The purpose of Marketing is to address client needs in a profitable way, by exchanging products for revenue and loyalty. Less fortunate people often do not have the means to provide for vital basic needs. Therefore, Philip van den Berg sees it as a social duty to highlight selective humanitarian projects on his marketing blog. This concerns projects to which he has a special relation and knows the responsible people personally.
The COVID-19 outbreak during the first half of 2020 made us all more aware of two things: what it is to live with uncertainty and limitations and how those who became seriously ill, suffer and struggle to survive. Many have been severely impacted by the lockdown of the economy, as the sick have been affected by ‘lockdown ‘of the body.
When it strikes you
Earlier this month was ME/CFS Awareness day. I only knew this concerned ‘disease’ but didn’t realize how severe it was, until a friend diagnosed with ME/CFS posted her moving story on Facebook. It stands for: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Patients experience continual and long-term fatigue that worsens after physical or mental activity. Millions of people suffer from it but only 1 out of 5 are correctly diagnosed. When ME/CRF patients rest or sleep, they are not refreshed. They have problems with thinking and concentrating. They experience structural pain and dizziness. One can only imagine how hard this is must for them both physically and mentally. Also in COVID-19 times, as research suggests that the immune system is involved in ME/CFS and as it can weaken the immune system.
Worldwide ME/CFS Awareness day
May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who founded modern nursing, was Worldwide ME/CFS Awareness Day. Its purpose was ‘to highlight how you can support the millions of people who suffer from ME/CFS’. Action days are great for the moment, but the need continues. Therefore regularly support the ME/CFS cause, as for patients the lockdown is permanent.
How can you help?
Every now and then, turn your day into ME/CFS Awareness Day. Impacting the worlds starts with yourself. Educate yourself and make your environment aware, donate for medical research support, and just be there for those affected. Read the CDC-page on how to help and especially the below testimony of my friend Lisa (I took the liberty to adjust her title a bit).
Some useful links
2 minute clips: What is ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) – How does it feel to live with ME/CFS? Patients describe what it’s like – About ME/CFS (CDC website) – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (wikipedia) – ME/CFS Awareness Day
TODAY EVERY DAY IS ME/CFS AWARENESS DAY!
LISA BICKELMAYER • TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2020 • 4 MINUTES
[tl;dr: ME is a *itch. Support the fight against this freaking illness. The people in charge don’t.]
I can’t believe we still have to say this: ME/CFS is real, people.
It can knock down anyone. Anytime.
And once it does there’s no getting up again no matter how positively thinking or strong-willed you are.
As of now, there’s no cure. Nor any approved treatment.
This illness will destroy your nervous system, your immune system, your energy metabolism, your hormone system; you’ll be a broken battery that can only be charged to 5 or 10 percent, depending on your ME stage.
Every activity — talking to a friend, brushing your teeth, or even just thinking — will cost you. And the cost is called CRASH (or PENE, post-exertional neuro-immune exhaustion),
and yes, it is what it sounds like.
You’ll also develop weird intolerances to all sensory input — light, sounds, smells, movement — and find your brain in a thick and scary fog.
A bed or couch in a dark, quiet place devoid of people: your new habitat.
You won’t be able to stop shaking your head when realizing a never-known diversity of pain and an ever-growing symptoms list.
5, 15, 30, 50, 70… Are you even alive anymore?
ME will probably not let you die (just yet), but it sure will make you lose your life.
You’ll even lose the person you used to be.
And while you are waiting and searching for a diagnosis for years or even decades, no one will believe you.
Most people will ignore you.
Others will say you’re just lazy, or quite the opposite, that you’re just overworked, that you’re exaggerating, that you want attention, that you must be suffering from a psychological trauma or depression; they’ll tell you it’s all in your head — even family members, friends, colleagues, and most of all your doctors, and you’ll see a ridiculously large number of them, because you’re desperately trying to find out what’s wrong, as you know, YOU know:
you’re NOT lazy,
you’re NOT just overworked,
you’re NOT AT ALL exaggerating,
the LEAST thing you want is attention,
you DON’T have a psychological trauma,
you NEVER had a depression,
and IT CERTAINLY IS NOT IN YOUR HEAD, DAMMIT!
Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get the diagnosis. Finally! Right?
Not really: there will be no social, financial, medical, or emotional support.
Just a stigma.
And just like that you’ll become one of the #MillionsMissing.
Because research isn’t there, yet.
The amazing ME experts, and there are few around the globe, know what a devastating disease this is and have gathered lots of evidence of organic dysfunctions in ME patients (like we have killer blood that destroys healthy cells (and not just our own) — crazy stuff).
But they don’t fully understand the cause, yet.
They are fighting time.
And they call out for governmental funding for their life saving research.
But while millions go missing, politics have remained silent.
So instead of getting much needed recognition, a secure livelihood and medical care, we have to fight on all fronts.
Although many of us can’t even get up anymore.
