By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which currently runs every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne BlackAaron RossJosiane FeigonMeagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.  

Our guest is Don Gregory, President, OnTarget Consulting & Research. Don is a business and market growth specialist who has gained valuable experience by working with a wide range of companies and organizations at various stages of business and market maturity. In this episode: We discuss the importance of gathering market insights, marketing intelligence, doing research to understand what the markets is interested in. We talk about the importance of having those insights at the front of the process to guide and help navigate product development, message development– and a lot more. Listen in or read it below

Matt:  Thank you for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio. If you are listening to us live thank you very much for finding us. You can find us live every Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific.

You can also find us on demand through our podcast at the iTunes Store and at Google play. You can just look up Sales Pipeline Radio. Thank you for those of you that are listening there. And you can find all of our past episodes and subscribe and learn more about us at salespipelineradio.com.

In addition to college football highlights we regularly feature thought leaders, authors and others that can talk about what’s happening today in B2B sales and marketing. We call it Sales Pipeline Radio because what really matters with sales and marketing is dealing and converting on sales pipeline – you can’t buy a beer with a marketing qualified lead. So even on the marketing side we are thinking in terms of the revenue and business impact that companies are having to drive new revenue and sales.

I am excited today to feature as our first guest of 2017, someone who I consider a friend, a mentor who has been a partner and a supplier for us – I’ve hired him numerous times when I was in house, he has been a research partner of ours for the entire time we’ve had Heinz Marketing and just an all-around great guy, just really humbled that he would join us especially on our first episode for 2017; Don Gregory, the founder of OnTarget Consulting. Don thanks so much for joining us.

Don:  Hey, my pleasure, it’s good to talk to you.

Matt:  Anything you want to add to the college football conversation before we move on?

Don:  No, I am a college basketball fan and my Gonzaga team is ranked number five so that’s the only thing that I can claim at this point.

Matt:  Yeah, as much as I am into college football, college basketball is a blind spot to me; I don’t follow it is also we will have to get into that some other time. But excited to have you on. I mean you bring such an interesting perspective to the marketing world. I just love working with you and just sometimes listening to you talk and especially listening to you ask questions in meetings, ask questions of companies as they are thinking through some of their marketing challenges. Start off talking just a little bit about your background and sort of your approach to marketing and consulting today.

Don:  Yeah, I would be glad to. I grew up in the advertising agency word with a number of agencies, worked on the client side, rose to senior-level marketing positions, probably the company’s most known put out would be the Clark’s corporation. And during all of the time I was responsible for building brands, taking products to market and realized very quickly that nobody did it really well.

So at one point I said I am going to go do it by myself. I mean I provide consulting and market research to clients who are interested in really trying to understand what it takes to generate customers, create customer loyalty, set yourself apart from the competition, in essence be smarter and more nimble than your competitors in trying to find out how to generate customers, create product and service interests and transition that into knowledge and revenue growth.

Matt:  So I want to talk a little more about sort of the importance of gathering market insights, marketing intelligence, doing research to understand what the markets is interested in. Because I think we are living in the world today, in a business world… that is thinking of agility as a replacement of strategy. And I think you’ve got a lot of company that are saying yeah, you’ve got to throw something out there, we are going to break some glass, we are going to see what works. We are going to use our intuition to build products and positioning and eschew the notion that we need to have insights and intelligence at the beginning of the process.

I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to that but I would like to get your take on that. Talk about the importance of having those insights at the front of the process to guide and help navigate product development, message development et cetera.

Don:  Well it’s a risk reward equation. If you are highly confident that you know your customer, you know your marketplace, your competition, emerging trends with your consumers, you can argue that you don’t need to get insight early on in the process of going to market and figuring out how to take products and services to market.

The reality is that most companies and most leaders really don’t have that insight. What makes it worse is that many of the companies in my opinion who are providing market research are providing facts and data, they are really not driving to try to understand the consumer, what the consumer is looking for whether it be B2B, B2C, it really does not make any difference, the process is the same.

