The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. Vol 5 Issue 8   November 2009


This month we take a look at the benefits of concentrating your efforts. Specifically, making sure that your research provides you with informed, actionable results, and gets the most feedback and value out of interactions with your best customers.

Julie Brown

Mark Palmerino
Executive Vice President

“Concentrate” — Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!
Mark and I have returned from The Market Research Event, which was held in Las Vegas last month. Happily, and despite the current state of the economy (and corporate travel budgets), the event was very well-attended.

As always, the speakers were top-notch…

Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology, offered some controversial and thought-provoking ideas behind what motivates consumers to buy.

Noah Goldstein, one of my personal favorites and co-author of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Effective, combined entertainment with excellent and immediately applicable content.

Jim Dator was stimulating, if not a tad too Cassandra-ish, with an assessment of the future that sent us off to the cocktail hour immediately following with a renewed need for a good stiff drink!

But to me, the most compelling speaker of all was Obama advisor Joel Benenson, who shared “Lessons From the White House: Stories From Obama’s Lead Pollster and Strategist.”

Commanding a standing-room-only audience, Benenson mesmerized all attendees — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Undeclared, what have you — with stories of the vision and prowess of David “Ax” Axelrod; a behind-the-scenes look at how the campaign leveraged social media such as YouTube and Facebook; and a view of how new media in general had changed politics forever. All of it kept us well entertained for well over an hour.

But one anecdote in particular really struck a chord with me…

Benenson recounted how Obama and his team were coming up on the California primary and trying to strategize the best use of the candidate’s time. Of course, political campaigns are all about the delegates, and the delegate gain and selection process is complex. Because the delegate count is based on congressional districts, on February 5, 2009 — primary day in California — they’d have to be targeting specific congressional districts across that huge state.

But, on February 18, there was also a caucus in Idaho. And so in late January, the campaign leadership had to decide where to concentrate Obama’s time.

In a way, the answer seemed self-evident: California has over 350 delegates, Idaho fewer than 20. Self-evident until February 1, that is, when Obama was sent to Idaho to speak at the Boise State arena and a whopping 14,000 people lined up to see him!

Based on that event, and some predictive polling and research, the campaign focused its efforts in Idaho. The strategy was simple: Win a compelling majority of the delegates and display overwhelming strength… even if the area is, well, Idaho.

That was the turning point. Although Clinton won in California, Obama’s huge gain in Idaho neutralized Clinton’s impact. From that point on, Obama was the “frontrunner.”

Focus where it counts

Benenson went on to apply the campaign experience to the world of business: “You need to know not only who your customers are, but who your best customers are… Spend your dollars on them so your profitability is high when they spend their dollars on you… Once I asked a client company who their target market was and the president said, ‘Women over age eighteen.’ I said to him, ‘That’s not a target, that’s half the world.'”

In market research, the benefits of focus and depth are equally compelling. And while here as well, there’s a tendency to go broad instead of deep — with studies and methodologies that emphasize large numbers of participants above all — it’s the “Idaho’s” which so often yield the most useful results.

In other words, speaking with fewer numbers of people, but in a more detailed, thoughtful, conversational way, will frequently provide the most practical and actionable results.

Here’s the Twist: In today’s business climate, everything becomes a tradeoff; none of us has an unlimited amount of time or money or energy. But as the winning Obama campaign discovered last fall, going deep with a few is often a better strategy than briefly contacting many.

— Julie

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Benenson’s recommendations got us thinking about some additional benefits of one-on-one, in-depth interviewing. Here are three in particular that came to mind.

  1. Engaging High Value Audiences:

    In some cases, a research study sponsor hopes to build and maintain long-term profitable relationships with participants — value that transcends just the information itself. Brokers, distributors, store owners, franchisors, corporate decision-makers, affluent investors, and luxury goods buyers are all examples of survey participants who represents considerable profit (or lost) opportunity for a given company.

    In-depth interviewing provides the ability to learn a great deal from customers whose opinion can “make or break” a significant opportunity, while making a positive impression on behalf of the research sponsor company with its best and most profitable customers.
  1. Preserving Privacy:

    When thinking about conducting qualitative research, many researchers decide to use focus groups. Often, however, group settings are not appropriate for open and frank discussions about participants’ innermost feelings and concerns.

    Financial needs and decisions, matters of personal health and hygiene, and the degree to which complicated products and services are understood, are all examples of topics where participants in group settings are unlikely to share the same information as in one-on-one, in-depth interviews.

    One-on-one interviewing allows participants to share their deepest feelings without concern for how they will be perceived by other members in a group.
  1. Mitigating “Group-Think”:

    Another common outcome of focus groups is that as one (often loud) person voices an opinion, other participants latch on to it. While this can be valuable for some study objectives, such as ideation exercises, it is a considerable barrier to understanding and interpreting responses to new products, new concepts, or advertising.

    One-on-on interviewing provides an opportunity for participants to share their ideas without bias or influence from other members in a group.


“Concentrate” — Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!

Mixology (Putting research into practice)

Twist and Shout

About Us

As one of the speakers at The Market Research Event, Mark, together with one of our clients, presented the process and results of a study we conducted recently. “Twenty Days Around the World of Benefits Brokers: A Case Study,” took a look at an alternative approach to ethnography.

If you’d like a copy of the presentation, just send us an e-mail and we’ll get it right out to you.

Concentrate your energies, your thoughts and your capital. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket.

— Andrew Carnegie

Problems? Click here to send us an email with your request.
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result, our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.

Understanding What People Really Think

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