator still failed write it down. She had a response in mind and was looking for someone to say THAT.

When all 150 of us came back together in the big room with each group’s top 3 ideas the facilitator put up several charts: Group 1 ideas, Group 2 ideas, and so on. Then she solicited the group to vote by clapping for the best overall ideas. “Hey” she exclaimed in the middle of it all “you can’t just vote for your own ideas!”  This breakdown happened precisely because she assigned the ideas to their originating group when she posted them.

Here are five simple rules to keep in mind when you have the “power of the pen”:
  1. Write down the comments, in their own words. Ask people to “headline it” if it’s too long.
  2. Write down all the comments, sort later.
  3. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, once the comment goes up it belongs to the group. That way the group can delete it, elevate it or modify it without reference to its contributor.
  4. Be completely neutral. You can’t be a referee and score a goal. If you have a bias you will lose the trust of the group. Game over.
  5. Don’t let the ground rules of the session be violated without taking some action. They are not rules unless they are enforced.

If it all goes well, those simple guidelines will get you to your destination. If, however, there is conflict or dysfunction in the group it can be very challenging without a toolkit of practiced techniques. That is the next level and a good reason to seek out some expert training if you think you are going to use this skill set in your role. I learned facilitation from a pro named Michael Wilkinson in Atlanta who has literally written the book on it. If you are interested there are resources here. I use the learning all the time, particularly to get a group to a consensus.

There are many opportunities for Marketers to quickly get to better solutions through group problem solving. Leaders can actively facilitate sessions that last an hour not a day: ideation and selection,  rough planning, defining and agreeing to simple processes are a few examples.  It can create a much more purposeful and productive meeting.

Now, which ones are the whiteboard markers again?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sampling Is Expensive...How Do You Know?

Oscar Wilde defined a cynic as “a man knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  His description applies to many Marketers as well. I often hear Brand Managers complain about the COST of sampling programs. “Sampling is expensive”, seems to be common knowledge.
It is not surprising when we can “seemingly” buy media at vastly cheaper rates but we need to challenge ourselves to buy “outcomes” not “output”.  An “outcome” is clearly linked to our marketing goals. “Outcomes” have a clear path to how we make money. “Output” is often the way a vendor wants to sell it to us.  A TV spot in Modern Family is “output”. Someone being aware of your brand and its benefits is an “outcome” (Brand Awareness).
A typical launch or relaunch brand scenario wants to “drive awareness leading to trial”. I think it is instructive look at a few of the tactical options in terms of the “outcome”, in this case, “trial achieved”. To do that, we have to make a few wild assumptions, but it is still worth trying.

A relatively “efficient” option to achieve trial is to buy a primetime TV spot. It costs roughly $30 per thousand.  We never see TV production included in the cost but I am going to guess at an incremental 15%: $34 per thousand. Now, that is the “opportunity to see”.  There is no guarantee that those thousand are actually paying attention to your ad, in fact there is a good chance many are not.  So, I am going to add on “effective frequency”.  How many times do you need to show your ad before it sinks in? Based on some recent research I am going to say five[i]. That takes into account: the creative, how people watch TV and overstatement in the audience by the provider. That would bring your cost to $170 for a thousand people who are aware.  How many of those Adults 18-54 are going to go and buy your brand? How about a generous estimate of 1%? That would yield 10 Triers at $17 per person.  Put another way, you would need 17% conversion (awareness to trial) to get your cost down to $1 per Trier.
Primetime CPM (Ontario)
...add in creative of 15%
Effective frequency 5x
$170/thousand aware
Conversion to trial @1%...
...or conversion required for $1/Trier  cost

Another comparative is Pay Per Click online. To buy the keywords “Best Shampoo” on Google adwords costs roughly $2.00 per click. What that buys you is someone moving from the search page to your landing page.  Your conversion would be a fraction of that.  When I looked, the brand buying “best shampoo” was selling $25 bottles of organic super-premium shampoo. You need a price and margins like that to pay $2 per click.

There are a wide variety of sampling methods and their associated costs. Excluding cost of goods, door-to-door distribution costs roughly $0.70 per, whereas mailing to a database with a dedicated package could cost $2.50 per. A good midpoint for comparison is online request-based sampling in a co-op mailer. It costs roughly $1 per person to put a sample directly in the hands of someone in your target group. 
Of course, some programs opt for field marketing which almost always blends sampling, communication and the value of live contact which generally makes a considerable impression. That impression should impact your conversion rates.  It is usually easy to calculate a cost per “touch” in field marketing but you have to consider the value of the sample plus the communication plus the “engagement level”.
In any of these sampling tactics, if your product performs well, it’s a short walk to some very good conversion-to-purchase rates. At costs of 70 cents to a few dollars, depending on your margins, they can yield a favourable ROI.  
It may just be rough assumptions, but it is easy to see that comparing promotional tactics like sampling with mass media on a cost per thousand (CPM) is not very insightful.  If the value is in achieving Trial then the tactics that appear expensive at first glance may easily be the best value when the analysis is done.

[i] See Igor Makienko’s, “Effective frequency estimates in local media planning practice” in the Journal of Targeting, Measurement and Analysis for Marketing (2012), vol 20

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Atheist Shoes

To read about ingenious Atheist shoes look here .
It is important to design your fashion brand with publicity built in. It is also a good example of differentiation - with intangible support points.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Applebee's Social Media Teachable Moment

This is a superb cautionary tale on how as company you have to learn how to take a punch on Social Media. Applebee's thought it could control the flow and obfuscate its way out of a sticky situation in which they fired a server.

Some form of honesty is not only the best policy in an 'always on' universe, it is the ONLY policy - as the screenshot has brought down many a politician and is used as weapon in this chronicle.

Applebee's teachable moment here.

Lighthouse Clients

Cases, examples and client references are available upon request. Some of our clients over the last few years are:

Toyota Canada
Landmark Cinemas
Sleeman Breweries
Toronto Blue Jays
Cadbury Adams
Constellation Brands/Vincor
Cara Foods/Recipe - Casey's, East Side Mario's, Fionn MacCool's, Bier Markt, Kelsey's, Montana's
Sigma Alimentos - a large food company in Mexico
Multiple Sclerosis Society - MS WALK
Yellow Pages Group
New Balance Canada
Ideazon -(Gaming Hardware)
Edwards Builder's Hardware

Going further back:
Pfizer - Viagra, Detrol
Volvo Canada
Canadian Blood Services
Red Lobster USA
Xerox Canada
Sprint Canada
Absolut (Maxxium)

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