We cannot wait for politics to come around. So here’s what everyone can do to help:
• This might seem simple but: if you meet someone with ME — believe them. You might not fully understand their suffering, but don’t just dismiss them.
• Help sufferers close to you with daily stuff or much needed research, because everything (getting info on your disease, finding medical explanations, educating the public, preparing for grueling lawsuits after applying for disability) lies completely on the ME people’s already broken shoulders.
• Support the PR by spreading the message about the severeness of ME.
• Keep your eyes open for further info (and, if need be, confirm that info with ME sufferers. There are too many misconceptions about the illness floating around).
• If you are close with any doctors or nurses or are one yourself, educate them/yourself how (NOT!) to treat ME people. Incredibly much damage has been done in the health sector.
• You can also donate to any of the following great organizations:
for Germany: Lost Voices, Fatigatio, Deutsche Gesellschaft für ME/CFS
international teams: OMF (esp. MayMomentum)
There are many more.
YOU really are a game changer. You can ultimately save lives by changing the conception of ME.
From our blue hearts to yours— THANK YOU. 💙
During the last years, Philip van den Berg had the privilege to set up the marketing function at a number of startups with a similar challenge: Building a marketing machine that ‘produces’ from the beginning and brings growth. He used the LIST Marketing Framework, which addresses, how Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive. At every case on which he worked, it took roughly 25 working days to agree on the marketing strategy, write the plan and start the first implementation. This article describes how LIST got the job done.
The List Marketing Framework uses three building blocks: the ‘Build-Measure-Learn‘ continuous loop from Eric Ries’ well known Lean Startup methodology, the Insights-Based Marketing Method I developed and the Scrum Principles of transparency, inspection, & adaptation applied to marketing. This article discusses each in more detail with the use case of Apilio in Q1 2020.
Apilio is an international Startup in Home/Home Office Automation, that deploys an innovative SaaS solution. The product allows customers to set rules with their phone, tablet, or pc, to control smart devices for lighting, heating, home entertainment, etc., using both external sources (weather information, sunset/sunrise information, etc.) and internal sources, including people’s mobility data. See www.apilio.com.
read more about Lean Marketing
read more about Insights-Based Marketing
read more about Scrum in Marketing
LIST and the 25-day marketing plan
Apilio had a simple request: within three months, provide us with a plan to boost subscribers and start implementation, with a focus on Online & Social Media. Applying the LIST Marketing Framework enabled me to write a first Marketing MVP in 15 days and have it signed off in 25 days, while being completely new to the industry.
In order to determine the marketing strategy and write the marketing plan, I needed more insights about the market, about customers and about digital marketing. I was positively surprised about the amount of syndicated research that was available for free, both publicly and through a collaboration with an Educational Institute (the ZHAW). I could enrich this with free general social media reports (such as Google Trends) and tools (such as Neil Patel) as well as metrics on Apilio Social Media (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter metrics) and customer messaging (Intercom).
Marketing Strategy & Marketing Plan
The danger of any strategy is, that it is remote or even disconnected from ‘real-life’ implementation. Therefore I included the full marketing strategy in the marketing plan and made sure strategy parts had ‘building blocks’ part like personas, customer journeys and messaging that could be implemented immediately. Based on new insights that emerged both during the planning phase and during the first campaigns we run afterward, these parts were regularly updated and fine-tuned.
Part 1 – Marketing Strategy 2020 and beyond: Mission, Offering & Positioning; Business Objective & Marketing Goals; Market Opportunity: Definition, Market Size, Competitive Analysis, Target Segments; End-User Personas: Key Personas, General Persona Characteristics, Customer Journeys; Communication Strategy incl. Tactics, Mix, Demand Generation Framework, Messaging, Themes; Metrics; Risks; Glossary
Part 2 – Marketing Plan 2020: Timeline; Campaigns, Programs & Projects; Campaign Template; Budget
Using the collected market and customer insights, combined with knowledge from the team, the following components of Part 1 of the marketing plan were defined:
- Target Segments: Acquisition Customers, Retention Customers & Advocacy Customers + Influencers (journalists, bloggers, forum posters and analysts) + Partners (Smart solution providers)
- End-User Personas: End-users mapped using four dimensions and four use case related personas were defined for four customer journeys
- Strategy: Inbound marketing, low cost, focus on social media marketing and knowledge sharing, around theme-based campaigns, and the three-stage customer journey
- Inbound marketing framework: a visualization of the customer journey through the external digital media and the Apilio digital media to the landing page
- Tactics: theme-based modular text and video messaging with landing pages, quarterly virtual events, multi-channel communication
- Demand generation framework: marketing channels and activities per stage of the RACE-funnel model + communication matrix with media and communication type per target audience segment and three campaign types: full campaign, mini-campaign, communication
- Themes: five themes
- Messaging: Strategic behavioral message, Customer Need messaging (why) incl. Sound Bites, Functional messaging (What) incl. Sound Bites, using Sven Hughes’ Verbalisation methodology
- Metrics: per stage of the RACE funnel
The RACE Framework
The SmartInsights RACE framework divides the funnel into four parts or stages: Reach, Act, Convert, Engage. Each of these steps represents a different level of customer intimacy and therefore represents different marketing activities and often even different messaging. It is comparable to the XoFu-framework with ToFu/MoFu/BoFu to which I added a fourth state for customer up-sell, cross-sell and advocacy, that I call WoFu = Widening of the Funnel. This listed in the below table, to which I add the marriage analogy for ‘visualization’ reasons.
