How the New Customer Funnel Could Change the Customer Journey in Your Business

Leah Mahon, Student, Staffordshire Business School


The new customer funnel is changing the way that businesses interact with their customers on their customer journey as we previously knew it.

For years, the traditional funnel has been one of the most used by businesses. However, according to Davies BDM, it has endured criticism due to its inability to adapt to the changing customer journey aligned with what customers want and need in an era of rampant digitalisation and self-controlled consumerism.

Now, the new funnel is set to be one of marketing’s biggest developments for the digital plethora, as predicted by Campaign Monitor. Its new hourglass shape represents non-linearity and continuity throughout the customer journey. It also boasts of new varied stages for every customer to experience as an acknowledgement of true individuality. The new funnel merges the stages of pre-purchase and post-purchase like never before to demonstrate a truly complete view of the customer life cycle. The concept of multi-touch, multi-channel and multi-path customers journeys are now changing the marketing strategies for every business that is embracing the rise of digital.

Some insight from Customer Journey Marketer, breaks down a little more why the previous customer funnel wasn’t quite cutting it in the dawn of this digital age, and what the new funnel can offer customers.

The Old Customer Funnel:

  • Inconsideration of external influences
  • Customers are linear and the same
  • Lack of focus beyond the point of purchase
  • Lack of granularity
  • Lacking perspective of journey

The New Customer Funnel:

  • Customers can enter at any pre-purchase stage
  • Customers do not enter every stage
  • Movement in non-linear way
  • Customer journeys are individual experiences

 

So, How are Businesses Using the New Funnel?

Good question! And it’s one that’s on every savvy business’s mind. The streaming service Netflix is using this new funnel with the non-linear perspective at the forefront, as described by Blue Coda. For instance, the average Netflix user would usually enter at the Engagement stage of the funnel.

Netflix market effectively to their customers with a “call to action” by offering a free streaming trial upon subscription for a month on their landing page with just a URL or Google search. This non-linear approach helps to reel in potential long-term subscribers quickly, and enable Netflix to collect data which can lead to profitable conversions. In a time with iron clad subscription polices, they emphasise that users can cancel this at any time, which increases trust in their service too.

According to Towerdata, customers crave that “1 to 1 level” experience and personalisation of their journeys’ which Netflix do throughout. After Engagement, the customer could then move their way down to Advocacy after watching their favourite series with personalised recommendations for similar streaming content. They could pass this onto friends and family, even before they make their way back up the funnel for an official subscription at the Purchase stage.

Another business that is putting the new marketing funnel to good use is Pinterest, as they prepare to launch their ad business in the UK market. Marketing Week demonstrates that they too market themselves well at the Engagement stage, which prompts potential customers to relinquish their data by signing up to their service, which would enable them to view more pins and to create their very own.

UK County Manager for Pinterest, Adele Cooper, highlights that businesses that work with them have the option of a using a “conversion pixel” which tracks if customers click on a pin and what they go onto do next. This means that ad companies now know what to market to their customers as they could make their way to Expansion with targeted ad campaigns personalised to there need and wants, before the Purchase stage has even been met.

Is it Worth the Journey?

It’s not just Campaign Monitor that has proclaimed the death of the old marketing funnel, but a marketer himself – Mckinsey – has also declared the concept of the funnel entirely dead as we knew it. However, according to McKinsey and Company, revival is not far away in the form of the Customer Decision Journey. 

Albeit, this model underwent a revival of its very own after failing to meet the forever changing scope of digital. Previously, its journey allowed customers to actively evaluate products or services through technology, while being able to add and remove choices. It also included a feedback loop where customers could continuously evaluate products and services after purchase, prompting products to perform and brands to provide a satisfactory experience every time. However, now in an era of accelerating digital advancements, the Customer Decision Journey was forced to undergo a drastic change.

