Food for Thought: This Week’s Hot Market Research Discussions and Trends

To get your week humming and excite the coffee break conversation, here are some of the hottest trends and topics being discussed in market research.

Panel are HOT.  Panel management is becoming increasingly important AND a lot easier to do.  Join the Survey Analytics team and learn how to set up a research panel in 30 minutes or less.  REGISTER HERE

Data and privacy.  Look for more conversations about data and privacy in the months to come.  To whet your appetite, Brian Terran from Research gets the ball rolling with a terrific intro and summary to data privacy conversations that will be held Monday, August 22, 2011.  Head over to the Greenbook Blog to register.

Zuberance, the new software that allows companies to manage their customer advocates.   introduces Zuberance as a way for companies to enhance their customer satisfaction and customer engagement.  If you or your organization have been looking for ways to light a fire under those customers who are your biggest fants, this is an article worth checking out.

Gamification.  You’re going to see this word more and more.  It isn’t a fad, it’s the future of market research and customer engagement.  Betty Amadou from Game Access does a fantastic job of introducing you to a new word in this new territory — gamotion.  It’s the combination of games and promotions and she’s reviewing several apps that will introduce you to this latest trend.

The bond between research and technology.  It seems that there is an interesting relationship between people on the research side of the table and the people on the technology side of the table.  As a marketing strategist, I’m not as involved in that conversation, but I understand it can get rather HAIRY.  For some guidelines on how research and technology can get along, check out this interesting article by Greg Heist from Go Innovate called “Why Can’t We Be Friends” where he outlines what each group can learn from the other.

Blogs you should be reading.  New Market Research has a list out of the top Market Research Blogs — and Research Access and QuestionPro blog are listed.  If you want to know what you should be reading – follow this list.

5 Steps to Making Market Research Part of Your Product Offering

I recently ran into a terrific article by Christine Brown from Branding Marketing about Marketing your Market Research.  Her main observation is that companies cut market research budgets because they see it as a luxury.  But if they were able to use that research in a variety of ways —  call it recycling or re-purposing — they might be able to justify those projects.

She goes on to give several examples that inlcude:

 Other Ways to Use Market Research as Part of Your Offering
Christine’s article got me thinking that many businesses see market research as an expense rather than a revenue generator,  There is an opportunity to “spin” your research projects or design them in such a way that they provide industry insights and information that your customers may want to gain access to.
If you participate in industrial markets that include highly engineered technical products or instruments, you will find profound gaps in information about what customers value.
  1. Create a separate brand and URL for the information and research service that you will provide — literally treat it as a separate product line.
  2. Start a subscription section of your web site.  You can use WordPress  and their Wishlist membership plugin to create a subscription function that allows you to take payments and distribute information based on membership or subscription level.
  3. Run YOUR research and use some of your data for your own decision making and the other data for re-sale to the industry.
  4. Offer to run surveys for customers or competitors in your industry. This might freak out your management, but it’s simply called “contract manufacturing”  it happens in manufacturing all the time — companies who have tools and capabilities built into their infrastructure will make another company’s product just to keep the equipment running — it’s selling unused time and space.
  5. Run regular tracking surveys and sell the reports and data.  Simply include general market and industry question in your surveys and run them regularly and then sell the results.  One area of research that is always difficult to get for specific industrial segments is market share information.  By simply asking a few questions, you can generate this valuable data and sell it.
Don’t let budget cuts eat away at the information that your company and industry need.  Try these ways of engaging your management team in the research and creating products and services around research to get it to pay for itself.

How to Use Surveys to Generate Leads and Customers at Trade Shows

So, you’re going to a trade show.  That usually involves sitting down and brainstorming ways to bring qualified leads to your booth and converting them into profitable customers.

Here is a quick check list that you can use to make sure that you’re covering all your bases to get the most customer conversations out of your trade show events.

One of the most obvious materials you will need for everything on this list is the trade show web site and list of attendees.  You’ll also want to be sure that you can get either a mailing list of the attendees or that you will be able to reach the attendees via email – either the show gives you this list or you give them the information that you’d like to send.

