Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Business Owners Need to Know About Market Research Planning

Today businesses are looking to get ahead. Innovation is a part of most entrepreneurs personalities… they love to think, solve problems and invent more efficient means to arriving at solutions. To be successful you have to know your market and develop a plan in order to accomplish your goals. Market research can help you get there and planning for it is an essential part of the process.
Market Research "is the planning for, collection, and analysis of data relevant to marketing decision making and the communication of the results of this analysis to management.” In order to measure the success of the marketing plan of any kind, market research is the appropriate tool for a company to use. By having a thorough knowledge of factors that have an impact on the target market and the marketing mix, management can be proactive rather than reactive. Research is the difference between viewing the turbulent marketing environment as a threat or as an opportunity.
Before undertaking a business venture, it is important for a business owner to conduct market research to guide them to better business decisions that will later be translated into profits and good business. Even if you already have an existing business and you want to do some changes, market research can be very useful and a must in a lot of cases. Good market research is important to identify the demands of your target market and learn their behavior, including their purchasing behavior.
By learning some market research tips, tools as well as techniques, you will have the tools to develop your own market research plan. You’ll have the confidence to follow through with your plan and you’ll get the end results that will set you apart from your competitors.
Here are a few ideas…
Write down the objectives of your research. Know what you want to accomplish. Of course, goal-setting is very important in any endeavor as this will guide you throughout the course of your research and in studying the behavior of your target clients. Although you may have one big goal in doing a particular study, it is also important to write down specific details as well.
Determine the right sample size of your research and make sure it is representative of your target market population. Of course, in any research, getting the correct sample size is one of the crucial parts or else you will not get an accurate data and results for your research.
Always emphasize that confidentiality is a priority in your research. Of course, many people are hesitant to share their thoughts and views on something. By assuring them that their answers will be regarded with confidentiality, you can even find it a key to get honest answers from people and maintaining confidentiality is also ethical.
Make sure your survey questionnaires are concise and direct to the point. This is where a trusted market research consultancy firm always comes in handy. A highly respected consultancy firm will take care of the dirty work and work with their select group of panels to devise a questionnaire that will result in the sample needed to achieve the clients’ goals. You don't have to have a five page survey for your samples. It is important that you know how to draft your questions that can also help you get the answers that you want without having to list a hundred questions and bore your respondent. In the end, you may have a tired respondent who will give lesser replies or lesser quality of replies as well, which can greatly affect your results. Thus, keep this as one of the most important market research tips that you have to remember.
Choose research tools and techniques that will not only make everything convenient but also help you analyze your results fast and accurate. Online surveys can do just that. Once again, by working with a trusted market research consultancy, you’ll receive your sample in a timely manner and without the headache that comes with doing all the work yourself. They can recommend what type of research is most appropriate, help you develop statistically valid samples and provide you with an objective and neutral source of information. Keep in mind that your research results can help you outsmart competitors but if you are doing research that takes time to finish, you may end up being outwitted by your competitors and your research results may become a waste.
Research has always been thought of as expensive and there’s a perception that only multi-national size companies have the budgets for it. It’s not the case anymore. Today research can be done for just a couple thousand dollars and that thousand dollars can be the best money you've ever spent. For $2,500 to $5,000 you can have programming, hosting and receive insight back on your product or concept within a reasonable amount of time.
Whatever your approach to evaluating your idea, make sure you're meeting the research objectives you've outlined for your product or service. With those goals always top-of-mind, your analysis will help you discover whether your idea has any holes that need patching.
About the Author: Michael G. Holmes is President of EMI – Online Research Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio. EMI is aleading provider of online research offering sample, programming, hosting, panel building, and related services.
For more information on EMI please visit www.emi-ors.com
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Monday, December 20, 2010

What is Online Research Sample

Sample is a hot commodity in the world of online market research.  It’s defined as a finite part of a statistical population whose properties are studied to gain information about the whole (Webster, 1985). When dealing with people, it can be described as a set of respondents selected from a larger population for the purpose of a survey. Often samples are created to represent a specific market, audience, political base or customer base, depending on the goals of the market research project.  A sample size refers to the number of panelists participating in a research study, while sample distribution is a measurement of the responses from a single sample, organized by frequency. A sampling error is an inaccuracy that is associated with using the sample results as an indication of the whole.