Throughout the new journey, McKinsey argues that the stages of Consideration (Awareness) and Evaluation (Discovery) can be compressed, or in some cases completely eliminated. Businesses do not just react or respond to customers as they make purchasing decisions, but they also shape their decision journeys entirely. The rise of the digital plethora that once allowed self-controlled and self-educated consumerism, as outlined by Davies BDM is now fuelling the underpinning of further technological advancements that allows businesses to take back control. They have greater control over aspects like design and optimisation, and are now being able to create a space for not just value for the customer, but simultaneously for businesses too with “end to end purchase in consumer markets” being the end goal in this strategic model.

Albeit, an improvement from the linearity found in the traditional funnel with its entry and re-entry method, the Purchase stage is still a primary point of contact with the onus on customers to make a buyer “decision” on their journey. And with personalisation and customer individuality at the forefront, it is arguable that emphasis in this stage is complying with the demands of digital consumerism, because the pivot for customers has now become “the experience, not the purchase.” According to Relevance, personalisation can increase “five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.”  Customers feel more connected to the message that a business is sending out through personalisation also. Despite the “circularity” of the Customer Decision Journey, it is merely limited to “eating its own tail” while the focus remains on B2C transaction, and the assumption that can customers will remain loyal even if they have a good post purchase experience. Yes, there is more freedom for customers to explore, but ultimately the static nature of the end goal limits this model to a similar function of the traditional funnel. Customers crave a human touch, and businesses that use this strategic tool can risk compromising customer the longevity of their customer life cycle, and ultimately their sales if the journey itself to a potential purchase is indeed a bumpy one.

The connection between the stages of Purchase and Advocacy of both the new funnel and the Customer Decision Journey has also been criticised by marketers. Both models allow non-linearity to move freely throughout, but only once a customer has interacted with a product or service in some way. Take Netflix, for instance, and its call-to-action landing page, or Pinterest and its coaxing to sign up for more pins. The Harvard Business Review argues that now with the expansion of digital, the Purchase and Advocacy stages are now entirely disconnected, because people no longer have to be a customer or relinquish their data to become an advocate for a business. Potential customers are now experiencing what businesses have to offer through live events, content marketing, social media and word-of-mouth. This advocacy is an individual journey in itself that is not acknowledged fully with the previous strategic models, which  puts emphasis in the business, before the customer. True non-linearity through the customer journey is yet to be achieved, and now with more than 4 billion digital users around the globe and only predicted to increase by 20% each year, businesses that continue to rely on the convergence of Purchase and Advocacy could find themselves disconnected from their target markets before they have even truly met is this digital dichotomy.

It is food for thought whether the Customer Decision Journey has met its limitations, because its promise to reclaim self-controlled and self-educated consumerism as its very underpinnings for their B2C goals are undoing itself as customers’ feelings aim to be at the heart of every business – and not their money. For businesses to reject this concept would ultimately mean rejecting their customers. As they continue to shape their own individual journeys, and let the journey’s of others influence them, the impulsive nature of human behaviour is the foundation for the personalised digital experience to just keep getting bigger.

What about the Future of the Funnel?

The Customer Decision Journey and the funnel – new and old – don’t quite offer a smooth journey just yet. But just like the dawn of digital, they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, and they have a been a catalyst for further development of the journey customer’s embark upon. As predictions rise to up to 72% of marketing teams to increase spending and create bigger budgets for marketing tools and technological assets in the next two years, and as marketing strategies shift to transactions in the context of a relationship one thing can be for certain…

That in an age of counting followers and subscribers as a sign-point for the changing face of digital, the customer funnel – and the customer journey itself – will be changing right along with it on its very own journey. And businesses that embrace the multi-dimension of social influence, advocacy from non-customers and truly non-linear paths to purchase, they too are sure to come along on the journey.

Marketing for a greater good – health promotion

by Dr Samanthika Gallage

In my day to day life, I always hear people say that marketing is all about selling, it is about creating demand, it is about manipulating consumers by corporations to make profits. Do you think the same? Without a doubt marketing is powerful and it has a strong convincing power. Do you think marketing can use this powerful discipline for a greater good in the society?

In 1952, G. D. Wiebe raised the question “Why can’t you sell brotherhood like you sell soap?”  What do you think? Do you think we can sell brotherhood like we sell soap? Decades ago a few marketers were inspired by this idea and started seeing marketing in a different light and they chose the term SOCIAL MARKETING to define this novel approach. In a nutshell, it is an approach of using marketing principles for a social transformation.  

Kotler et al. (2002, p.394) defined social marketing as “the use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify or abandon behaviour for the benefit of individuals, groups or society as a whole”. It has gained much attention from scholars and practitioners over the years. Most of the developed and developing countries have benefited from social marketing interventions in addressing problems such as excessive drinking, smoking, obesity, HIV and other diseases. 

There have been various successful social marketing campaigns such as

Change 4 life

These campaigns have marketing tools and techniques to persuade consumers to make healthy choices and thereby to encourage a social transformation. This sub discipline and faces many challenges due to lack of funding, lack of understanding, contextual issues etc. Yet, there is more room for improvement, new knowledge to fight back with these challenges. It has made a good progress over the last 50 years and there are more social marketing researchers (like me) and practitioners out their trying to use this powerful technique for a greater good of the society.

If you are interested in any research collaborations or projects or even a chat about this concept please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Dr Samanthika Gallage  01782 29 4352

 

Christmas Cheer! We’ll Be There!!

Dr Tolu Olarewaju, Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School


I knew Christmas was near when BBC Radio Stoke asked for an interview on Black Friday and how to spot good deals. The next day, students debated and presented evidence on some offers that seemed dubious – interesting. Be that as it may, the mood around campus and town was definitely getting lighter as everyone could feel the holidays approaching – research shows that holidays are good for morale.

Christmas is a wonderful time. Just think about those gifts and all that food. Then there’s the added bonus of the end to a year a week after. It is a good time to wind down and relax with family and friends. Even if you don’t like too much company, at least you get to simmer down 🙂

There’s been so much going on lately, we decided to wind down for Christmas. Here we are at a dinner at the wayfarer, an excellent country pub and restaurant.

Academics Relax Too.

Then we got a bit silly at the staff Christmas party.

HoHoHo.

Yours truly was able to get about in Hanley.  There’s a fantastic Winter Wonderland with loads to eat and do including, rides, go karts, games, an ice rink and of course a beautiful atmosphere.

Ice skaters in Winter Wonderland Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent

As an academic, of course this was writing, reviewing, reading, grading, and speculating season but still, twas nice to exchange pleasantries with folks during the yuletide season. Hope you had a lovely Christmas and wish you a wonderful 2019 🙂

 

Free MOOC on Purchasing and Supply Management (PSM) Fundamentals

  • Self-study course
  • Free of charge
  • Material available

What is this course about?

More than half of the total turnover of a modern industrial firm in Europe is directly transferred to suppliers and the bulk of supplies is no longer of domestic origin but European and international. Network economies with a low depth of production and high reliance on international suppliers let firms struggle to cope with the complexity and the new responsibilities. There is no harmonised skill profile and competence set for Purchasing & Supply Management (PSM).

This course arises from the Erasmus+ project “Purchasing Education and Research for European Competence Transfer“ (PERFECT) (www.project-perfect.eu) which develops a harmonised curriculum in PSM and aims at an increase in the number of highly qualified students who are suitable for entering the workplace in PSM related jobs in any size of organization and industrial setting.

For Sttafordshire Business School Dr Steve Kelly (now at Edge Hill) and Marzena Reska were the staff involved in the project.

What do you learn in this course?

  • Identify the basic role, benefits, processes and aspects of a PSM department and a variety of specific job roles.
  • Apply a range of purchasing techniques and tools to purchasing activities.
  • Describe cross-functional connections between purchasing and other departments, and departments’ connections to external stakeholders.
  • Identify opportunities and challenges when acting as the interface between internal customer requirements and external supply networks.
  • Understand the impact of supplier relationship management on PSM performance and apply collaboration tools.
  • Evaluate trends and developments in PSM and interpret their consequences.

How is the course structured?

Over the course, you have the chance to participate in the following sequences on Purchasing & Supply Management (PSM) basics.

  • Introduction to project PERFECT
  • Definition and Meaning of PSM
  • PSM Organisation and Roles
  • PSM Processes
  • Strategic Procurement
  • Offers, negotiations, contracts
  • Supplier Relationship Management
  • Procurement Technology & Digitalisation
  • PSM Controlling
  • Risk Management in PSM

Enrol free now: www.oncampus.de/weiterbildung/mooc/perfect?lang=en

Funded by the ERASMUS + PROGRAMME

 

 

 

Disclaimer
The creation of these resources has been (partially) funded by the ERASMUS+ grant program of the European Union
under grant no. 2015-1-DE01-KA203-002174.
Neither the European Commission nor the project‘s national funding agency DAAD are responsible for the content or liable for any losses or damage resulting of the use of these resources.

What is a university for?

Professor Jess Power, Associate Dean – Students


There are several possible interpretations of the fundamental role of a university, however the one that holds close to my values and beliefs is “the university” as an institution for the creation and dissemination of knowledge, creating graduates who have a genuine commitment to making the world a better place and of being significant players in civil society. The western university model has been a remarkable success and is one in which we should have immense pride. Operational freedom within an interactive setting which enables excellence across teaching, research, learning and enterprise opening unlimited opportunities for many. However, in an increasingly complex and uncertain world the role of the university is constantly being questioned. In particular there has been a recent drive for developing “value”, in the form of employable work ready graduates. This may be interpreted as a set of desirable skills and attributes to be embedded within the curriculum or perhaps and more importantly the development of an entrepreneurial mind-set. The ability to think outside the box, to adapt and respond to change in a fast paced environment and more importantly the ability to be able to communicate within and beyond their academic discipline is perceived key to graduates contributing to societal challenges.

In today’s global economy and in society as a whole we are faced with many complex challenges (clean water, ageing population, disaster management, global-warming, sustainable food production, transitioning populations), which require new ways of working. It is widely accepted that innovative and sustainable solutions for many complex global social issues reach far beyond the boundaries of a single academic discipline or methodological approach and as such the practical argument for embedding interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities into the learning experience within universities is strong. Interdisciplinary working is widely accepted to be the new mode of knowledge production, it focuses on building intellectual capacity and is supported by government policy makers and research funding agencies. Many of the most exciting developments cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and therefore have great potential to break through complex societal problems and foster innovation.

The concept of interdisciplinarity within Higher Education is not new: Thompson and Fogel (1921), acknowledged in their publication ‘Higher Education and Social Change’ that all social problems require interdisciplinary skills and knowledge. They expanded on this by stating: “if graduates … are to be societies’ leaders …they need a broad social and historical perspective that is difficult to achieve in one discipline”. Thompson and Forgel’s (1921) paper highlighted specifically the need for Higher Educational institutions to promote interdisciplinarity as a means of developing the essential skills of leadership required to impact on civil society.

So, what is a university for? It is to change mind-set, opening up opportunities to bring together individuals to generate knowledge to solve societal problems for the good of mankind. Thus, the connections we make, the disciplines we cross and the knowledge we form are only part of the picture, it is the transformative impact on people’s life’s that we make that hold the true meaning of the value of a university, which instil the leadership qualities desired to make the world a better place.

 

Thompson, K.W. & Fogel, B.R. (1921). Higher Education and Social Change: Promising Experiments in Developing Countries. Vol 1 Reports. US: Praeger.

www.staffs.ac.uk 

The past, the present and the future

By Ema Talam

From 2016 to the present day, Brexit vote has already led to the numerous consequences on the UK economy. Some of the consequences involve: fall of sterling; higher inflation; higher uncertainly which further had an impact on investment and productivity growth; and lower GDP level than projected had the Brexit vote never happened (Bank of England, 2018). Furthermore, the evidences suggest that the anticipated trade costs related to the Brexit vote have already had a significant negative impact on the business investment in the UK (Gornicka, 2018).

Reports published two years ago on the potential consequences of Brexit did not widely discuss, or sometimes did not even acknowledge, its potential impact on productivity and innovation (discussed in greater details in my previous blog. However, in the reports published this week, the impacts of the vote on productivity are widely acknowledged.

The Bank of England’s (2018) report, published this Wednesday, looks at different scenarios and short-run impacts of Brexit on the UK economy. In the scenarios where the Economic Partnership between the UK and the EU is implemented, it is estimated that output per hour will be lower by 1.25% to 3.5% by the end of 2023 compared to May 2016 trend, depending on the exact terms of the Economic Partnership. The negative impact on GDP will be between 1.25% to 3.75% over the similar time period. In case no deal is negotiated and there is no transition period, by the end of 2023 compared to May 2016 trend, the negative impact on the output per hour will be approximately 5%, while the impact on GDP will be between -7.75% to -10.5%.

The Centre for Economic Performance and the UK in a Changing Europe’s (2018) report looks at the long-run consequences of Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement on the UK economy, compared to the UK staying in the EU. The estimated long-run impact on GDP per capita from changes in trade and migration, in the case where the deal is reached, ranges from -1.9% (without productivity assumption) and -5.5% (with productivity assumption).

The impact on GDP per capita will be larger in case of no deal being reached and ranges from -3.5% (without productivity assumption) and -8.7% (with productivity assumption). The estimated fiscal impacts, as a percentage of GDP, in case the deal is reached, range from -0.4% (without productivity assumption) and -1.8% (with productivity assumption). However, in case of no deal being reached, the estimated impacts range between -1.0% (without productivity assumption) and -3.1% (with productivity assumption).

The Brexit vote has led to the numerous consequences on the UK economy. However, from the reports published this week, it is clear that it will have a significant impact on the economy both in the short- and the long-run.

References:

  1. Bank of England (2018) ‘EU withdrawal scenarios and monetary and financial stability: A response to the House of Commons Treasury Committee’. Available at: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/report/2018/eu-withdrawal-scenarios-and-monetary-and-financial-stability (Accessed: 28th November 2018)
  2. Centre for Economic Performance and the UK in a Changing Europe (2018) ‘The economic consequences of the Brexit deal’. Available at: http://ukandeu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/The-economic-consequences-of-Brexit.pdf (Accessed: 28th November 2018)
  3. Gornicka, L. (2018) ‘Brexit Referendum and Business Investment in the UK’, Working Paper No. 18/247. Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2018/11/21/Brexit-Referendum-and-Business-Investment-in-the-UK-46318?cid=em-COM-789-38014 (Accessed: 27th November 2018)

A day out at Conkers

Simon Hughes, Student, Staffordshire Business School


‘Conkers’ is a day out at an activity centre in Derbyshire, where a group of new Staffordshire University students spent a day during Welcome Week. The day is used to bring people out of their shell and get them involved with various activities that involve communicating and working as part of a team.

The day started out and there was not much interaction between each member of the group and when we arrived at conkers there was still very little interaction while waiting to be split into teams to take part in several activities throughout the day.

When the students were separated into teams, I could see how they were bonding and forming a rapport with their teammates. I strongly recommend this to any person looking to improve their team working skills plus it’s a great confidence booster. It will also help them to ‘find their voice’ to help with communication skills.

The first part of the day was mainly about the communication within their teams. They had to get a bucket of water through an obstacle course, without losing too much water and not letting it touch the ground.

All the teams seemed to have a lot of fun no matter what the weather.

 

 

 

 

The second activity of which the teams took part in, was aimed at helping them build their self-confidence and to believe in themselves with a high wire walk.

 

 

They also had a lower wire for those who had not got as much confidence.

The third activity the team took part in was called `bush craft` where they were split into smaller groups to build a shelter showing their ability to work together as part of a team.
They also had to build a fire under the instructor’s guidance, by gathering wood so that they could toast their marshmallows.

