Corporate Marketing Research at 3M

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1 JOSEPH R. KENDALL Corporate Marketing Research at 3M The Corporate Marketing Research Department at 3M is unusual in the duai roie it performs in the company. Since 1964, the department has been both a marketing research resource for the operafing unifs of 3M ond the ieading enfry point in the company for MBAs seeking markefing management (nof marketing research] careers. Understanding marketing research at 3M requires some description of the company. 3M is a $13 billion corporation, with almost 50% of its sales coming from overseas operations. Organizationally, it has four operating sectors. 1. Industrial and Electronic 2. Information and Imaging Technologies 3. Life Sciences 4. Commercial and Consumer The four sectors contain 14 groups, made up of about 60 operating divisions and departments. The operating units have global strategic responsibilities for their product lines and tactical responsibilities in the United States. The generation of tactics for outside the U.S. is the responsibility of the 53 3M subsidiaries, located in just about every country that has a free enterprise economy. The company is almost entirely home grown, basing its business on 16 broad technologies that have evolved from its own laboratories over the past 86 years. The technologies range from precision coating, abrasives, and adhesives through electronics, magnetic memory, and imaging to fluorochemistry and health science, to name just a few. This array of capabilities has led to more than 50,000 products. It has also led to confusion among the people who report on business activity. Over the years, various publications that categorize companies {Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, etc.) have listed 3M under such disparate classifications as chemicals; measuring, scientific, photographic equipment; widely diversified products; conglomerate; and others. The operating units are autonomous in most of their activities and especially in marketing. They have their own salesforce, marketing and communications departments, and in some cases marketing research. They are not required to use the Corporate Marketing Research Department for any of their research needs. They can go outside the company Joseph R. Kendall is Direcfor, Morketing Research and Information Systems, 3M Company. CORPORATE MARKETING RESEARCH AT 3M

2 for research services just as easily as they can use the internal service. Research Needs at 3M A company as diverse as 3M has many marketing research needs, which can be categorized roughly into three types. 1. Operating unit research, done on a project basis, which the operating unit pays for on a recharge contract covering time and expenses for the work done. It is most often done with a contract for each project, though some divisions buy a percentage of a researcher's time for a period of time to cover numerous projects (e.g., 50% of a person's time for a year). 2. Research covering the entire marketing community, which may be requested by the Marketing Council (the marketing directors of the operating units), national sales managers' conference, or a corporate executive, or may be the brainchild of one of the members of the research department. If the Vice President, Corporate Marketing Services (to whom Corporate Marketing Research reports) approves the project, the cost of the work is spread over all of the operating units. An example is research into the general effectiveness of sales incentives. 3. Corporate projects, which benefit all business disciplines (marketing, manufacturing, laboratory, finance), such as corporate image research. These projects must be approved by the Executive Vice President, to whom the Vice President, CMS, reports, and are charged to a corporate fund. researchers at 3M, the diaoenges are tough and the opportunities * almost limitless Development of Marketing Researchers The challenges are tough and the opportunities available to marketing researchers at 3M are almost limitless. The biggest challenge is that each reseacher has an annual goal of a set percentage of time that must be sold on approved projects. The opportunities presented by a large number of businesses, with thousands of products, that need research information are obvious. The Corporate Marketing Research Department consists of about 29 people, organizedfas in Figure 1. The marketing research project work is carried out by the analysts, senior analysts, supervisors, and the two research managers. (The research manager for Corporate Planning Services works solely for the Corporate Planning and Strategy Committee.) Projects are obtained through requests from marketing personnel in the operating units or from sales calls made by analysts and senior analysts. A sales call may be the result of folio wup from a previous project, introduction of a new research service, information on new or expanded activity in the operating unit, or the introduction of a new analyst. All project requests take the form of a proposal that outlines the marketing situation, the information need, how the information will be obtained, timing, and costs. The signed proposal, with an operating unit designated to be charged for the costs, is the authorization to proceed with the project. The analysts are recruited from university MBA programs and from among 3M employees in other disciplines (i.e., engineering, laboratory, etc.) who have obtained an MBA while working at 3M and want to make a career change. The analysts' career goals are in marketing management but they are interested in, and have an aptitude for, spending three MARKETING RESEARCH, JUNE 1991