The purpose of sampling is to draw conclusions about populations from samples and in order to do this the researcher must use inferential statistics which enables them to determine a population`s characteristics by directly observing only a portion (or sample) of the population. The researcher obtains a sample rather than a complete enumeration (a census) of the population for many reasons. For one, it is cheaper to observe a part rather than the whole, but the researcher should prepare themselves to cope with the dangers that some times come with using samples.

Sampling can be a concern in both qualitative and quantitative research; however, sampling issues are somewhat different for each. In any study, the research question determines the study method, but it is the research question and method together that define the sampling plan, the type of sample used and the number of people who will make up the study sample. Other factors that affect decisions about sample sizes and sampling plans include time, money, access to subjects and the number of study variables.  Despite all of this, the overalladvantages to sampling are numerous…  the process involves a smaller number of subjects and is more time efficient, less costly and potentially more accurate (since it is more feasible to maintain control over a smaller number of subjects).

When using a market research broker like EMI, the client can rest assure that all areas of concentration are being covered when it comes to giving them the best representative sample available.  The market research broker works with panel partners to accomplish this task. A panel provider (partner) is the company that provides a specified demographic portion or sample from a population to participate in a market research study. This population is then surveyed, and data and information is subsequently collected with the intent of drawing research conclusions.  In online market research the population is initially sent questionnaires through the internet and agrees to participate in market research studies on a forward-going basis.   An online sample or panel provider recruits, verifies, and maintains a comprehensive, highly profiled listing of panelists for use in online research studies.

Key demographic, product usage/ownership, and other attributes are generally maintained to offer timelier, efficient, and targeted market research opportunities. The use of online panels also facilitates longitudinal research opportunities, enabling the same individual to participate in similar or related research initiatives over time, highlighting change.

Highly effective sampling software is used by market researchers to obtain the sample information.  If the sampling process has been conducted correctly, the research conclusions can be considered representative of the group or population as a whole.  Panel management refers to the comprehensive process of recruiting, incentivizing, engaging, segmenting, profiling, and caring for online market research panel members. The online sample provider is usually responsible for all panel management activities.

In the online market research industry, proper panel management helps to increase the overall survey completion rate, panelist retention rate, and the quality of market research data.

About the Author: Michael Holmes is the founder of EMI - Online Research Solutions (a 2010 Inc. Magazine recipient of "The Fastest Growing companies in the US" awards.)

For more information about EMI – Online Research Solutions please visit the company’s Web site at: www.emi-ors.com.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Add and Vote on Your Marketing Research Trends Here

We've been feeding you all kinds of great ideas for crowdsourcing applications and it looks like IdeaScale has another one -- collecting on and voting on Market Research Trends!

Check out the "Market Research Prediction Site" and vote for the predictions that are there or add your own.  I'd recommend that you get over there real quick and add some of your own -- they could use some more predictions!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Product: In Home Use Test – iHUT – What’s it all about?

In Home Usage Testing, commonly shortened to IHUT, is a cost effective way to test your product with real consumers before moving forward with a full fledged product launch.  A variety of products are easily shipped for participants to use at home.  Their feedback is gathered in a follow-up telephone survey, online survey or even an in-person interview if needed.  This methodology is very engaging for the respondent since they get to touch and use the product while giving the client detailed feedback on what consumers are going to think once the product hits the shelf.

