When I worked agency-side, I spent more time than I care to remember behind one-way mirrors in research facilities. I sat in dimly lit room after room surrounded by bowls of peanut M&Ms, chips and all the bottled water I could possibly drink. I watched and listened as groups of 6-8 ‘consumers’ dissected their experience at shelf when choosing one bag of cookies over another. But for all of its woes, when done well, research can give us incredible insights into the minds of our customers.
These are all critical questions for any business to know the answer to…yet many don’t.
Since I began working with SMEs (small and medium enterprises), my exposure to research has come close to drying up. Many businesses within the events industry seem to forego formal dialogues with their customers. This is a shame because research can provide us with a window into your customer’s thoughts, providing those who listen with a big competitive advantage.
It’s a mandate of mine to do research with existing and lapsed customers when I work with a new client. Let me give you an example. I’m working with a client right now on developing their brand strategy. I have a list of 17 companies to call. After connecting with just 4, I can already see patterns of frustrations with their target market about the entertainment industry and have uncovered 2 ‘very easy to implement’ business ideas that will solve their frustrations. I am also starting to get a true sense of how my client is perceived in the marketplace. It’s one thing to ask my client what other people think of them…it’s far more insightful to go to those people directly.
1) Know what you want to achieve . One of the most important questions to answer before you begin with research is “What am I looking to get out of the call”. In the example I gave above, my objectives were to find out 1) How my client was perceived in the marketplace and 2) What frustrations their clients encounter when booking entertainment.
2) Ask the right questions . Having an objective is one way of helping you hone your questions. However, it’s a natural tendency to want to ask every question you can. This is not a good use of your time nor your customer’s. Keep your questions to a minimum and ask yourself, “Is this question going to answer my objective(s)?”.
3) Call, don’t email . We’re all inundated with emails. None of us have enough time in the day. Knowing this, how effective will it be to email your customers with questions? For most SMEs it’s perfectly feasible to call your customers as you’re not dealing with a list of thousands. A two-way dialogue will also allow you to dig deeper on insights that may arise in your conversation.
4) Communicate value . When you call your customers to ask for their time, tell them what’s in it for them. In the case of my client, it was as simple as saying that their feedback would help us continue to build a better experience for them.
5) Consider outsourcing . If you call your customers they may hold back from being honest for fear of hurting or insulting you. The benefit of a third party is that fear is diminished. Ensure if you’re hiring someone that they are clear with your contacts that they are phoning on behalf of your company but do not work for you. Also, make sure you hire someone you feel will do a good job representing your business, someone who can work off-script in order to get the best insights and someone who can disseminate through the research to extract patterns and help you uncover ideas and solutions.
When have you used research to better an experience for your customers? What tips would you provide to others to get the best out of their efforts?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a growing concern I have regarding ‘The Social Media Expert‘. Social media is not well understood, is over-hyped and there are a large number of people scrambling to capitalize on the buzz. As a marketing communications consultant I very much believe in the power of social media, when done strategically.
After my previous post, I received a couple of emails asking for advice on how to determine whether someone is really the expert they claim to be. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to ask a lot of questions. Seth Godin wrote about this recently and did a beautiful job of summarizing what happens when you spend time talking to someone. Essentially, people who have little depth will run out of original things to say very quickly. The more depth, the more layered and educational your conversation will be.
I have put together a very comprehensive list of 6 categories and 25+ interview questions to ask any Social Media Expert to determine their level of expertise and fit for your business. You will be given a link to download your free copy when you sign up for the Sparks of Genius Newsletter.
Let me know your feedback and would love to hear how the questionnaire worked for you. Oh, and if you have any problems with the form below, Sign up for our free newsletter here!
I can’t believe that summer is almost over! As my days of linen and white come to an end, I’m preparing for a jam-packed September. Take a gander at my schedule and let me know if we’ll have an opportunity to meet:
September 9, 2010 (some time between 2:00-3:00pm) – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Event Camp Twin Cities
Pecha Kucha Session: Fables, Stories & Sagas – How they shape and influence us.
If you’re not familiar with Petcha Kutcha, presenters are challenged with presenting 20 slides and only have 20 seconds per slide. This is a great way to hone down a razor-sharp point about a subject in a 6+ minute sound byte. It will be my first time presenting in this format and will be a fun challenge! If you can’t attend this event in person you may just be able to watch it live. Follow the Event Camp Twin Cities blog for further details.