In Part 2 of the plan, a first list of Campaigns, Programs & Projects was made, including a high level planning by quarter. As first Digital Projects were defined a SEO/Keyword plan and the website makeover. Part 2 was completed by sections on the budget, the risk and a glossary to make everyone speak the same language.
Implementation readiness: Templates & Influencer List
The other things I did to make the plan ready for implementation were to deliver templates and an influencer list.
To ensure consistent, fast and full execution of marketing demand generation campaigns, I wanted a simple, one-page template. I took an existing one from SmartInsights with a checklist, that I slightly improved, a.o. by adding a ‘campaign metrics and learnings’ section. The value of the Marketing campaign template immediately paid off during the first campaigns we ran. Adding the results and conclusions not only forced us to analyze the campaign impact, learn from it and fine-tune the marketing plan, but also to document and make it available to the whole team.
To smoothen the execution of digital projects, like ‘SEO/Keyword research and plan’ and ‘Website Makeover’, I adopted and adapted another simple SmartInsights template.
In today’s connected digital economy, influencers are more important than ever. For Apilio this includes Journalists, Bloggers, Analysts and their websites, forums, pages and channels, as well as end-user forums, communities, groups, pages and channels on social media, and smart solution partners. From my first to my last week at Apilio, I built and maintained an influencer list with any person, portal or page I came across, including the number of views and subscribers, and contact details like personal LinkedIn profiles. Rather than leaving Apilio with just a direction to focus on influencers, this gave the company something to act on immediately.
Influencers: Customer Advocates; Press, Analysts, Bloggers; Portals, Magazines, Blogs; Software Review Sites
Partners: Smart Device & Connectivity Vendors; Resellers; Consultants
End Users: General Forums; Smart Home Communities & Forums; Facebook, Google, Linkedin YouTube etc. Groups, Pages, Channels
One of the good things at Apilio was that, besides allowing me to collect insights and write the marketing plan, the team involved me from day one in the operational execution of the existing communication. This way I got to know the marketing tools and could soon conduct first communication activities. Soon after ‘day 25’, I could run the first campaign, followed by new campaigns every one to two weeks. As already mentioned, the learnings from that implementation were immediately shared and integrated into the marketing plan. Developing a campaign always started with a draft that matured during the sprint.
At the start of the marketing project, Apilio had a great product and several useful marketing components. There were a website, social media pages, a customer messaging platform and good but partly fragmented content. Several components for the marketing machine were there, while others were not yet in place.
The LIST Marketing Framework brought Apilio the following benefits:
- Structure in the marketing planning, marketing project and marketing campaign execution
- Direction, content and completeness in the marketing messaging, activities and metric
- Visibility on the market opportunities, the market segments and the marketing personas
- Operational building blocks that could be implemented immediately
Besides that two marketing projects could be completed, the first marketing campaigns could be executed and initial learnings could already be incorporated. Apilio got an MVP of the marketing machine in place, can now move its demand generation into a higher gear and is set-up to accelerate sales.
How about big companies?
Some years ago at a grill-evening, I asked a friend about his job. ‘I am a Scrum Master!’ he replied with a big smile. The rest of the evening he told me all about Scrum roles and rules, as well as being agile and lean, sprints and adaptation.
I recognized a lot of what he mentioned from my own work approach, and I realized that being agile and lean works everywhere. Having worked many years at large ICT corporations, I was always able to build a marketing or sales practice, based on transparency, inspection and adaptation and using the LIST Marketing Framework. This resulted into objectives being met or exceeded, as well as into high adoption and appreciation among stakeholders and management.
In a VUCA environment, one of the key challenges for larger organizations is to be lean. On top of a solid foundation, it should develop flexible capabilities in, among others, insights, marketing, sales and customer service.
By defining the sprints and small enough incremental steps, also in big company, this is possible. And maybe even a 25-day marketing plan can be successfully written and implementation started.
About Philip van den Berg
Philip van den Berg is a Dutch international growth marketing and customer insights enthusiast living in Zurich, Switzerland. He has a Market Strategy Master from the University of Amsterdam and is Certified in Lean Management and Scrum. His expertise includes international and local marketing roles in corporations, SMB’s, and start-ups in IT and other industries.
By building successful marketing practices, he supports entrepreneurship in effectively targeting customers, building client relationships & partnerships, creating advocates and making revenue.
