Consumer insight, customer insight and market intelligence is the foundation for strategic decision making and planning

January 2016

I’ve never kidded myself that my monthly blog has a massive following, but I do know that it has a limited one plus, appropriately enough, my Google Analytics metrics show that the content delivers traffic to my website for searches relevant to individual blogs. But, in any event, my motivation for writing it has always partly been around giving myself an opportunity to research, think-through and then express a view on a particular subject. In this respect, I find it a useful tool to sharpen my stance on any number of topical issues – and this to add value to my client relationships.

That all being the case, it does rather beg the question why this is the first blog I’ve posted since last February – and having not, previously, missed a single post for over five years. Well the reason is a simple one: I took on a director-level contract consultancy position with a FMCG food business at the beginning of last year and, to say the least, it’s been intense and immensely time-consuming (like seven days a week). But having recently taken on a marketing manager for the client and with a good chunk of the marketing strategy and plan I’d put in place now being implemented, life is starting to return to a relative normality – and hence the reinstatement of my monthly blog post.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the experiences over the last 12 months with my FMCG client (which has a number of ambient snack brands and supply all of the UK’s supermarket chains) have provided me with no end of topics to write about. They’re a great client – in fact one of the best I’ve ever had – but with this greatness has come some very considerable challenges. I’ve also been able to compare the experience with another client where, up to about a year ago, I also carried out a contract position in a director role (their business being the manufacture and retail of relatively high-end kitchens). There have been some striking similarities between the two businesses – and despite radically different product categories – with these including size of turnover, number of employees, and the fact that both have at their helm a very smart, decent and ambitious MD with an entrepreneurial mind-set. A further similarity between the two individuals is that both, when I first met them, saw limited value in obtaining consumer and customer insight, market intelligence, and any other type of data that could be used to inform strategy and planning.

I’m pleased to say that one of the business leaders is now entirely won-over, with a raft of insight and metrics now being obtained and used for the good of the company. And it’s not just the MD that now gets it, but pretty much the whole of the board of directors. The leader of the other business, the one I finished the contract directorship with a year ago (but I still have as a client on a basic consultancy level), isn’t there yet and, to a large extent, is still very much reliant on gut instinct as a basis for strategic and planning decisions – accepting that it was pretty much this mind-set that saw him start his successful business nearly three decades ago, and build it ever since.

I won’t be giving up on the latter person, as the simple fact of the matter is that for any business of a reasonable size to flourish and grow in the world we now live in, they absolutely must understand their market/s, potential customers and actual customers. For the natural entrepreneur, what I see as an obvious reality may well fall into the realms of cognitive dissonance in their mind, but, and in the same way it does for religious folk, you can believe what you like but it isn’t necessarily true (and probably isn’t) if you don’t have the evidence to back it up.

Long live facts and figures.

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