focus group

Let’s Focus Group It

I’ve been designing and moderating focus groups for three decades.  What an amazing idea:  put 10 of your best customer prospects in a room or 10 of your target “personas” in a room or 10 of the people you hope will vote for you or buy your product or service… and have them discuss why your product or service is best, how it could be improved, what it means to them to have it, what your competitors are doing better than you, how they hope your product or service will change their lives.

I used to resent the use of the title phrase “let’s focus group it,” determining that it demeaned the science and value of the group dynamic.  But, I’ve changed my mind.  Keeping “focus groups” front and center to help organizations understand “consumer” behavior is what I hope for.

This blog post came to mind when I saw this charming comic (I love comics!) about focus grouping in the 16th Century.

focus group

Six Chix comic by Isabella Bannerman, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer

But, from the point of view of the experienced moderator (me), I say this:  let’s not misuse these great tools and presume that they are quantitative survey samples or polls.  Focus groups work best when you need to hear the “whys” behind the numbers or the choices, when you want to learn what will really impact people choosing your product or service.  And, you need a moderator who knows how and when to ask the “whys” and help people consider their choices… because understanding that contributes to design of effective marketing communications, strategies, product concepts, and reasons-to-choose/benefits.

Let’s talk more about how we design and moderate focus groups for optimal results.


For more information, contact Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x104.

community studies

Community Studies: What Makes Your Community Thrive?

We all belong to various communities, but we may not understand what defines them or what makes them thrive. Oxford Dictionaries defines community as: A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”

In our experience, this definition begs further consideration. At Melior, our work often centers on exploring what truly defines a community, understanding what community means to people, and identifying drivers for assuring that the community thrives.

Why is it important to understand your community? Many leaders of mission-based organizations and government programs are wondering about the drivers of “thrivancy” and what makes the communities they serve special and unique… the factors that define them, make them worthy of support, and that represent their values.

We have worked with communities across the country, where our studies have been used to contribute insight into the distinctive drivers of growth and prosperity, health and well-being, and overall quality of life. These descriptors define the unique and complex characteristics of each community, which helps our clients can carry out their missions and meet the needs of their communities, developing successful programming and services for the future.

Community A vs. B vs. C: They Couldn’t Be More Different

Recently, we examined three different groups: Community A, Community B, and Community C. We asked each community the same type of question, and the results in each were different:

Community studies graphic

How Can Each Community Promote “Thrivancy”?

In exploring the quality that each community sees as vital to “thrivancy”, its members and leaders have the opportunity to best serve the community’s needs, and foster that quality within their community.

Community A chose “diversity”, signifying that these people value access to multiple ideas and options, and living among people of varied backgrounds. Knowing this, the community leaders could benefit their members by offering programming that promotes diversity, such as immigration support services, an inclusive interfaith dinner, and community lectures from guests sharing different viewpoints.

Community B chose “respectful leadership”, indicating that the community members value polite and considerate behavior from their elected and appointed leaders. In order to ensure this type of relationship, community leaders could organize regular town hall meetings to elicit feedback, and volunteer opportunities where everyone works together and leaders are integrated into the community.

Community C chose “quality of life and family-friendly initiatives” as the most necessary drivers for their community to thrive. Therefore the leaders of this community could focus on services surrounding wellness, transportation, and education, and emphasize family-friendly programs such as safe walking paths to schools and an annual carnival in the park.

Community A, Community B and Community C all have very different ideas about what elements are necessary for their community to thrive. Thus, the members and leaders of each community should not take the same actions as one of the other communities.

Rather than comparing themselves to or emulating other communities, each community should respond to their members’ specific thoughts and values. From small to big, there are actionable steps Communities A, B, and C can take to build stronger communities.

How Melior Can Help You Engage Your Community

Clearly, the drivers that define “community” and “thrivancy” are different between Communities A, B and C, as are the reasons these drivers were rated so highly by community members. And that’s an important point to this endeavor: it’s not only knowing how members define their own communities, but why they do so.