By the end of all the activities, it was apparent that all who took part gained something positive from their experiences. Team working skills and communication were improved and it also helped with their self-confidence.

 

Do Marketers have the right skill set for your business?

Vicky Roberts, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


In these uncertain times, with budgets slashed and cost cutting evident, companies may now need to turn to their to their marketers to drive business growth. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), have identified key challenges facing marketers moving forward, each accentuating how important it is to ensure your marketing team are trained and market ready.

In a digitally driven market place, achieving higher sales through SEO and PPC can demonstrate how digital marketing activity can count towards the bottom line. However, a report by the CIM in May of this year (The Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark) warned business about the failure to stay relevant, engaging with their customers, adding value through their digital offer. Too many companies rely heavily on email marketing, viewing it as a win-win tool in the digital age. With the ramifications of correct data management following GDPR, the danger in pursuing this strategy, founded on weak marketing skills & knowledge, can have a detrimental effect on business performance.

Besides digital skills, junior marketers in the UK often lack the strategic marketing knowledge they need to contribute effectively in meeting & understanding how marketing fits with corporate objectives. Paradoxically, senior marketing managers and directors, can often have scant knowledge of key digital sales drivers like SEO and PPC. In an ever changing market with more demanding customers, solving this paradox becomes even more important. In a recent lecture organised by the CIM in Wolverhampton University, Professor Malcolm McDonald stated that the marketer needs to get back into the boardroom. To do that effectively the marketing team needs to support their board, demonstrating a thorough understanding of key strategic marketing issues, whereas senior marketing managers need to upskill to lead their businesses more effectively.

Here at Staffordshire University we have a rich heritage of marketing education for professionals, spanning decades. Working with our partners, CIM and the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) we can off a range of career development opportunities for your business. From the CIM Certificate to the CIM Professional Diploma, we cover key skill sets such as a digital focus along with coverage of marketing strategy and consumer behaviour. For those who want an introduction to the new digital marketing language, we offer a DMI course by blended learning. If you want to take your digital marketing knowledge to the next step we have our MSc Digital Marketing Management.
If you need to chat these options through with one of our marketing team, please drop me an email at v.a.roberts@staffs.ac.uk

Alternatively visit us at our Post Graduate Open Evening on Wednesday 28th November 2018, 4pm-7pm

Undergraduate courses

Postgraduate courses

Would you like to market to customers when they’re in your area or about to go to a competitor’s location?

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School


The ability to market to customers or potential customers by their location has been around for a while. However, in my conversations with local businesses not many are aware of this facility.

The number of mobile users is consistently on the rise and already outnumber PC users for internet access.  Therefore, it is a necessity for businesses to make sure their marketing is working as effectively as possible for mobiles. Geolocation is the ability to show where the mobile device, and the user of the device, are located using the built in GPS.  The best thing about using geolocation data is that it knows where mobile users are in-real-time.  Therefore, it enables businesses to create a tailored and relevant promotion to target these potential customers in a more effective way.  For example, it can be used for presenting coupons or adverts to potential customers when they are in the same street.  Geolocation can target users in a few different ways. However, the three most common are:-

  • Geo-targeting is the act of reaching someone based on their location.
  • Geo-fencing is typically used when targeting small regions like specific streets or towns. These targets are especially useful for apps that want to direct foot traffic to business premises, such as shops and restaurants.
  • Beacons are the narrowest of the three location targeting methods. A beacon is a small, Bluetooth device that receives location data from nearby mobiles, if the mobile Bluetooth is switched on. Often these are deployed in the interior of building such as shops, and airports etc.

Search results on a mobile can also be an effective location based marketing tool, for example if potential customers do a Google search for an Italian restaurant near them.  The search results can display the nearest restaurants and, at the press of an icon, the customers can: call the restaurant, get navigation instructions to the restaurant, or have a look at the website and menu.

Screenshot from Google Maps showing local Italian restaurant

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a single marketing tool that works for everybody all the time, and this is no exception.  The biggest downside of using geolocation data for mobile marketing is that it is easily blocked by mobile users.  Although there are many mobile users that use apps with the GPS location feature enabled, there are also many users that don’t. Also, geolocation-triggered ads may not work on all devices due to ad blockers.

Undergraduate courses

Postgraduate courses

Introducing Dr Alyson Nicholds, our new Associate Professor

 

Dr Alyson Nicholds, Associate Professor (Business Management), Staffordshire Business School

I am delighted to be joining Staffordshire Business School as Associate Professor (Business Management).  This is my 5th University, having previously worked at Leeds Beckett, Birmingham, Middlesex and Coventry in various teaching/ research roles.

Dr Alyson Nicholds

Dr Alyson Nicholds

I’m probably best described as an ‘interdisciplinary’ academic of all things Public Policy. What this means, is that I bring to bear all my past professional experience (as Nurse, Health Promoter and Development Officer) to analyse, empirically, ‘what works’ in health, social care, urban, science and technology policy.

I do this by exploring ‘why policy fails’, but this is not by evaluating the impact of policy is (i.e. rationally), but by analysing ‘why practitioners do what they do’ (i.e. the accounts that professionals provide of their practice). We call this more novel type of research ‘discourse analysis’ and it works by paying close attention to the language embedded in what practitioners say and do i.e.:-

  • How professionals ‘describe’ how they do what they do (‘functionalist discourse’);
  • How professionals ‘interpret/ frame’ why they do what they do (‘constructivist discourse’);
  • How the context ‘shapes/ constrains’ what professionals say and do (‘dialogic discourse’);
  • How society ‘influences’ what it’s possible to say and do (‘critical discourse’)

Discourse analysis is therefore important because it addresses some of the limitations of more rational/ scientific approaches to traditional policy analysis which typically ignores the human voice. Hence, much of my early work has involved applying the second type of discourse (constructivist discourse) to real-life cases, as with my PhD, which revealed regeneration professionals’ shared experiences of the barriers to effective regeneration in the East and West Midlands[1] [1a].  Indeed, this was so compelling, that I’m now reanalysing this data using the third type of discourse (i.e. dialogic discourse) to understand ‘why actors don’t do what they say’!

Other work, using this more ‘constructivist discourse’ approach, involved a large scale NHS funded study (Post Doc) to ascertain the value of different joint commissioning arrangements in health and social care (i.e. in 6 NHS Trusts in England)[2]; and scientists’ preferences for sharing knowledge in a global network (i.e. the large-scale physics experiment known as the hadron collider at the CERN facility in Switzerland) [3].

More recently I’ve been working with colleagues from Birmingham and Middlesex to analyse how formal and informal leaders prefer to lead in sub-national urban development places (i.e. the Smart Cities policy initiative)[4]. My latest work explores the practical applications of all of this type of discourse work in transforming the social outcomes of public policy through greater reflexivity in management learning. In future blogs, I’ll be writing about this and the different ways we might better research these complex types of policy problems, to address widening social and economic inequality.

[1] http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/3495/1/Nicholds12PhD.pdf

[1a] Alyson Nicholds (2011) Making sense of urban policy failure in complex times, Regional Insights, 2:2, 18-20, DOI: 10.1080/20429843.2011.9727924

[2] Helen Dickinson, Stephen Jeffares, Alyson Nicholds & Jon Glasby (2014) Beyond the Berlin Wall?: Investigating joint commissioning and its various meanings using a Q methodology approach, Public Management Review, 16:6, 830-851, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2012.757353

[3] Mabey, C. & Nicholds, A. (2015) Discourses of knowledge across global networks: What can be learnt about knowledge leadership from the ATLAS collaboration? International Business Review, Volume 24, Issue 1, February 2015, Pages 43–54. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969593114000754

[4Alyson Nicholds, John Gibney, Chris Mabey & Dan Hart (2017) Making sense of variety in place leadership: the case of England’s smart cities, Regional Studies, 51:2, 249-259, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2016.1232482