While many Start-ups have a first idea of the market and of the marketing direction – a website and social media channels are easy to set up -, they might struggle to establish effective demand generation. Focus on product development, financing, building a company, delivering results and dealing with the unforeseen, prevent that time and budget are set aside for acquiring insights and building a real marketing machine.
A good way to cope with these circumstances and restrictions might be to to hire a ‘neutral’ marketing consultant, who kick-starts marketing by appliying Lean and Scrum principles and implementing a modern, business result focused, customer centric, data driven marketing framework, such as the LIST Marketing Framework. Once done, the consultant can move out to only return for (semi)annual reviews.
For the marketing strategy and plan, being Lean means building a first Marketing MVP or Minimal Viable Plan and start implementing it immediately, while measuring the effects and learning from it on a daily basis. ‘Lean’ means that the MVP is made in a scientific yet pragmatic way and with the assumption, that everybody in the organization is an Entrepreneur with a view on the product and the market that matters. At Apilio this approach proved to be fruitfull from the beginning.
Blog about a practical implementation of the LIST Marketing Framework:
Insights Based Marketing or ‘IBM’ stands for the four cogwheels of the marketing machine that should be turning together from the beginning without interruption: meaningful Insights, an agreed upon high-level Strategy, a signed-off Plan, and full Execution. IBM is part of the LIST Marketing Framework, so I could test it in depth at Apilio.
The value of market, customer and own company Insights is not only to learn and enable validated decision-making, but also to make everybody in the company’s ecosystem ‘move’ in the same direction. As today’s world is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA), insights needs to be generated continuously rather than once in a while.
A good marketing strategy not only uses those insights, but also represents inputs of every functional department and has their buy-in. An open dialogue between the marketer and the rest of the organization during the marketing strategy process, ensures marketing principles get a sanity check and are embedded into the organization.
The marketing plan is operational (it deals with the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of execution) and, depending on the length of the sales cycle, it has a shorter or a longer horizon. While its goals are to be derived from the business plan and from the marketing strategy, and should not change, the plan itself has to flexible, so that adoptions in the marketing measures, messaging and materials can be made during execution.
In order to succeed, execution not only has to be lean, but also be connected continuously to the other three cogwheels. A good consultant, strategist or planner has to understand both how the marketing execution works and what the feedback of customers, partners and colleagues on that execution is. To gain insights on these two aspects, daily metrics have to be built in and shared from the beginning.
Blog about a practical implementation of the LIST Marketing Framework:
The Scrum principles add an agile framework, that provides the conditions for an organization to implement ‘Lean Marketing‘ and Insights Based Marketing. They include Inspection, Transparency, Adaptation, and having Iterative and Incremental processes and practices. The below sections review how Scrum fits in the LIST Marketing Framework as I applied it at Apilio and other companies. An advantage was, that Apilio was already well set up with regards to Lean and Scrum, which gave me a head start with implementing LIST.
A definition of Scrum
The goal of Scrum is to to have teams address complex adaptive problems and delivering products of the highest possible value in a productive and creative way. Scrum is based on the theory of empirical process control, which relies on transparency, inspection, & adaptation and is both iterative and incremental. Sources: https://www.scrumalliance.org/about-scrum/definition and https://www.scrumalliance.org/about-scrum/theory.
Scrum in action
Transparency: ‘To make decisions, people need visibility into the process and the current state of the product.‘ Transparency is a principle to be supported and worked on by all. For every team member, it works both ways: toward the others and from the others. At Apilio the daily short stand-up meeting and the intranet availability of all company information created an excellent basis for that.
The Apilio team was very open about the product strengths and weaknesses, as well as the market opportunities and threats. We frequently used informal meetings and coffee/lunch breaks to exchange questions and answers. From my side I gave regular updates on the work I was doing and made my marketing deliverables accessible from two angles. Not only did I store my plans, documents and deliverables under the marketing and project sections of the internal collaboration tool (Apilio uses Atlassian Confluence), I also grouped everything on a personal page that all could access.
Inspection: ‘To prevent deviation from the desired process or end product, people need to inspect what is being created, and how, at regular intervals.’ To allow inspection of the marketing plan and of the marketing project and campaigns, we used a couple of tools.
Apilio has one Backlog board with the status of all tasks and sub-tasks, which is visible to all and is maintained by all. The tasks were organized by themes that often consisted of one or more sprints. Marketing examples include the Marketing Plan, the SEO/Keyword project, the Website Makeover project, and the individual Marketing Campaigns. A good online (cloud) collaboration platform like Confluence, that allows to cross-link, review, comment, share and see (proposed) changes, or to lookup older version of a document, is another great asset for transparency and inspection. At Apilio this resulted in a better and more balanced use of email (mainly for automated review messages with links instead of attachments) and chat (mainly to consult and inform each other).
Adaptation -‘When deviations occur, the process or product should be adjusted as soon as possible.’ To succeed in 2020, the ability to adapt immediately is crucial. Even if business and marketing objectives are carved in stone, the road to achieve them should be flexible.