September 9, 2010 @ 5:00pm – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Event Camp Twin Cities
Presentation of the Eventprofs Blog Award Winners!!
This event will be broadcast live for those of you who can’t make it down to the event in person.
September 16, 2010 @ 12:15pm – Minneapolis, Minnesota – ISES Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter
September 24, 2010 @ 8:30am – Manila, Philippines – Philippines Marketing Association
Webinar on Social Media – Please contact Next Step Events for further information
September 26-28, 2010 – Chicago, Illinois
Full day Brand Strategy Workshop on 28th (private event)
September 30, 2010 – Toronto, Ontario – TedxTO Attendee
I was delighted to have been selected for this invite-only event taking place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Tedx conferences bring together the best and the brightest in speakers and influencers to exchange ideas over one day. I’ll be taking vigorous notes and look forward to bringing back some great ideas.
It’s only natural to want to be around people just like us. It feels good when others agree with us. It makes us happy when people understand us, have similar backgrounds, goals, dreams.
Social media has amplified our ability to connect with people just like us – although they might well be geographically diverse, they share the same beliefs, vocations, interests or hobbies. Some might argue that the ability to search for anyone based on a keyword, hashtag or shared connection is only furthering our spiral into uniformity. It’s with this behavior that we can cocoon ourselves within communities of the ‘like minded’ and quell our ability to stretch our limits.
On the contrary, diversity can punch holes through our mental walls. It can help us transcend convention, challenging our point of view and bringing us new ideas and perspectives.
Explore outside of your boundaries. Take a walk through unfamiliar territory. Introduce yourself to distant neighbors. And bring the new ideas you’ve collected back to your community.
How are you embracing diversity?
Thank you to everyone who submitted a blog to the Eventprofs Blog Awards! We received over 40 submissions and have seen some fantastic event industry sites. Over the weekend the judging panel reviewed the submissions to ensure they were in the correct categories and met the award guidelines. Although there was a phenomenal list of blogs to choose from, the submissions were short-listed to a maximum of 7 per category. We would like to congratulate our nominees and thank everyone who participated.
BEST INDUSTRY ADVANCEMENT BLOG
BEST CORPORATE BLOG
BEST EYE CANDY BLOG
BEST INSPIRATION BLOG
BEST THOUGHT PROVOKING BLOG
BEST WEDDING BLOG
A new category has been added to the roster: The Eventprofs People’s Choice Award. This award will be given to the blog with the most overall votes – so, nominees, spread the word and get people voting!
You should see a pop up on this page for voting. If you’ve closed it or if it didn’t appear, you can also click here to take survey. Voting closes at 9:00am EDT on September 9, 2010. The blog with the highest number of votes in each category will be announced as the winners.
Nominees, please click here to download 1) Your nominee badge, which you can place on your website and 2) A link to the survey so you can start promoting the awards right from your own site.
Don’t forget that the winners will be announced at Event Camp Twin Cities on September 9th, 2010 at 5:00 pm CST. For those who won’t be able to attend, I’m delighted to share that the event will be live streamed so you’ll be able to participate along with us!
The following is an article I wrote for my Connections column in Event Solutions Magazine.
So what if you’ve amassed a thousand fans on Facebook? So what if you have hundreds of blog subscribers? So what if you’re neck in neck with Lady GaGa for twitter followers? What are you doing to turn those social media connections into dollars for your business?
There are thousands of different ideas for businesses to convert ‘friends’ into sales – here are 7 free ones your business can start implementing tomorrow.
Gist is one of the most useful tools I have in my social media arsenal, not to mention it’s 100% free while it’s in Beta testing. In a nutshell, Gist helps you build stronger relationships with your connections by providing critical information about all of them. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re connected with John Doe on Facebook and LinkedIn. By simply inputting John’s email (which he uses for both social media sites), it will pull John’s phone number, address, his social media account names, website, rss feeds, shared connections, the last time you connected with him, etc. You can also sync with your emails so that your latest correspondence is stored with the contact! Essentially it’s a social CRM (customer relationship management) service. The power for businesses is being able organize all of your contacts in one place and zoom in on specific people to find out what they’re doing, saying and sharing across a variety of social media tools.
