Agility in a time of change

As published on GutCheck on March 10, 2014 by Jeffrey HenningAt the recent NetGain 8.0 Conference in Toronto, hosted by the MRIA (Marketing Research and Intelligence Association), Tom De Ruyck of InSites Consulting discussed the potential of online communities. In an era where conversations are making or breaking brands, and fans want a say in the future of their brands, Tom argued that “Being open and agile has become key for companies.
The last 5 years have seen tremendous change, and it is difficult for companies, and their CEOs, to keep up. Those that survive, thrive and win over the next 5 years will have to become agile. “Being agile means moving quickly in this new business environment.
Most companies are the opposite of agile today. “In reality they take one-shot actions and are organized in silos. Marketing research is one ad-hoc research project after the other, missing out on opportunities between projects.” When research organizations are structured around defined projects, they miss out on the opportunities for ongoing research, for talking with consumers every single day.

When it comes to silos, “if we want to be agile, stop segmenting work by departments.” For instance, if a major brand like Heinz wants to develop a new product, these silos mean it will take them at least 18 months. “Someone comes up with the idea, someone executes on it, someone defines strategy, someone comes up with marketing ideas, someone works with an ad agency, then the trade marketing team works to get it in the shop. It takes 18 months. Is that agile?”.
Agility cuts across departments. Agility structures work with project teams instead. Not to take anything away from researchers, but they won’t be the ones to come to the rescue of companies. Tom said, “Your customers are probably the best consultants there are for hire.” And online research communities are a great way to connect with them, and to keep your team connected to what consumers really want.

Community research isn’t just about idea generation, as popularly regarded, Tom argued. Participation from members should go deeper than that. Having a member of the community be a co-moderator, for instance, is a technique that InSites Consulting has found produces richer conversation from everyone: this co-moderator understands the brand and its consumers more intimately than the research team. Having community members help analyze the data is another way to leverage the in-depth knowledge that community members bring to the subject being researched. “You need more time to think along with your consumers, during development.” Communities give you access to your consumers throughout the process.

Working with Heinz on a brand new concept, using a research community, InSites Consulting was able to help them deliver a new product to market, from invention to the shop, in 6 months instead of 18 months.

Who is open and agile?” Tom asked. “Few companies are. You will win tomorrow if you can do it, if you can become agile.

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