By Rudy Nadilo
Traditionally, when marketing research has presented study results to senior management, they’ve only employed those specific findings. But today, senior management is increasingly interested in how results from one part of the business (e.g. customer satisfaction) correlate with findings from other parts of the business (e.g. advertising spend, social media mentions, sales, etc.). And they want them presented in a way that makes comparing results easy. Far too many marketing research execs can attest to the nightmares of using PowerPoint to accomplish this. But with the advent of online reporting systems, co-mingling data has become far easier and more practical.
Consider a management request to report on customer satisfaction. Depending upon the industry, they may request this report weekly, monthly or quarterly. Historically this has meant going into isolation for hours to create scores of slides for each of several decks that are created for different business needs. Top management may want to see the results presented one way, while product management and sales have separate interests. Beyond the obvious labor challenges, working in this manner makes errors more likely and, in the end, none of the versions really meet the exact needs of a given group.
That gap likely becomes even more evident during meetings with each of these stakeholders. Perhaps the CEO sees a sales dip in March and asks if that coincides with an advertising lull. The head of Product Marketing sees the satisfaction score down in June and questions the impact of that big consumer event. Then the Sales VP sees a dip and asks about the correlation with last summer’s spending cut. One week and many hours of PowerPoint hell later, each group is presented with updated information that may answer most of their questions.
One particularly egregious example of this problem comes to mind. I was working with a large technology company that regularly used PowerPoint slides to present research findings to management. The firm’s CMO related the following:
Anyone who has been in marketing research for countless years has had presentations that are made in silos with no context to other programs or the overall health of the business. In our case, the brand research was presented in a silo and all the core brand metrics were reviewed separately. And where there were areas of issue, such as customer preference, social media measurements, etc., a deeper dive was conducted. This process typically took us weeks, and sometimes months to execute. Once these “key findings” were made, the results were presented to senior management — again in a silo. Results were often one dimensional and had no view of other components of the business.
We weren’t alone in this — this same process was also true for Sales, which put together its own PowerPoint slides. I recall that on one occasion, I was tasked by our president to develop and present an update on our quarterly view of loyalty of our customer relationships via the Net Promoter Score and loyalty ratings from our Customer Satisfaction research. You can see what these slides looked like in Figure 1and Figure 2. When the dust settled and management had evaluated what they had seen, I was chided for some key findings that completely missed the mark. In this case, I hadn’t connected that there was a relationship between our drop in customer satisfaction and brand preference with our decline in sales in a specific region. Had I known about the additional trends, I could have adjusted our advertising and social media campaigns to possibly address these shortfalls. But between the time it took us to separately put together presentations, present them and the “discovery phase,” I estimate that we lost about four weeks in adjusting our advertising/media/social media campaign. I can assure you that shortly after this fiasco, we looked into online presentation systems that allow you to quickly co-mingle data.
The good news is that an online presentations system can solve this issue and eliminate the need to manually stitch together results from separate parts of the business. It may be able to co-mingle survey data, sales data, factory shipments, advertising ratings, sales transactions, and others by accepting SPSS, Excel, CSV, Triple-S data formats, etc.
One of the biggest benefits is getting everyone on the same page. Because while it’s too easy to lose track of different versions created for different groups, an online presentation system can ensure that everyone is using the same core set of data. It also puts things in context, since by importing other information on research and events, the information can be presented in a manner that easily lets your specific audience see correlations and obtain actionable insights. And, as must be obvious by now, it can streamline the production and the deployment of accurate information.
Getting back to the first customer satisfaction example above, moving from PowerPoint to an online reporting system that co-mingles data could reveal that lowered advertising GRPs coincided with one drop, reduced spending may have impacted another and a strong consumer event positively impacted a third. This insightful information would be based on real data vs. management guesses, would be available immediately without the time and effort required for building additional slides and would negate the need to schedule and attend more meetings.
Recently, I heard from a CMO at a large technology company that successfully used this approach. Here’s what she told me:
We had built an umbrella dashboard that enabled us to immediately view multiple continuous market research tracking programs, including overall satisfaction by region, brand health as it related to awareness, consideration and preference, Advertising GRP’s and social media trends, along with key sales figures to identify any issues. You can see an example of our dashboard in Figure 3. It shows that while total sales were up and on plan, the Eastern region was down substantially at minus 12 percent. At the same time, we saw that Overall Satisfaction was down in the East and “Preference” from the brand study was also down two percent. Furthermore, Sentiment was down, indicating that social media mentions were negative.
It became obvious to us immediately that there was an issue in our Eastern Region, as both sales and overall satisfaction were significantly lower there. Coupled with that, was a reduced overall preference for the brand and a significant increase in negative social media mentions of us.
While this graphic shows one dimension of the data for each of these different sources, the data was dynamic and so we were able to click on the preference information, see what was driving the decline in preference, and click on social media data to get a better understanding of what was driving sentiment down.
Once we had the data we wanted, we checked with some other departments, including the Support Center. They confirmed that the issues associated with customer satisfaction, preference and social sentiment originated because of a problem with a component of a product that we distribute in our Eastern Region. This faulty component was causing our product to overheat and shut down. I was relieved that we found the answer so quickly, but also alarmed when I realized that these dissatisfied customers were driving the negative results in the transactional customer satisfaction program, the drop in preference and were behind the large increase in negative sentiment on social media. And to this day, I don’t fully understand why Support didn’t identify this issue to management earlier.
While our “single source of truth” dashboard using co-mingled data did not prevent the faulty component issue, it helped us more quickly identify that there was an issue in the East so that we could address it faster. And while it’s hard to put a price tag on that, we know that all of the marketing areas that had fallen were on the upswing again within a few months after we were able to fix the supplier issue.
To the technology company and all others that are using commingling capabilities, I say, “Congratulations on getting out of PowerPoint hell!”