Therefore the marketing process has to be Iterative. This includes experimenting and A/B testing, and leads to growing experience and expertise which bring better decision making and better results. As an organisation and as a team member, one needs to be aware of the value of experience and to be set-up accordingly. Experience has four dimensions to take into account: it needs to have a minimal critical mass, it needs to be gained fast, it needs to be built continuously and it needs to grow over time.
This leads to another imporant aspect of Scrum in Marketing. The marketing process and the company culture also have to be Incremental. Therefore the time horizon of the marketing plan needs to flexible. Where the business objectives and certain marketing goals and tactics justify a longer horizon, the marketing plan is best split up into subplans that can be easily adjusted, for example quarterly plans.
Another consequence is that every team member has to work insights based and is able to refresh those insights through accurate and actual metrics. At Apilio I spent relatively much time on finding internal and external intelligence, that could bring me those insights. I also set-up a number simple of business dashboards, and did regular deep dives into the results, to understand metrics and the immediate impact of marketing activities.
Cultural implications of Scrum
Being transparent, open to inspection and adaptive, requires, that one is not strict about a certain set-up, formulation or way of doing things, but is lead by the evolving insights from data sources and from team members. Both inside the organization and in the partner ecosystem, a culture that encourages to be vulnerable, to trust each other, and to with the Scrum principles, will bring optimal collaboration.
Blog about a practical implementation of the LIST Marketing Framework:
When water is bad for your health
Health blogs, health coaches and health authorities recommend us to drink two liters of water per day. Still 50% of the world population does not have access to clean drinking water  and annually close to 1 million people die from water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases. The lack of basic water and sanitation is estimated to cost $260 billion globally every year. 
When clean drinking water is not affordable
In West Papua, due to the high poverty, access to clean water is very low. In remote areas, like Oksibil in the Bintang mountain range, importing clean drinking water is not affordable, as its population of around 4000 people can only be reached by air. From 1970, five years after the area was opened to outsiders, to 1995, the dutch missionary Kees van Dijk worked in the area. He learned one of the six local languages, managed to earn the love and trust of the locals and started to represent them. This continued after he was asked to be based in the capital, Jakarta, in 1995. Still he regularly travels the almost 4000 km to Obsikil to help the locals.
Water, a gift from heaven
Fr. Kees is now trying to give what the people in Oksibil need the most: clean water. The country’s inspection agency Sucofindo (‘PT Superintending Company of Indonesia’) has declared the water in Oksibil unsafe for drinking. Geological samples in 2016 indicated that even at 90 m deep, only clay and dirt is found. Drilling this deep or even further is economically not feasible. As Oksibil on average has 400-500 mm monthly rainfall, collecting or ‘catching’ rainwater was the next option. A first Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) system with water storage in the ground was built, but this wasn’t resistant to earthquakes. Since 2017 three new earthquake-proof RWH systems with elevated water tanks have been implemented, but they are far from complete. And to serve the regional population minimally, two more will need to be added. After these RWH systems have been completed, the project can be expanded to other areas in West Papua.
To create local ownership and avoid operational dependency on sponsors, Fr. Kees, for building and maintaining the RWH System, insists on the “gotong royong” spirit of local community involvement. The locals help gather materials such as sands and gravel. Other materials like cement, pipes, filters, and storage tanks, have to be air-flown from the capital of West Papua, Jayapura, and especially from Jakarta. Due to the transportation, a sack of cement is 20 times more expensive in Oksibil than in Jakarta.
Helping the people of Oksibil
To build one RWH system, it takes 46 sacks of cement at a cost of US$ 4,000, pipes worth US$ 4,100 and a filter with a price of US$ 1,900. This sums up to US$ 10,000, excluding the cost of large capacity water storage tanks. To give the people of Oksibil clean drinking water, five RWH systems are needed. Dear blogreaders, tell your friends about this great project; all promotion and financial support are highly appreciated.
Contact and transfer information
Donations can be made by bank transfer only to: English-Speaking Catholic Mission, Neptunstrasse 6, 8032 Zürich, Switzerland; IBAN: CH 47 0020 6206 3632 1001 B, BIC: UBSWCHZH80A. Please mention as purpose “Donation Water for Papua / Fr. Kees van Dijk OFM“.
or to: Account Name: Van Dijk Cornelis G M; Bank name: Bank Mandiri; Bank Address: Kramat Raya, Jakarta; Account no.: 1230004105690; Country: Indonesia; Swift Code : BMRIIDJA
More information about the project can be obtained at www.facebook.com/waterforpapua and email@example.com.
In June 2019, Jake Silberg & James Manyika of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published the essay ‘Tackling bias in artificial intelligence (and in humans)’ . In the below article, Philip van den Berg shares his experience with this phenomenon in Marketing and Market Intelligence. He shares some thoughts about reducing relative bias and the state of ‘lack of bias’ or ‘absolute fairness’, including conventional ways on how to reduce bias and conclusions from the MGI article on how to apply AI to do so.
