What does the Post COVID-19 Landscape in business look like?

How will the Post COVID-19 pandemic landscape in business be changed? Are we headed to a future like the Jetsons or one like Mad Max? Companies who once feared remote workers are waking up to the benefits of this work/life balance. Others are in panic mode because “we’ve always done it this way” no longer applies.

As a Data Science company, we are always looking ahead. One thing we get asked about is what should business be doing now to prepare for the world in the new normal. At our first in-person lunch meeting Post COVID-19 pandemic, we came to the conclusion the two book-ends are: Jetsons or Mad Max.”

Here are some of our thoughts:

The Post COVID-19 Business Landscape

We believe the major change is how customers now interact with companies. We have, because of the pandemic shown that companies can actually do just fine working from home, can deliver good like groceries, food, and even luxury items without the in-person experience, and that companies can do a better job using technology to deliver what the customer wants, when the customer wants it.

This is pandora’s box. We can’t go back. Because we had to do this to survive, now we have to continue to do it as part of our business model. However, what most companies built in haste, isn’t scalable. It is now time to rethink how we use the data we have (and the data we can get) to build a scalable solution that gives us insight into what customers want, and gives the customers what they desire–better access.

Interestingly enough, when going back through our past project history, we realize we have been building solutions for just this problem for years. Take for example the persona model we built for Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). It is a great example of how to use data for greater impact.

For OPPD, one of the few publically owned utilities in the entire country, our predictive model allowed them to understand which product or service each household had the highest chance to purchase, and then give that insight to their sales and marketing teams. This meant that:

  1. Their customer service agents now had access to which products to recommend when they called in.
  2. Their sales team knew which households were most likely to want each product, and
  3. Their marketing team knew which product to market to each household.

Predictive modeling like this allows companies to “hit” more than “miss”. If your able to be more effective, even by a small margin, you may edge out your competitor. Tell that to Jacob Kiplimo who was on pace to set the world record for a 43:00 15km run. Kiplimo raised his arms to celebrate before crossing the finish line. It was then that Kibiwott Kandie passed him and finished in 42:59 and was the first to break the record instead.

Understanding how to start with data-driven decisions can be tough. Lucky for you, there is a company that can help you get this kind of insight, and teach you how to do it. Contact Us today and we’ll be happy to help ensure you hit the ground running post-COVID.

Rethinking why and where to network.

Its amazing when you have a target market how it changes everything you do. I realized a few weeks ago, some of the networking I was doing was not a good use of my time. The problem was not that there was a lack of good people there, but rather my target market wasn’t there. It was time to adapt. All networking has an expiration date, but this was different. I looked at my sales philosophy, the one written on a sticky note behind my computer that tempers everything I now do, and realized I needed to change how I network. The sticky note reads: (more…)