The Melior Group is highly experienced in community studies and identifying community drivers. We utilize state-of-the-art methodologies, incorporating creative approaches to gathering community-based information. We also analyze the data specifically with the goals of our clients in mind, offering insightful, action-oriented information. Our clients are thus able to address community concerns and ensure that their community will thrive.

The key takeaway is this:  it’s important to know the drivers that make your community thrive, so you can best position your organization to carry out its mission and meet your community’s needs.


For more information on our work, please visit our Government/Civic Entities page or Mission-based Organizations page or contact Elizabeth Foley at 215-545-0054 x111 or efoley@meliorgroup.com.

Personalization

Personalization: Don’t Be Afraid to Actually Talk to Someone

An editorial in the February 19, 2016, Philadelphia Business Journal by Editor-in-Chief, Craig Ey, got me thinking about whether ‘personal service’ is dead and replaced by ‘personalization’.

Mr. Ey, after touting the growth, success and amazing benefits of electronic communication, offered that “person-to-person contact can be a great strategic advantage, particularly at a time when many of your competitors are relying strictly on electronic pitches.  I know they are because that’s how the vast majority of people try to establish or maintain a business relationship with me.”  He further complimented someone who actually called him on a telephone to introduce his company.

For so many of us, ‘business relationship’ is really about ‘relationship’… getting to know each other, thinking about the business issues we deal with, considering whether we can actually help one another in some way.

Being in the business of serving clients with market-based information and marketing research for over 30 years, I’ve been so excited about the advances in electronic communications and the ease and speed of delivery of necessary information.  Email allows us to quickly advise clients, to ask and answer questions at all times of the day, to assure the highest level of responsiveness clients deserve.

I’ve been reading recently about ‘personalization’ and getting confused as to what it means.  I read a review of a study that said that “marketers looking to deliver exceptional customer experience will increasingly turn to personalization as the key driver to maximize customer value… that customers expect that the brands will understand who they are, what their habits are, what they want, etc.”  [A shout-out to Altus Agency, the Marketing Minute; referencing Pegasystems “Predicting Routes to Revenue”]

I was hoping that this meant that organizations and their leaders are actually getting to know their customers and providing solutions based on who they are, what they value, what they think about.  But, I think I might have misunderstood the concept of personalization or maybe I’m a little jaundiced.  How can brands understand us?  Isn’t it the people working at/for “the brand” who have to understand their customers’ wants, needs, interests?  Shouldn’t we be reaching out to and actually meeting these customers and learning more about them?

Electronic communication has given us at The Melior Group a significant and dynamic platform for introducing ideas, getting prospective and current clients to think about things that might matter, identifying trends and the implications of them for business.  It has especially given me access to companies that I believe we can help with our services and those who may not be great fits (with both parties realizing this).  I’ve also met thousands of people on LinkedIn and other social media who are doing amazing things.

But, what we’re missing is the emotional and physical nuances that make for a productive business relationship.  How are people going to know we want to work for them and them us?  Like Mr. Ey, I’m a believer in the handshake, look you in the eye, actually chat, maybe smile (but not necessary) – the “huge advantage” that human conversation and engagement can provide.

In a service business like we have – and even a product-focused business where prospective customers have to choose among many alternatives when purchasing – it is not enough to be able to connect.  It is more about talking and engaging with customers, prospects, donors, colleagues, others with shared interests.  I really believe that people today want to experience the “real you.”  In that way, maybe we can actually “personalize” what we’re offering.

This takes me back to an ad I have long remembered… when I was talking to staff about why it’s not enough to rely on electronic communication… give a look and see how you feel about business relationships.

 

 

 


For more information, please contact Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x104.

Polling v Research

Polling v. Marketing Research

As the presidential election cycle heats up, pre-election polling – which is used to gauge candidates’ support and predict election outcomes – is under increased scrutiny.  Publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, US News and World Report  have written about recent “disasters”, that is, election outcomes which were not aligned with pre-election polling results.

If Polling is Flawed, How Accurate is Marketing Research?

