How can we use technology to our advantage and build an intuitive support system? How can we use data to predict trends and stay ahead of the crowd? How can we create new business opportunities during times of economic downturn? How can destinations identify their unique selling points and turn this into a competitive advantage? How can associations identify new growth opportunities and potential partners? Are clusters the new buzzword for the association meetings industry?

Relaying the lessons from his session at the 2019 ICCA AMP, Devin McLaughlin, Senior Marketing Research & Media Manager, Calgary TELUS Convention Centre tells how to use data to better identify new growth opportunities.

1. What did your session topic cover?

Companies around the world face challenges on a continual basis, many of which are out of their control. Being able to spot these challenges, or understand the warning signs is important so that plans can be implemented and strategies can be adjusted, before it becomes a crisis. Creativity and innovation can often resurrect in the presence of a crisis, and through strong processes, a company can come out of a turbulent situation stronger and more nimble than before.

In every decade of the past 100 years, you can find once great and successful organisations that have faltered for one reason or another. Did they fail to adapt to changing conditions? Were they complacent in their operations or product offerings? Did they blame struggles on outside entities, or ignore the warning signs? Companies can become better at what we do through our own data and understanding how to use it to uncover changing conditions, market trends and new business opportunities.

2. Which main challenges did the session address and attempt to solve?

Do businesses and managers truly understand the power of the data current in their systems? What do you currently measure? Why is it important to measure your data? How do you currently use your data? Where are the struggles that currently exist with your own data? Is there an opportunity to learn from others in terms of how they collect, report, and manage their data?

3. What are the 3 main lessons you hope delegates learnt?

  • Your CRM is your main data source: While data can be scary, and the amount of information available within your operation can be overwhelming, you possess the most vital industry data. Do not rely purely on outside consultants to tell you who your customers are, or what your current market is. No one knows your business better than you do.
  • Utilise your data in a way to remain relevant: Understanding the data in your CRM, finding ways to interpret that information, and creating reports that can providing meaningful insights into ongoing performance is essential to catching problems or seeing actionable trends before an opportunity is lost. The earlier you can see if a strategy is or is not working; the quicker you can respond to unanticipated changes; the more you can understand the current market; the better you will be in maintaining relevance in the marketplace.
  • Understand your customers: Creating a Customer Profile or Persona helps a business articulate the attributes, interests and demographic information of a target market that can assist in creating messaging, developing products and services, and creating a connection that can ultimately lead to an increase in business. Once a customer profile is complete, look at your marketing and sales initiatives within the lens of this new profile to ensure that what you have created would be relevant to your buyer, communicates a message in the right tone, and articulates a feeling or emotion that resonates with your buyer.

4. How can these lessons inspire them to go further in their professional lives? How should someone implement this advice back at the office?

A good manager can keep the operation running smoothly; however, a great manager can anticipate the future and make adjustments that sets up a business for future success. No matter what your position, a sales manager booking new business, a marketing coordinator responsible for reviewing advertising spent, or a manager responsible for the performance of others; understanding your performance should not be left up to an annual review. Everyone should want to have relevant and up-to-date information about his or her market, personal performance and areas of opportunity. Take it upon yourself to get the information required to do your job to the best of your ability. The right information can lead to decisions that are more effective, better efficiencies in day-to-day work, and a more successful career.

An organisation or manager can only be as effective as the information they possess. While intuition and personal gut checks can play a role in some decisions, hard data is often the best way to provide backup, create precedent, and/or assist a manager in achieving overall buy-in for a desired course of action. Moving forward, when it comes to data collection, a few steps should be taken:

  1. Determine what information you want to know, understand what information you have, what you are missing, and how you would like it reported (how often, in what format, etc.)
  2. Talk to your database/CRM administrator to fill in any gaps or create reports that provide the answer to your questions. 
  3. Develop a strategy whereby missing information can be collected, determine a place to put the information, and a way to pull the information when required
  4. Dedicate a member of the team to verify that information is being recorded correctly, and that reporting is done – great information is useless if it is ignored or analysed incorrectly
  5. Create a set timeline/schedule by which you will review the new information – i.e. every Friday morning, the first of the month, every quarter. 
  6. Understand what you are reading. Creating a report with numbers and statistics that are misunderstood can result in a lost opportunity or a fatal mistake that can result in business failure.
  7. Review your process regularly and adjust if needed

When creating a customer profile:

  1. Be thorough, and take your time to understand your customer. Do you understand their motivations? Their challenges/pain points?
  2. Communicate it to all departments in your organisation. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to understanding who your target customer is and how you are interacting with him or her.
  3. Refer to it in everything you do when relating to that person. Are you communicating to them in the appropriate way? Are you giving them the information they require? Marketing and Sales need to work closely to ensure that messaging is consistent.
  4. Each stage of a buyer’s journey is an opportunity for you to deliver a message that helps close a deal. Understanding how and what to say at each moment, leads to a more effective relationship.

5. Do you recommend any educational resources that our delegates and readers can refer to if they’re interested in learning more about your session topic or area of expertise in general?

These are a must:

  • Winning the Battle for Relevance, Michael McQueen (2016)
  • Blue Ocean Strategy, Kim W. Chan (2015)
  • Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers, N. Dawar (2013)
  • Developing a Customer Profile

6. Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Devin McLaughlin
Senior Marketing Research & Media Manager
Calgary TELUS Convention Centre