Why Customer Segmentation Will Improve Your Marketing

I have been married for almost 10 years. I have gotten good at buying gifts, even clothes. I can match blouses and jewelry, dresses and belts, shoes and jeans. My secret? I look at the mannequins. Mannequins were designed to attract your attention in a store window and to lure you into the store. Then inside, they are designed to show you some of the combinations you could make with their clothes. Essentially they are designed to get you to buy more than one thing. This is perfect for guys. All we have to do is point to the mannequin and ask a store sales person where we can find those certain pieces of clothing.  We can buy the mannequin lock stock and barrel and end up with a complete outfit for our brides.
This is actually what I do when I do marketing for companies. Marketing comes in two forms. Marketing to your current clients and marketing to people who aren’t your current clients. I view each as a completely different problem while most marketing companies do not. They have only have one mannequin with the same clothes for every store. Children’s clothes, women’s clothes, men’s clothes, all the same mannequin.
Unfortunately most of the marketing plans I see are all the same. The commercials are different but the plan is the same. They do direct mail, email, print campaign, radio, and if they have the budget, TV ads. Their view is that all people are potential clients which as you who follow the blog know, is not true.  The problem is that they have no idea who their target audience is, and how to market to them. They found a campaign that reaches a lot of people and they sell you that one. It may have different clothes, but it is the same mannequin. It is essential to use customer segmentation to improve marketing.
This is critical to understand. Gone are the days when people walk down a street with stores on it, see a mannequin, and make the decision to go inside. Now, people browse their favorite stores online and are more loyal to store brands like Gap, Old Navy, JC Penny’s, Younkers, and Von Mauer. We have to get a new mannequin.
Mannequins, models, are going through a huge makeover right now.  In fact, if you do a job search for entry-level marketing positions, they are looking for things like statistics, modeling, and analytics in your background. What they are struggling to come to understand is the idea of marketing to one person at a time. Marketing now needs individualized messaging.
I don’t have to go to far back to find when this was still science fiction. Minority Report (2002) shows a seen where character John Anderton is walking through the mall and cameras recognize, data base search, and present relevant ads, based on his buying history. To see a version of this now, just go to iTunes. Any song I buy will create 5 suggestions of other songs I might like, based on my buying history, songs with similar tempos, themes, or by the same artist. With a predictive analytics company like ours, we can do the same thing for your product.
First you have to understand something about how we view marketing. This is the key philosophy that makes us different. Marketing is using a different medium to get in front of your target audience for the sole purpose of selling to them. Selling to them. The sole purpose.  EVERYTHING else is branding. Branding is fine. We do a lot of branding. We just don’t call it marketing. That key aspect alone will forever change the way you do marketing. When you use it as a sales tool, you will no longer accept marketing with no measurement of who looks at it, how it is crafted, and where it is put. It will focus your marketing on only the people who have an actual chance to buy from you in the marketing cycle. This does not include: people who might buy, people you think need to be introduced to your product, or someone who might have a need someday. What marketing with the intent to sell does is only spend your time and money on the people who are ready to buy now.
How do we do this? We use math and econometrics to understand the buying process. What causes people to think of buying a product like yours? What series of events leads to needing a product like yours? Who are the people in a company that make the decision to buy a product like yours? These are important things to understand in the process. Don’t market to someone who doesn’t need what you are selling, isn’t high enough up in a company to make any kind of decision, or hasn’t experienced any kind of problem that your product would fix. It wastes time. Why would you ever market a phone system to a sales person. They can’t buy it. Why would you ever market a copy machine to a company of 4 people. They can’t afford it.
I have heard the argument that you need to be in front of those people now so they think of you when he problem arises. Valid argument. However, because of the new view of marketing I just gave you, that states that marketing is used as a sales tool to find people who are ready to buy now, you can see that this is branding. Branding is necessary, we do branding; however, if you have a company like us who markets you correctly, i.e. to the right people, at the right company, at the right time, you don’t even need to do that.
Example.  Name someone who makes shingles.  Not someone who installs them, someone who makes them. Why don’t you know? Shingles protect everything in your home and are the first thing damaged in a storm. If you own a house, shouldn’t you know who the best, worst, and middle of the road companies are in the shingle business? The reason you don’t need to know, is that you don’t need shingles. When the time comes and you need shingles, you will do your research and find a company that installs the type of shingle you want on your home.
It’s the same for business. People don’t really need to know about your product until they start doing research about your product. Key point: Up until now, you had to guess when companies were going to need you and you had to brand so that people remembered you when that time came. Now, with analytics, we can predict when to contact companies because we can predict when they should be beginning research on products similar to yours.
Think about this — how can a marketing company know where to put your ads either on TV, radio, direct mail, email campaigns,and social media without knowing what causes someone to buy your product. Its time to start marketing differently. Instead of putting mannequins in the window, lets know the person that is walking down the street. Lets advertise to them when they need us, want us, and can afford us, and save our money on tire kickers, time wasters, and spectators.  Its time to spend your hard-earned marketing budget on the people who we need to talk too. Its time to work smart.

Contemporary Analysis: Testimonial from Universal Information Services

Universal Information Services enlisted the services of CAN to improve the measurable impact of our Google Adwords campaign and drive more relevant prospects to our website. Their approach seemed to accomplish our goal, but used a methodology that made the process both cost effective and easy for us to understand from a non-technical perspective.

Ultimately, nearly every measurable metric from Google indicated a sizeable increase. Most importantly to us was that our ad placement greatly improved from either not showing at all or being near the bottom, to ranking between 3rd and 5th in nearly every ad we had running.
Contemporary Analysis used an approach where they gathered baseline data on what we had been doing on our own, then suggested and implemented some changes. This initial change was tracked for 30 days, evaluated, and then modified again to further extend our benefits. We underwent three rounds of this track, modify, and measure process. Our final report proves out that the Contemporary Analysis model worked for improving our Adwords performance and has increased the number of relevant leads we receive from our website.
I am confident we will again use Contemporary Analysis to continue pushing the success of our Google Adwords campaign as well as optimize our website to reinforce this campaign.