3 Figure 1 ORGANIZATJON OF CORPORATE MARKETING RESEARCH DEPARTMENT Department Manager i Supc rvisor litarketing Ubireiy Res«arch Manager nmihrch M«nag*r Research Manager Corporate Ranning Sarvlctn inlom atlon System Maoaget Iniormation System Coordinalor Inlormmion Ar^ysis Resisarch Supervlaoi Research Supervisor Restsarch Supervisor Research Supervisor Research Supervisor Sy lem Developmeni Manager Senior Analysis S. Analysts Senior Analysis & Analysis Senior Analysis & Analysts Senior Analysis Analysts Senior Analysis & AlUlysts years in marketing research. Just about all of the analysts have post-baccalaureate business experience with 3M or other companies. In the first year about 60% of an analyst's time is spent on research projects for operating units. The remainder of the time is spent in development seminars and classes covering sampling, study design, questionnaire design, focus groups, and other relevant subjects. The classes taken depend on prior experience and aptitude. All analysts take sales training from one of 3M's divisional sales trainers. (They are expected to sell their time to cover their costs, so we feel we should give them sales training. Also, we believe that sales training is very beneficial in developing the personal interviewing techniques required in many projects.) One year as an analyst, with good performance, qualifies a person for a position as a senior analyst. This is a promotion and the senior positions require selling close to 100% of one's time. The senior analyst is the workhorse of the project system, devoting time entirely to getting projects sold, completed, and reported. The researchers' projects, for the most part, are divided along sector and group lines. Therefore, an individual's work will have an emphasis in a particular area such as industrial, health care, or imaging. However, if a project in one sector calls for an area of expertise that resides with someone assigned to another sector, that person can cross over for the project. Flexibility is an important element in the personal development of the analysts. The senior analyst becomes a supervisor in about one year and is given one or two of the beginning analysts to develop into a competent researcher and future 3M marketer. The supervisor still does operating unit work, handling some of the more complex projects, selling time in the 60 to 80% range. Supervisors will have developed a special rapport with several operating units over the years and will invariably be offered a marketing position in one of the line units at about the time three years have been con:\pleted. Alternatively, the Hi analysts take salei training from one of divisional sales trainers-;; :'* CORPORATE MARKETING RESEARCH AT 3M

4 managers of Corporate Marketing Research will be asked for a recommendation to fill an operating unit marketing position and the available supervisors will be recommended for interviews. This system of developing new marketers has been working at 3M since Overall, about 113 MBAs have been hired in Corporate Marketing Research in that time. Their disposition follows. Still with 3M Moved into operating unit Still in CMR Left 3M Moved to operating unit and then moved out of 3M Left 3M from CMR Percentage The average number of MBAs hired into Corporate Marketing Research has been slightly more than four per year during the 26 years. The present positions of those who remain with 3M range from executive and director through many levels in the marketing organizations. Variety of Research Many types of research are conducted for the operating units, among them: new product evaluations (concepts, prototype testing, product testing), customer satisfaction (one-time and continuous tracking), forecasting models, market potential/market analysis, product differentiation, distributor motivation, promotion evaluation, pricing, sales territory alignment, distributor research, and market share. Much of the research is routine, with basic study designs, interviewing techniques, analysis, and reporting. However, some studies have a little twist that makes them unique or provides an interesting result. Here are a few examples. Customer Satisfaction Research A major customer satisfaction study for the Traffic Control Materials Division consisted of 562 telephone interviews with: safety barricade manufacturers/users, pavement marking contractors, independent sign shops, local governnients, and state governments. The objective of the study was to determine the degree of satisfaction customers received from 3M products and the related services and to compare the level of satisfaction with that of 3M's competitors. The product and service attributes to be evaluated were obtained by interviewing 3M technical, marketing, sales, and executive personnel. One hundred and ten attributes were found, which were reduced to 43 through MARKETING RESEARCH, JUNE 1991

