Use Market Research to Tie Brand Awareness and Purchase Intent to Sales

For years, I’ve been saying direct marketers are their own worst enemy when it comes to measurement. Direct marketers are good at measuring the things they’ve traditionally measured—response rates, cost per lead, cost per acquisition, etc.  But they’re not good at measuring the effect that their communications have on the non-responders; when, in fact, the effect of consistent branding in direct communications is what makes direct marketing powerhouses like Omaha Steaks and 1-800-flowers.com top of mind when consumers are ready to purchase (not to mention Amazon).

For years, I’ve been saying direct marketers are their own worst enemy when it comes to measurement.

Direct marketers are good at measuring the things they’ve traditionally measured—response rates, cost per lead, cost per acquisition, etc. But they’re not good at measuring the effect that their communications have on the non-responders; when, in fact, the effect of consistent branding in direct communications is what makes direct marketing powerhouses like Omaha Steaks and 1-800-flowers.com top of mind when consumers are ready to purchase (not to mention Amazon).

Even though consumers engage with brands on their own terms across multiple platforms, many marketers are stuck measuring the results of individual tactics rather than taking a holistic view of measurement. So when a single email or display ad fails to achieve the target level of attributable sales within a specific period of time, then they consider it a failure. Even though the communication has made an impact on those who didn’t respond, they can’t measure it, so they don’t count it.

And while many direct marketing practitioners now embrace the idea that their advertising has a cumulative effect of building a brand over time, most fall short of being able to quantify that ROI with meaningful metrics.

That’s where market research can help.

Consider the following word equations in light of how awareness contributes to sales for the top direct marketing companies:

Top of mind awareness + brand reputation + need = purchase intent
Top of mind awareness + brand reputation + immediate need = purchase

So it follows that if we can monitor awareness and reputation over time and index it to sales, then we can quantify the effects of those elements on sales revenue.

Start by surveying your prospects blindly—either through mail, email or search ads using relevant keywords. Offer an incentive that’s consistent with your product offering, e.g., “Save $$$ on cell phone accessories.” Ask respondents the following questions to determine the levels of unaided and aided awareness:

  • Which brands first come to mind when thinking of “category X”? (unaided awareness)
  • Which of the following brands (list) have you ever heard of? (aided awareness)

Get a better picture of the respondents’ product usage by asking:

  • Which brand(s) within category X do you “regularly” purchase?
  • Which brand is your favorite?
  • Which brand did you last purchase?
  • How often do you purchase this type of product?
    (Light, medium, heavy user?)
  • What percentage of “category X” purchases that you’ve made (within a certain timeframe) were “brand A”? (your share of customer)

For those who have used your brand, quantify purchase intent with the following question:

  • The next time you need this product, how likely are you to purchase “brand A”?

Next, index awareness levels to sales to sales revenues. Be sure account for category sales within the same time period. Your actual sales may have gone down, but the entire category may have gone down as well, and you may in fact have gotten more than your previous share of the category sales.

As you track these metrics over time, you will be able to quantify what a point of unaided awareness is worth in sales revenue. It’s one tool that will help you understand the effect that your communications have on sales beyond the responses that you can count directly.

Why and How to Let Prospects ‘Pick Your Brain’ Online

“Can I pick your brain on social selling, Jeff?” As a B-to-B marketer myself, I cannot afford to say no. Neither can you. Because customers may not want to do it themselves, as we suspect they do. In fact, prospects seeking free advice are often latent buyers or great referral sources. Here are two reasons to let prospects “pick your brain” and a way to give away knowledge that grows your business.

“Can I pick your brain on social selling, Jeff?” As a B-to-B marketer myself, I cannot afford to say no. Neither can you. Because customers may not want to do it themselves, as we suspect they do. In fact, prospects seeking free advice are often latent buyers or great referral sources.

Here are two reasons to let prospects “pick your brain” and a way to give away knowledge that grows your business.

Is It Stupid to Give Away Your Best Secrets?
“What kind of a business owner would be so stupid as to give away a company secret?” asks business owner Jerry X. Shea. He says prospective buyers constantly ask him how he does what he does.

“My answer … ‘that is why you are paying us to do it, because others can’t,'” says Shea.

“In 1992, I purchased a six-year-old screen printing/embroidery company,” says Shea. “We developed a way to print a four-color process on a T-shirt, and as a result I knew we would get the 10,000-shirt job as other shops in the area could not do it. Now why would I want to post on the Internet what it was we did get that end result?”

Because the Internet is an insurance policy on prospects finding what they need—with or without your help. If they want to do it themselves, they’ll find out how.

Businesses have always created and defended competitive advantages. Today, the Internet speeds-up the spread of information and exposes advantages faster. Bottom line: It’s smart to rely less on proprietary knowledge (to drive success).

The DIY Myth and the Damage It Inflicts
“Giving prospects my best advice for free will help them to do it without me.”

Not always. Here’s why believing this can hurt you.

Don’t confuse customers qualifying you with what you perceive as their purchase intent.

The act of seeking out knowledge does not always translate to customers’ wanting to do it on their own. Even in cases where it does “signal” a customer’s desire to do-it-themselves, what they want may change.

You want to be there when it changes.

Who will be there when customers change their minds? Who will they turn to when switching from, “Oh, heck, I can do that” to “Oh my, that didn’t work quite like I expected” or “Oh my. I had no idea it was that complicated.”

You should be there. You can also structure the (free) knowledge to foster prospects’ change in mindset.

Beware. Avoid the following:

  1. Misinterpreting customers intent to buy. Don’t presume customers want to do (themselves) what you want to be paid for. They may be qualifying you or the challenge they face.
  2. Over-valuing your knowledge. Avoid believing what you know is more valuable than what your knowledge DOES for clients.

Effective Content Helps You Filter Leads
Should every interaction have a financial return? Of course not. However, your time is valuable and in limited supply. Let content do the heavy lifting for you. Let blogs, white papers, video tutorials nurture prospects toward or away from buying.

Effective content marketing on YouTube, blogs or LinkedIn is all about using words to let customers:

  • get confident in their buying decision and/or ability to buy (at all)
  • self-select themselves as leads to be nurtured
  • change their mind and not do-it-themselves—returning to a trusted adviser (you)

Success is not determined by how much knowledge a business gives away. Your success is based on the material effect your advice and knowledge have on prospects.

We cannot afford to say no when customers ask for free advice. Because the act of asking does not always signal a desire to do-it-themselves. Plus, even if they are in “DIY mode” they may try, fail and come back to you—the clear, proven authority.

In my business I try to remind myself daily: Few people are willing to pay for my knowledge … but many are willing to pay for what my knowledge will DO for them. My knowledge isn’t my competitive weapon; my higher level of service is.

“The world does not pay men for that which they know. It pays them for what they do, or induce others to do.” —Napoleon Hill