Focus on your sales and marketing goals.  The very first thing is to define what goals you’re after.  It doesn’t always have to be about gathering leads.   Here are a few sample objectives:

  • Get face to face time with the following clients that we only know via email.  You will need that attendee list or list of companies so that you can see if any of your customers will be there.  If you’re not sure, reach out to the ones that you know from the list.
  • Generate “x” number of qualified leads per day.  For this objective, you will need a clearly defined list of what a qualified customer is. Use your Survey Analytics platform to create a qualifying or profiling survey.  You can also use SurveySwipe to do this and funnel all your visitors into a research panel.
  • Schedule or deliver “x” number of demonstrations.
  • Find out what our biggest competitor will launch next year
Set a theme for the year.  One of my favorite strategies is to set a theme for a series of trade shows.  Find a theme that features what you are selling and combines it with something that’s important to your customers.  If you make your theme unexpected or extreme, people will stop to your booth just to SEE what’s going in.  One company that was in the medical industry chose a 100-yard dash as a theme.  Their trade show booth features HUGE pictures of runners crossing a finish line, their promotional items were running hats and water bottles and their sales message was around a new product that allowed doctors to cross the finish line and meet a medical records deadline for converting to software.  It was a HUGE hit because they were the only exhibitor that didn’t feature pictures of doctors and nurses and hospitals.

Reach out to as many customers before the show.  If you have the time, definitely send out a direct mail piece or invitation to customers or prospects that you want to meet.  Instead of sending thousands of mailings – target just those companies that will help you achieve your marketing goals.

This is a great opportunity to use a survey!  You can create a qualifying survey that gets attendees engaged by asking them qualifying questions that focus on the 5-7 key frustrations that they may have that your product or service can solve.  Think about working the survey questions like a quiz — people LOVE that.

Then, when they answer the last question of the survey and click “Finish” or “Submit” you send them to a customized landing page for the trade show that provides a mini report based on the responses that they might have given to the survey.  This would look like the Quiz answer page in a magazine and say things like “If you answered “c” to question #1 that means that you have the most common issue, be sure to stop at booth #123 and try our wonderful product created just for that problem.

Use Survey Analytics to deliver the survey.  When they complete the survey, use the “Finish Options” to send them to a landing page that goes directly to a special page that you created for that show.

Another idea is to have them PRINT the landing page and bring it to your booth for a prize.

Use the same survey at the booth and profile people who stop in.  After they complete the survey, give them one of your promotional items.  Keep those promotional items hidden and only give them to people who complete your survey.

Use the survey to drive your selling process.  This is ideal for companies who have new or inexperienced people working the booth.  All they have to do is follow the survey and use the survey results as talking points to guide the customer to the call to action — either sale or sale appointment.

Follow up with survey results from the show.  Take the results from the survey and write them up into a report and then share that report with everyone who came to your booth.

Make sure to write that report in a way that takes that prospect or customer through the areas that are important and how your product or service solves the problems that people in the survey had.

Bet you’ve never looked at surveys as a lead generation tool?!  But they really are so effective, so subtle and focused purely on what the customer needs.  Not only that, but the very act of taking customers through surveys at a trade show gives you the opportunity to engage them and gather important data that you can use later.

The 5 Myths of Selling to Small Business

Instead of telling you HOW to do research, today, I’m going to give you the results from some research.

Ivy Worldwide conducted a survey of small- and medium-sized business owners/operators this year through a network of independent bloggers to determine what factors influence their purchasing decisions.

The survey has identified five misconceptions that most marketers have when selling their product or services to SMBs.  The goal is to help marketers make their messages more effective so they can tap the viable market that is SMB.

Myth 1: Communication on the C-Level is effective.

Though positioning, sales relationships and ROI is important, most SMBs still give more importance on reviews from trusted sources, quality promises and enhanced features.

Based on the survey, businesses said a detailed review from a trusted source that illustrated the pros and cons of the product/service is they highest factor they consider before getting on board.

Marketers should, therefore, make use of the correct channels that SMBs find to be a reliable source of information.  Reliable sources can be third party organizations, news source or key opinion leaders in the industry.

Myth 2: It’s always good to go green.

The truth is environmentally friendly messages is not really that important for SMBs.  In fact, they ranked being green second to the last among factors that will affect their purchase of a product/service.

Unless your product has specific and discrete environmental benefits, don’t jump on this trend green trend.  Since being green is not top-of-mind for SMB purchasers, there is really no point to put too much effort in the trend.

Myth 3: Tried and tested marketing efforts should be employed.

The survey showed that advertising and other traditional media sources ranked far below web forums and independent bloggers as key sources of product and service information.

The trick here is to ensure that you’re engaging your audiences via the communications channels that they actually use.   New marketing can be coursed through niche blogs or social networking sites.  Not only are they popular these generation, but they are also more cost-effective the traditional advertising.

Myth 4: All sales should be treated the same.

For smaller purchase amounts, less effort is required from the seller as they are generally made on a need basis and are rather immediate.  Large purchases, on the other hand, require more research (i.e. comparing prices, test -driving the product, reading reviews and asking for recommendations)

Also, for small purchases, SMBs prefer that products that they can be picked up from a nearby location to allow person-to-person support on the product.

The key is that marketers know how your customers are buying and which channels they prefer.

Myth 5: Transactions are done after payments are received.

For SMB purchasers, service and support terms are more important than payment terms. In fact, service and support are key to the final decision and should be marketed as assertively as product benefits themselves.

SMBs would like to be assured that they can rely on someone in case there is product/service defect.  Be a smart marketer and don’t miss the opportunity to tout service and support terms to your customers.

The Real Deal

It’s always easy to get complacent and put undue confidence in trends, buzzwords and mass-marketing techniques.  Marketers should fight complacency and instead strive for a true understanding of what compels SMB owner/operators to purchase their product.

5 Short and Sweet Reasons to Target a Specific Audience

Today’s guest post comes from Michael DiFrisco (a.k.a. The Affordable Branding Guy”  He’s decided not to overwhelm us with too much information and instead, just layout the benefits of focusing on and targeting a specific audience.

Choosing a specific audience for your business is a powerful form of focus. Targeting means you reject the idea of believing the best way to build your business is by hitting every living person in your area. It allows you to focus on the specific customer or client types that are most desirable.

Here are some of the other benefits of targeting a specific core market:

  1. You’ll eliminate the bottom-feeders and those people who will simply not value what you offer
  2. You’ll have more effective marketing spending
  3. You can better focus your messaging—tailored to focus on their needs, not the needs of the entire universe
  4. It’s a better use of your time—more spent serving your best customers and less time spent pursuing low-value prospects
  5. You’ll build a stronger referral base—once you penetrate a target market and educate them on the value of working with you
Now — get out there and start targeting!

We’re All in the Marketing Business

This article originally appeared on the AMEX Open Forum.  I’m writing about “marketing” in general.  But you can easily make this apply to market research.

With today’s technology, it’s easy and much more fun to integrate functions that were considered separate departments – but now can work together.

 

Why are you in business?  Let’s cut through all those warm and fuzzy reasons and get right to it.  You’re in business to make money (preferably you keep more than you make).

I’m not here to minimize the significance of the products or services that you sell.  After all, if it weren’t for what you’re offering, you wouldn’t have a business.  But this is where we all get caught up in a modern misconception that we are in the widget business.  And it’s this fallacy that is actually at cause when sales are slumped.

Mousetraps don’t sell themselves

Your mouse trap really isn’t going to sell itself.  Go ahead and give it a try.  Build a bunch of product and pile it from floor to ceiling and watch what happens.  “Of course nothing happens,” you say “because you need sales people to sell it.”  This is very true.

Now, go get some sales people and show them your product.  If it’s small enough, they might be able to actually carry it around and push it on their mothers and neighbors.  Some will be wildly successful and many won’t.  That’s because selling in today’s environment requires what I like to call an “attractor strategy”.  You might call it marketing.

Throwing sales people WITHOUT a marketing strategy and marketing support is what we do when we think we’re in the widget business.

You might think that I’m going to take you down the long argument about what’s sales and what’s marketing.  I won’t.  For small businesses who wear ten hats at a time, they are one and the same.  When you hire a sales person and don’t give them marketing materials or a web site or anything, they will eventually start creating marketing materials themselves.  Not elegant, not pretty, but the only way they’re going to have a chance at being successful.

What happens when you decide you’re in the marketing business?

The first thing that happens is you take your attention OFF the widget and put it ON the people who are most likely to give you money for it. Take a moment and do that.  Ignore the widget and focus JUST on the people who will give you money.

If you force your customers to  focus on the widget, then they don’t see any difference between your widget and the other guys.  So they complain about price and everything else.  Widgets don’t have value –value is what you uncover about the person who will give you money.

Your customers will only give you money if you address what’s important to them when they are buying what you are selling.  Think about FedEx.  They don’t sell envelopes or boxes – they sell “getting your package delivered by 10:30am” because THAT is what’s important to their customer and that is what their customers pay top dollar for.

Come up with a list of five to seven items that are important to your customers.  Don’t list features, list things they might actually say to themselves.  For example, if you were a mover, what might be important to your customer is that you don’t break their stuff.  The feature might be the wrapping, or packing, but they don’t care how you wrap it or carry it, just that their stuff shows up looking exactly like it did when it left their home.

It’s this magical list of five to seven items that trip your customer’s  trigger that should drive how your widget occurs out in the marketplace.

Marketing systems have value to customers and to buyers

In his bestselling book Built to Sell John Warrillow’s character, Alex learns that a business that runs a like a system or money machine increases in value as well as in appeal to buyers and owners alike.   Alex develops a marketing system that includes a standard product and service.  Then he created a standard way to sell, create, deliver and pay for the service.  The changes that he made turned his business into a repeatable, teachable, sellable business that customers valued and he enjoyed running.

Being in the marketing business is more fulfilling

Being in the marketing business (even if you make physical product) is so much more fulfilling because you spend your days looking for ways to make your customers happier than they were the day before.  It’s like being Santa every day.

If you aren’t really a people person, then, by all means, run your business from where you get  the most joy and can bring the most value.  But be sure to find someone to run that business that LOVES your customers and is committed to bringing them more satisfaction and ease in living their life through your product and service.

Putting your company in the marketing business doesn’t negate your product or service.  It brings more depth and differentiation to it.  When you focus on identifying your ideal customer, and providing a product or service that’s important to them – you will reap more profit for it.

Recruit Your Own Survey Panel

Sometimes a survey panel is exactly what you need — and for that, you can use any number of panel providers such as Peanut Labs or EMI.

But sometimes, a panel can be overkill and just too expensive for your project.  And for that, it’s a good idea to have recruited a panel of your very own.

Here are a few ideas as to how to have an ongoing panel recruiting effort and panel survey:

  1. Decide on the audience you want to target. That’s fairly straightforward.  Get clear on the industry, title and any other demographic that you’re after.
  2. Create a valuable free download. This can be an eBook, report or even a webinar that you want to offer.  The primary requirements are that it’s educational, informative and not a sales pitch.  We don’t want to sell them anything other than the opportunity to have their opinions counted in a survey.
  3. Build a landing page with a form. Landing pages are nothing more than focused pages with a form where people can register.  You want to keep it as simple as possible.  If all you need is an email – than that should be the only field that’s required.  If you need to qualify your sample — keep those down to a minimum.  The fewer fields, the more likely people will be to sign up.
  4. Use an email marketing tool. I recommend an email marketing tool because it allows you to manage, segment and communicate with your list easily and quickly.  You can always export the lists and import them into QuestionPro and SurveyAnalytics to send customized invites.
  5. Nurture your list relationships. Don’t just USE and ABUSE your list – build relationships with them and engage with them.  Send them articles, newsletters or incentives to stay loyal and participate in your surveys.  The more you engage with your list, the higher your response rates.
  6. Leverage your panel. If you create a large panel with more than 10,000 people, you may have another revenue channel on your hands.  If your panel is specific to a region, discipline or any other super-niche (such as Chihuahua owners) you can build this list with the intent of actually sending them surveys.  Just be sure to get their permission and give them a good incentive.

