Customer Service

Knowing Your Customers: A Market Research Case Study

 Several organizations I have worked with over the years claim to know their clients inside and out, but is that really the case?

Many of them often tell me they know how their clients perceive them because they explicitly ask for their opinion. However, I would argue that much like we rarely tell the waiter/waitress that we don’t like our meals, our clients are unlikely to tell us the truth unless there is a real issue. However, if third-party sources ask the same question to your clients, your clients are more likely to tell the truth. This fact alone is why unbiased market research is a crucial step in any marketing strategy.

In this blog, I’d like to share with you a case study that perfectly illustrates the importance of market research and how it helped them better define who they are to their customers.

Overview

Our client, a mid-sized educational toy distributor in Toronto, wanted to conduct research to identify their customers, the views they have of their brand, and the values they tie to the brand and its products. Specifically, they wanted to determine if there was a difference in buying behaviours between the company’s two key markets, establish any product leakage, and validate their brand recognition in the marketplace.

 Conducting the Research

Based on the client’s goals for this research project, we determined both qualitative and quantitative research was needed in order to receive the answers we were looking for.

First, we started by conducting preliminary qualitative research. Qualitative Research is the process of talking to someone through open-ended questions about a particular subject to gain insights into their thoughts and opinions. This can be done through a conversation, phone call, or focus group.

To complete this research, we conducted eight discussion guide-driven phone calls with a targeted cross-section of buyers within our client’s target audience.

With the results of the pre-field research, we crafted a highly customized survey that allowed for each audience to only see questions specifically directed at them. We further segmented the questionnaire by programming it based on the role of the individual by type of organization and then by responsibility. This type of research, called Quantitative Research, allows us to track data with closed-ended questions and more numerical information.

Findings

After analyzing the gathered information, we were able to provide our client with an in-depth analysis of their customers. The key findings indicated that their customers with the most purchasing power in their target audience reported the least amount of brand exposure. It also clearly identified that their brand was very well known in one of their key target markets and less known in the other, and lastly, their catalogue is highly utilized and highly regarded. 

Next Steps

Once the deeper analysis was complete and revealed more about their customers’ buying behaviours, preferences for price vs. product quality, and delivery times, our client was able to develop a marketing strategy for 2017 that was truly in line with their customers’ needs and wants.

Market research is a crucial step in your marketing strategy. It provides you with insights you would not be able to get by just asking your customers yourself. Market research helps you get to know your customers better, and what is more valuable than that?

Tradeshow Strategy – Tips on How to Make Your Next Tradeshow a Success

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.53.18 AMYou have 4 seconds to engage someone that’s walking by, and distractions are everywhere – what do you do to grab their attention first?

Tradeshow Tips

Write a Strategy

Before reserving a booth at an industry tradeshow, ask yourself and your team, “What are we trying to accomplish by going to this tradeshow?” Tradeshows can be rewarding and can demonstrate true ROI if you do it right and are clear about what you want out of it.

Attempting to attract an audience to your booth can prove to be challenging and we all know tradeshows can be extremely expensive, so set tangible objectives, that can measured as outcomes. Without objectives, how else will you know if the tradeshow was successful? Whether your desired outcome is to generate buzz, increase brand awareness, build customer relationships, share industry knowledge, network, or gain leads, relying on random traffic in the room is not the wisest strategy (especially when most tradeshow attendees already have an idea of which booths they plan to visit before they get to the show). If you don’t set out measureable objectives, you wont have a clear understanding of how your booth performed.

It’s important to be intentional and create a booth that attracts the right people, so you can more easily reach your tradeshow goals. I recommend you try some, or all, of the following:

Preshow Outreach

Contact your regular customers, local contacts and existing prospects, and, if you can get access to the list of registered show attendees, contact them too! Make appointments by reaching out through direct mail, email, or the phone.

Stand Up

Most exhibitor staff sit behind tables. Don’t do that! Get up, and engage with people – that’s what you’re there for. Either push the table against a wall or leave chairs out of your booth set up.