But they are not going to the depth of insight and questioning and really trying to understand what that marketplace, those consumers, again B2B or B2C are really looking for. And therefore the risk there is in both cases if you don’t do the research, you are shooting into the blue sky in my opinion. And if the research is not done well, you are assuming that you have insight and knowledge that you really don’t because you really didn’t do the research with the right rigor and right questioning pathways to get to the depth of insight that you are looking for.

As you know, the difference between success and failure is often a very fine line and it’s a very fine line around really understanding what the consumer wants and the degree of how much they want it and what it’s going to take the transition them from being a potential prospect to a customer. If I just provide you with lots of insight and data that she was everything you need to know about the customer without going to the next steps of that investigation to try to understand what’s really going on that you can take advantage of in messaging, in product definition, in product building that really insights them and intrigues them with your product. If you do not get intrigued when you are taking products to market or services to market, I think you failed at the outset. You have to create intrigue.

Matt:  We are talking to Don Gregory today on Sales Pipeline Radio who is the founder of OnTarget Consulting and is a particular expert and advocate around the idea of market insights, market intelligence and really building product strategy, go to market strategy and informing your sales and marketing efforts based on what the market is telling you in an unbiased way.

And you mentioned a little earlier the idea of rigor and discipline and how you do this. Could you talk for me, we have jump to go to a commercial here in a second but can you talk a little bit about methodology? Why is it so important to make sure you are approaching this research right? Maybe a different way of asking that is what it is sometimes dangerous to have company insiders do their own research?

Don:  Their bias to start with. And they don’t know that many… I do the research completely inside and go out I bring a natural bias to me, with me as I do that investigation. And the rigor has to be impartial and has to be neutral. When I am looking for an answer to a question, I have to have integrity in process and in actions to make sure that I work an honest answer to what I am looking for versus – here is my assumption on what the answer is therefore am going to ask the question to assume and get the answer that I am looking for.

And it is subtle because when you are on the inside I don’t think you understand that bias that you carry and that’s why I think the rigor for having somebody or some organization from the outside who has the expertise in looking in at business situations as well as the business savvy to really look and understand sort of what the key questions are. Once you understand what they key questions are, the areas of investigation are, then to effectively find out the answers to those questions.

Matt:  Yes sometimes it’s not only sort of coming up with the right questions and the way that you address those questions but also the interpretation of the data that you get on the back end to make sure that you are interpreting that in an unbiased way and not steering that towards an outcome or a narrative that you wish that you had, that you want to have, that you want to confirm.

And if you are doing research simply to confirm a notion that you already have, really, really easy to slide into a biased way of doing that. We are going to have to take a quick break, we will be back with more in time with Don Gregory. We are going to talk about some of the things that are working today, some of the channels, some of the techniques that are working to gather insight both upfront as well as on an ongoing basis. Thanks very much for joining us. We will be right back! This is Sales Pipeline Radio!

[Break]

Paul:  All right! Let’s pick it back up with Matt and his guest!

Matt:  Awesome! Thanks very much Paul! Thanks so much again for joining us, this is Sales Pipeline Radio. If this is your first time, I promise we don’t go so non sequitur at the beginning of every session, we make sure we get maximum time for our great sales and marketing guests.

Speaking of great sales and marketing guests, if you want to hear some of our past amazing guests and our interviews with them you can check those out at any time on demand salespipelineradio.com or if you download the “subscribe to our podcast” feed on the iTunes Store or Google play you will have access to all of those as well.

Coming up as we continue in the January in 2017, next week January 12 we’ve got Grant Cardone. I am really excited to feature Grant. Grant has been a sales influencer, sales speaker and author for a long time, he’s got a lot of great insights.

In a couple of weeks we’ve got John Miller who is an early executive from Epiphany who was one of the cofounders of Marketo and is now running a company called Engagio which is doing some great account based marketing work, great new platform if you are doing target account selling you might want to look at that. But we’ve got a lot of great guests coming up but we will have plenty more time here with Don Gregory who is the founder of OnTarget consulting and is really sort of an expert, a leading expert in the industry on market insights, market intelligence.