So now you can see that panels can come from panel providers OR from your own targeted industry audience.  Besides – your panel can also become your customer.  Just be clear on your objectives and be sure to get legal advice on how to manage your panel.

Business to Business Marketing Trends for 2011

2011 is here and that means B2B marketing professionals are in the final stages of evaluating plans and have allocated budget for the year. Each company has unique goals as well as challenges, and what works for one company may not for another—there are no universal marketing solutions. However, the same key trends will impact every company, and marketers who capitalize on these trends will be better positioned to achieve their objectives.

Buyers Crave Content

Buyers crave useful, relevant content to help build their internal business cases and justify buying decisions. It’s up to you to provide valuable content to help buyers make informed purchase decisions and help your company earn new sales.

Take stock of your existing content and match it to your audience needs. Then fill in any gaps. Maybe you’re short on content aimed at the economic buyer. In that case, create an ROI calculator. Maybe analytical buyers don’t understand your novel approach to solving a problem. That might call for a case study. If you need more visibility and authority in the market, launch a blog.

Also, you don’t have to start from the beginning when developing content. Often you can re-purpose existing content for use across several media. For example, the white paper that becomes a Webinar that becomes a video. Or the technical article that becomes a presentation at a conference that becomes a series of blog entries.

Users Want a Multimedia Experience

As with audiences everywhere, professionals are now reading and watching and listening online. This year is a perfect time to take advantage of this trend by offering more than just words on paper or screen. Thanks to inexpensive technologies and high bandwidth, media such as video is simple to produce and easy to deliver to your audience.

There’s plenty of source material to create videos. You can record interviews, product demos, presentations—delivering anything from expert analysis and advice, to product announcements, to quarterly business results. You also can use videos to promote events before they occur and to record and archive them for future consumption.

Don’t forget to promote your videos everywhere you can: on Web sites using links and banners, in blogs, through e-mail, and via social media tools.

Social Media Requires Your Attention

Many marketers are not sure what commitment they should make to social media right now. While there is a great deal of buzz and noise surrounding social media, adoption in some business sectors remains low. It’s important to understand how your prospects and clients are adopting social media, and ensure that your level of investment matches your audience’s use.

Your first task is to understand how your target audience uses social media and what platforms they prefer. You may want to survey your own base for their usage.

Once you understand how your audience uses social media, you can develop an appropriate social media strategy. Remember that social media doesn’t take the place of other marketing, but is a complement to other marketing efforts. You’ll need to place someone in charge of social media efforts, integrate social media into your existing marketing program, and establish success metrics to measure ROI.

New Marketing Channels Await

With the near universal adoption of the Internet by your customers and prospects, you now have more marketing channels than ever to choose from to reach your target audience. From search engine optimization and paid search, to online directories and searchable catalogs, to social media and e-newsletters.

One marketing channel that’s experiencing significant growth is the online event. These virtual tradeshows offer a complete interactive experience for both suppliers and attendees, with features such as live chat, virtual booths, discussion panels, keynote presentations, content distribution, Q&A and more. Plus, no one has to leave their desk or incur travel and other related costs.

It’s important to integrate all of your online marketing channels into a cohesive program that can become more than the sum of its parts. Work with media partners who understand your needs and can help you pull together the right programs designed to meet your goals.

Maintain Focus on ROI

The requirement for marketers to demonstrate ROI is a trend that is here to stay. This year, choose measurable marketing programs and define your objectives and the success metrics against which you will measure your success. It’s an old saying in the business world, but it never really grows old: you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

By completing your marketing plans for 2011 with these trends in mind, you will put your company in position to gain advantage, because the decisions you make will help you become highly visible to, and discovered by, more potential customers.

About the Author: Chris Chariton is Vice President of Supplier Marketing and Marketing Services for GlobalSpec, the leading specialized vertical search, information services, e-publishing and online events company serving the engineering, technical and industrial communities. Chariton oversees many of the company’s marketing initiatives including e-mail marketing, demand generation and social media, public relations and advertising, and product management.  She can be reached at cchariton@globalspec.com.