Stand Out

Tradeshows are an investment of money and time. If you’re making the investment, try to grab a good location (the better locations will be more expensive), and brand your booth. Your actual booth itself is a silent salesperson – it speaks for you and your brand when you’re not able to, so it pays to have a pretty booth in a great location. TV screens, or interactive touch screens are a great way to grab attention and share your key messages!

Signage

Something else to consider is having a benefit-oriented sign that can be seen from down an aisle on the showroom floor. It should have verbiage that gives prospective clients a reason to stop and showcases a solution to a customer problem. Your signage should also answer the question all potential customers will be asking themselves – “What’s in it for me?” Don’t be afraid to be specific – it will weed out anyone who isn’t your target.

Offer Incentive

In order to attract the right people, you have to know your attendees. Make sure your incentive speaks to your target market and offers them something they want so they have a reason to come to your booth. Promotional items will impact how show attendees perceive you. Investing in promotional items that are as unique and high quality as your offering will pay off. Whether its swag, a game, a discount, or free services, special gifts say “thank you for coming by.”

Social Media Live Feeds

Tradeshows are an “in-person” event, but social media should still play a part. Let your clients and prospective clients know where your booth is and what you’re up to over social media. Being active on social media during the show will help you connect with attendees and those who couldn’t make it to the event.

It’s common for events to have their own Twitter hashtag, so participants can communicate with one another from the showroom floor.

Promote the Tradeshow Like It’s Your Own Event

Every year tradeshows drive thousands of people to different events. Exhibitors can pay for passes to give to great customers, prospective customers, or media, to join you. The show organizers will be promoting the event themselves (which in turn promotes you by association), so give back to your partner by promoting them.

Follow Up AFTER the Show

You need to respond to leads really quickly! Key in business cards right at the show, and follow up either later that day, or early the next morning.

If a lead calls you first, do NOT wait – call them back immediately!

Do you create a strategy for your tradeshows? Do you have the same strategy every year? How do you measure the success of your tradeshows? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please feel free to leave questions or comments in the comment section – I’d love to hear your stories!

Case Study: How a customer analysis saved thousands for a B2B client

consumer-analysisLooking for the “wow” factor in your business is not always about what you want your company to be for your customers, but very often, it is more about what your customers value about your company. As a first step to creating powerful strategic marketing plans, we always recommend market research to our clients. Market research, specifically customer analysis, is the most powerful tool marketers have for really finding out first hand exactly what your customers value and why they choose you over your competitors.

Many companies want this business intelligence and feel they can “do it themselves” with an email survey or direct mail piece. Well, with almost 20 years in the business, I can tell you that research obtained by “doing it yourself” is truly invalid research. Research needs to be conducted by an unbiased third party who can listen and respond without prejudice or emotion.

I’d like to share with you the big wow factor that came as a result of the research we conducted as the first leg in a strategic marketing project. We’ll call this company ABC Consulting. Prior to our engagement, they were about to “press the button” on several online marketing tactics including investing heavily in a new website with interactive capabilities and launching into social media networking sites. We convinced the client to “hold off” on implementing these tactics until after we conducted a competitive analysis and customer analysis. They took our recommendation and decided to hold off and are eternally thankful that they did. It is true, as with most qualitative research, that the truth lies in asking the “right” questions and so we personally spoke to our client’s customers, asking them a host of custom questions to determine not only what they value in the service they are receiving, but how they feel what they are getting differs from other competitors.

There was not one customer we spoke to that values online communication, stating that they never visit ABC Consulting’s website, and have no need for social media. What do they value? Personal calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. The result of this research is a 180 degree shift from what our client had determined was what their customers’ wanted. As I have said in many of my blogs holds particularly true here: no tactics before you understand who your audience is, and what they value. If our client had executed their online tactics, what type of success do you think they would have had? My guess is none, as their customers never visit their website and new customers search for this service in other ways, but not online.

The research revealed many values, behaviours, wants and needs of ABC Consulting’s customers and competitors, but none stronger than a 180 degree shift in thinking!

With this research in hand we are now able to develop a targeted and strategic plan, rooted in solid research, and our client will save the thousands of dollars they were about to spend on the wrong tactics: tactics that were rooted in guess work and marketing pressure to conform.

My take-away for all business owners is to take the time to get to really know your customers, NOT through your own personal dealings but through someone else’s eyes and the result could be a game changer!

When was the last time your company conducted third party qualitative research? Do you think you need to conduct research before you execute a new marketing initiative? Are you willing to try new tactics without knowing what your customers value? I look forward to you sharing your thoughts in our comment section.

Click here for more information. 

Do You Know Why Your Customers Choose You?

customer-loyalty-mj-experiaWith more and more competing services spreading around the world, it is becoming easier to create look-alike companies and services. And yet, standing out from the crowd is one of the most important requirements of any company. Being different gives customers a good reason to choose your company over one of the many lookalikes.

There are many ways to be different. Offering a unique and better service is a good place to start. However, adding layers of innovative services or developing a brand with special attributes can also make you look and feel different.

One of the most important roles that market research can play is to find out what your potential audience wants and needs, and use these findings to help differentiate your company or service offering.

With almost two decades of market research expertise, I have outlined below a few compelling reasons as to why you should survey your customers. As for the process of creating the survey, how the survey is conducted, and what methods can be used to follow up, I’ll leave those for another blog later in the month!

Customer Loyalty: Understand the magic – what they like about you and what they dislike. Knowing what keeps them coming back over and over again is the secret to your success. Loyalty is the magic when they start talking about you and referring you to others.

Customer Satisfaction: Satisfied customers are those who do not have outstanding negative issues concerning you on their mind. This doesn’t mean everything has always been perfect. Sometimes things may not have gone all right. In all such situations you gave your customers a chance to talk to you. Sympathetic listening to customers is essential. An online survey, or better yet, a personal phone call from a third party, provide an excellent way for your customers to have a chance to get their side of the story out without being interrupted. A second essential is follow-through. Proper tools of analysis will help you segment your customers into different categories based on what you need to do in return. Then show them you “heard” them and are putting their words into action.

Effective Communication: By inviting customers to talk to you through careful design of your survey or asking key questions in a telephone conversation can effectively inform your customers about things they may not know or remind them of important changes or innovations in your organization. This is clever because customers will take your survey more seriously than most other communication you send them.

Spotting Trends: Beyond understanding the drivers behind loyalty and satisfaction of your customers, you can benefit from the wisdom of the masses by asking them for their ideas and spotting patterns in their feedback. Spotting such trends ahead of competition could offer you a significant advantage.

Think about your own loyalty as a customer and why you choose certain brands or companies to work with – heck, knowing what your customers value is what’s behind those great beer commercials who put their customer in their brand experience! Listen to your customers; let them show you what they value and once you act on their input, enjoy watching your business grow!

When was the last time you conducted a customer survey? Did you send out an online survey or did you call your customers? Did you follow up on the customer feedback and if so, how? Do you feel you did a professional job or do you think you should have hired a marketing firm to conduct it for you?

Marketing Resolutions To Keep for 2015!

HNYWith the New Year upon us, most of us are taking the time to reflect on the past year and look towards the next. Everyone will soon be talking about how 2015 will be the best year yet – without it actually having happened yet! But it doesn’t have to be all talk. Here are four resolutions to keep in your marketing plan for the coming year:

  1. Check out the competition: See where your competition is spending their money, you could learn something! Are they focusing on branding themselves? What keywords do they use on their website? Knowing this information will inform your marketing strategy and will help find ways to help you stick out from your competition.
  2. Explore your social platforms: Find what platform works best for you and engages your target audience the most. If your subject matter is image heavy, don’t be disappointed if you’re struggling with success on Twitter – it may not be where your best audience is. Try Instagram instead!
  3. Invest in measurement: Whether you’re looking to launch a national campaign, book an ad in a magazine, or start a blog, make sure that wherever you choose to spend your marketing dollars on has the best ROI.
  4. Increase your curiosity: Never stop trying and testing new campaigns or messaging! You will not only keep your content fresh, but over time you will refine messages to your current target markets, and find new ones. Digital advertising is one of the most flexible mediums for messaging and testing new content. Get out there!

