Wednesday, May 12, 2010

10 Points to Help a Boss or Board Member Who Doesn’t Grasp the Importance of Research!

It is puzzling why so many execs at community destination marketing organizations (DMO’s) still practice “ready, FIRE, aim” marketing. While the average proportion of marketing resources deployed as research (across all types of organizations and industries) is between 11% and 12%, the average among DMO’s for Durham’s competitive set nationwide is still a shocking 2% to 5%.

I admit I was fortunate. I got my head around research soon after I first became a CEO of a DMO in my mid-20’s and rapidly developed a knack for how to leverage the results. Any credit I’m given for leading destinations that rapidly eclipsed more established and well funded competitor-communities belongs in good part to utilization of research not just as a part of the marketing blend but as the foundation for other elements.research

But I certainly wasn’t out on any limb. The percentage deployed at my DMO’s was still just at or near the average across all types of organizations and industries. What made it unusual and ultimately a destination marketing best practice was that so many DMO’s hadn’t (many obviously still haven’t) caught on to what is a standard practice.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear my share of comments over the years like “why do we need research, lets just place some ads” or “the only research we need is to follow the leader (copy cat marketing)” or “you don’t need research or marketing, all you need are good sales people” “the only research you need is my opinion son” and many other comments equally absurd.

It is an exec’s job though to persistently face up to this ignorance about research and you’ll quickly find that board members who have made comments similar to these, very quickly turn on others who do and make the explanations for you.

If your supervisor is stuck in the mud, that may be more complex but the rationales are the same.

Top of mind, here are 10 quick pointers that can help you explain the need for research but beware, as an exec, it is also your responsibility to learn how to imaginatively deploy it. And be prepared to explain these things, over and over and over, until they stick:

  • Research is what helps you know and understand your strengths and weaknesses compared to your competition.

  • Research is what helps zero in on your selling proposition, e.g. what makes your community distinct.

  • Research which includes benchmarking and measurement is what tells you where to place ads, what the messages should be and when they are successful.

  • Research is what helps identify quality sales prospects. Yup, even direct sales relies on research.

  • Research is what helps you distill your community’s brand or distinct personality and character.

  • Research is what identifies and updates the metrics so critical to knowing what’s working and what isn’t about your marketing as well as conversion rates and visitor satisfaction.

  • Research is what distinguishes facts from opinions and insulates decisions from the push and shove of external or internal politics.

  • Research is how you identify higher ROI market segments, including those that are underserved or emerging and what blend of marketing strategies will be most effective and efficient.

  • Research is what helps your community and private sector developers know what and when new developments are needed and avoid over building or unintended consequences like cannibalization of other assets.

  • Finally, research is what proves your return on investment both to the local business climate and to local government in terms of sales and property taxes.

You can continue to do destination marketing without research but it is oh so much more costly. Investing the standard 12% on research as a foundation can quickly accelerate the effectiveness of every element of your marketing plan.

No comments: