Interview with Marion Panhuijzen, founder of SpotOpp

Having worked as marketing director and consultant in a variety of industries, Marion Panhuijzen saw that many companies struggle to align their commercial and marketing strategies, where there could be a unified vision and action plan, based on shared data and assumptions.

That’s why she built SpotOpp: an analytic tool for making decisions, a method to gather relevant data and a way to get the results accepted by all stakeholders.

Why did you build this tool? What got you started?

“Marketing is often seen as the department that builds or produces ‘nice things’ and not as that part of the company that systematically gathers insights about the market and then executes on the findings, aiming for customer engagement and lead generation”

“In part, this can be the result of the company’s history and traditions, but at the same time Marketingoften shies away from its full potential, staying in a communications or content role instead. Also, because results are expected from this ‘spending department’, many in-company marketers stay in an operational role”, says Marion. “You can do all the marketing you want, but still throw away money if you don’t do it for the right target group.”

It’s extremely important to first look outside, do serious market research, lay down and visualize customer journeys, and gather internal and external data to chart your external environment. Only then you can make informed decisions about which product fits best for which market and region, how to best distribute it and how to promote it.

“Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction,” – Kenichi Ohmae.

What does the SpotOpp app do? What can you do with it?

“SpotOpp is a tool for your business strategy. It provides direction to DMU’s as to efficient budget division, shows which products are to be developed and points the efforts of your salespeople and marketing campaigns in the right direction”, says Marion.

Believe it or not, but the app:

  • enables the collection of commercially relevant data by guiding you through an internal and external analysis in an easy way
  • digitises all the information you put into it on an aggregate level, making the app work better the more you use it
  • neutralises the input. This means that A) the gut-feeling of sales and management (which is often so important in business-to-business) is underpinned by data and B) the experience and opinions of all stakeholders can be ‘imported’ without positions or vested interests coming into play.

To be honest, it took me a while to comprehend (and believe) this, but after talking with Marion a few times and after she showed me how the app works, I became convinced this is indeed a valid and useful way of gathering and interpreting actionable data, esp. for B2B companies.

“It allows for data-driven decisions to be made much more easily then in a traditional way with lots of meetings and written reports. It also makes efficient use of resources: more people (internally and externally) can deliver input, less money is spent, on the output side it’s easier to allocate budgets and one spends less time analysing the available data.

Generic, yet specific

Marion: “The SpotOpp tool is generic. In principle you can use it for any market, product or region. By filling it with info, however, it automatically becomes specific for your industry. Part of the input comes from databases. In addition, the more people give their input – especially those employees, high and low, that have some kind of interaction with customers – the better the outcomes of the analytic model.”

An extra benefit is that this can all be done at the same time. Sounds good to me!

First clients

In the past weeks, Marion’s first clients have started to use or experiment with the app. It has been an interesting experience, she says. In many cases, there’s literally a group of people (sales, marketing, services, customer support etc.) in a room who have to be there because their boss said so. They are sceptical of ‘the app that’s going to tell them what to do’ and by the way, ‘I already know what the client wants’. A nice start…

However, due to the inclusive nature of the app – which ensures everybody’s opinion is heard – Marion has seen discussions go deeper and participants become more enthusiastic every time. “The tool prevents the formation of silos. Users start to work together and are really surprised at the results, while at the same time being fully involved in the process and the types of input entering the system. The app shows them where a product-market combination is positioned in a certain market or region and also shows why. Of course, there are still things to tweak, but so far, users are happy with their newly gained insights.”

Is it useful for maritime companies?

“The maritime industry has to do market research just like any other industry”, says Marion. “An advantage is that there’s already so much information available here. On the one hand you have sales reps interacting directly, face to face with their prospects, bringing home a lot of first-hand knowledge. On the other hand there are several databases about the world’s fleet, market reports etc. The app can be filled with all of that. Already there’s a fairly large maritime supplier using the system. Based on the outcomes of the analysis, they are rethinking both their regional and product segmentation strategy.”

How does it work?

SpotOpp simplifies making strategic management decisions feeding objectified data and personal insights into the app and erasing harmful psychological bias. Basically: our brains only see the things they want to see, we only hear what we want to hear; after that we devise, often in milliseconds, a ‘valid’ reasoning to ‘prove’ we’re right. The app ensures that all relevant aspects are being considered and that provides a more valid course of action.

“You start with compiling the knowledge of all involved people”, says Marion. “This is done via both multiple choice and open questions provided by the app. Then you insert market data, data from reports, for databases etc. This results in a first overview of your market and the position of your products in it. Next, you validate these findings with your customers, whom you can ask highly specific and detailed questions – like they ask you when considering buying your product. With this input also inserted, the system will present to you which products show the best fit and also what could be changed about them to create an even better fit, such as pricing, certain product specs, promotion or the way distribution is organised. In short, it shows your quick wins.”

“The app doesn’t exclude markets. It just shows what you have to do to find your sweet-spot or which product should have priority. One of the side-effects is that internal buy-in becomes much easier, as the results come from the input of everyone involved, not from a top-down decision. You can already make a useful analysis in one session and create a single shared truth in a day.”

In conclusion, it was an interesting experience meeting Marion and learning about her tool. It’s holistic and well-structured. Now, if the above sparks your interest, while perhaps also generating questions (or even healthy scepticism), I suggest you get in touch with Marion or ask your question below – let her explain.