We all gather information about our customers. What do we do with it? We (hopefully) use it to inform our decisions and then it gets filed away. In some cases this is vertical (i.e. thrown away) but usually it is horizontal, to gather dust on a shelf somewhere that is soon forgotten. I think it’s time we changed this and turned our information investments into gold!
There are many, many ways to gather information about the customer: observation, listening, market research and external reports. I recently wrote about all the information on our customer that we should have at our disposition in a post called “12 Things you need to know about your target customers”. We need a lot of information to really know and understand our customer and it clearly will not come from one single market research project or report. Therefore that knowledge must be built up over time and that is where the problem lies.
Often we forget we already have the information and go out and buy it again. This is particularly common when the marketing department changes its lead or members – which seems to be every year or two in many organisations these days! Everyone thinks they need more information, when they actually most likely need more insight. (I have written several posts on insight development, including “Are you into insights or information?”) Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas on resolving this situation, so that your hard-fought budget gets spent on gathering information that you don’t have available and really do need.
#1. Review what you’ve got
Data, information and knowledge are only useful if they are analysed and converted into understanding and insight. In today’s data-rich environment, this is often where companies struggle the most. Next time you need information about your customer, start by reviewing the information and knowledge you already have, and also ask other departments who may need similar information, if they have it, before commissioning further research or report purchases.
#2. Share what you’ve got
One of the reasons companies spend money on gathering information that is already available internally, is because they don’t know it is! To help reduce this overspend, which unfortunately most suppliers will not inform you of, you need to make sure that everyone who might need the information is made aware of it and has access to it.
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For one of my clients, we discovered that some external reports were being bought separately more than 20 times within the organisation! As if that wasn’t bad enough, several different departments were also buying access to the same databases, and others were doing almost identical pieces of market research at approximately the same time.
To avoid this:
- make a review of information needs across the organisation, or across the region or globe if yours is an international business
- make one person responsible for negotiating company-wide deals with suppliers; the savings made may even cover the cost of this position and is therefore well worth the investment
- share plans for market research projects across businesses and look for opportunities to combine for further cost savings
#3. Store what you’ve got
Despite all the actions specified in #2. above, you may still find that there are times when unplanned information needs crop up. This is where a knowledge database or library becomes effective. It can be as simple as a folder on a shared drive or as complex as a bespoke platform, or anything in between. What is important is that is meets the needs of those looking for information and that all relevant people have easy access to it.
Whichever size of storage you decide on, I suggest first making an audit of information needs. This should cover both what is available, as well as what is needed and why. However be careful to distinguish between what people would like to have and what they actually need; I have found a wide difference between the two in many cases.
#4. Build your Library
Once you have identified the real needs of your organisation, it is time to build your Library. And don’t think once you have built it that people will immediately start to use it! They need to be encouraged to share their knowledge. In my experience, this can sometimes be met with concerns about the confidentiality of the information stored:
“I would love to see what everyone else has gathered, but of course my information is confidential and can’t be shared”
One possible solution to this is to provide right of use only to those who share their knowledge and information, ideally at similar levels to their access. ”Greedy outliers” who take more than they give should then be easy to identify.
Another issue that can crop up with open sharing is management’s worry about leaking information to the competition, especially when employees leave the company. Although this is often an exaggerated risk, in most cases this can be significantly reduced by controlling information download. If certain projects, especially new product development, are considered to be too high a risk to share, then these can have a confidential “as needs” basis rule, or a time limit set on them before being made public.
#5. Mine the gold
The real gold from information sharing comes quickly once it starts to be a reality. Even for smaller knowledge libraries, I have found that within six months the available information starts to replace planned research projects or report purchases.
Once the Library is up and running, the next step is to start sharing your insights too. As mentioned in “Five ideas to improve your insight development” insights can often be used across more categories than the one for which it was developed. In the post I share a couple of examples of them:
- INSIGHT: Parents want to protect their children so that they grow up happy and healthy used by:
- Unilever’s Omo and its “Dirt is Good”; see one of their ads on YouTube here
- Nestlé’s Nido; check out one of their ads here. Interestingly Nestlé has also used this same insight for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas.
- INSIGHT: Young women want to be appreciated for who they really are i.e. not models used by
- Unilever’s Dove was the first brand to recognise and benefit from this insight with their infamous Real Beauty campaign; see one of their more recent ads here
The power of information sharing goes a long way to increasing the return on information investments. Reviewing what you’ve already got, sharing and making it accessible to all, and then developing a library platform will all help increase its use whilst at the same time reducing the costs of market research and information gathering. So, what are you waiting for?
Have you developed your own system or library for information and insight sharing? If so please share your experiences and horror stories in the comments below. Everyone would love to know what some of the challenges may be for them when they follow your example.
Need help in negotiating your information contracts or in building an information / insight Library? Why not call to discuss just how much you could be saving & increase your information ROI. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!
If you would like to know more about knowledge sharing please check out our website here: http://www.c3centricity.com/c3c-solution/processes/knowledge-sharing/