With iHUTS, consumers use your product at home in their own environment rather than in an artificial test environment, simply because this approach results in more realistic outcomes on product satisfaction, usage and potential improvement areas. Respondents meeting your recruitment criteria can be selected via an online panel to participate. The in-home usage period depends on product category and your specific needs and varies from one-time usage or usage over a longer period of time. After respondent selection, your products will be sent to the participants. At different times during the usage period, participants receive an invitation to fill out an online questionnaire.

Depending on the product category and your requirements, one of the questionnaires may capture the participants' first impressions and experiences with the product after the first week of usage. You can use the final questionnaire - after a couple of weeks of usage - to determine the experiences and satisfaction with the product in detail, as well as areas for improvement. The acceptor-rejector questions can be repeated to determine whether your product meets the benefits promised to consumers. Varying from stage to stage, iHUTS measure the following elements:

These include first impression, appeal and purchase intent. You can compare the results on these KPIs across different measurements in time to track the product performance Acceptor-Rejector analysis. Before and after using the product, participants can answer the key questions of an acceptor-rejector methodology to assess whether the product is meeting consumers' expectations. It also assesses the level of acceptance before and after usage. In case of a decline in acceptance, you can analyze the results to determine the cause of this decline.

Overall satisfaction as well as satisfaction on specific product features can be measured to provide first insights into potential areas of improvement. In addition, the importance of the different aspects can be measured to make sure your time and resources will be spent to optimize those elements that really matter to consumers. In case of a longer usage period and multiple questionnaires, levels of satisfaction can be measured over time.

A benefit take out with a card test tool can be measured: the product benefits are placed on cards and these are shown to consumers. For each benefit, they indicate the level to which it fits with their product experiences, simply by dragging the benefit card to the right answering category. Again, this tool can be measured over time to check any changes. The outcomes of the benefit test provide good input for the final positioning and communication of the product when launched.

With the help of another card test, the level to which your product experiences fit with the image consumers have of your brand can also be measured. This information is measured to determine to what extent your product supports and strengthens your brand values.  With questions on recommendation, your product's Recommendation Intent Score (RIS) can be calculated, providing insight into the level of advocacy among users for the product.

Various open-ended questions throughout the questionnaires allow for focus on potential areas for improvement.

The outcomes of the different tasks (over time) are all analyzed in combination. iHUTS can provide you with clear and relevant results and recommendations. You will know exactly whether or not your product is ready for full market launch, its potential in terms of acceptance, the additional improvements needed and how to best position your product.

iHUTS allow you to execute the final and most important check on your product before launch by means of real consumer-usage testing.  They offer an efficient and cost-effective way to check whether your product is ready for launch; more realistic outcomes than from a controlled test environment… thanks to its real-life setup; and inclusion of the acceptor-rejector methodology, provides you with clear insight into the level of acceptance before and after product usage.  

One of EMI’s favorite IHUTs involved a concept test for a new snack food.  EMI started by sending out a client written survey to an income targeted audience identified to be the snack’s core consumers.  Respondents gave their mailing address and contact information.  From there, EMI mailed out a full-size retail box of the current snack along with the alternative option.  Respondents were then contacted for two follow-up surveys to measure not only their satisfaction with the current snack option, but how reluctant or accepting they would be to a change in packaging, flavor and name.  EMI delivered the data, incentivized each respondent and managed any returned or non-deliverables.  As a result, the client was able to test a new product on a small scale and stick with their original snack option.



About the Author: Michael Holmes is the founder of EMI - Online Research Solutions (a 2010 Inc. Magazine recipient of "The Fastest Growing companies in the US" awards.)

For more information about EMI – Online Research Solutions please visit the company’s Web site atwww.emi-ors.com.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Effect of Color on Your Brand and Brand Message



Color is a powerful thing.  In this short and sweet post by Michael G. DiFrisco my go-to-guy for DIY Branding advice, brands and their colors live on in the customer's mind.

I pulled this little quiz from his recent post:
Here’s a quick quiz to demonstrate the power of color when it comes to brand recall. Without showing you a logo, a name, or even the initials of these three companies, see if you can guess the brand name. The category is shipping:

color, branding

Easy, wasn’t it? Let’s try it again. This time, we’ll make it a little harder. The category is lawn tractors.

