And now, a few words from our sponsor about chilling out on the Starbucks patio to improve your marketing research...
I can circumnavigate the globe with the best GPS ever created, Global Positioning via Starbucks. Drop me anywhere on the planet, and I will find my way to the nearest Starbucks or patio-con-cafe. Want to know the coffee house with the best patio, best espresso shot, best crew, worst bathrooms, most corporate lockstep, most responsive and responsible management? Call me.
My point? An alert participant in life, his community, and in mundane, everyday conversations can gather an abundance of useful information, voluntarily offered and unobtrusively gathered. A diligent marketer needn't invade people's privacy or manipulate them to get pertinent data for creating persuasive, appropriate strategies. Chill out on the nearest java joint terrace and listen ' til it hurts -- and trust me, it will hurt occasionally. Pay attention, do deep, intense people-watching, interpret a little of what you see and hear, talk a little, question. PARTICIPATE.
As a friend in the U.K. says,
"Only Americans need a million-dollar survey to tell them the bleeding obvious."
W. Edwards Deming noted the proclivity of American big business to dismiss "unknown and unknowable factors" and business anomalies when he was a consultant to post-war Japan, helping the the shattered country re-invent their economy. Although he was a reknowned statistician, Deming stated "one of the seven deadly diseases of management is running a company on visible figures alone" -- banking every decision on "statistics in a vacuum."
While American executives remote-controlled their decisions by commissioning study after study of consumer behaviour, Japanese companies sent executives and employes into the marketplace, to observe consumer behaviour first-hand -- at sales counters, in appliance stores, in automobile dealerships. As Americans lagged behind in the technology and manufacturing race, insistently making big, gas-guzzling cars with fins, the Japanese passed them by with micro-circuitry, compact cars, and attention to detail. "Made in Japan" ceased being a label to ridicule and became something to emulate.
Decades later, here goes American business again, this time with algorithms and "reality mining" overruling common sense. To entrepreneurs, micropreneurs, solo-preneurs and marketing people everywhere: Get out of your cubicles, java-chat your patio mates, and download real life.
After you've done your reality check, then you can supplement what you've heard, observed, and learned with surveys and statistical studies. With an open mind and open heart, reassess your strategy, rewrite your business plan. Yes, it may mean pulling a 180 and going an entirely new direction with your cherished, long-harboured idea. It could mean ditching your scheme completely and starting from scratch.
Scary? Oh, yeah. Gut-wrenching, disappointing, and bewildering. But, profound knowledge (remember, no more "data in a vacuum") is a "[l]ong-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy [and] is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and people who expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment." (Deming)
You want BUZZ? Go for a coffee at the scene of the crime.