Todd Murphy
Vice President

Predictive Analytics — The Evolution of Business Intelligence

Predictive analytics is the next step in the evolution of business intelligence.  Most companies, even local small business, have already implemented business intelligence systems that help them understand what has happened, why it happened and what is currently happening.  For example, most small businesses have implemented Quickbooks and Google Analytics that allow them to report, analyze and display data about their finances, operations and marketing. (more…)

Why I Blog for Customers Instead of Fans

I stopped blogging in November 2010 after almost a year of daily updates because I realized that, while people were reading my materials, my clients weren’t.  I realized then that I needed to change the focus of my writing.  Previously I had been writing about what I found interesting and focused on the number of people reading my blog.  As a result, this actually had a negative impact on my brand because I was spending my time blogging instead of helping my clients achieve their goals.  While I still think blogging is important, my focus has shifted to helping clients meet their Sales, Marketing, Retention, Management and Planning goals rather than on the number of visits per day.
My change in focus has changed how I select content for my blog, how I promote it, and what metrics I use to measure success. I now focus on blogging about conversations that I have with customers, because if one customers values a specific conversation it is likely that other customers will find the post valuable.  (This post is actually the result of a conversation with a customer.) Instead of promoting my posts for mass consumption, I now recommend posts to specific people that will find them valuable and encourage them to engage in the conversation.  My metric for success is no longer the number of visits to my site or read times, but instead how many people tell me that the content on my blog has helped them with their business.
In the spirit of blogging for customers instead of fans, what specifically would you like me to research and write on?

Zombie Marketing: Go from Infection to Infestation

At CAN, we love trying to figure out why things work or don’t work.  This often leads to continuous experimentation.  I decided to unleash this post about Zombie Marketing because it is our latest marketing strategy, it is lethally effective, and, well, it’s about ZOMBIES!

For full-out zombie apocalypse, the key is for the infection to reach critical mass before the authorities are able to exterminate the Differently Animated.  For a Zombie outbreak to take over the world you don’t announce it to the masses. Instead, you infect a few key people and let the virus spread quietly.  In sales and marketing, as with Zombies, the key is to select the right people to contact, but the ‘right people’ aren’t who most would people usually think of.
When most people think about influential people, they tend to focus on the leaders of social groups, people at the center of their social group with many people listening to them.  Although they are the center of their social group, leaders are very difficult people to infect because they typically have a specific platform to protect, and their attention is fragmented because so many people want their attention.  Even if you manage to infect a leader without first reaching an overwhelming critical mass, infecting them won’t have as much impact as if you even had already established a small but concentrated infected user-base.  A prime example of using leaders as infectious agents is when you get a celebrity endorsement for a product with an established user-base, or a celebrity endorsement for a brand new product that no one has ever used.
Instead of infecting leaders, the key to a successful Zombie Marketing strategy is to infect the influencers in a group.  Influencers are people on they edge of many social groups, they don’t have a platform, and they move easily from one social group to the next infecting people with their ideas.  Influencers easily develop horizontal friendships, which are friendships between people with different interests, geographies, races, ages, education backgrounds, income levels, and lifestyles.  People with horizontal friendships are especially valuable because they are constantly being exposed to new ideas, perspectives, products, and people outside of what would be considered their typical sphere of influence. (Check out a related post on the value of horizontal friendships)
Since influencers are infinitely curious and open to new friendships and ideas, I find them quite enjoyable and relatively easy to infect.  However, they require a different method of infection compared to leaders and the masses.  To infect leaders you have to get recognized, with the masses you have to push your message, and with influencers you have to allow them to discover something novel.  People become influencers because they enjoy discovering new, novel and previously undiscovered ideas.

  • Focus Your Content on Solutions to Specific Needs: Influencers enjoy connecting people to solutions to their ideas.  In Zombie Marketing you want to make spreading the infection as easy as possible.  You want influencers to know that if they find someone with a specific need you have the solution.
  • Focus Your Analytics on the Infection: You want your focus to be on developing content that infects influencers, and your content will be guided by the feedback that you receive.  So don’t focus on visits or clicks.  Instead focus on time on site, conversion, comments and loyalty.
  • Provide Consistent Value: When people invest their money or time in something they expect to get consistent results.  If you want people to keep coming back to your site you want to provide them with consistent value.  This doesn’t mean that you have to post everyday, but that if you post once a week you continue to post once a week and preferably on the same day.
  • Promote your Work Sporadically during Off Times: While you need to continually develop great content, promoting your work sporadically and during off times can work in your favor, at least until you gain a significant user base.  Not posting all of your content encourages people to keep checking back in with your website to get the latest updates.  Post during off times, like Friday, Saturday and Sunday night when most people aren’t posting and yet their are still people hungry for new content.
  • Let the Virus Run It Course: In addition to being patient, you need to develop content that is viable over a long period of time.  This means that it should be memorable and solve a need that people will have today, tomorrow and a year+ from now.  That way once you infect someone with your ideas, they are useful and contagious for as long as possible.