Some of the most compelling and successful products and services solve a problem for their customers. Never before has it been so easy for businesses to unlock the minds of their target market. Now, we can hear their frustrations, their needs, their challenges by reading their tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts. Spend the time using a listening tool like Google Reader, Google Alerts or Social Mention to track conversations around brands or keywords. Use the intelligence you gain to find a solution to your target’s problems. This could result in new product or service offerings. It could also translate to an informational webinar or ebook (see point #5 below) created to provide expertise and advice around a specific topic.
We live in a world where time is our most precious commodity. Make it difficult for your connection to find information about you or your products, or *gasp* make it too challenging for them to click buy and you’ll lose a sale. One of my favorite new tools for businesses who have Facebook Fan Pages is Shop Now powered by Payvment. With this great application, businesses can sell directly through their fan page, without customers having to click through to another website!
Yes, it’s true. You can still meet face to face. And what better way to leverage the connections you’ve made online than to press the flesh in person. Meetup.com is a site that allows you to create a group (for example, Brides of Mississippi) and schedule events around that group (for example, hold an event titled the Top 10 Things Every Bride Needs to Know to Avoid Wedding Disaster and partner with local wedding vendors to give 10 minute tips on what to do to avoid common mistakes). The key for businesses is to find a way to offer value…but you already know that after reading point #2 above.
There are many different reasons why webinars (web conferencing used to conduct seminars, demos, training or live meetings) or ebooks (downloadable electronic books) can help convert contacts into sales. At the top of my list is the ability to show yourself as an expert on a specific topic. Use these tools as a loss leader to sell other products and services or generate income from your ebooks and webinars. The choice is yours.
If you haven’t already heard the buzz about Groupon, well, rush on over to your computer and check out groupon.com. It is one of the most exciting new tools for businesses today! Every single day, Groupon emails a featured product or service at an unbelievable price to the subscribers who signed up to be notified of deals in their area. What this means for businesses is that they merge collective buying power with social media to give businesses exposure and guaranteed customers. Businesses do not pay upfront for the service and instead give Groupon a portion of each sale. They also specify the minimum number of sales they would like and if enough people buy a voucher the deal is sent to their customer’s inbox and the business gets mailed a cheque the next day.
Larry Elder once said that “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. The biggest reason why companies don’t see ROI from their social media initiatives is that they don’t have a plan. Plan for conversions. Identify, before you proceed with your social media activities, what your goals are and how you will measure success. Ensure you have adequate resources and budget to make your program as effective as possible. And, assess how you’re doing at regular intervals throughout your program so you can recalibrate, if necessary.
There used to be a distinct divide between the special event, wedding, trade show, conference and meeting industries. Each with their own affiliations and events, specialized publications, distinct vendors and industry figureheads. Sure, there may have been some overlap, but for the most part they were distinct silos on the vast land of the events industry.
Twitter, Facebook and Blogging have created a shift in our industry.
In a world without social media, I likely would have never heard of Jeff Hurt. I would have happily orbited in my own special events universe; attending ISES, The Special Event Show, Event Solutions and a few other industry events celebrating our own superstars. I would have languished in reading my niche publications and called my close group of industry friends.
But Jeff wasn’t in my Special Events universe. You see, Jeff is a conference & meeting education consultant. But because of his irreverent and smart blog and his constant stream of shared links on Twitter he captured my attention. Jeff didn’t just impact me, he also caught the attention of Event Solutions, a special event publication, at a time they were planning their conference education. Speaking at Event Solutions’ conference awakened a new segment of the industry to Jeff’s knowledge…and so began the smashing of our two worlds.
Not unlike my story about Jeff, I was asked to be a part of Events Asia 2010. Half way around the world, in a country I’ve never been to, a conference organizer was asking her contacts for recommendations on speakers. Two people I have never met suggested that she connect with me. Why? Simply because they had read my blog. I was asked to speak to the event’s delegates and my face-to-face reach, which had until that point been limited to the Western Hemisphere, had now shifted to the East…and so began the collision of our two worlds.
This collision is happening across all segments, all over the world, at breakneck speed. I’m seeing prominent wedding professionals being consulted for conference ideas, conference planners providing technology ideas to special event professionals, meeting planners being interviewed for wedding publications. Social media is challenging our definition of event segmentation.
The events industry is changing and our silos are breaking down. What does this mean to your business?
It likely means: