In the last issue, we met Tony Lewis, founder of strategic market research consultancy, Vision One. This month, we learn more about his innovative marketing tool, ‘Momentum’. He discusses how small businesses can utilise this powerful marketing and decision-making tool…

What are the key factors involved in strategic marketing for small businesses?

I don’t think the fundamentals have changed that much over time – marketing is still based on the four Ps: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. These apply to businesses of all sizes, large and small, and brands should aim to optimise each area to build growth.

Product requires optimising your product offering – essentially, you must ensure it’s good enough to encourage returning customers.

Price is often difficult to change if you’re in a competitive market – so often, there is little room for flexibility here unless you are unique.

Place is essentially about being everywhere whenever possible – the more readily available you are, the more likely you are to be found and bought. Promotion refers to advertising and other activities that create interest in your offering. Your brand needs to compete effectively and have a reason (emotional or rational) to be chosen over your competitors.

What are the key metrics used to measure a brand?

There are many consumer brand metrics and, generally, these can be grouped into behavioural (e.g. purchase, visited a website) or perceptual (e.g. how people think or feel about a brand). Brands are in the mind, so, for me, the most critical brand metrics reveal insights into how consumers perceive the brand. Everyone involved in brands tends to have a different opinion of what is essential – and in fairness, each brand is different, so potentially, each has unique challenges.

In addition to brand behaviours, brand imagery and its metrics tend to be grouped into five key areas:

Brand Salience: The awareness and the degree to which the brand is thought of or noticed (e.g. prompted brand awareness)

Brand Image: Beliefs, associations and how the brand is perceived, such as the origins of the company and its backstory.

Product Image: Perceptions and images of the product or service around quality, service, value, etc.

User Image: Who the brand is for? This can be age, gender, family, etc. Alternatively, it may be related to their lifestyle and interests or category usage – perhaps coffee lovers or early technology adopters.

Brand relationship: What is their emotional connection with the brand?

The most important KPI is one which can summarise all of these and reflect the goals of a business. This is the subject of my book about Brand Momentum and the Brand Velocity Score™.

How important is it to understand your consumer?

Understanding your current and prospective customers is the most crucial aspect of marketing and a focus for many medium and large companies. But it is still key to growing smaller businesses. If you don’t understand what your customers want or how people perceive your product or services, with no feedback loop in place, it’s almost impossible for a business to optimise its offering or communicate effectively.

The biggest challenge to understanding your customer is knowing what questions to ask. Fully understanding your customers’ issues and barriers and how to remedy those problems is often the secret to success. It sounds simple, but the reality is that problems are complex and often multifactorial, so they require a good deal of brainpower and thought. 

Understanding your customers will help improve the appeal and interest in your products, services, communications, pricing, and strategy & planning. Understanding your customers across your business can help unify ideas and ensure everyone pulls together with a shared vision of the customer.

There is quite a bit of psychology involved in consumer purchasing decisions… Can you tell us more?   

Many things influence our decisions. Market research is a fascinating discipline, and we learn more about people every day. In short, decisions are usually made well before the actual purchase occasion – but there’s plenty of opportunity to disrupt these preconceived ideas and habits during the process too. 

Branding is about building perceptions before the purchase moment and encouraging automatic (System 1) purchasing that encourages people to pick your brand on autopilot. Performance and point of sale (POS) marketing efforts try to nudge consumers to buy a particular product just before or during the purchase process. You need to consider both these approaches to build effective marketing strategies.

How can a small business owner develop a customer-focused sales strategy?

There are several things small business owners can do to be more customer-focused. Here are a few examples.

Do your research. Most companies do surveys or polls. Getting feedback across all aspects of your business will help you understand where your issues may be. If you need help, go to a specialist.

Who is the target market? Get a crystal-clear idea of what your current and potential customers look like and how you want to be perceived as a business (your user image). Many medium or large businesses segment their customer groups to help prioritise which segments to focus on.

Identify your brand vision, proposition, and positioning so you know what you want people to think and feel about your brand when they come across it. Try and build these around your understanding of the customers.

Try to be the only one who does precisely what you do. How is your product/brand unique? Is there something it possesses that no other competitor can claim or looks like? It’s good to understand who buys the market leader, why they buy it, and their strengths. You can then look for weaknesses or opportunities, as the chances are your customers will also buy the market leader.

Test your messaging and marketing to ensure you’re positioning the brand correctly.

It’s easy to forget that social enterprises and the charity sector face similar challenges to small businesses… What is the approach to strategic marketing for these sectors?

In some ways, charities and social enterprises already have an advantage because people see them as benevolent and altruistic. However, it’s important to recognise many social enterprises are on the same playing field as commercial businesses. So, really they should aim to compete on the same levels to help ensure success. My belief about the goal for most brands is quite simple – and that all we are really trying to do is to make the consumer care. For example, to care about your product, service, or cause.

Do you find people forthcoming with their views?

Yes, the public is great at coming forward and taking part in research, and we rely heavily on their input. Sometimes, the subject matter may be difficult. For example, people tend to avoid taking part in subjects with little interest to them. Sometimes, we find studies that don’t quite get the numbers we were expecting – but this still tells us something about the market or subject matter.

As a research agency, we tend to be very specific about who we want to talk to for any study. Therefore, we largely incentivise most people to contribute to our research studies in some form or other.

How can a small business implement ongoing customer feedback systems?

The simplest way to get feedback is to try to capture it at or after the purchase occasion. Buyers are much more receptive once they have bought, so they may be willing to take a bit of time out to help. Non-users, who have little invested interest in your product or service, may require a more personal touch to collecting information. Website and social media quizzes and polls all offer great opportunities to capture feedback.

B2B business research tends to be more difficult to get participants, so we often have to increase the incentive for these. However, we have some great partners, which means we can get virtually anyone to participate if the incentive is high enough for them.

With increasing production and living costs, how best should a small business prioritise marketing management techniques?

All companies need to add value, and it’s this value creation that consumers are willing to invest in. Understanding this value is essential to optimise your income and profits. Otherwise, you may miss opportunities to charge for things your customers are willing to pay for. Keep focused on the things that are important, and don’t scrimp on the most important things. Better to stop doing the things that have less influence in the long term.

What has been your most rewarding and interesting client campaign?

Well, that’s easy from my team’s perspective – they love chocolate and working with confectionery clients. If anyone is reading this from such a company, please do drop us a line! Seriously, every client brings a fresh set of problems – and we love challenges! But I suppose the most rewarding campaigns are found when we work really collaboratively with clients and come away feeling that we have provided valuable insights that move the business forward.

If you had your dream case study business to apply your skills to, what would it be and why?

We love helping our clients address problems. So, having a challenging problem makes a study much more enjoyable for us – it allows us to be much more focused and often involves a more experimental design. 

New products and ideas are always interesting to research as they each come with new challenges, something that the consumer may have never seen before. But a dream project is anything that sounds remotely difficult or challenging, I suppose. If things were that easy, businesses wouldn’t need any help or need to understand their customers better. 

For more information about Brand Momentum, visit: