If you haven’t read my past few articles covering the purpose, process, and benefits of unlocking your data vault, it’s worth getting caught up before continuing:
As mentioned in my previous articles, the main objective of unlocking your data vault is leveraging the insights you already have to establish a solid foundation moving forward. While there is A LOT of standalone value gained through this process, our sights are set on bigger things. So, unlocking the vault is meant to be the first step in a broader brand development and positioning strategy.
For me, it’s always helpful to see examples of how concepts translate into real-world activity. The following case study is based on a real client’s experience, but I have created a fictitious brand name to keep focused on the process rather than the brand itself.
Riale, an up-and-coming retail company, was growing faster than expected before 2020 brought things to a grinding halt. Rather than pause and wait for the dust to settle, Riale decided to be proactive by treating the period of uncertainty as an opportunity to strategize for when their industry reopens.
Looking for strategic and tactical support, Riale approached us with ideas for a customer persona development project. Their objective was to learn as much as they could about their customers and prospects to ensure their brand positioning strategy maintains alignment with the market’s changing demands and expectations. Of course, we were excited for the opportunity and introduced the MacKenzie way of approaching their goals. The first step was to “Unlock the Data Vault,” and while the breadth of topics covered may seem like this is a huge undertaking, it’s a streamlined process that is as efficient as it is effective.
Objective #1: Tell us about your company
Process: Our own investigating provided some high-level details about Riale, but it was important to hear directly from their team. Using MacKenzie’s guided discussion worksheet we interviewed leadership, staff, and key stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of who this brand is and – just as importantly – who they want to be. In addition to these high-level organizational attributes, we dug into details regarding the project itself. We ask each team member to share their vision of a successful project, what they hope to accomplish, and how they anticipate the resulting insights will be applied.
Outcome: Through our discussions, we identified a few specific brand attributes that makes Riale unique. These attributes were not apparent after our initial investigation, so hearing from their team directly shifted our perspective regarding the company’s present situation. Having gained this new perspective, we started building a project strategy that was more aligned with Riale’s stated project goals. Had we not had these discussions, our understanding of who this brand is might have remained slightly off; which would have detracted from the overall impact of the ensuing project.
Furthermore, we identified a few inconsistencies in terms of Riale’s definition of a successful project. Each interview uncovered varying project goals and objectives depending on the team members’ role or position within the company. This was a pivotal moment in the process because we were able to regroup and clarify the project’s overall purpose and the team’s collective vision before moving forward.
Objective #2: Tell us about your customers
Process: As part of the stakeholder interviews mentioned in Objective #1, we explore customer-centric topics. Primarily, we want to know who the customers are and how Riale sees itself delivering value to these customers.
Outcome: At the surface level, Riale was confident they had strong customer profiles and a firm understanding of the customers’ decision drivers. Throughout our discussions, it became apparent that the existing customer profiles were not as clear and detailed as originally thought. This was another pivotal moment in the project strategy process because it identified insights gaps and a few missing pieces that needed to be addressed. Fortunately, these missing pieces were available within a separate information source; it simply required breaking down siloes and organizing data in a way that allowed easier access.
Perhaps the biggest realization within these conversations was the limited factual support backing the existing customer profiles. In other words, Riale’s current understanding of their customers was largely based on theories and hypotheses rather than verifiable facts. Not much market research had been conducted up to this point which made it near impossible to validate customer profile accuracy and reliability. It is surprisingly common for this to be the case; especially for brands with a customer-centric operational approach. So much attention and energy are spent focused on the customer that ideas and opinions start taking the place of data and facts. Shining a spotlight on this reality enabled Riale to loosen its grip on current presumptions and allowed existing customer theories to be challenged through ensuing market research and customer feedback.
Objective #3: Introduce your top competitors
Process: Listing direct and indirect competitors sets the scene for a detailed discussion regarding brand positioning and market share.
Outcome: Receiving the list of Riale’s self-described competitors gave us a better understanding of how it sees itself within the competitive marketplace. Just as with the customer profiles, this list ended up being largely based on theories and hypotheses. Riale’s perceived competitors were based on industry connection or target audience overlap, but there was no hard evidence to prove Riale’s customers are considering any brands on the competitor list as viable alternatives.
Additionally, the list of indirect competitors was short. This is not a bad thing; rather, it highlights an opportunity to think outside the immediate circle of influence to consider how else customers might be receiving the value offered by Riale. In doing so, a new list of brand differentiators and questions about customer decision drivers began to emerge. This once again shifted the focus and purpose of the current project based on insights that would have otherwise remained hidden under the surface.
Objective #4: Paint the picture of your market today
Process: Brands often get hyper-focused on their own goals and objectives to the point where external variables are overlooked. Without a clear picture of the environment as it exists today, roadblocks and pitfalls will not be noticed until it is too late. Together, we map the surrounding environment in as much detail as possible based on the information currently held, including market variables, emerging trends, potential threats, and areas of opportunity.
Outcome: Having explored the internal elements of Riale, taking a step back to examine the surrounding environment adds a fresh layer of context. Not only do we become more informed and educated, but we also inspire Riale to think critically about external factors that may have been flying under the radar.
One such external factor was an emerging consumer behavior trend being written about by industry publications. While Riale itself had not seen or felt the impact of this trend, it was occasionally discussed during team strategy meetings. Through further discussion it was decided that this specific trend should be included as part of the project’s focus because it could have significant impact on the future of the company. This topic was not part of the original project scope, but its inclusion would require a shift in the overall project’s structure and schedule. Again, without conducting this process and discussion there would have been a missed opportunity to maximize the impact of ensuing efforts.
Recap: Unlock the Data Vault
This process was as valuable to Riale as a brand as it was to MacKenzie as a project partner. Both sides gained additional insights and understandings that shaped and influenced the collective next steps.
It was determined that some light analysis of Riale’s existing data inventory would eliminate the need for several facets of the original project request: thereby strengthening impact and increasing ROI. The team clarified its overall definition of project success and refined the project’s scope in ways that would address a wider range of organizational objectives. Having gained a new perspective on external market variables and primary competitors, Riale began revisiting its brand positioning strategy in ways that would offer short-term and long-term benefits.
Having unlocked the data vault, Riale was better prepared to launch a project focused on producing actionable insights and had refined its organizational alignment in ways that could not have been foreseen.
What is there to gain by unlocking your data vault? Let’s get started and find out!