Category Archives: How to

Questions to Ask before Starting Market Research

ask questions before starting market research

To drive the types of smarter marketing decisions that lead to revenues, think through these  questions before starting market research projects.

What do you need to learn and why?

In order to effectively conduct marketing activities, you should be really clear on what insights you are missing. Examples of great research questions:

  • Would budget-minded or premium-driven customers, in the quantities needed, best respond to our next product launch?
  • What are the barriers to action for our category?
  • How should we divide our market into segments so that we can develop products that best need each group’s unique needs?
  • Why does our brand seem to be on the decline?

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How to Best Spend your Last Marketing Month of 2016

Last Month of 2016

With 2017 almost here, you may be wondering how best to spend your last marketing month of 2016.  Which part of your marketing mix has worked best for you, what seems promising but needs adjusting, and what have you not yet considering doing that may drive revenues next year?  Three ways to get set up for next year:


Decide where best to focus your brand energy and budget in 2017 by figuring out how, where and when to best to talk to your market in the coming year.

Focus includes the ways channels and strategies can complement each other and boost effectiveness.  For example, according to research by Peter Field and Les Binet, an ad campaign that includes TV increases effectiveness by 40%, but one that includes both online video and TV will see an effectiveness boost of 54%.  Online video alone?  Just a 25% boost.

Include long term brand building and short term sales activation — they work together to sustain a business’ income stream.  Digital sales activation tactics’ ease of measurement may encourage marketers to overemphasize them.  Offering a discount promo code and seeing a sales bump may give you great short term ROMI results.  But too much of it may teach consumers that your offering isn’t worth full price, eroding profits over the long term.

Fine Tune

Fine Tune a ViolinNot sure you’re communicating as well as you’d like with the people who buy your product or service?  Now is a good time to reassess your market, especially as you plan to enter a new year of marketing. Are the same people buying your product or service?  Clarify their demographics (age, gender, education, income, geography, profession); psychographics (attitudes about your category, cultural preferences, aspirations); and behaviors (frequency of purchase, social media habits, competitive purchases, substitutions).  Hit the ground running in 2017 by making sure your research and strategy is up to date.  Consider this tool to get organized.


Look ahead to economic, social, technology and business changes that may be coming next year.  With a new administration in Washington and the accompanying policy adjustments, make sure you budget money to keep your strategy and tactics anticipating what’s to come.

Promised spending on US infrastructure may benefit growth oriented businesses.  So plan new marketing investments and include your company in the potential upside.

Freelance strategist and researcher Jennifer Cooper brings insights to food, culture, clothing and other consumer brands, and their agencies, to refine communications, product strategy and user experience.

Photos by Dafne Cholet and Mitch Huang.

how to find new product ideas, new product ideation, ideas for new products

8 Places to Look for New Product Ideas

how to find new product ideas, new product ideation, ideas for new productsHaving moderated numerous ideation sessions and testing hundreds of new product concepts and prototypes, I’ve seen first hand which new product processes work, and which don’t.

But before ideating or testing anything, you have to know what influences to even consider. Where should you go for inspiration for new products?

1. The competition.

Ever wonder why there are so many “me too” products launched each year?  Because they’re effective. Seeing a promising new product break through in the marketplace can be a clue that there’s more demand where that came from.

2. Your own products.

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9 Ways to Boost Response Rates for Online Surveys

Race car with back wheels off turning cornerLet’s face it: online surveys aren’t always the most exciting part of marketing research. Nevertheless, they are important in gathering data and getting answers to the questions you have been asking.

While there is no ‘standard response rate’ for online surveys, the fact of the matter is that more is better. High response rates means you can be more confident that the sample reflects the population you’re trying to study. So, how do we boost response rates for online surveys?

First, we should touch on the psychology of survey responders.

What motivates people to take online surveys?

Salience. If the person is interested in the topic, they are more likely to complete the survey.

