What Marketers and Researchers Can Learn From Each Other

At the Quirks Event in Chicago, FocusVision’s Zoe Dowling, Ph.D., SVP research, and Dawn Colossi, CMO, shared their experiences over the past year coming at common problems from the perspectives of marketing and research.

Dawn’s background was in backup and recovery technology before moving to MR software. At an earlier company, campaigns weren’t converting and weren’t showing up in the marketing dashboards. When drilling down into the behavioral data, she realized that prospects were touching many different campaigns over a long time, constructing their own buyer’s journey to explore their pain points and how her firm could solve it. So she created “a digital first, content-driven, customer-centric, data-driven, always-on marketing strategy” with an overarching campaign to tie everything together.

Where the researcher asks, “Why do people do what they do?”, the marketer asks, “How do I get people to respond?” It’s a yin-yang, made ever more critical by the fact that what used to work no longer works, with it harder than ever to get through the noise.

Research done right is impactful, digestible, and actionable. But too often in practice the reality of research is it can be ineffectual, expensive, and not actionable. Marketing done right is engaging, sticky, and also impactful. But the reality of marketing is its hard, noisy, and crowded.

When Dawn joined FocusVision, “sales people were literally screaming for leads” but Zoe stepped back to the big picture and brought back some really interesting questions: who is the customer, who is the decision maker, what are they trying to figure out, what pain points are they experiencing, what messages will rise above the noise?

In past roles, Dawn would ask sales and employees but not the customer. “When you build your marketing foundation on a shaky platform, it doesn’t stand up against opposition from sales or senior executives, resulting in changing direction many times, resulting in an inconsistent experience and a bifurcation of messaging.” Research provides the platform to build a marketing strategy correctly. “Zoe helped us put the customer in the middle of what we are trying to find out, rather than what sales, the execs, or the board thought. We came at marketing from a position of strength, talking to customers the way they want to be talked to.”

“To work together well,” Zoe said, “we followed three phases, which were not linear, but we jumped between them: translate, collaborate, and iterate.”

  • Translate – The languages of research and marketing are different enough to require some learning and translation. Zoe found it important to be embedded into the marketing team, to internalize the overarching goals and KPIs. Dawn wanted Zoe to translate data and changes in data, learning that a 0.1-point change in a mean on its own wasn’t significant, for instance. The translation was from why people do what they do to how FocusVision should respond.
  • Collaborate – Dawn hadn’t worked on a marketing team with a researcher before. “No one I had ever worked with had ever used research in technology marketing; the perception was that research was expensive and took a long time.” Zoe confessed that, as an introvert, she didn’t like to deliver bad news, but found it important to take a stand about shortcuts that would be insufficient, and she grew to recognize that that was part of the value she brought to the process. “We both want the same thing and the different perspectives coming at it make us stronger. We came together in the middle.”
  • Iterate –  Zoe did “short quick studies to get us in the right direction.” Zoe said, “we iterated begrudgingly, accepting that can’t do everything in one go, recognizing that no one piece of content is the end all, and that we have to iterate and evolve. In the last year, I have never gone back to past studies as much as I have this year – it is often still valid, though some things may be outdated, but we can build on it.” Dawn added, “It wasn’t just iterating on the research but on the marketing tactics as well. We did those small studies in the beginning while tackling big stuff, including a brand tracker, NPS tracker, and CSAT tracker.” Sales people often have a vantage point of the most recent customer or prospect they talked to. “I used the data to show where I was coming from and got support from the executive team and from the board – we now have the best alignment with sales I’ve ever seen, because the customer is at the middle. Iterating really helped.” She added, “Small data gives what people think, and big data shows their behavior in emails, on Linkedin, and on our web pages. We look at both sides of the data, and when the behavioral data is not supporting small data, we iterate.”

Zoe concluded: “We do need traditional research in a world of big data and automation. The skills that we have that are incredibly valued and required for marketing to be customer-centric.”

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