Disclaimer: Zombie Marketing might not be for you if you operate in a perfectly competitive market place with many sellers, many buyers and an undifferentiated product.  However, if you operate in a monopolistic competitive market places then a Zombie Marketing strategy might be the right one for you.

Insurance Client Stories-Contemporary Analysis

CAN has been fortunate to help a number of Life and Health Insurance companies work smart.  It has been a great relationship because clients from Life and Health Insurance companies understand what we do as they are experts in using mathematics to forecast human behavior on a biological side, and CAN is an expert in applying predictive analytics to forecast human behavior on a marketing and sales side.  Our customers invest in developing new products, and we use math to make sure they can distribute them most effectively.  The following are some of the solutions we have developed:
Marketing ROI with Terrain: Our clients wanted to know the ROI of their marketing campaigns, but had been struggling to develop a system that was able to determine the impact that their marketing was having on sales.  We agreed that it would be too difficult to explain the impact that a company’s marketing was having and instead we used CAN’s Terrain system to explain the impact that the economy and seasonal fluctuations had on sales.  With every predictive model their is a residual x-factor that can not be explained in detail.  So instead of including the economy, a major driver of purchasing decisions, in the X-factor, we included the company’s marketing in the X-factor.  While they did not exactly accomplish their goal of measuring the ROI of their marketing activity, we were able to explain how economics and seasonality impacted sales and the residual could be attributed to marketing, competitors and other factors.  Now our clients can get a reasonable idea if marketing is impacting sales.
Client Management: Using Pulse, CAN helped our clients understand and improve their client portfolio by modeling the factors of client profitability, loyalty and claim activity.  Each week we provide our client with a list of the clients that are at risk of leaving within the next 90 days, and a list of sales leads that have a high probability of being profitable and loyal clients.  Each month we provide them with a report on their client portfolio relative to the population and their goals.

Sales Management: Using Beacon, CAN has worked to connect agents and brokerages to our clients home offices.  Beacon has been used to focus the development of leads and marketing materials to best serve the needs of agents and brokerages.  Beacon also has been used to improve communications with training, regulations and promotions between home offices and agents by segmenting agents by learning styles and providing communication guidelines to our clients.

How to Adopt a New System

I am biased towards systems because CAN builds simple systems to help people work smart.  The other day I noticed that a new employee wasn’t using one of our systems to complete his work. When I confronted him about this he responded, “I am not an systems kind of guy”, and my response what “No one is naturally a systems kind of guy.” I have never met someone that enjoyed using systems at first, because it feels unnatural or the person feels that the system is creating unnecessary amounts of work. All of this is true.
Systems feel unnatural because they force people to work in standard ways, and well designed systems are built to create standards based on best practices. Systems do create more work because they require us to put our thoughts into data that can be stored and transferred, however this allows us to handle more work since we can focus on processing information as opposed to storing information.
Some of the keys to adopting a new system in your organization are:

  • Marketing/Selling the New System: People don’t like change, and it is likely that most of your employees feel that the current system works just fine.  Make sure to market your new system so that your employees understand what problems the new system solves, and what the features of the new system are.  Make posters, videos, websites and emails explaining why it is important to adopt the new system, and host user groups so that people can learn from each and offer ways to improve the system.
  • Single Point of Failure: If you adopt a system, anything that doesn’t happen within the system should be treated as if it didn’t happen. You have to be firm and not backdown. Any exceptions will erode the adoption. When it comes to systems adoption three legs are better than four.
  • End Support for Old Systems: When you officially adopt a new system, cut support for the previous system.  Your new system will be undermined if any employees are allowed to continue in their old ways.

What experiences have you had with adopting new systems? Any interesting tips/tricks?

Featured Posts – Click the Brain
CAN Jewels