Topic: Book Club

Citizen Marketers: Keepin' It Real (research)

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
Huba & McConnell refer to the "artificial reality" of focus groups being based on a representative sample of the imagined target audience that give their opinions, get paid, go home...and move on with their lives.

Along the same lines, authors' Al & Laura Ries urge marketers to ask not "what will you do?" but ONLY "what have you done?" (history is a fact vs. a forecast of future purchase actions).

Armed with this advice--and my own experience in audience profiling/segmentation--I'm urging clients to move their research out of 2-way mirrored conference rooms and into the market. I'm also encouraging more customer advisory boards and the like. Any other marketers encouraging more in this vein of research methodologies? Any strictly opposed to them? I'm interested and still navigating this brave new Web 2.0 landscape from the research angle....thoughts?

Moderator Note: This discussion refers to the book Citizen Marketers by Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell (topic: social media). Click the title to buy the book from Amazon. Then join the conversation. We'd LOVE for you to participate!
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  • Posted on Accepted
    A majority of new products fail because their sponsors do not understand the true preferences of their target market.In addition, pricing, placement, and advertising decisions that are based on a poor understanding of consumer preferences will be haphazard at best.

    In a research conducted in a restaurant participants stated their meal preferences and eventually had to pay for and eat the preferred meal. Using the traditional, hypothetical conjoint approach researchers are able to predict consumer’s top choice only 26 percent of the time. In contrast, using the incentive-aligned approach, they were able to predict consumer’s top choice 48 percent of the time.

  • Posted on Accepted
    I am not a fan of market research ... or more precisely, I am not a fan of the way that market research results are used.

    Focus groups are cut off from the real world that they claim to "represent" ... the environment is artificial, the questions posed are open to interpretation and manipulation, the the participants have to respond within very loose or imaginary contexts. And just because you SAY you would do something doesn't mean you will actually DO it.

    Why waste time and money when a small and targeted social media experiment can yield in-market, live results (at a fraction of the cost).
  • Posted on Accepted
    Research should be more experiential; in fact, I would call it inquiry and not research. If we approach the marketplace with an open spirit of inquiry and manage a good mix of conversation *and* observation, we might get somewhere.

    Conversation will allow us to develop a stronger bond with our customers; observation will keep everyone honest. I find that we (all of us) often say one thing, and do another.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Interesting how you refer to the "vein of research methodologies." For me that is the broadband of research. Before I even got to this phrase I was thinking the chemical makeup flowing within the vein and the dna's, strands of behaviors that smart marketers are able to identify and exploit/add to/take from.

    The methodologies of accomplishing that is key. Focus groups are snapshots at best or xrays which only tell you what the body of panels think at that very moment. After all, things could change tomorrow with something in a brand category that changes everything, giving you new issues you now need to deal with

    In my opinion, there are 4 tenants that will truly enable marketers to use research to get maintain/increase a sale of some sort that strengthens their business:

    1. Knowledge of where to look for the veins
    2. correctly identifying both the DNA flowing through it is and what strand is the one that moves your brand
    3. setting up a creative and media system that is actually capable of capitalizing on learnings - let's call this the heart of the matter
    4. Insuring that there is a support structure, a correct allocation of resources that allows the body structure (marketing and sales) to work.

    Here's how most brands allocate their above the line marketing $$

    research 5%
    metrics 5% (at most)
    creative 20%
    media 65%
    technology 5% (structure)

    Here's my perscription

    research 15%
    metrics 5%
    creative 20%
    media 45%
    technology 15%

    This is from a media guy!. Here's my reasoning:

    Fact/Problem: There's an 80/20 skew to ad impressions in all media the dirty little secret agencies keep out of the conference room that is an unhealthy and wasteful dispersion of messaging. Perhaps this is why brands that are sick put all their funds into a short list of media vehicles and don't see any benefit. In essence, they are hitting the same audience even more. They may see a bump because the less reached audience gets more, but overall the expectation behind the $$ increases are often not met.

    Solution: Creating a system, shifting more funds from media into research (to listen better) and technology (that makes creative and media more nimble and shiftable which creates a more equal dispersion of ad imps which elminates/reduces the too concentrated and too anemic and thus, increase effectiveness. I'll stop there.

  • Posted on Author
    Thanks folks for this variety of well-reasoned responses...there are several great one-liners I'll be adopting from you guys. Funny how hard a time clients have in migrating from old methodologies when the new ones actually LOWER risk. I tell my clients: if the feedback is good, that's great. If it's bad--even BETTER! Better you learn now when you can still modify (and haven't blown your ad budget...and your job!).

    See, a lot of companies are guy-shy about querying their market in real-time and through tools that garner really honest feedback. Is it inertia or insecurity? Maybe a bit of both.