All of this publicity about flawed polling has generated a degree of panic among some of our clients (and us!).  The Melior Group works with all kinds of organizations that are interested in developing quantitative evidence – which some equate with a “poll” — to support decisions including introduction of a new product or service, development of a new marketing strategy, and myriad other information needs.   While unexpected election results and the pursuant head-scratching about flawed polling generate headlines, it is the marketing researchers in the trenches who bear the brunt of our clients’ angst.   They wonder about the accuracy of quantitative research, and question its role in their decision-making.

Cost-effective, Thoughtful, and Accurate Assessments

So what are marketing researchers to do when their client wants, say, to assess the impact of a marketing campaign through pre- and post-campaign research?  In the old days, the knee-jerk approach might be a telephone survey to collect a statistically rigorous sample with a low margin of error – the better to see real “movement” in the data.

But in this new world of ours, we say to our client, “that statistically rigorous sample with the low margin of error is increasingly difficult — and expensive! — to collect.”  Just showing them the costs is often enough to change the conversation to, “how can we assess the impact of the new marketing campaign in the most cost-effective, thoughtful, and accurate way possible?”

Meet People Where They Live

One approach is to focus on specific market segments, that is, to truly conduct Marketing Research.  Instead of trying to get a representative sample of the whole universe via one polling method, i.e., telephone or online, we recognize that more success can be had by meeting people where they live. For millennials, creative uses of social media can be surprisingly fruitful for marketing research purposes. And for middle-class boomers, online surveys can be just the right approach.

Focusing on specific market segments, and tailoring data collection appropriately, has other benefits too.  Just the very process of reconsidering the approach can propel us to be more thoughtful in our determination of what we truly want to learn.  Is it more important to see small movements in percentage of awareness and advertising recall, or might our client gain additional benefit from a deeper understanding of  attitudes, impressions and brand, within and in comparison to key segments?  We would argue that the latter can often be of greater use.

So does that mean we think that pre-election polling is for dinosaurs?  Not at all.  For a presidential race, say, margins of error can mean the difference between giving up on a state, and doing a full court campaign press.   But for marketing research purposes, reflecting on the true usefulness of measures that rely on statistically perfect samples may have unintended, and very positive, consequences.

 


For more information please contact  Elizabeth Cohen at lcohen@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x103 or please contact us.

Sometimes You Just Know. Or Do You?

Back in my newspaper reporting days, I wrote a lengthy, detail-packed Page One piece exploring the adequacy of changes in the nuclear power industry to mark the fifth anniversary of the Three Mile Island accident. The newspaper’s 30-person editorial staff did not include a fact-checker. So the next day when my editor received complimentary telephone calls from anti-nuclear activists and members of TMI’s public relations team, he told me: “You got it right!”

Because his intuition, informed by decades of experience with reader feedback, suggested:

  1. When both sides complained, his reporter probably got something – or many things – wrong.
  2. When only one side complained, it was 50-50: Did his reporter get something wrong or hit so close to home as to anger people on one side of the dispute?
  3. But when both sides were happy, that meant his reporter wrote a full and fair analysis.

Studies suggest that intuition alone – without supporting research – can produce accurate assessments, but only if the intuition is based on experiences that are representative of the current situation. My friends at The Melior Group and I encountered just that scenario during recent work with a mutual client. I was hired to analyze the client’s marketing communications; Melior, to do a demographic assessment and survey of target audiences.

Melior’s work began first but time and other constraints forced us to work more-or-less concurrently and independently. My analyses and recommendations were at least 90 percent cooked – I was well into my second draft – by the time Melior completed its work.

I opened Melior’s report with anticipation, not trepidation, because I expected what I found: The research findings supported my analyses on everything from brand promise and messaging to advertising strategy and PR tactics. Not because I’m some sort of boy genius (far too old and dimwitted for that) but because enough experience (30-plus years) and a modicum of intelligence can make one highly intuitive about certain things.

But here’s the kicker: Just like my editor, who thought the story he was printing was accurate but who still breathed a sigh of relief the next day, our client still needed Melior’s research findings. Heck, I needed them, too.