Color, branding

When color becomes a nickname—either co-opted by the brand owner or simply used in a colloquial context (“What can Brown do for you?” IBM is “Big Blue”) the brand-to-color connection further supports marketplace differentiation.

Colors Have Meaning

While you may not be choosing brand colors daily - you're probably choosing colors on the web or on other materials and products.  The idea is to just be aware that colors have meaning and symbolism and be sure to pick a color that communicates exactly what you want to communicate.

Here's a color symbolism chart to help you out:

Red: Excitement, energy, passion, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, love, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, aggression, all things intense and passionate.

Yellow: Joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard.

Blue: Peace, tranquility, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, cold, technology, depression, appetite suppressant.

Orange: Energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant, demanding of attention.

Green: Nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, vigor, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy, misfortune.

Purple: Royalty, spirituality, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning.

Gray: Security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, sadness, boring

Brown: Earth, hearth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, stability, simplicity, and comfort.

White: Reverence, purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, birth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical, sterile.

Black: Power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, anonymity, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger, underground, good technical color, mourning, death (Western cultures).

Don't just pick colors you like - focus on the objective of your communications piece and on the customer experience you'd like to create.

Have you done any surveys testing color?  Tell us all about it here!

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to Set the Right Price is Still a Research Question That Requires Know-How

DIY Marketeting research tools have dramatically reduced the cost of collecting data.  Instead of hiring a research firm for their specialized software - you can do it all yourself.  And that's fine for those simple basic research projects that provide feedback and basic ratings.  But there is one very specific, very specialized and very important marketing component that requires research and the specialized expertise that only a qualified, experienced and knowledgeable market research professional can really help -- PRICING.

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Most marketers and small business tend to ignore pricing as a powerful strategy.  They either do a basic cost-plus model or they simply follow along with whatever everyone else is doing.  This is a major mistake.

Pricing is, perhaps, the most powerful element of your marketing mix and done right, can add to your profitability with little more effort than the stroke of a pen.  OK- I lied.  Done right -- it would require a bit more than the stroke of a pen.  But this is where professional market research advice comes in.

1% Windfall is Every Market Researchers Pricing Bible

If you're in the market research business and are looking for an awesome niche to differentiate yourself -- grab a copy of Rafi Mohammend's book, 1% Windfall. Read it, processes it and develop a series of surveys around its chapters.

First of all - this should be a piece of cake for you because the the book literally outlines a series of potential pricing strategies and then gives you choices or categories or attributes -- whatever you'd like to call them, that define the attributes your customer would be after if you'd like to use this strategy. Let me show you what I mean - check out this section I pulled from my review of 1% Windfall.
Not enough new customers? More price points can actually attract more customers.  Try a “differential” pricing strategy.  One of the KILLER features of “1% Windfall” are these “voice of the customer” statements that Rafi has all through the book.  What I love about these is that you can literally pull them right out of the book at put them into a survey that you give your customers to see what they would prefer.  I pulled these from the “Pick a Plan” Chapter.  Do any of these statements sound like something your customers might say?

  • I am willing to fill out forms, mail them, and wait several weeks to get a lower price.”

  • “Will you match the discount price that is offered by a rival?”

  • “I am willing to trade convenience for a discount.”

  • “I’d like a break if I purchase two or more products.”



The entire book is filled with these!  The only sad thing about this is the realization that most small businesses are unfamiliar with this kind of research.  They are afraid to mess with pricing and when they do, it's often without good data.

Mohammed has done his part in writing a book that is easier to use to set pricing and market researchers who are familiar with pricing research could really help small business by helping them create surveys and feedback tools to gather this information.

What's been your experience with pricing research?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell Survey: Good or Bad?

As I was driving around last night, I heard the snipped of the discussion on the Don't Ask Don't Tell survey on NPR.  It seems that John McCain felt the survey was missing one key question "Should the Don't Ask Don't Tell Law be repealed?"

I was in the middle of something and didn't hear the whole story - but this little comment was bothering me and I wanted to ask our expert community what you thought?

You can actually look at the survey questionnaire here: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://militarytimes.com/webtools/files/Survey%2520questionnaire.pdf

You can see that they've asked just about every question under the sun -- but the most obvious question of whether the law should be repealed or not.

If finding out whether the law should be repealed or not was an objective of the survey -- then is there an error in not asking the question outright a big mistake?

Is it safe to make inferences about what to do with a law based on the survey and the results we currently have?

Why I'm asking?

I'm always going on and on about how the whole purpose of a survey is to help you make decisions.  In this case, we've got a HUGE organization doing a survey on a big and important topic.

They didn't say if it was to make this decision -- but by the sounds of it, it seems like they are using the survey to justify a decision.

So it's your turn -- let your expert market researcher flag fly!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Are You Ready for "Open Leadership"?

A note to all business owners and executives:  COMMAND AND CONTROL COMMUNICATION IS DEAD!

If you ever wanted proof of this, think back to Tony Hayward -- yeah, that guy right there.  How many of you watched in secret agony as the camera's shined on this guy and he fell apart and thought "Glad I'm not YOU!"  A little investment in "Open Leadership" on the part of BP might have saved them more than a little anguish.

What's Open Leadership? And Why Should I Care?

Open Leadership is the name of the next book you should pick up if you're a business owner or executive.  It's written by Charlene Li (who was also co-author of Groundswell - the primary information source about how social media works for business).

Open leadership refers to societies new requirement of its leaders -- to actually share and tell their customers /shareholders/constituencies what's going on.  It doesn't mean that we care about what you're having for breakfast (although that's entertaining), it means we demand to know where you are taking the company.  We want to know how you're solving the problems that you have and we want to know what your vision is for the future.

Doing "Open Leadership" right also means being in touch with your constituencies - and that means looking at market research information on a regular basis and not just as part of some meeting where your market research team comes up and shows graphs and charts.  It means having dialog and discussion about what's important to your customers today and how you will respond to them.

Examples



Tony Hsei shows you how it's done.  Just so you know -- this guy is written up in countless business books as "Doing it right".  His company is profitable, his employees are happy and it seems that his customers are happier.  If you'd like your name to be in that sentence -- then this is how it's done.

I also realize that this may NOT be year style.  You can be open -- but talking turkey on your Twitter stream may be a little too much.  No problem.  Check out Paul Rosenfeld - he's the CEO of Fanminder, a text messaging service for small business.



Here he's sharing information about his company and also information he's reading.

What do you want me to do?

  1. Let GO.  I'm asking that you consider the possibility of letting go.  Command and control doesn't work.  You can't control the myriad communication channels out there where you name and brand can appear.

  2. THINK before you type.  Don't make the assumption that social media is TOTALLY spontaneous.  It's a giant DIGITAL BILLBOARD.  It's a camera.  Before you do anything - think about who you want to be in cyber space?  What voice will you have?  Will you be casual like Tony Hsei from Zappos, will you be a little more formal like Paul Rosenfeld?  My advice is to first be yourself, decide how you will communicate, decide on what you will communicate.  Then relax and follow through.

  3. Be Real.  Honest, frequent, consistent communication will build your brand.  Don't be afraid of getting into conversations with your audience.  Be the person that you are at the cocktail party or at your kids' soccer game.  Talk about your management team, talk about great things you see your employees doing.  Talk about a customer problem your team solved.  Make "friends" with your audience.


What's this got to do with market research?

Corporations need to step out of their tower and participate.  Market research is no longer a disconnected communication - it's on going.  Having your leadership team participating in the conversation your customers are having will help you improve your market research and what you will measure.
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