Commitment or investment. Respondents complete surveys when they are personally connected to the success and improvement of the brand, its products and services. Continue reading

How to Start to Segment Your Buyers

Gas pump grades close upI once saw a MAD Magazine cartoon that showed three gas pumps with different levels of octane and different prices. But the artist also showed the cutaway of the single below ground tank that provided the same exact same gas to each pump.

Funny, of course. But there’s some truth to the idea. Different people want different experiences, products and price points while meeting the same need. So in a product, like gas, that most people buy, sometimes the key to success is to sell slightly different products to different people.

In the 1970s, Howard Moskowitz was asked by Pepsi to determine what the perfect level of sweetness was for Diet Pepsi. The brand wanted to appeal to the largest audience. From the Continue reading

Fit Key to Brand Extension Success

How to Extend Your Brand to Up the Odds of New Product Success.

2014 US Open (Tennis) - Qualifying Rounds - Saisai ZhengU.S. manufacturers introduce more than 150,000 new products in 2010 alone. Of these, more than 90 percent were extensions of existing brand-name products. The extreme failure rate (80% or more) often cited for new products is apparently closer to 30-49% for launched products. So investing your company’s budget and effort in new product development, especially products that leverage your current brand equity, makes sense.

Brand extension that wasn’t

My first marketing job was for a cute catalog with a cartoon family as spokespeople in the then-emerging category of software that served a dual purpose: to educate and entertain children. At that time, technology-leading teachers and doting, upscale parents were in need of basics. They wanted help in choosing and using all the best titles, and a return policy for these expensive teaching (and babysitting) computer tools.

A few years into it, prices were declining, big-box stores were starting to carry the titles, and our efficient little start-up had excess capacity. What about those gaming titles, the entrepreneurs Continue reading

How to Conduct a Focus Group

Step by Step Information on Planning and Moderating Focus Groups

Family shopping in Asian grocery storeYou may want to know how to conduct a focus group in order to understand how buyers feel about your brand, which new product ideas to pursue, or who your buyers are. While survey research can tell you how many, or what, focus groups are good at uncovering why people feel certain ways. Letting people talk with each other means they build on each other’s ideas and sometimes influence each other – just like word of mouth influences people in “real life”.

While you may spend every waking moment considering new uses for your product, you may well find that your buyers seldom do. So letting people come together to consider your business means they are reminded of what little they do think and can evolve their feelings over the course of the group. Since marketing is the art and science of influencing people, it’s helpful to see this happen in real time.

Decide Who You Want to Talk To

Who will you be selling your product or service to? Talk to them. If you already have an ongoing Continue reading

So You Want a Market Research Career?

Advice on Getting into Marketing Research for Students or Career Changers.

University of Iowa hats on clothesline.I’ve had research participants, clients, agency partners and other potential job changers ask me how to have a brand strategy or market research career. Apparently, chatting with people for a living, diving into the data, and helping to drive ideas in a company seems like good fun.

To Math or Not to Math?

Like many careers, the world of marketing research sometimes splits into qualitative (no-math) versus quantitative (yes-math). Qualitative researchers who conduct focus groups, in-depth interviews or in-home ethnographies often prefer the world of emotion, opinion, nuance and richness. They believe that understanding the why behind a situation is more meaningful Continue reading

How to Series: In-Depth Interview Research

Guide to Conducting an IDI (In-Depth Interview Research or One-on-One Interview)

13981256424_9658f31715_zFocus groups for marketing research provide a space where you can see ideas move about between people. Information flow happens in real time and topics that aren’t top of mind benefit from the different perspectives offered. While survey research quantifies ‘how many’ and ‘how much’, qualitative methods like focus groups go deeper to shed light on ‘why’ and ‘in what way’ types of questions.

This makes them ideal for developmental purposes like new product concept-to-prototype stages, buyer understanding, positioning research and usability studies.

An IDI, also called an in-depth or one-on-one interview, consists of real-time interaction between an interviewer and a participant. It can be done in person, online or on the phone. It’s best used for situations where group interaction would be uncomfortable or misleading, where an individual’s motivations, opinions, and values are thought to exist independently of social pressures, or when the interaction Continue reading