5 factor analysis based on interviews with customers. The 43 factors were divided into seven categories: sales and order service, product, product performance, delivery, information, technicat service, ^sales representatives, and general Overall, the results of the study showed 3M to be viewed favorably and pointed out areas for improvement against various competitors. However, one major finding was not expected and was not a part of the original objectives of the study. Analysis revealed that the five customer groups had very different views of what was important in product attri-^ butes and service. Among the five top attributes for each of the five customer groups (25 in total), there were only six duplicates. The customers, though buying the same product lines, viewed themselves, their businesses, and their suppliers very differently. As a result of the study, the operating unit, which had been approaching all five customer groups alike, developed five different approaches. The customers were treated as five different markets. Subsequent sales data and customer satisfaction research has shown that shifting to five separate market strategies has been correct. Price Value Analysis The Automotive Design Systems Division of 3M developed a new automotive nameplate product called Dimensional Graphics for the automobile equipment manufacturing market. At the time, the market was primarily buying plastic nameplates as commodities. Competition was on the basis of price. Dimensional Graphics was a new concept in the market, with several new features. The question was: What is the added value of the features? Through tradeoff (conjoint) analysis, based on 41 personal depth interviews with automotive OEM purchasing decision makers and specifiers, a Corporate Marketing Research supervisor constructed a price elasticity of demand curve. The research identified the criteria used by key decision makers and influencers in selecting a nameplate. Price was found to be very important. However, its relative importance varied by product feature, and market share expectations could be calculated for various price/product feature combinations. The model has proven to be a successful guide in this part of the auto OEM business. Research With (and for) Distributors Many of 3M's industrial products move through distributors. Periodically, an industrial division asks for a survey of its distributors to determine, anonymously, how they feel about doing business with each of their suppliers, not just 3M. The survey covers relationships with distributor managers and reps, product quality, ordering, delivery, ease of handling, training of distributor personnel, advertising and promotion, and many other areas. The resulting report is An tinexpecled study finding showed that five customer groups should be treated as e different niarkets CORPORATE MARKETING RESEARCH AT 3M

6 shared with the distributors to show how 3M stands with them as a group and where and how we expect to improve. Surprisingly, many of the distributors have been so appreciative of the information that they wanted 3M's Corporate Marketing Research to conduct similar research with their customers to determine their standing in relation to other distributors. Such studies have been done in many cases, with the approval and sometimes financial support of the 3M division with whom the distributor works. > 3M will be able make global comparisons of 3M custorner service with customer expectations aad Measuring Customer Service Against Expectations and Competition The largest single marketing research project ever conducted at 3M will be carried out in It will involve every operating unit and will measure customer satisfaction with 3M's products and customer service throughout North America. Each operating unit (assisted by an assigned researcher from CMR) will provide CMR with a listing of its customers and distributors for each business in which it operates. The number in the listing, drawn to reflect large, medium, and small customers, will be four times what is needed for a representative interviewing sample. CMR will randomly select companies to be interviewed from the list given. Also, with each customer name provided, the operating unit will include the names of two or three individuals at that company who can knowledgeably answer questions about designated product and service areas, 3M, and its competitors. The questionnaire will consist of about 70 general questions, common to all interviews, and 10 to 15 product-specific questions for each business. The common questions will be divided into: supplier selection criteria, supplier contact factors, physical distribution factors, and commercial and special factors. The interviews will be face-to-face, conducted by an experienced outside agency, and will total 8000 to 10,000. A pilot study will be conducted with four operating units, one from each organizational sector, and 3M Canada (completed in late 1990). The data collected will be put into a single database that can be rolled up (where appropriate) to division, group, sector, and company. Also, each operating unit will be able to access its data to conduct whatever analysis it deems appropriate. A study similar to the North American Customer Satisfaction Study was conducted by 3M in Europe in and in Mexico in The study will be done in selected countries in the Far East in 1992, after which we will be able to make global comparisons of 3M customer service with customer expectations and competition. The results of the survey will be used to make Improvements in customer service based on 3M's ability to meet customer expectations. The study will be repeated in the future MARKETING RESEARCH, JUNE 1991