One, my recommendations carried a lot more weight when I could cite Melior’s findings to back them up. Research moved the conversation from “trust me” to “it’s just like I said.”

And two, well, at the risk of sounding all Donald Rumsfeldian: How do you know what you know intuitively is true?

You know?


Guest Writer Mark Eyerly is principal of Remarkable Communications LLC.

About the Author:
Mark is an exceptional strategist, problem solver, team builder and story teller who has led groups from three to 40 members in raising visibility and strengthening brand reputation for institutions in the corporate, higher education and philanthropic worlds.

Community Policing

President Obama Commends Camden: This “City Is On To Something”

In The Melior Group’s line of work, it’s always encouraging to see the results of our research put into action by our clients. It’s even more gratifying when just two years later that President Obama is touting your client for its innovative policing model.

Such was the case, when President Obama visited struggling Camden, New Jersey, to commend the community policing model that the relatively new Camden County Metro Police have been using for the better part of two years. This new model was implemented when the County replaced the city’s police force with a new county-run force.

Before moving forward with hiring the new force, The Melior Group engaged with Camden’s residents, civic leaders, and area law enforcement to learn what was working relative to policing in the city and what wasn’t – and how they could envision the members of the new police force interacting with members of the community. Our work contributed to the community policing model – the results were incorporated in a hiring plan for new Metro police officers, emphasizing themes of cultural awareness and sensitivity, community engagement, and compassion.

See more about our work:  Case Study:  This City Is On To Something

A sitting U.S. President last visited Camden in 1940 – when Camden was in its prime. Now the city has given our current President a reason to return and pay closer attention to the city that, for decades, has been in trouble. Its issues are numerous, among them an aging infrastructure, failing schools, and broken relationships between police and the community. Despite the challenges, Camden has started to address these issues and is repairing police-community relations, to national recognition.

Take a look at two recent articles for more information:

This City Is On To Something – Philly.com May 2015

Obama To Recommend Camden Policing As National Model – Philly.com May 2015

 


For more information on our work, please visit our Government/Civic page or contact Elizabeth Foley at 215-545-0054 ext 111/ efoley@meliorgroup.com or Linda McAleer at 215-545-0054 x104 / lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com.

College marketing logo

Who Manages The Relationship With Area Employers? Hint: It’s Not Always Career Services

In our previous post in the series – “Closing The Perception Gap: Are Students Trained to Put Theory Into Practice?”- we briefly touched on the importance of advancing communications and partnerships with employers to improve the general perception about a college or universities ability to deliver on career preparation. The focus was primarily on strategies that enable students to put theory into practice. When you consider developing partnerships at the executive level, doors can open that lead to true innovation.

While internships, hands-on training and job placement opportunities are vitally important to hiring rates and alumnae career trajectories, this aspect of the employer to institution relationship is largely handled in career services departments and is almost entirely student-focused. If this is the only way the institution is engaging employers, it’s likely that significant longer-term growth strategies have been missed.

Especially important to regional public universities and small private colleges are the following questions. What local or regional challenges exist that your graduates may be highly qualified to resolve? Will they be able to develop specific skills or knowledge that give them the competitive advantage in the hiring process?

Put Market Research To Work

The Melior Group worked with a quasi-urban school district in helping them to develop and enhance partnerships with universities who, with some tweaking, could develop programs that would deliver top-notch teachers who were ready to step-in and work in the type of environment where the district is located. A true partnership, the school district worked directly with faculty to make a direct and significant positive impact on area schools.

Along the way, The Melior Group made an informed pivot in their research design and adjusted geographic parameters to discover that there were nearby rural area school districts that could also benefit greatly from the same innovative techniques. The graduates, armed with the know-how to handle challenges perceived to be urban would also be well suited to assist specific rural populations.

Original Innovation Serves A Second Purpose

Universities that are new to this type of partnership development will want to re-examine the relationships they currently have with area employers by proactively asking insightful questions. What are these employers looking for from a partnership with a university? What unique quality can the university offer an employer to make the relationship valuable?

