The recent federal election provides a great lesson for marketers who have to compete in an environment where a competitor has a bigger budget or great share of voice The election results reflected a complex interplay of actions and reactions, emotions and ideas that may be impossible to tease apart when analyzing why Obama won and Romney did not. Exciting as the election was, it was also exhausting, and we aren’t seeking to relive it here. However, who can ignore the buzz and discussion about the campaign? In particular the “ground game” played by the Obama team in first understanding, and then going after the Democratic vote, has attracted a lot of attention. If you count SuperPac money, Obama supporters had significantly fewer marketing resources than Romney supporters did. So it’s interesting to hear more details now about a highly sophisticated ground game that allowed the Obama team to, in [...]

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I just mailed in my ballot for the upcoming election.   It was a good feeling:   I was naturalized as a US citizen just one month after the 2008 federal election, so this is my first crack at voting for President.   It’s been quite a ride and I’m very happy to finally have a say in this country’s future. In the process of exercising my newly acquired right to vote in my adoptive country, I’ve become a bit of a political junkie.   In Canada, where I grew up, election cycles are short and there is nowhere near the theater that Americans must endure.   Some might say that Canada has it right, however I will admit that I’ve never been a more informed voter than I am now.   I jumped in and navigated through the primaries, both conventions, all the debates and countless “expert” roundtables on the major news [...]

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Recently, a long-term client who had switched firms the year before was commenting on his new work environment and said, “we’re not just data-rich, we’re data-drowning.  We are really strong on analytics but nobody seems to be able to answer the ‘why’ question to anything.” Technology has delivered a lot of great new customer intelligence tools to marketers; companies can “listen” to feedback through social networks and third-party websites like Angie’s List and Trip Advisor solicit and post reviews from consumers.  Companies can now establish their own direct feedback links in order to stay close to their customers and their critics.  In fact, entire departments are set up within corporations to help gather and analyze these streams of information – so why do you need to do research the old-fashioned way? There are several reasons why firms still need market research today, in spite of all the different ways of [...]

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Earlier we wrote about how sharing the backroom experience more broadly within your organization can give colleagues the benefit of direct observation of your target market (click here to read it), and more recently we offered five tips relating to the preliminary stages of the research (click here for that blog post). Now we’d like to zero in on the back half of the qualitative research process and identify things you, as a buyer, can do to ensure richer insights and more actionable results. During in-person focus groups, don’t forget to work behind the mirror by minimizing distractions.  Just as the moderator sets the tone around the discussion table, you, as the buyer, set the tone behind the glass.  It pays to cultivate an attentive, focused atmosphere among your fellow viewers. (Here is a link if you want to review our tips on this aspect of focus group management.) Listen [...]

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In a recent blog post, we suggested that inviting colleagues beyond the marketing department into the backroom could help you get more bang for your research buck (click here to read it).  Here are five more tips for getting richer insights and better strategic value from your qualitative research investment. These ideas relate to the preparatory and early stages of the research.  Later on we’ll identify some tips to use as the research is executed and the results are rolled out. Allow sufficient time from project start to finish.  Recruiting can be tricky, especially for complex projects (e.g. in-home observational research; research using new technologies, etc.)  Consider having your moderator re-screen recruits for complex projects before the fieldwork deadline.  Good analysis and reporting also takes time.  Even the best moderator needs time to digest the findings by a thorough review of notes and transcripts.  Often conclusions made in a “day-after” [...]

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Charitable Thoughts If you have a charitable organization you are involved in, consider asking your qualitative research provider to contribute his or her professional skills to the cause. There are many ways moderators can and do help. Doing pro-bono or discounted work.  Sometimes the recipient organization can do the recruiting and provide a venue, or moderators might ask software platform providers for discounts, which allows for proper, professional research for non-profits that otherwise could not afford it.  Many report that these projects are among the most personally rewarding of their careers. Applying moderating techniques to other processes.  Some moderators have found that keeping administrative meetings on time and on topic are rare skills.  Another benefit moderators offer is making sure all attendees feel they’ve had their say, or leading deeper discussions to weigh cost/benefits — moderators can help any organization operate more smoothly and strategically.  Good listening and synthesizing skills [...]

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Here are a few things to keep in mind when conducting a research project using text-messaging via mobile phones. 1. People vary a lot in their technological capabilities. Even when they report being very familiar with texting, if they have not participated in a research project before, they may be “thrown” by some of the steps involved.  It’s possible to use a technology quite a lot for one thing, but not have a clue about how to use the same software or device for a slightly different task.  Therefore, we suggest: Your research provider may need to recruit more participants than for a traditional, in-person project, as there are likely to be more drop-outs or incompletes. Your moderator or her team will have to budget a bit of extra time for support, as some participants may need just a word or two of guidance to get them on track.  Investing [...]

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All of our clients have one thing in common:  they have tapped into the benefits of using a boutique market research provider – Dowe Johnston Insights.  In case not all of our readers are aware of these benefits, we’re happy to explain the various advantages offered by smaller versus larger research providers. Advantages of a Boutique Company for Qualitative Research Where big research houses have copious resources, boutique firms are slender – but concentrated, which offers its own advantages.  For example: Senior-level attention:  At boutique firms, you are guaranteed to receive senior attention at every stage of the process.  When the lead researcher is also the CEO, there’s an additional motivation to provide top-quality services. Direct account management:  When you communicate your questions and ideas to the “account manager” you will also be talking to the person who’ll be actualizing them; there’s no third-party management. Flexibility and responsiveness:  With their [...]

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The Challenge: Recently one of our readers commented that sometimes, their fellow focus group observers in the back-room do not take full advantage of learning and opportunities because they are using the time to check their email or voicemail. At other times, back-room behavior can be even more disruptive.  Chit-chat makes it harder to follow the discussion in the other room. Jokes or negative comments are sometimes made about participants, especially if they have identified a weakness in a product or a campaign, or offered praise to a competitor.  This type of resentment, while not meant to be taken seriously, has the effect of delegitimizing not just the singled-out participant or comment, but the process as a whole. Every experienced moderator and observer has witnessed, frequently, focus group participants glancing toward the mirror as, in spite of soundproofing, some of the back-room hubbub has filtered into the meeting room. Some [...]

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Here’s a suggestion for how to increase your ROI on the money you spend on qualitative research, especially traditional focus groups conducted in a standard facility. Basically, think of any empty chair in the back room as a missed opportunity. We believe the back room should be full more often than it usually is. Obviously, those who need to observe the groups should be there: the research director, brand manager, agency, etc. And just as obviously, there are times when security requires limits on who gets to observe groups – testing reactions to a potential new product is an obvious one. But there are almost always empty chairs behind the glass and often the security level is less than critical. Those chairs could be filled with trusted members of the company from other disciplines. There are smart, dedicated senior people in Accounting, IT, Manufacturing, Logistics, Sales and HR whose livelihoods [...]

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