Use This Easy Brand Audit Survey Template BEFORE You Put Your Marketing Plan Together

building your brandThe Canary in the Coal Mine: How a brand audit can indicate the “marketing health” of you business

“Surveys, focus groups, and other voice-of-customer inputs will be invaluable as you formulate new ways to position your offerings, differentiate your business, and stand out in a crowded marketplace.”

Your business’ brand is everything you do, everything, you say, and everything you stand for. It’s no less than the strategy of your organization. That’s why it’s important—no, critical—to take the pulse of your brand occasionally, and find out how it’s ticking.

Since early coalmines did not feature ventilation systems, miners would often bring a caged canary into new seams of coal. Canaries are especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide, which made them ideal for detecting any dangerous gas build-ups. As long as the canary in a coal mine kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary in a coalmine spelled an immediate evacuation.

So it is with your business—and your brand. You need to routinely check for leaks and missteps in your brand platform by checking in with your customers and, if possible, your prospects. Why? Because the marketplace is fickle. Trends, fashions, what’s hot and what’s not, and the economy, all conspire to make your customers and prospects a constantly moving target.

Surveys, focus groups, and other voice-of-customer inputs will be invaluable as you formulate new ways to position your offerings, differentiate your business, and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

A Simple Survey

While there is any number of ways to approach your target market to discover what they think about your business, you ultimately want to understand three fundamentals:

  1. Awareness (do they even know your business exists?)
  2. Engagement (are they currently using your products or services?)
  3. Satisfaction (are they happy with your current offerings and how they are delivered?)

When embarking on a brand strategy exercise or simply want to take the pulse of a business, I typically start with a line of questioning based on the following:

  • What does [Business Name] stand for in your mind?
  • What would you say is [Business Name’s] mission?
  • What is it about [Business Name] that makes it unique?
  • What is the greatest value [Business Name] provides to you?
  • What are [Business Name’s] greatest strengths?
  • What are [Business Name’s] greatest weaknesses?
  • What need does [Business Name] fulfill?
  • Why does society need [Business Name]?
  • Do you trust [Business Name]?

By deploying a simple survey, you’ll get to the heart of the awareness, engagement, and satisfaction questions, and you’ll be able to make the mid-course corrections necessary to keep your business communicating and acting in a way that your customers and prospects will respond to.

And even in the act of asking for their opinion, you’ll be providing value by engaging and establishing a relationship with customers and prospects, developing a dialogue with them, and getting to know your target market better.

About the Author: Michael DiFrisco is the brains behind BrandXcellence and the brawn behind the popular site How-To-Branding that coaches small businesses through the branding process.

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Market Plan Updates: Budgeting for Social Media

rushing toward social mediaIt’s the last quarter of 2010 and for those of you that are getting ready to plan for 2011, you’ll be heartened to know that we’ll be featuring timely content so that you can start planning for 2011.

You can count on social media being a component of your marketing mix.  While you may not have much of an investment in dollars traded for service, you can expect to invest time.  Maybe your organization will hire a social media manager?  Maybe you will have to carve out time for someone in your group to manage social media.  Be sure to invest time for planning on what information you will listen for and how you will collect market research information from the social media chatter.  For more information, read this outstanding article about how to manage social media information for research by Angela Lauria.

If you’re looking for a benchmark around how to budget for online marketing, check out this article on Marketing Sherpa that shows that social media is expected to be about 11% of the marketing budget.

A survey of American business leaders shows that 72 percent of the respondents had a social media strategy and about a third of the respondents expected an increase in overall marketing budgets specifically toward social media.

Another survey showed that 86% of the companies surveyed in the BigMouthMedia study said that they would increase their social media budgets and 13% will keep their spending the same.  This same study showed that only 10% of the surveyed companies had no social media efforts at all.

What’s the message for market researchers?  By the sounds of it, some of your budget may be going toward social media.  If you haven’t quite figured out how to leverage that social media activity for more research information, now would be a great time to start looking for ways to harvest and mine all that data.

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