I am curious Don like, assuming that we have the right approach, we are prioritizing those market insights, we are ensuring that we’ve got an unbiased view and that we are creating sort of an infrastructure and a question set that ensures that we are getting good intelligence back, I mean are we going back to some of the same channels? I mean back when I was at Microsoft we would do a lot of focus groups together. Are people still doing focus groups? Have those been replaced with other channels? What are some of the effective means by which you are gathering this intelligence today?

Don:  Focus groups are still used. I think my opinion here, their lifecycle in many cases is really towards the end of the lifecycle. We use on our end we use executive interviews, we use a lot of web surveying and at times based on what the need is and the complexity of getting the people, we will do outbound telephone surveys.

I have actually found that web surveys actually work very well if you have the right question pathways and the right questions you can leverage what surveys to gain a lot of information from a wide group of people. Sometimes it’s not the depth of information that you need but it starts your pathway and your direction going in the right area and that’s why when we do a lot of our work we give people quantitative work again via web or phone and then qualitative. Depending on the complexity of the issue and the challenge, we’ve actually gone outbound and done one-on-one executive interviews with key people that’s in the segment we are working for to try to get depth and insight.

Web surveys can provide again a sort of wider range of top flying insights and here is what is taking place at a high level. If you are really interested in finding out really what’s going on you have to marry that with some quantitative research and again focus groups can be used, they are difficult in managing them and recruiting I don’t think it delivers much of value as it once did which is why we moved to a lot of executive interviews. It fits within 20 minutes if you have the right questions in place, talking to the right decision maker you can gain all sorts of insight and a depth of insight that you can’t get with some other focus groups or some other research forms.

Matt:  Okay what about just the reams of data we now have available about companies, about people, about what they are doing? I am thinking both about just the access to big data historically as well as sort of the ongoing real-time stream of insights on companies, on people. Can we… I am not saying that this is necessary replacement of the channels that you are talking about because I mean you can obviously customize what you’re asking and get really, really precise feedback. But how much do you now look at some of these new channels that give us access to greater data as a source of insights as well?

Don:  It depends on what you’re looking for. If you are looking at high-level insight and information sort of as a foundation to the investigative process, those worked. If I am looking… I’ve got a really tricky situation, an emerging product with a very select customer group or decision-makers, that kind of insight will doesn’t help you. You’ve really got to get to the person or to the channels that you are really making the decision and have influence on the decision and get insight from them.

So if I am looking at high-level trends, trying to understand the information, some of that works out there can be very effective but it doesn’t the level of what they call intimacy of insight. If I am really betting the farm that this really has to be successful, I have to get to those key decision-makers and people who are influencers and investigate what their thoughts, needs and emotions are. It’s an intimacy play. You’ve got to get a person to feel comfortable enough or group of people to feel comfortable enough and respected enough that they will give you the insight and information to help you be successful as you go back out to them.

Matt:  So let’s say you spend the time, you develop these insights, you use that to inform you messaging, inform your product strategy. As soon as you capture that information, that information starts to go stale. At what frequency should companies consider updating and recapturing insights from the market potential what they are looking at is fresh and relevant on a more regular basis?

Don:  Good question. You are right. There’s a lot of companies that once they have information they get comfortable with it and it becomes sort of the standardbearer.

Two things I would drive, number one is if I am in a rapidly emerging category or industry, I’ve got to be proactive in going out and getting consumer insight and customer insights on a frequent basis. And whether that’s a six months, yearly, it depends on how rapidly or how unstable that marketplace is.

If I have new competitors coming in or if I am changing some key elements within what I am delivering to the consumer, I have to do it frequently. It doesn’t have to be high costs and that’s why I drive back to where surveys and sometimes to sort of get a barometer of what’s taking place and what the market is telling you and what your customers are telling you. If you have a good barometer in place that says they are satisfied, they are continuing to feel good about what you’re going to bring to them, they are seeing the value in it, it’s serving them, that’s a great answer and there is no downside of going to the outlet every six months to a year getting that feedback. That’s no harm no foul. It’s good news.

But again when you start to see something that’s in the marketplace that causes potential shift in what your customers think and how they look at your products you have to be very proactive as quickly as possible to gain that insight.

