The market research industry spends close to 54 billion USD every year, mostly on trying to better understand consumers. Panel providers with access to these consumers around the world serve as intermediary and a whole stack of research and technology vendors sit in between promising better ways of engaging, interviewing and understanding consumers.
We don’t dispute the absolute need to engage with consumers to plan product, promotion and pricing strategies. Despite their limitations, they give a needed voice to otherwise insular brand, marketing and product teams. However, for an industry that regularly complains about the cost and speed of consumer research, it is surprising that they aren’t tapping into a hidden resource in their own backyards: employees.
Although we originally built BigTeam with the goal of getting marketing and creative teams to better provide each other feedback across departments, offices, countries and even companies, we’ve realized that professional feedback can (and should) be extended to the entire organization. Getting it right would mean a quick and free resource for marketing, innovation and insight managers to tap into a knowledge pool.
Here are a few reasons why we believe internal employee feedback will be the next wave in marketing insights:
Marketers tend to forget that although office, factory and retail workers spend a good part of their lives working, they also spend a good part of their time consuming media, buying cars and groceries and looking forward to leisure activities on weekends and at night. Sounds eerily like a consumer, right?
Your employees make the same top and bottom of the funnel decisions that the company’s customers do, and may be a consumer of your product (maybe even your competitors’ product). Of course, they have a unique relationship to the brand and may exhibit some form of bias but that should not rule them out all together as a potential source of insight.
One of the fears expressed by some insights professionals we’ve spoken to is that employees will be too kind on the brand and won’t be able to maintain an outsider’s’ perspective on marketing campaigns and products. We’d simply point to the statistics that show 7 out of 10 employees feel disengaged with their company and would leave if a better offer came along.
Outside of the marketing department and c-suite, chances are that your employees haven’t read your company’s master brand manifesto, and don’t recite your brand positioning statement and reason to believe before going to bed. They are primarily there to further their career, secure some financial security for themselves and family and hopefully make a few friends along the way. If asked anonymously, they can provide as much critique as anyone you’d find on a consumer panel, and even provide better qualified feedback given their understanding of the company and competitive environment. You take feedback from your agency and creative partners, so why not expand the circle to the rest of your employees?
Assuming your overall employee base doesn’t suffer from the lack of inclusivity that senior management teams might reflect, you probably didn’t realize that you have employees that can help you provide unique perspective not found on your marketing team or agency partners. Your company probably employs millennials, women and workers of different ethnicities. These are the demographics that the industry spends so much money and time instructing research vendors to find and “understand” and yet they are operating under the same roof as you 40 hours a week.
Running focus groups or simple feedback surveys early in the creative development process with these type of employees can help you bring diversity to the table that might not organically manifest otherwise. We suggest asking them about trends in their communities and households as well as what their thoughts on your campaign ideas are. Chances are that they can help you see a unique perspective, identify a hidden trend or prevent you from launching a culturally irrelevant (or worse, insensitive) campaign.
If your company operates a retail business, or at least has a sales or customer service function, marketing teams have a unique opportunity to identify consumer frustrations, objections and desires. Better yet, these employees that interact with customers every day have likely developed an underutilized gut feel for what innovations in product or service lines could change the revenue trajectory of your company. Asking quarterly innovation surveys or finding more frequent ways of incorporating these employees can add an unique lawyer to your marketing and product planning.
We’ve already mentioned that employee engagement rates are at an all time low. Most workers, but especially millennial workers, cite lack of engagement with senior leadership and company decisions as main source of frustration. What better way to change this, then by incorporating employees in the building and strengthening of the company’s core identity and brand. Simply asking employees for feedback during creative campaign planning or product launch planning can boost a sense of ownership amongst employees (while generating valuable insights for the marketing team).
We realize that transforming your marketing department or organization into a feedback machine will take time and commitment from different stakeholders, but keep in mind that this type of structure would benefit all parties (marketing, employees and senior management) by making sure that feedback is free-flowing from all corners and is constructive and helpful to the business.
If you’d like to chat about feedback or are willing to share ideas on how your organization is tapping into this hidden resource, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
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