If you think about it, brand tracking client-supplier relationships are a lot like long-term relationships. We pick the best partner we can and jump into the deep end together, but it requires work, commitment, and chemistry to build a new relationship into something that drives true and lasting value for both parties. Google “why marriages fail,” and you’ll quickly turn up over 24 million results. Some of the most common reasons people give for getting divorced include lack of commitment, unrealistic expectations, lack of equality in the relationship, and a lack of preparation. Sounds a lot like some of our most forgettable brand tracking relationships.
Perform a similar search for “why marriages succeed,” and lo and behold! Google only returns about 8 million results, but the lessons are largely the same. Communicate. Spend time together. Set clear goals. Again, echoes of our best brand tracking partnerships. Since brand tracking is such a substantial undertaking for many insights teams, we’re pleased to offer some relationship advice gleaned from decades in the trenches with some of the world’s top brands.
Why long-term brand tracking relationships fail
Insights teams and their research partners must work to stay on the same page, adapting together to a rapidly changing world.
One partner says, “You’ve changed.”
The other: “I know, but you haven’t.”
Tracking relationships, like marriages, also fail when the partners fail to prioritize one another.
“I feel like we lost each other while focusing all our energy on other things, like work, family, our hobbies.”
Most often, trackers (like most relationships) fail due to complacency.
“We fell into a rut, and I found life more interesting in places that didn’t include you.”
Why other long-term brand tracking relationships succeed
On the flip side, just as brand tracking programs sometimes fail, successful long term tracking programs thrive in many of the same ways great relationships do. The partners are committed to building their future together. They communicate. They strive for honesty.
“Because we embrace change—together—this program keeps getting better every single year. We don’t shy away from uncovering the powerful trends that improve (or risk) the health of our business.”
Like spouses must treat their marriage as a prized possession, so too must tracking clients and their partners.
“Our tracking program is the largest line item in our budget, and it provides a treasure trove of insights. An answer to almost every business question that arises lives inside this valuable data set.”
Above all, both partners must work hard to keep their partnership’s fire lit.
“Last quarter’s deep dive analysis uncovered a new competitive threat, and we leveraged video clips from customers to help leadership embrace the learnings and address the threat. Our partner/vendor really helped the story come alive, and we are already seeing recovery in the data and forecast modeling.”
Relationship secrets of the best brand tracking partnerships
The world is constantly changing, and so are people. In successful marriages, both partners commit to changing together. So too, in tracking. To make your tracker future-proof, you must expect change. Plan with your brand tracking partner how you plan to keep pace with change together.
You may get a new CMO or have insights leaders change roles. You may launch a brand extension. You may experience bigtime growth, or you might flounder. Your category may evolve. New competition may emerge, along with new media platforms that change the way your customers engage with your brand. Technology impacts everything, so harness the power of that technology in your data collection methods, survey programming, data provisioning and dashboarding, appending data, linking data to your CRM, and more.
Overall, remember that change will happen, and a strong brand tracking partnership can help you stay nimble, adaptive, and can enable you to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Make the program a priority above all else
In marriage and in life, priorities change. But to achieve lasting success, your top priority never should. Most brand trackers—particularly those with several years of history—have such a wealth of business data to consult.
Have a business question that your tracker might be able to answer? Start by digging into your existing information. If you value and prioritize the data you’ve already got, you’ll equip yourself to drive your business in myriad ways.
Before you start and finish a presentation deck, what existing information will add to the story? Seeing shifts in your business, turn to your data set. Initial hypotheses are likely already in your hands. Prioritize your tracker, and you’ll be rewarded.
Keep it fresh
Even the best marriages can fall into a rut from time to time, especially if both partners don’t come with new ideas to keep it fresh. In tracking, success comes from intentional nurturing and evolution via re-invention. Don’t just turn the page. If you are still doing the same thing you were doing last year, your tracking program is not the best it can be.
Continue to ask tough and probing questions. Always work to keep your insights fresh, and share them with your organization in new and interesting ways that resonate with your stakeholders.
Never. Ever. Let your tracking program exist on autopilot, fade into the background, into the shadow of newer initiatives, or grow stale. Like a great marriage, your brand tracking partner relationship can help you grow and evolve beyond your wildest dreams, but only if you treat it like gold. Oh, and buy it lots of diamonds...