    Valeria: Love how you hit on conversations. Gavin: Yes, "say vs. do are entirely different", Shghosh: love the restaurant example! Sharon: I too have witnessed the crash-and-burn too many times due to unrealistic research and McHale: your prescript is great; thanks for your thoughtful new methodology.
  • Posted by gianandrea on Accepted
    i believe that focus groups are limited by the human nature. i mean when ask for a question, every human being is trying to look better, smarter, cooler. i understand that experienced interviewers my get the point but still data can be heavily affected. what i used to do, in a very empiric way is to go into supermarket or selling point and look for people attitude. on field activity such this gives you more hints than an unreal situation as a focus group.
  • Posted on Author
    Gianandrea: Good point "ethnography" (or ethnographics) and field and culture-based research) is authentic vs. artificial. And the supermarket is a ripe space (pardon the pun) for research.
  • Posted by telemoxie on Accepted
    I'm not sure if you would call this "market research"... but clearly this is "out of the mirrored conference rooms and into the market".

    ... but my first professional position was as a telephone interviewer, with a goal to gather statistically significant and unbiased data (e.g. no "tie downs", can't say, "You want to save money, don't you?" because this influences the answer.)

    Today, in B2B outbound marketing, I use similar interview techniques in lead follow-up, to more accurately qualify prospects. tied with a long-term educational approach. If sales folk use the 80/20 rule, they focus their efforts on the 20% who are most qualified to buy... and fail to gather (and/or fail to document) market feedback from folks who are less qualified... yet a company (or or marketing manager or R&D director) may want to know just WHY a more companies are not interested.

    It is my belief that an educational oriented program to follow up and cultivate leads long-term can provide valuable market feedback, complementing that one gets from the sales force... as well as occasionally turn up a sale or two.

    Certainly the majority of sales and lead generation efforts should be directed to activities with high and trackable ROI - but supplemental calls to build rapport and credibility with thought leaders at innovative companies can yield valuable market feedback (e.g. help prioritize proposed new features, provide new product enhancement ideas).
  • Posted on Member

    I like your metaphor; it's worth a thousand pictures, as writers say. I'm into systems thinking as in how everything connects to everything else and have used your mix for years to maximize my dollar spends, with budgets in progressive decrease.

    The other, all-important piece is listening through everything you do. Be a net that captures all those impressions and then makes sense of what's going on.
  • Posted on Member
    Bringing this all back to blogs and social media ... the potential to use tools like BuzzMetrics and Technorati to provide insight into the unscripted or unpromoted converstations or the markets is significant. I think this is where citizen marketing overtakes research.

    Perhaps the focus of researchers will morph away from managing and prompting conversations to more analysing, tracking and fascilitating them (online).

    Also, because most blogs remain online as a social artefact, they can actually provide a great source of post-facto market research. Just wait and see how in 6 months time we will all come back to the iPhone buzz currently being generated.
  • Posted on Accepted
    Blogs as a/the new tool of social and market research is not just a fascinating prognostication. One of the most interesting comments I heard at the meetings and conferences I've attended in the past year was: "In two years Podcasting will be a thing of the past, but blogging will be bigger than ever and will have become a new form of mass media."

    This book has caused me to believe that the mass media of the near future will unquestionably include social media. I see it as not only a disseminator of information, but as a useful tool for research, and a powerful way for marketers and others to promote, engage in and study conversations about their companies and their products.
  • Posted by Stephen Denny on Accepted

    Focus groups are excellent forums to raise questions but they are lousy at answering them. Because they're fast and cheap, however, many companies will use them as "check the box research", as in, "sure, we did our packaging research... we ran it past a few focus groups." Garbage in, garbage out.

    Observational research, anthropological research, anything where you don't ask, you watch -- this is where I'd spend more of my time and money if I could. Paco Underhill pioneered this work.

    Using social media for research is like using focus groups -- the 1% that responds will tell you what they think. This is not representational of the whole, but it does tell you what that (very important monster user) 1% want.
  • Posted on Author
    Gavin: What you said with, "Perhaps the focus of researchers will morph away from managing and prompting conversations to more analysing, tracking and facilitating them (online).", resonates with me as then we are watching the market in action rather than posing a question to them.

    Denny: Yes, observational studies are ideal (the ethnographic studies have been really interesting). So I guess watching social media communities allows us, as you say, to watch (not ask) that 1%.

    Zuteacher: I too find it fascinating and I'm looking forward to seeing how it migrates into 'mass' media, especially since social media splinters into zillions of niches (and micro-niches). Very exciting ;-).

    BrianL: Thanks for bringing a research background to this discussion! Your point of bias is heard. I guess even when we're just observing (not intermediating) there is bias within the group itself. Though I am looking forward to using more social media in my research -- be it through asking a group for their involvement/opinions at the outset of prod. development or monitoring the flow of feedback to inform future products. A trained moderator is vital, no question. I guess I long to be afforded that birds-eye view of the "natural" market (vs. an artificial setup of Q&A) as Denny suggests.

    Thanks all.
  • Posted on Author
    Laura: thanks for voicing-in and yes readers, our next segment will feature the inimitable work of Al & Laura Ries (who always remind us the importance of FOCUS).

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