Can't Get Management Buy-in?�

In a recent posting on the American Marketing Association�s list serve for the Services Marketing Special Interest Group, someone posted this query: "There are veterans within my organizations who are resistant to accepting change of any kind. Can anyone discuss how to establish buy-in for something new -- a new approach to marketing, new market research methodologies or in my case, accepting an entirely new foundation of information gathering?" The question was an interesting one, and there were responses with all kinds of advice relevant to managing marketing research.

In one of my favorite responses, someone adapted the key ideas from a book called Changing for Good by James O. Prochaska, et, al., in which the authors lay out the change process as follows ...

Stage 1 -- Pre-contemplation: I am not even thinking about change. It does not register on my radar screen. Implication for marketers: How do we begin or broach the change discussion with our audiences?

Stage 2 -- Contemplation: I am now thinking that change may be needed.�Implication for marketers: How do we help our audiences learn about the change factors or outcomes?

Stage 3 -- Preparation: I am getting ready to change. Implication for marketers: What do we need to do to help equip our audiences for change?

Stage 4 -- Action: I am beginning the process of changing. Implication for marketers: What types of information, products, resources, and/or services are needed to support the beginning of change?

Stage 5 -- Maintenance: I am in the process of changing. Implication for marketers: What types of information, products, resources, and/or services are needed to support the process of changing?

Stage 6 -- Termination: I have completed the change process. Implication for marketers: How can we capture the testimony of change participants, celebrate and promote the outcomes?

These stages were an excellent example of how to think of the initially stated problem and get from point A to point B, and are intuitively correct. It is said that getting from the first through third stages represent the most significant leap forward.

As the thread progresses, it became clear that there was another stage that was not being discussed, and that is Stage zero. Stage zero is the point � before trying to initiate anything -- at which dedicated market researchers assess their personal job situations. They may be interested in doing great strategic work and effecting change, but realize that neither could take place under their current management team. Their choices are to wait it out to see if management comes around or hope for a shake up in corporate management.�Another option is to start networking and searching the job boards for a circumstance better suited to their aspirations and goals. You may not be able to change a company's strategy or mindset, but you can certainly change your own.�

Stage zero can definitely be the scariest stage of all, but with the current job market for talented marketing researchers, there should be plenty of options available.�

Measuring Return On Data Over Time

The United States Postal Service uses complex methodologies, calibrations and indexes to measure the quality of its customer service, according to Francis Glandorf Smith, vice president and customer advocate for USPS, who spoke recently at the American Marketing Association's Market Research Conference in New Orleans.

As one of the keynote speakers at the largest market research conference in the United States, Smith described USPS� customer service operation which handles 7 million customers a day at 37,000 retail outlets. Then she posed these questions to the room full of career researchers: "How can you effectively measure return on relationship, linking attitudinal, operational and behavioral data, and do so over time? How can you design a research program that changes as business changes?"

It's a trick question since strategic business issues are a continually moving target as things such as management, circumstance, competition and outsourcing change over time. As a very intelligent and seasoned marketer, Smith knew her question was rhetorical, yet she was hopeful that a valid solution might be coming down the road as technology continues to facilitate the bringing together of multiple data sources for analysis.�

Most were able to put themselves in her shoes and were able to appreciate the reasons Smith would want to come up with a research strategy that transcends time.�She does have a lot of customers to keep track of, after all. But that is, unfortunately, not the way things always go with corporate strategy or marketing research. The best she can do right now is what she has already done, which is to design an excellent program that is appropriate for this particular time period.

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