By most measures we’re just about halfway through the Winter season! Here in the Northeast, anyway, it’s been a good time to hunker down and focus on marketing and insights that will drive revenue, profits and intriguing business opportunities.
And what better way to ensure that happens than to talk with your most important customers and prospects in the ways most likely to uncover what’s on their minds in 2014? In this month’s newsletter, our colleague Jennifer Lacy ventures bravely into February by offering strategies for how best to “Know Your (High Value) Audience.”
Julie Brown President
Mark Palmerino Executive Vice President
Know Your (High Value) Audience
Over the holidays, my neighbor inadvertently ran into my car. It wasn’t much, just a dent in the left front quarter panel, but it had to be fixed. Which meant that I had to deal with my auto insurance company. Ugh.
My insurance company is fine. I have no real complaints about it. But, similar to my phone company, cable provider, bank, electric company, etc., any time I deal with them, I have to go through an automated phone system. I’m not the most patient person, nor am I very good at choosing between the options they give me – “Customer service or claims?” Um, both? Neither? Either?
While I was on the phone with my insurance company, waiting for the opportunity to talk with a human being, then not knowing whether I’d get passed along to a second person, third or a fourth, I thought, “I’d give a fair amount of money to bypass this phone system and proceed immediately to a conversation with ‘the right‘ person.”
We refer to these people as “High Value Audiences” because what any one of them decides to do this year could have a significant impact on our clients’ business.
At CSR, we specialize in recruiting, interviewing, eliciting insight from, and designing research in order to leverage those precious interactions with, our clients’ High Value Audiences. Here are three axioms about conducting research among these VIPs that have stood the test of time. They have resulted in high-quality, reliable, insightful outcomes for our clients in the past, and continue to do so in the face of new methodologies and technologies:
Listen very, very carefully.
In our experience, listening carefully means conducting qualitative, rather than quantitative, research with High Value Audiences. Once we have their attention, and a commitment of their time, we think it’s a mistake to ask our clients’ customers and prospects only about what’s on our clients’ mind, which is how a typical quantitative survey plays out (see “selecting from options that don’t quite fit,” above!).
Of course, getting answers to our clients’ questions is the top priority (or we’d have gone out of business a long time ago!). Getting context around that answer, though, is often just as important, and is much more difficult to obtain through a quantitative approach.
For example, when testing a new product concept among C-Level executives on behalf of a management consulting firm, we asked not just about the concept itself, but about the whole category of service, about their experience with this type of service, and why, specifically, that experience was positive, negative, or somewhere in-between.
This nuanced probing gave our clients exactly what they needed in order to tweak the concept and start developing sales and marketing materials – a much more useful outcome than the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” results that would have come from using a quantitative survey instrument.
Obtaining relevant information is easier when the conversation is one-on-one.
If you’ve ever read this newsletter or talked with anyone here at CSR (and, if not, call us, we would love to hear from you!), you know how much we believe in the power of a one-on-one discussion to gain insights from customers and prospects.
The focus group is a staple of qualitative research, and of course, there’s value in hearing VIPs interact with one another. But when an initiative requires depth of understanding, and we’d argue that the vast majority of them do, then speaking with someone individually, and probing thoroughly on each important idea is the way to go.
This is particularly important when it comes to those High Value Audiences, such as C-Level Executives, financial advisors and physicians. If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars to hear this person’s opinion, do you want to miss getting answers from half the group because one overly enthusiastic person is dominating the discussion? And how honest will your High Value focus group members really be when they are all trying to sound like the smartest person at the table?
Discussions by phone are convenient and efficient.
High Value Audiences aren’t just valued by you – the reason you want to talk with them is that they are busy making important decisions and doing a variety of other activities to make them sought after by many organizations, including your competitors. Asking such clients and prospects to come to a focus group facility is inconvenient in a way that a phone interview is not because instead of setting time for the discussion only, they have to build in travel time as well. In addition, a two-hour focus group is obviously a lot longer than the typical phone-based IDI, further taxing your VIP’s busy schedule. Even if you mitigate the first issue (travel) by holding your focus group on-line, the time commitment issue (two hours for a group vs. 30 minutes for a one-on-one) is still very real.
The saddest part is that, at a focus group, you are paying each participant to sit quietly during the vast majority of the interaction! The most amount of time, on average, that you can expect each person to speak during a focus group is about 10 minutes. Compare that with a telephone-based IDI, during which you could have your VIP’s undivided attention for 30 or even 45 minutes! Just think of all the additional great information you’ll learn!
Here’s the Twist: Most companies have certain customers and prospects whose opinions are disproportionately important to them, mainly due to the volume or profitability of business associated with each. When conducting research among these High Value Audiences, make the most of it! Unlike how the disembodied automated phone system treats us when dealing with an insurance claim for example, let’s make a New Year’s resolution to listen very, very closely to our VIPs, and make research as convenient as we can for them.
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
Above, we spoke about one-on-one interviews, which are often conducted around a particular business need or problem. CSR also helps clients to establish and maintain ongoing executive client development programs, offering the benefits of easier, more frequent access to High Value Audiences. In working with our clients, we’ve designed many approaches to systematically reach these VIPs:
Executive Communities: As discussed in our previous issue of Research With a Twist, establishing and maintaining an executive community gives our clients continual access to their target audiences, including the ability to both “be a fly on the wall” as they discuss topics amongst themselves, but also to ask them targeted questions about a company’s current priorities.
Advisory Boards: While typically not as large in number of participants, or as broad in scope as executive communities, advisory boards are another great way to engage with executives on an ongoing basis.
Customer Conferences: Just like our clients attend conferences such as The Market Research Event, our clients’ customers often attend a wide variety of professional conferences, as well as periodic customer conferences that our clients arrange and host. Because attendee contact lists and client RSVPs are often shared well in advance of such meetings, we are able to schedule one-on-ones with customers on-site, and leverage the fact that many of our clients’ customers are in the same place at the same time.
Online Panels: If your company needs to undertake online surveys among High Value Audiences on a regular basis, creating an online panel could be a cost and time saver when recruiting and conducting research. Online panels can be accessed to generate sample for qualitative research as well.
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.
Secondary Sidebar Widget Area
This is the Secondary Sidebar Widget Area. You can add content to this area by visiting your Widgets Panel and adding new widgets to this area.
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. 101 Federal Street · Suite 1900 Boston, MA 02110