Buy-in from the top of the administration – with accountability and responsibility at the Vice Presidential level – to develop healthy relationships with employers can significantly increase hiring rates, elevate the school’s image as an innovative partner and substantially improve the longer-term vitality of the community.

The Melior Group works with large research institutions, regional public universities and small private colleges to improve the perception of their schools’ effectiveness by discovering where gaps in perception exist and drilling into what strategic mix of programmatic, communication and partnership initiatives can allow institutions to more easily deliver on expectations.


To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at efoley@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 x104.

Referring Physicians

Hospital Regional Appeal Improves Using Market Research

Without the resources to out-spend its competition, an in-city hospital sought a market research partner who could help them improve their image in their local community. In order to maximize the spend, they were in need of smart and efficient direction.

The Melior Group targeted both consumers and primary care physicians to uncover how to convey the hospital’s unique story and build its patient base. Research results helped to direct the hospital towards a new partnership plan, an improved referral process and a deeper focus on the people whose lives were changed for the good…read the full article here.


Elizabeth Cohen is Vice President of The Melior Group, and our lead consultant in our work in the health care sector.  For more information please visit our Healthcare page or contact Elizabeth Cohen at lcohen@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 ext 103.

Insight and Analytics in the Age of Big Data

Technology has enabled us to track vast amounts of data where we collect an overwhelming volume of response analytics, customer, and market data. Big data can tell us every move a customer or prospect makes. How do you use the data to make meaningful conclusions that can influence strategy and tactics?

On April 1st, we joined members of the American Marketing Association and the Marketing Research Association on the 45th Floor of the Comcast Center to grapple with this question.

After a short meet and greet, the group settled into a beautifully appointed conference room over looking the Philadelphia skyline. Event panelists included Kathleen Brunner, (President & CEO, Acumen Analytics), Jim Multari, (Executive Director, Market Planning & Research, Comcast), Aaron Maass (Founder & Owner, Maass Media) and was moderated by Lisa Dezzutti, (President & CEO, Market Connections, Inc.).

The panelists agreed that analytics should not be departmentalized and that traditional market research can lend significant insight and meaning to analytics. Jim Multari suggests that finding ways to collaborate across areas and combine resources can produce unexpected and valuable insights. For example, when you get people together across finance, acquisition, sales, user data, and they get to talking about research and analytics – new ways of thinking about the business can emerge.

Emily Nydick, Market Research Associate of The Melior Group, felt that each member of the panel provided great insight about how to move beyond “analysis paralysis.” By presenting complex research findings to clients in ways that breakdown information and highlight key points, the information becomes easy to understand and grasp for informed decision-making.

With a continually increasing data overload, it becomes ever more important to find the sweet spot at the intersection of analytics and traditional market research. Aaron Maass confirms it is hard to get good data – and the difference really comes from being able to ask good questions.

One of Melior’s hallmarks is presenting the research learnings in an easy-to-read format; we make sense of the data for our clients; and present information in reports that are easy to follow and are usually ready for distribution by our clients internally. We create user-friendly documents…and all are custom-created for the needs of each client.

While keeping business objectives top of mind, a proactive effort to marry market research with analytics in a way that distills down the information needed to tell the story – will produce the best results.


For more information or to request a proposal, please contact The Melior Group at (215)-545-0054 or melior@meliorgroup.com.

Millennials: Where will they go?

By Sharon Hackenbracht

As I noted previously in my earlier blog entry the life choices that are being made by millennials are significantly influenced by their parents.

While the recession compelled many millennials to live at home with their parents, a recent study projects that millennials – the largest and most diverse generation in history – will create up to 24 million new households in the next ten years. The Chicago Tribune reports that half of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 report that they plan to ask their parents, and even their grandparents, to help them come up with the down payment needed to purchase a home (as cited by www.trulia.com, 2014).

Where will these households be? How will millennials choose to live? And what furnishings will they decide they need? How will their choices differ from those of their parents, and what, if any, influence will their parents still wield on these choices?

 

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