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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2017 Marketing and Advertising Trends: More Voices


After writing on Wednesday with some tips on what you should do now to prepare for 2017 marketing and advertising trends, I thought it would be helpful to include some more perspectives, especially on balancing digital and traditional channels.

Multi-Channel Approach

Scott Dahlgren, Connections Director at Preston Kelly, built on Wednesday’s post.  “You make a great point about using a multi-channel approach to increase effectiveness. We have seen similar results for a client where the mix of TV and digital drove 5x the site traffic than a digital-only campaign with a similar impression level.  Advertisers shouldn’t get too enamored with the continued hype of digital being able to solve everything.  We remind our clients not to forget the power traditional media still has.”

In 2017, look to use TV as a credibility driver for direct sales, online traffic and retail engagement, says Ellie Martin, Contributor to Entrepreneur.

Modern Marketing Combines Digital and Traditional

Jack Silverman, VP Business Development, at Bolin, also advises, “As you enter 2017 it’s most important to remember that you’re not either a digital or traditional marketer. What you should strive for is a modern marketing approach.  In other words, you have business and marketing objectives to fulfill and today that involves many marketing strategies and tactics that go across a wide range of communication channels and formats.  Some are digital, some are traditional and some are in the most obscure out-of-home places.  It’s about being in the right place with the right content at the right time.”

Consider Trending Instagram and Snapchat

Which digital platforms should you be considering?  Gavin O’Malley quotes eMarketer, which predicts that 2017 will be the year that more marketers will be using Instagram than Twitter.  By 2017, the research firm forecasts, 74.2% of U.S. companies (or at least those with more than 100 employees) will use Instagram for marketing purposes — markedly more than the 66.2% that will be using Twitter.

By 2020, meanwhile, Snapchat is on track to add 26.9 million users — or about double that of Twitter and Pinterest.  It’s fun, and that appeals to Snapchat’s biggest user base, the 34% between 18-24 years old.  It also makes social media more private.

Smartphone-Only Internet Access Homes are Growing

Statistically speaking, nearly 65% of you are reading this article on your smartphone right now, notes Tyler Wilson of J and L Marketing.  Nearly a year and a half ago, comScore reported that the number of mobile-only internet users surpassed desktop-only internet users in the U.S.  As leaps and bounds are made in mobile innovation, more and more users are turning to their personal mobile devices for their internet browsing.  While spending your workday in front of your screen, remember that the number of smartphone-only home internet users is growing.

Have a Lead Generation Plan

And lastly, Silverman of Bolin adds that, “2017 will be the year that marketing automation and analytics continue to grow.  Remember, it’s not about what MA software you need to buy.  It’s about the overall strategy around managing your lead generation.  You need to have a plan around nurturing your lead funnel all the way from initial engagement to activation.  Depending on what product or service you provide and length of your sales cycle will dictate those nurturing paths and the content that you need to provide at key moments in the buyer’s journey.”

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.


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.

10 Freelancer Best Practices for Strategists, Planners and Researchers

freelancer on computer and phone

According to The 2015/2016 Strategist Survey Report, created by Heather LeFevre, Freelance Strategist, freelancers in our field work as many hours per week as they’d like. So for an educated, experienced, working freelancer like the 2556 strategists who took her survey, freelancing meets their career, and life, goals.  How to make it work for you?  Following are 10 freelancer best practices.

1. Find the right amount of independence/support in a team.

Some freelancers want to accept an assignment, work independently, and provide results.  Others prefer to work more closely with a team, collaborating on process, interim deliverables and recommendations.  Either approach can be effective depending on the style and needs of your client.  Just make sure you’re setting and meeting expectations before you start.

2. Communicate intelligently.

Set up times to check in with your client and respond to communications in between.  Sending Continue reading

A Few Consumer Insights Definitions

Boston Public Library Reading RoomMarketing often uses terms that are understood differently by different people. Why? Because many of them are made up to capture current trends. Following are a few consumer insights definitions.

Consumer Insights

Consumers Insights is kind of a trendy way of communicating that Marketing Research reports with tons of crosstabs and charts, Focus Group backroom notes, and Online Bulletin Board transcripts require sophisticated thinking before they become relevant in a business situation. Drawing Consumer Insights from studies means figuring out what actually matters about your business’ consumers and how to apply that knowledge to marketing. Insights should be built on human truths, and can be used to influence product development, communications, pricing Continue reading

How Much Does a Focus Group Cost?

Price Tag to Symbolize Cost of Focus GroupsWhen considering marketing research for your organization, you may not know how much to budget for it, or even how much a focus group costs. Because primary market research projects are designed around the needs and scope of the specific client’s situation, costs depend on many factors. So organizations that don’t have a long history of conducting research or have been doing it in-house and are newly considering bringing in professional vendors often don’t know what dollar amount to expect.

Upside and Downside Risk

Another thing that complicates the budgeting process is trying to figure out how valuable research will be before doing it. One way to think of its value is that marketing research Continue reading

Graphic: Content & Customer Service Drive Trust in Marketing

Brands work hard to get in front of buyers. It’s important to keep in mind how important consistency and other elements that build trust are in converting prospects to buyers and in keeping current buyers from going elsewhere. The graphic below, created by Ghergich & Co. for Salesforce Canada, shows how online, email and offsite Content and responsive Customer Service combine to help business marketers create an atmosphere of trust. Continue reading

7 Reasons to Hire a Professional Focus Group Moderator

JugglerMany client-side researchers find themselves pressured to conduct all of their brand’s research in-house. Social media tracking, survey design and analysis and customer satisfaction tracking can be successful hands-on activities for talented corporate insights professionals. Why not bring focus groups completely in-house as well?

Usually this question doesn’t come from those insights team members or even marketing leaders who have watched and used the recommendations from focus groups run by professional facilitators. It comes from higher ups who may have sat in on a few well-run groups and figure “how hard could it be”?

So for those tasked with new product concept testing, usability research or brand strategy research, following is a list of 7 reasons you should hire a professional focus group moderator.

1. Experienced focus group moderators have tools to handle difficult group dynamics.

Groups of people who come together for focus groups can be challenging. A moderator has to Continue reading

How to Stay Sharp Over the Holidays: A Few Holiday Tips

cat sleeping during holidays

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get back into the work mindset after the holidays? You’re in vacation mode and you dread the full inbox and the 9am status meeting or client call. It takes weeks to get back into the swing of things and projects ultimately fall behind. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The best way to start strong is to not lose momentum in the first place.

I know what you’re thinking: I don’t mean continuing to work over the holiday! That would have the opposite effect—everyone needs time off to recharge, so turn off your phone and leave the work laptop at the office. But there are some things you can do to make returning to work more enjoyable. Here are five holiday tips:

1. Organize before you leave

Instead of leaving issues unsettled , take a few minutes to send emails to contractors who need Continue reading

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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