Matt:  And is it possible? I mean I think I normally assume when you are working with a company you’ve got sort of a champion internally that’s sort of managing that with you. Is it possible to have someone internally that they can maintain a level of independence that can manage and gather some of this content on a regular basis or is this truly something that has to be managed externally?

Don:  Maybe. I am thinking back. There’s a couple of Internet people that I’ve worked with that come at it from a very unbiased impartial point of view so it can be done. But the issue is even more than that, it’s the tyranny of the urgent Matt. When you are working inside of the organization you are always putting out fires, you are always in a defensive position.

And I am overstating that but it happens more often than you have the ability to be proactive and think ahead and that’s why realizing an outside resource or group of resources that understand your business, that understand your market, that can serve that intelligent arm of your business to provide that insight to you so that you don’t have to be the frontline soldier or soldiers trying to gather that information. So even if you have the independent part of the organization functioning within the organization, the tyranny of the urgent in my observation and opinion always puts negative pressure on that process in one way, shape or form.

Matt:  So what are some of, as we wrap up here on Sales Pipeline Radio is Don Gregory, founder of OnTarget Consulting and Research, what are some places people can look to learn a little bit more about this? I think there is an increasingly really smart, really successful marketers that don’t have… Don’t necessarily have an MBA, don’t have necessary sort of the educational background where they might have learned about how to do some of this. What are some of the things that you still learn from? It can be obviously included in some of insights on your website but what else do you recommend people learn or pay attention to to learn more about this?

Don:  Interesting question. I would say that you need to continue look at companies that are successful. Study them and understand what they’ve done internally to drive their engines. Business success is a process. It’s not an event and anything that companies can learn around what’s the process of taking a product or service, being very effective in taking it to market, gaining in the insights that you need to gain, find those companies, look at it that way. So I don’t know if there is any magic publication or website or anything that you can go to, I always look at it a different way. I would say look at the companies that seem to be one or two steps ahead of the curve and do everything that you can to find out what those companies are doing to stay one or two steps ahead because they’ve got the secret sauce, they’ve figured it out. Be proactive.

Matt:  Final question for Don Gregory here, thanks very much for joining us today again Don on Sales Pipeline Radio. My final question is about West Coast bias especially in college athletics. So Gonzaga, you can argue that they are the Duke of the West. What is Duke not the Gonzaga of the East? And why after so many years of Gonzaga just dominating college basketball and consistently being a ranked team at a small school, you can argue that they have a lot of disadvantages, why does that bias still exist and what is that… Where do you predict Gonzaga is going to end up here once we get into March?

Don:  You know this year actually predict, I start at the outset, actually predict that Gonzaga is going to go pretty far this year. They’ve got a pretty good talent pool. The reality is that Gonzaga plays a relatively easy schedule for much of the year, maybe not as easy as some and I think they take… That doesn’t serve them well. This year I think they will actually do pretty well. They’ve got a number of transfers in, the seasoned guys. When you watch them play they have nine guys that can play with anybody in the nation at any time. So go Gonzaga.

Matt:  Go Zags! Well on that note I want to thank Don Gregory for joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. If you want to learn more about Don, Don tell us where – what’s the best way for people to learn more about you and where they can get a hold of you if they have questions?

Don:  Yeah, just go to our website www.ontargetnow.com, that’s probably the best way and go from there. We’ve got ways that you can get in touch with us and we would be glad to answer any questions you have an answer and see if there’s any way that we can help you.

Matt:  Awesome well thank you Don. Thank everyone for joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio; looking forward to seeing you again live next week every Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. Join us next week live. We’ve got Grant Cardone who is a well-known famous infamous sales author, trainer, coach, should be an amazing conversation. I am really looking forward to that.

Make sure if you like what you hear today whether it’s the sales and marketing insights or the college commentary, join us on the podcast as well; iTunes, Google play, love to get your subscription there, get your reviews. You can also check out all of our past episodes, any future episodes at www.salespipelineradio.com.

That’s it for today! This is Matt Heinz! Thank you very much for joining us. We will see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.

Paul:  Once again you’ve been learning all about the sales pipeline and all that goes into it to keep it flowing and going with the word’s number one expert – Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing!

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