The Bias Dilemma for Marketing and Market Intelligence
An important dilemma for Marketing and Market Intelligence practices is often to identify, quantify and communicate bias, while maintaining credibility and business justification. Bias is defined as ‘the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way’ by ‘allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment’  and includes ‘prejudice’, ‘statistically unexpected deviation’ and ‘systematic error’ . The consequence is that market data, market insights and market segmentation, as well as marketing plans, marketing content and marketing actions remain debatable or even questionable. This occurs especially when business results are under pressure and marketing impact is below expectation.
I have seen senior management using a mix of three approaches for decision making and communication: data, stories and intuition. The first is often dominant: data driven managers use numbers to align people and to reduce bias. The phrase ‘data don’t lie’ is used regularly, but is this true? Silberg & Manyika show that not only data interpretation can be biased but also data itself is often obtained from a non-representative sample, with a subjective methodology.
In a more ‘siloed’ organization or partnerships, departments don’t trust the ‘fairness’ of each other and declare their own data source and insight as the best. The market intelligence analyst defends his research, the marketer or agency his competencies and expertise and the sales person his experience and customer relations.
Increasing fairness bias by transparency, omni-data and feedback
What a person does not know, he tends not to trust. A first step to create confidence and thereby to increase fairness is transparency. This starts by questioning: a) the data, b) the algorithms and analytics that turn data into intelligence and c) the interpretation or insights, in order to understand the bias. Here is important to document the findings and communicate them to the stakeholders that use the data, the intelligence and the insights. Most of the time, being open about bias and data quality limitations creates more trust, than just stating the are ‘great’ or ‘sufficient’. Transparency also encourages stakeholders to bring suggestions how to improve quality and to start co-owning the topic of improving fairness.
A second way to reduce bias is an omni-data approach, by efficiently extracting value from multiple data sources. With every source added, more data quality checks can be built in and insights become richer, deeper and better. Stakeholders who demand using another source to take away their remaining distrust, can in the in most cases be satisfied.
A third part which is often missing, is the thorough post-cycle or post-event feedback loop. It allows stakeholders to review, to what extent data and insight assumptions were biased and to agree with them, on where to improve and to take joint action.
Bias transparency, an omni-data approach and feedback loops lead to a better understanding of and more cooperation on how to increase fairness. This is not only valid for Market Intelligence but also for Marketing activities, from the market insight, the market segmentation, and the persona definition, to the marketing plan with the messaging, the marketing mix and the metrics.
To make the organisation bias-aware and capable of reducing it, a data-driven strategy and a culture of openness on data quality are essential. For this, leadership has to understand the value of fair data, to map where the organization is and should go and to start a transition project with a midterm horizon.
Reducing bias by experimentation
Advantages of starting a strategy and culture shift are, that they may take too long – the market, competition and customers don’t wait – and that they don’t state well, what fairness is. Silberg and Manyika conclude, that this last topic is so complex, that ‘crafting a single, universal definition of fairness or a metric to measure it will probably never be possible’. Instead they see different metrics and standards to be used, which each depend on the use case and circumstances.
Reducing bias however, means one still needs sort of an understanding of fairness and how to improve it. I see experimentation as a quick way, to determine how relatively biased for example a marketing campaign is. Testing and trying out different small scale scenarios in parallel on persona definitions, messaging and marketing actions, will provide useful insights and learning. The scenario with the best business result is likely to be the least biased one.
Reducing bias with Artificial Intelligence
Still, even the best scenario could still be biased and far from the point of ‘ultimate’ fairness. In seeking to identify this point and reduce bias, human behaviour and judgement have clear limitations. This raises the question, to what extent Artificial Intelligence, which has the promise to overcome human limitations, can help.
Silbert and Manyika see it as a challenge, that the underlying data are often the main source of the bias, rather than the algorithm itself. This is because the algorithms are often trained on data that contains human bias. The authors observe three main approaches to increase fairness in AI models, but conclude technical progress is still in its early stage. The first is data pre-processing for accuracy and independency reasons. The second is post-processing to transform AI model predictions to less bias. The third is including fairness constraints on the optimization process or using so called adversaries to reduce bias from for example stereotyping. Also adding more data points, innovative training techniques, like transfer learning and explainability techniques , can help.
Moving forward with Artificial and Human Intelligence
While clear definitions and the above approaches can certainly reduce bias, they cannot rule out fairness restrictions in the data collection or in the social context into which an AI system is deployed. Therefore the Silbert and Manyika state that ‘human judgment is still needed to ensure AI supported decision making is fair.’ This means that an adjustable mix of human judgement and AI judgment is needed. To find the best balance, in order to maximize fairness and minimize bias from AI, they recommend ‘six potential ways forward for AI practitioners and business and policy leaders’:
- Be aware of the contexts in which AI can help correct for bias as well as where there is a high risk
- Establish processes and practices to test for and mitigate bias in AI systems.
- Engage in fact-based conversations about potential biases in human decisions.
- Fully explore how humans and machines can work best together.
- Invest more in bias research, make more data available for research (while respecting privacy) and adopt a multidisciplinary approach.
- Invest more in diversifying the AI field itself.
The availability of almost ‘endless’ amounts of customer and business data, as well as the fast growing capabilities of Artificial Intelligence-powered data analytics, have brought Market Intelligence and Marketing into a new era. Companies were never more dependent on data as well as data analytics, and thereby on data bias and data fairness. These topics have become strategic and require a paradigm shift in the way organisations deal with them, with deep consequences for their strategy and culture.
This calls for the need to define the state of ‘ultimate’ fairness and to quantify the bias gap in both Market Intelligence and Marketing. This can be partially obtained by transparency, omni-data, feedback and experimentation, but these approaches have their limitations. While AI-powered data collection, analytics and enrichment solutions are still in an early stage, they add substantial value in reducing bias. As AI-generated data and insights also use biased data and biased algorithms, a flexible mix of human judgement and AI judgement is required. Although defining the ‘biassless’ or ‘ultimately fair’ state might still be difficult, this approach is an important step towards it.
The business value of AI will continue to increase in the near future. This will strengthen the competitiveness and the business results of companies and organizations. Therefore it is of strategic importance, that their C-suites embrace ‘Data Bias and Fairness’ as a strategic theme and start utilizing the ‘six potential ways forward’ of Silbert and Manyika.
 Cambridge Dictionary
 While the high-performance and accuracy of Artificial Intelligence, that is Deep learning and Machine Learning algorithms, are generally valued, the models are often applied in a black box manner. This makes it difficult for researchers and data scientists to fully understand how the algorithms work, to understand how to assess the bias and define the point of ‘absolute’ fairness and to communicate the reason of the outcomes to stakeholders or customers. ‘By providing an explanation for how the model made a decision, explainability techniques seek to provide transparency directly targeted to human users, often with the goal of improving user trust.’ They consist of ‘ Local explainability techniques’ that ‘ explain individual predictions, which makes them more relevant for providing transparency for end users.’ and of ‘Global explainability techniques’ that ‘refer to techniques that attempt to explain the model as a whole.’ 
 Several authors; Explainable Machine Learning in Deployment, 13 September 2018; https://arxiv.org/pdf/1909.06342.pdf
The definitions of what Marketing and Market Intelligence include and what not, show a great variation and are sometimes not that clear. In the below article, Philip van den Berg shares his thoughts about this topic, where the two overlap each other, and for both provides a definition, that he thinks works best.
A great variety of Marketing definitions
Definitions of Marketing range from narrow ones, limiting it to planning and executing promotional activities, to broader ones, that include applying the complete marketing mix, exploring potential customer needs and defining the go-to-market strategy. Some discussions on the definition of what Marketing covers even want to include Sales into it. Originally Marketing was a company-centric term that tried to order market opportunities, customers and partners around the own organization. For a selection of definitions, see the list below.
In the last decade the maturation of e-commerce has shifted marketing towards Customer Experience, Loyalty and Advocacy. Consequently, attempts have started, to more successfully organize the company and its partners around the customer, in order to interact at all points of the Customer Journey. Direct customer-vendor touch-points concern not only Marketing but also Sales and Services. Indirect touch-points include partners, regulators, customer advocates, and other external and internal stakeholders. To ensure consistency and effectiveness in Customer Satisfaction and serving stakeholders, Marketing needs to cover all these groups within the own organization and in its ecosystem.
A comprehensive definition of Marketing
With the above in mind, I have come to this definition of what Marketing is:
Marketing is the discipline that, across the different functions of the organization and its ecosystem that have direct or indirect customer touch-points, aims to deliver exceptional customer experience and customer value, that attract and retain customers and create customer advocates by:
a) ensuring full understanding of the market potential, the customer needs, and competition
b) delivering the strategy and the plan of how to profitably realize that potential and fulfill those needs
c) executing the strategy and plan in an agile way, while reporting progress and final results
How about Market Intelligence?
Market Intelligence is the discipline that gathers, organizes, and analyses external data and delivers insights with the aim of supporting strategic or tactical decisions. It is an umbrella term that covers markets, competition, and customers. Intelligence of Markets, Customer Intelligence, and Competitive Intelligence use data to create insights. Therefore the term Market Insights would be better. For the best insights, external Market Intelligence should be combined with internal Business Intelligence.
Dax Sorrenti defines Customer Data as ‘the raw material of information about customers.’, Customer Intelligence as ‘the holistic and flexible understanding of customers that comes from gathering, contextualizing and analyzing data.’ and Customer Insights as ‘the deep understanding of customers that comes from gathering, analyzing and synthesizing customer intelligence. Insight goes beyond the “who”, “what”, “when” and “where” to tell us “why” customers behave as they do, guiding better business decisions and delivering results.'
The number of definitions on Market Intelligence is much smaller than those on Marketing (see some definitions below), but all agree that its scope is quite wide. It includes gaining knowledge and insights on markets and market players in all areas. Market players include competing vendors, customers, partners, suppliers, government and regulators. Market Research, Marketing Intelligence, and customer feedback or reviews may all be seen as part of Market Intelligence. Therefore there is a big overlap in the areas covered by Marketing and by Market Intelligence.
A definition of Market Intelligence
These observations about Market Intelligence have led me to define Market Intelligence as follows:
Market Intelligence is the discipline that, across the different functions of the organization, aims to deliver meaningful insights for strategic, operational and tactical decision making, that allow delivering exceptional customer experience and customers value, outperform competition and bring structural business value and profitability.
Let me know if you have another view, have additions or simply agree!
Philip Kotler: Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services .. .. the most important concepts of marketing .. are: segmentation, targeting, positioning, needs, wants, demand, offerings, brands, value and satisfaction, exchange, transactions, relationships and networks, marketing channels, supply chain, competition, the marketing environment, and marketing programs. These terms make up the working vocabulary of the marketing professional. Marketing’s key processes are: (1) opportunity identification, (2) new product development, (3) customer attraction, (4) customer retention and loyalty building, and (5) order fulfillment. A company that handles all of these processes well will normally enjoy success. But when a company fails at any one of these processes, it will not survive. 
Matt Blumberg: Marketing when done well is (a) the strategy of the business – its value proposition, go to market strategy, and brand positioning and image to the world. … Marketing in the twenty-first century must be (c) largely, but not entirely, measurable and accountable around driving business goals. Marketing when done brilliantly is driven by (a) includes a small, disciplined subset of (b), and is steeped in a culture of (c). 
Hubspot: Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer’s interests. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising. 
AMA (American Marketing Association): Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. 
Market Intelligence definitions
Elli Mirman: Good market intelligence requires getting a complete view of a market, from marketing campaigns to product details to hiring activities. This includes: News: the latest announcements and mentions in the news, Team Intelligence: including job openings, employee reviews, and key leadership changes, Product Intelligence: product and pricing details, whether from product pages, help sites, app store updates, or other sources on or off a company’s website, Discussions: unfiltered discussions and feedback from customers and prospects on solutions they’ve tried, Marketing Intelligence: including content marketing, social media campaigns, and promotions across channels. 
KPMG: Market intelligence is the process of gathering, organising, managing, digesting, and finally delivering information with the aim of supporting a decision. … The scope of what market intelligence encompasses will vary from company to company, for example covering strategy, marketing, technology or other areas. We take a broad view of this scope, believing that companies’ needs and cultures vary widely, and therefore different organisations may benefit from different approaches to market intelligence. … Market intelligence covers one, some, or all of these topics (non-exhaustive list): regulatory changes, news, companies/competitors, technology trends. Depending on which topics it encompasses, market intelligence is also sometimes called competitive intelligence or marketing intelligence. Generally speaking, these functions are alike in technique, but pursue different goals. 
Adi Bhat: Market intelligence is defined as the information or data that is derived by an organization from the market it operates in or wants to operate in, to help determine market segmentation, market penetration, market opportunity, and existing market metrics. Market intelligence is a vital aspect to understand the state of the market, as well as helps collect competitor intelligence which in turn aids towards becoming profitable. … Market intelligence gathers data externally providing you a holistic view of the entire market and not just your organization. However, incorporating market intelligence with business intelligence processes will enable a company to have a holistic view of the ongoing corporate performance in specific market conditions. .. Market intelligence is closely associated with market research and can be explained in three simple parts as follows: Competitor Intelligence, Product Intelligence, Market understanding. 
Transition-to-Success Framework for strategists & implementers, management & employees
Why do many corporations but also SME’s, scale-ups and start-ups struggle and even fail? It’s not because the initial business idea wasn’t good or the mission or organizational setup wasn’t good. The older companies get, the more they can create an environment where its employees want to crawl into the comfort zone of what has been achieved. One becomes defensive of historical ideas and positions. In the meantime, the business environment changes at what seems to be an ever faster and more disruptive pace. Strategies or often just tactics are adjusted more and more reactively and the responsible managers or consultants move to the next challenge before they can be held accountable.
Thomas Zweifel offers a methodology that joins strategy with planning and binds planning, people and performance. The goal is to be always open for the future and for transformation and capable of implementing it. The Strategy-In-Action methodology empowers the people in the organization to be future-focused, to get the relevant intelligence, to give room to deviating view, maximize buy-in of all relevant stakeholders, to get so-called quick wins, which are key to involve the organization in the transformation and to identify early people that my block the transformation.
The book shows how to bridge the gap between strategy and actions, and as I have experienced at large, inward-focused companies, between tactics and metrics. The methodology of Thomas Zweifel is clear and logical and will bring success. Implementing this will not only transform the organization to become more agile and future aware but also helps to get stakeholders involved. Therefore his book is a recommendation for both strategists and implementers and both management and employees at any organization, from established corporations and governmental organizations to smaller and younger companies in growth pains or decline.