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Modern marketing: Five techniques you should be using

Focus groups and market research surveys have long been the main tools for companies to understand their customers. But in a world of social media and big data analytics as well as breakthroughs by companies applying anthropological techniques, marketers have a host of new options that could be considered but too often aren't.

Four McKinsey & Co. consultants say we should learn to drive customer growth through using a mix of these five insight tools:

– Observe customers in the field: Watching customers shopping or using products can be deeply revealing. They point to an international food company that had its ethnographic researchers join people in five countries for "dine-alongs" in restaurants and private homes. They anticipated bringing their new dip to France and Italy but found two other countries actually more receptive to international cuisines and new flavours, leading to a successful launch in those markets.

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– Digitize the daily diary: For a long time, customers have had customers provide a written record of their daily decisions and purchases. But digital advances and mobile devices has made this approach more versatile, accurate and accessible. "Typical applications include video recording, photographs, and blog posting of food or beverage consumption, media usage, patient journeys, or compliance with medical prescriptions and therapies. What's more, the results are available within days, if not in real time, rather than after weeks or months," Jonathan Gordon, Volker Grüntges, Vicki Smith, and Yvonne Staack write in The McKinsey Quarterly. One pharmaceutical company learned that some arthritic patients skipped some of their daily self-injections because of pain but had kept this from physicians.

– Use advanced analytics to get much more specific insights: You can move beyond averages to much deeper insights. The consultants report that those who invest in big data and advanced analytics often achieve up to 10 per cent sales growth and up to 5 per cent higher return on sales. Philips U.S. used advanced analytics to simulate the market potential for various combinations of price tiers, channels, and product portfolios city by city, targeting the most promising customer segments.

– Listen on social media: Social media allows you to eavesdrop through services like Hyve, Winkle, BrandWatch, Synthesio, or Google Analytics on unfiltered conversations consumers are having about their preferences, experiences and habits. Beiersdorf, a personal-care company and owner of the Nivea brand, developed a new product line after finding consumers complaining on online forums about the stains deodorants left on textiles.

– Co-create with customers on digital platforms: Consumer products manufacturers are inviting customers to generate new ideas for improving products and gathering feedback after (and even before) launch to tweak offerings. Community members at My Beauty Café, an online community dedicated to hair care and beauty regiments, contributed to every stage of development for Unilever's TRESemmé Fresh Start Dry, with the company's share of the U.S. hair-care market jumping from 9 per cent to almost 16 per cent afterwards.

If you're not quite sure about the new marketing alternatives, that guide may point you in new directions.

2. The changes you need to make over your career

Danielle Merfeld, vice-president of GE's Niskayuna Technology Center and technology director at GE Global Research, has had to shift her work habits over time, given higher-level roles. She suggests on Fast Company to be alert to these four key changes as your career progresses:

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- Become less dependent on your boss: Early in your career, it's helpful to ask questions and put in a lot of face time with your boss. But at some point expectations shift and she failed to recognize that, keeping her boss in the loop on projects and decisions where his guidance was no longer needed, thus projecting insecurity rather than conscientiousness. "As you advance your career, time with the boss is better spent talking strategy (not execution) and receiving coaching, which means you may no longer need to meet once a week. Use the increased distance to build a different kind of trust – the sort that shows you can manage your team on your own," she advises.

- Manage your tasks over longer timelines: As you rise, your life is not bound up in how much is achieved in a day. Start managing your tasks according to weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly timelines. This helps to escape daily distractions.

- Start to lead like a coach: With senior roles, you need to move from oversight of subordinates to coaching. "For new managers, engaging with direct reports often means giving them time to talk through their commitments and establishing specific roles on your team. But as your management role grows, you need to spend more time discussing their approach to tasks and managing their responsibilities, and less time reviewing their actual output," she writes.

- Build your professional profile outside the firm: You will start to represent your company in social media and at conferences, which requires care and thoughtful preparation, perhaps working with the firm's external affairs team.

Think of those patterns as you evaluate your career past, present, and future.

3. To hug or not to hug?

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Hugging in a professional context can cause a lot of confusion. "You're greeting a colleague you haven't seen in a while, or ending a meeting with a client. Do you enthusiastically open your arms for a hug? Do you wait awkwardly to see if they initiate a hug first? Shrink back in the hopes that you won't get hugged? Just default to a handshake?" consultant Alison Green writes on the U.S. News Money site.

If you're a natural hugger, she warns against doing so with people you manage or otherwise have power over. Greet them warmly and take a genuine interest in how they are faring. But don't hug, since the power dynamic won't allow them to be comfortable telling you they would rather not hug.

Pay attention to the cues others give through body language, rather than assume they are ripe for a hug. In a group, don't hug some people and not others. "Even if the people you don't hug didn't particularly want to hug you, selectively hugging some people in a group and not others is likely to cause some awkwardness. Hug preferences aside, it's too clearly a sign of being closer to some people than to others and can make people feel left out or like outsiders. Instead, stick with a neutral non-hugging greeting or goodbye for everyone," she says

If you're not a hugger, sometimes you can ward it off by pre-emptively sticking out your hand for a handshake. You also could say: "I'm not much of a hugger so I'll spare you that, but it's great to see you."

4. Quick hits

- Here's consultant Alan Kearns' recipe for success: :1 cup of deep interest, 1 cup of talent, 2 tbsp. of persistence, 2 tsp. of great guidance, and 2 tsp. of great support.

- Consultant Sajiv Anand remembers visiting a CEO of a French firm's subsidiary to find not art but PowerPoint slides decorating the walls of the conference room. It seemed odd, but the leader felt it was an effective way to communicate his strategy to team members who happened to be in that room with time to spare.

- Despite the claims of synergies after mergers and acquisitions, research on the impact since 2001 for top firms found that acquirers lag industry peers on a variety of fundamental metrics http://www.spcapitaliq.com/dotAsset/8cee93c2-db8c-497c-aced-f98c74ff0e1c.pdf for an extended period following an acquisition. Profit margins, earnings growth, and return on capital all decline relative to peers. Interest expense rises as debt soars. Added nugget: Stock deals significantly underperform cash deals.

- Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, says the biggest mistake women make at work is assuming it's like school and, if they keep their head down and work hard, they will get top marks and be promoted. At school, networking wouldn't help you get an A but in the workplace you need it as well: Good work doesn't count if nobody knows about it.

- Tim McCarthy, founder of The Business of Good Foundation, says that as well as needing IQ and EQ (Emotional Quotient) to succeed you need LQ, a high learning quotient. The thirst and humility that inspires continuous learning is vital for success.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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