2014 wouldn’t have been the kind of year it was for CreativeWorks without my incredible clients! Thank you. Your businesses inspire me and I look forward to working with you in 2015.

To those of you following this blog or engaging in my discussions on LinkedIn who are not my clients, thank you for your interest and engagement. In 2015, I will continue to bring you hands-on, thought-provoking insights and case studies based on my personal experiences as the owner of a Canadian marketing agency.

On behalf of all of us at CreativeWorks Marketing, I wish you and your family the very best for the holidays and New Year!

Are there any topics you’d like me to write about in 2015? Please share your questions and comments below.

Holidays, Giving, and Brand Building

philanthropy-charity-donate

Much like celebrities, your business is in the public eye, even if it’s a B2B business, so you probably receive requests for donations, and solicitations for sponsorships all the time.

How do you make the decision whether or not to respond to all of them? Do you cherry pick a few organizations to help, or go with your personal bias and choose a charity close to your heart, or do you choose based on what is right for your brand / business? Depending on your answer, you approach could cause you to miss out on opportunities to strengthen your brand through charitable efforts.

Compared to yesterday’s customer, today’s customer is much savvier and expects more from your company. Today, they have greater access to company information, so it’s pretty transparent when a business does a few good things to boost their reputation, versus a business that has put all their charitable efforts and resources into making a real impact on society.

As a business owner myself, I recommend shifting your business’s approach from obligation (something you feel your company should do) to opportunity (something your company might want to do).

To decide whether or not you should make that donation on behalf of your company, think about the following things first:

  1. Does this organization have relevance in your industry?

Support issues and platforms relevant to your industry. If you are part of the food industry, try getting involved with a charity that promotes healthy eating habits, provides meals… etc.

  1. Does this organization have community relevance?

Your customers are your community. Ask yourself, would your customers be on board with your charity of choice?

  1. Is this organization relevant to your target market?

By supporting causes your target market cares about, you gain their attention, respect and trust (something businesses can spend years and big money building). Align yourself with what appeals to your target.

  1. Does this organization have brand relevance?

By having your charitable efforts feed into your brand identity and positioning you will reinforce your brand message, and differentiate yourself.

To support an organization is a strategic decision, and if selected carefully, it won’t dilute your brand’s core values. If anything, selecting an appropriate charity communicates your goals and ideals more clearly to your target customers and partners.

Also, don’t forget – as much as donating to or sponsoring a charity is beneficial to your brand, it also just feels good to give.

Is your business involved with a charity? If so, why did you pick that charity? What was your approach, and what do you hope to gain (if anything) by involving yourself with that organization? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!

What’s Your Biggest Pain Point?

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As marketers, we try to assess client’s needs and results to understand what strategy should be followed to help them achieve their goals.  As success can be measured on various levels including ROI, awareness, reach, leads, and conversions, it is critical to clearly define your needs, so a targeted strategy can be developed.  Needs are usually rooted in what I like to call “pain points”. In this weeks blog, I thought I would take the pulse of the industry and ask you what you feel are biggest pain points facing your business.

As a result of this quick survey, I hope to share with you “pain point” trends and some analysis of what these trends might mean for our industry and your business. The results will only be as strong as your participation, so I hope you’ll participate. What is the top “pain point” facing your business?

  • Financial concerns
  • Employee/personnel issues
  • Marketing ROI
  • Marketing strategy
  • Online marketing (emails, web, ads)
  • Mobile application of business
  • No brand awareness
  • Lack of sales
  • Lack of innovation
  • Other – define:

I look forward to reading the results and sharing the trends in next week’s blog.

Netflix is tuned-in to brand loyalty

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If you’ve heard buzz surrounding the release of the much-anticipated second season of Orange is the New Black, it’s because fans of the popular show could not wait to know what was going to happen next in the series. But you won’t have seen too much advertising traction as other popular shows. This is because it appears that the world of television is changing with the habits and preferences of its viewers, and Netflix, the creator of shows such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, is listening.

Instead of spending their multi-million dollar budgets on pricey, large-scale adverts, Netflix pours its investment into the creation and production of quality, highly sought-after content, like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. With amazing writing and serious star-power (we’re looking at you, Kevin Spacey), that can’t be found on TV, Netflix subscribers are left wanting more without being bombarded with promotional material they don’t have time for.

Perhaps it is decreasing levels of patience or increased wariness of B2C advertising, but television viewers do not want their viewing experience interrupted by advertising. With the introduction of TV recording systems, many people PVR their favourite episodes and fast forward through the commercials – ads are simply white noise. Netflix understands this pet peeve and brings episodes to its subscribers without advertisements or commercial breaks. A Netflix subscriber doesn’t feel marketed or promoted to, which helps build brand credibility and trust between the company and its customer base.

Are you a TV binge-watcher? Binging defined as watching more than one episode of a show in one sitting. The trend of “marathonning” episodes is becoming more common as today’s viewer demands instant gratification, immediacy and efficiency in their entertainment. Also, due to busy schedules, viewers want to be able to watch their favourite shows on their own schedule, which speaks to the large popularity of PVR. Viewers do not want to wait between episodes, and again, Netflix is listening: Netflix released Orange is the New Black season 2 in bulk – every episode available for subscribers at once, so they could watch at their own pace, without commercial interruption.

It seems as though Netflix is very tuned into their audience – listening to their viewing public and providing quality content that people are willing to pay for. Could all television be going this way soon? Do you subscribe to Netflix? How has it changed television viewing for you? I look forward to your thoughts below.

Teach Your Customers to Fish

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You know that expression “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? Well, the same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.

Think about this principle in your own life, when a customer service person is particularly helpful you remember the experience and it creates, what I call, a positive brand experience, which means, you are more likely to shop there based on your previous experience.

Now more than ever, your company is forced to compete for your customers’ attention, but if you’re useful enough and if you commit to inform rather than promote, customers will reward you with trust and loyalty.

There are several marketing tools that can be used to provide some useful information for free to help you build long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers, including chats, webinars and newsletters, but nothing is more powerful than a professionally written blog.

Although a company blog requires a the largest time commitment, the benefits to your business cannot be denied:

  • Businesses that blog have 55% more web visitors.
  • B2C businesses that blog generate 88% more leads per month.
  • B2B businesses that blog generate 67% more leads per month.

Facts and my own experience all lead me to the same conclusion that businesses should consider providing a blog for their customers.  In order to give it the attention it requires, ensure that your blog:

  1. Is professionally written
  2. Provides useful industry insights that your audience wants to know more about
  3. Maintains frequency (I suggest 1 a week or a minimum of 2 a month)
  4. Is published on the same day and time each week
  5. Engages your audience with tips and questions
  6. Provides visuals
  7. Has relevant and topical subject matter
  8. Avoids shameless self promotion (no selling or references to your products or services)
  9. Is open and honest
  10. Written in first person
  11. Written (or ghost written) by an owner or very least senior executive (not the marketing VP – see point 8
  12. Is correctly tagged and posted
  13. Posted on a company-branded and formatted blog with tracking capabilities (e.g. WordPress or Blogger)

The difference between “helping” and “selling” is just two letters in terms of spelling, but those two letters can make all the difference to the way your audience perceives your brand.

What ways have you positioned your marketing to provide free advice to your customers?  Do you have an online chat, webinars or a blog?  If not, why not?  It’s never too late to give your audience a positive brand experience and leave them asking for more!