Measuring the Success of Salience and Staying Power

Paul Hudson

Co-Creating the Future of Survey Participant Exper...

At the recent ASC International Conference, I had the pleasure of running a workshop about the chall...


Paul Hudson

    Measuring the Success of Salience and Staying Power

    Organisations contradict themselves. Whilst 73% of CMOs say Customer Centricity is critical, Forrester reports that only 48% of business decisions are based on any form of quantitative data. Half of all decisions are gut instinct. That is a glaring ‘say-do gap’ that poses a significant risk to businesses, their industries and the future of consumerism. Clearly, organisations need to improve and become more customer-centric in their decision-making.

    Enter Customer Salience.

    The aim of Customer Salience is to raise the prevalence of customer thinking right across the organisation, injecting them into every place where decisions are being made. Essentially, it is about giving the customer a ‘seat at the many tables’ where decision-makers need to discuss and then act. Critically, FlexMR define it as being the “likelihood that customers are brought to mind at the point a decision is being made”.

    The aim of this is to close that wide gap between saying you are customer-centric and making customer-centric decisions. To achieve that we need frameworks to both deliver that change and to measure our progress towards it.

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    Companies contradict themselves. That is a glaring ‘say-do gap’ that poses a significant risk to businesses, that need to improve and become more customer-centric in their decision-making. Enter Customer Salience.

    Creating the Right Metrics

    To help with this let's first explore the related sister term of Brand Salience, which has been prominent in the world of Marketing for quite some time now. There is a wide body of evidence that the brands that perform better are those that are actively considered more often during the purchase decision. Brands that are more likely to be brought to mind by a consumer at the point of purchase will perform better.

    As a result, marketers have sought to measure Brand Salience and make it a core part of their own measurement and planning. Brand Salience is similar – but not identical to - measuring brand recall and brand awareness. When measuring Brand Salience, marketers look to go beyond simple recall or awareness and measure the likelihood that the brand is brought to mind at the point of purchase.

    For example, in a B2B context, what matters is that your brand is brought into the buyers’ consideration set when tendering for a service; whether they recall you as they walk past your stand at a trade show really doesn’t matter, what does matters is that they relate your brand to that category with real purchase intent when they seek to tender. Setting the measure within the context of a purchase is therefore critical. Marketers could, for example, ask those who had recently bought a product and then ask them to list out the brands that they had considered.

    What are our metrics for Customer Salience? Is it that statistic from Forrester at the beginning; is this our critical measure? Yes and no. Whilst it is context-specific to making a decision, it doesn’t reference customers, only that data is used.

    At the same time, driving Customer Salience across an organisation does not actually necessitate that we use research data; we could raise a decision-maker’s awareness of our customer segments, immerse them in dialogue with customers or just promote curiosity in what customers want. What we desire is that customers are brought to mind when the decision is made; it doesn’t have to use specific data. In terms of SMART metrics to measure and monitor your campaign for customer salience in your organisation, there are a few that you could use.

    Practical Ways to Measure Customer Salience

    The most effective way to measure Customer Salience is likely to be a periodic employee survey. This could either be across the whole organisation as part of an employee survey or it could focus purely on those decision-makers at a certain level. The first would be more about measuring customer-centricity than it would be about specific decisions, but it would be more representative of an organisational culture.

    One of the ways we can measure Customer Salience is through a Decision-Making Audit, which can take the form of a regular survey evaluating a range of topics related to the use of customer data and insight. For example, specific questions could include:

    On a scale of 1-7, in your opinion please state how you think the organisation makes effective use of customer opinions from data and customer research?

    Do you, in your role, take into account consumer or customer opinions to inform decision-making in your role? [This could be varied to use a scale or evaluate how often]

    Even as part of a survey, though, bringing in the context of decisions is, at best, an approximation. It can only really be done retrospectively and with self-rating of one’s perception of how often they think about customers during a decision.

    And with every organisation operating differently and under unique contexts, there will undoubtedly be ways to measure the level of Customer Salience within your organisation that is unique to you. Undertaking a decision-making audit such as in our Customer Salience Toolkit will help put you in a position to better understand what more opportunities are being missed, and how successful your efforts to embed Customer Salience are at any moment.

    We therefore also advocate in-depth, qualitative, discussions with decision-makers as part of the process, because these elicit a more representative understanding of the level to which customers are actually being brought to mind – and how. They help us understand the individual needs of different departments, their data literacy and their appetite for customer understanding. It helps us identify the ‘gaps’ in using customer-centric decision-making and why they might be larger in some parts of the organisation, than others.

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    With every business operating differently and under unique contexts, the ways to measure success correctly will be unique too. What does success look like for you?

    Driving Greater Customer Salience

    To drive performance, the metric should be turned into a goal or Key Performance Indicator (KPI), embedded into personal development goals and then measured annually as a minimum. Pairing the measurement with development frameworks, such as FlexMR’s Customer Salience Framework are then critical to creating change and driving improvement.

    It is only by being able to evaluate where customer-centric decisions are used and not used that we can then update our delivery plan. We can tweak or create new programmes to our Salience Framework or choose to increase the way we connect a department more with customers or alter the way insights are socialised and communicated. If one department portrays a larger say-do gap than expected then it may be that greater collaboration is needed or more direct support required.

    Customer Salience is a powerful concept in developing cultures that are more customer-centric but to make it actionable and move it beyond a concept we must create ourselves the frameworks to measure it, set targets and develop actions to drive improvement.

    Insights Empowerment

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