7 (1993 or 1994) to measure the effects of changes made and to find opportunities for future improvement. Research for Corporate Planning and Strategy The Corporate Planning and Strategy Committee reviews the strategic plans of 3M's Strategic Business Centers and guides the long-range direction of the corporation. This effort requires, among other things, the reporting of consistent, comparable data by the Strategic Business Centers. The Corporate Marketing Research Manager assigned to the Corporate Planning and Strategy Committee, along with the corporate planning staff, has designed a system for defining markets and reporting share that is very revealing. It enables the planning committee to see market size, growth rate, and share for 3M and its competitors in three essential dimensions customer groups, applications, and technologies. Looking at share in only one dimension can result in failure to see emerging customer groups, product applications, and technologies that can eventually erode one's business. A technique utilizing "skyline" charts in the three areas mentioned enables 3M's managers to see its situation at a glance. Figure 2, a chart based on a fictitious memory media industry, is an example. Three customer groups are outlined original equipment manufacturers, commercial, and consumer. If 3M's business were dependent on the consumer segment and we were not watching the OEM segment, which has a higher growth rate and possibly higher profits, a potential competitor might grow up there that could eventually threaten our consumer business. Similarly, our consumer business could be based on a videotape application utilizing a magnetic technology. If our market share research were measuring only this application and technology and not watching the others, we could be in trouble and not know it. A manufacturer in a data application, utilizing optical technology, could be developing potential products for the consumer video business. Therefore, our research people must be able to watch not only our customers, applications, and technologies, but also ones that are related and have the potential to take share from us in the long term. Developing analytical tools similar to those in the preceding example is an important part of the role of Corporate Marketing Research at 3M. Evolution Program Many new product projects may sit in 3M's laboratories without sufficient funds for proper evaluation of their marketplace viability. (The product idea may not be high enough on the operating unit's priority list to merit marketing research funds.) The Evolution Program was developed by a CMR supervisor to overcome this problem and to provide a vehicle to demonstrate to operating units the value of early marketing research in new product development. The corporation gives Corporate Marketing Research $150,000 a year for marketing research grants to deserving CORPORATE MARKETING RESEARCH AT 3M

8 Figure 2 MEMORY MEDIA INDUSTRY OEM Commercial Customer Groups Consumer Applications Video Technoiogies Optical Magnetic Global Market Size (MM$) Competitor 1 Competitor 2 projects. An Evolution application is made by a technical/ marketing tean:\ working on a product that has demonstrated technical feasibility. The application is reviewed by a selection committee representing the technical, marketing, and legal functions. Each application is reviewed also by a marketing research professional, w^ho recommends the most appropriate research for the information needs and estimates the cost. Grants are made to the best qualified applicants on the basis of the information needs, ability to use the award effectively, and potential benefit to the company. The grant can be used only to pay for the time of the corporate marketing researcher who w^ill carry out the project. The value of the Evolution grants ranges from $10,000 to $35, MARKETING RESEARCH, JUNE 1991

9 Corporate Marketing Library The Corporate Marketing Library serves as a reference resource to the researchers and is also available to all 3M employees. It contains marketing and economic statistics from all of the usual sources, marketing periodicals and newspapers, and information from various subscription services in the marketing research business. The information analysts in the library are experienced personnel with access to published information databases and contacts at appropriate libraries around the country and at major information services. The library pays its way, however, through one major service. Because of the decentralized nature of 3M, several individual operating units could unknowingly purchase the same study at full price from an outside research firm. However, all proposals that come into 3M for multiclient studies, or available research data for sale, or subscriptions to data services are sent to the Corporate Marketing Library. The library supervisor and analysts know from experience which operating units may have an interest in a particular subject and they make known what is available to all appropriate 3M personnel. (They also publish the availability of the data, study, etc. in a monthly newsletter.) As a result, items of interest to individual operating units are purchased once by 3M instead of three or four or five times by the various 3M units. The cost to each operating unit therefore is only a fraction of what it would be if the unit made the purchase on its own. Summary Corporate Marketing Research at 3M is charged with (1) providing an internal resource from which operating units can obtain high quality marketing research and (2) developing graduate MBAs into potential marketing managers within 3M's operating units. A formal process of personnel development has been underway for more than 25 years. The department's work is paid for by the projects it conducts for the operating units. If department costs are not covered as forecasted in any year, headcount reductions can be anticipated. If forecasted costs are covered and project work requests exceed capabilities, expansion can occur. The department's work is primarily in industrial, commercial, and health care areas, though some consumer research is done. A wide variety of research techniques are employed, and the innovation and development of unique analyses is encouraged. In size, projects range from small group interviews to total company efforts involving all operating units and all classes of customers. Corporate Marketing Research has developed a program to encourage early research in product development (Evolution) that also helps the researchers to sell time and develop skills in some relatively undefined markets. The Corporate Marketing Library is a resource for both the researchers and 3M marketing personnel in general. It also affords substantial savings for the company by consolidating the purchase of research reports and data for the operating units.! Reprint No, MR32101 The Corporate Marketing Library pays its way through centralized purchasing resource materiam CORPORATE MARKETING RESEARCH AT 3M 11

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