Thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses fail to ask the right question the right way to the right people for the right reason. And as a result they make less money.Robert Kaden and Gerald Linda, co-authors with Jay Conrad Levinson, ofMore Guerrilla Marketing: Asking the right people, the right question, in the right way, and effectively using the answers to make more money joined me recently to talk about the state of marketing and marketing research, the wilful ignorance of marketing research by businesses of all sizes, their book, how it helps businesses of all sizes make more money by...asking the right questions to the right people in the right way for the right reason. Being Strategic, discusses the need for a reasonable aspiration or hoped-for goal. What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for goal with this book?
Gerry: We had a really simple idea that was an underlying driver with publishing the book. It related to the business owners being able to make better decisions based upon the wants and needs of their customers. Having this knowledge will help them to make better decisions every single time. That is the essence of marketing research – talking to your customers and prospects and getting advice from them about what you can do.
Bob: There is a lot of entrepreneurial ego out there where executives think they always know what the customer wants and needs, without ever asking them. I think this is one of the great downfalls of business and market researchers for not proving to their CEOs how important it is. They do not have all of the answers.
Bob: I can go back to 2006 when Guerilla Marketing was first written. I wrote it because I was bored and wanted to recap a long career in marketing research and wanted to understand what I went through for the many years being a research supplier. I wrote it because I had very specific ideas of how it should be planned, executed and processed through a company. About one year ago Gerry and I got together because the market research industry has changed quite a bit in the past four years. We thought it was time to update it-especially with social networking and the emotion of advertising. These things needed attention.
When will you know you reached your goal?
Bob: When CEOs no longer say that their eyes have glazed over when thinking about market research. Research has usually been a staff function and companies have not executed it effectively. They have been more reactive than proactive in using the data. Researchers have to be more proactive: data does suggest precise actions and process. It is not just a report.
Gerry: Book sales. Book sales are a good indication if we have met our goal. That would be one good clue. We're proselytizers. We want to get small business men and women to adopt marketing research as a fundamental way of operating their businesses.
Another way we will know is when the reviews come in. The book has just been introduced and we are starting to get the reviews, which are excellent thus far.
When we decided to update Bob's original book, not only did we want to capture the many changes that have taken place in the research industry in the past 4 years, but we wanted to add new sections and new ideas.
Many have a section called digging deeper. You can get another level of detail and sophistication.
Who should read your book?
Bob: Any businessperson, small or large, any entrepreneur or student. This book is written for any person what wants a practical non-tech book approach to why marketing research is important, how to better plan it and the better use of results.
The obvious target is small business because of the title. They tend not to have marketing research departments.
They can do a lot of this research themselves. We are trying to enforce the value of marketing research and any business can do this with just a bit of education. They can use their own sweat equity to do effective research and utilize the results and avoid paying a consultant to do this for you.
This is not a tradtional textbook. This is a very user friendly practical book!!
Gerry: Pragmatic, practical. It's a hands on book with lots of real world examples and experience, not a lot of theory. We tell them if you want to use vendors here's how to do it and save money.
Bob: This book lays out how to be proactive.
Define the term Guerrilla Marketing.
Bob: There are about 25 guerilla books. The term Guerrilla Marketing was developed by Jay Levinson in 1980.
It’s definition is “Achieving conventional goals such as profits, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.” This means learning some of the basics about the task, whether it be PR or copywriting, learning some of the basics of the discipline or task at hand so you can do it yourself or at least buy services from the outside from a more educated perspective. It is a do-it -yourself strategy.
Who is a guerrilla marketer? How would we recognize them if we saw them on the street?
Gerry: Chances are pretty good that anyone you meet who works for small business ought to be. In the mid '80's Trout and Ries used the term. Guerrillas are the small guys. 90% of all businesses qualify.
They don't wear fatigues and they're not any more happy or not than the rest of us.
Bob: Wal-Mart to a great extent is a guerrilla marketer. They're in and out quickly. JetBlue, Amazon-started out as small companies and are all guerrillas. They did it through different tactics.
Large companies to a great extent start as guerrilla companies.
In your book, you talk about a strategic survey and a tactical survey. Which one comes first?
Bob: I don’t think there is any answer for that. A strategic study is a roadmap of the market...they are large expensive studies. A tactical study is a small study. Should I go with package A or Package B?
What you find with most guerrillas is that they have very specific questions to be answered. For example, are my customers happy? Will come be repeat customers? These tend to be small tactical studies. Guerrillas usually address these types of issues first and if they have success at understanding it, they move to larger scale strategic studies.
Larger companies may do one or two of these, strategic studies or roadmaps, every year. In a perfect world, you would start with a strategic study, what are the gaps, where are they and how can I extend my particular leverage.Gerry: What we learned was if you do a strategic study, you will end up with some tactical insights and vice versa. They both feed the other.
Without marketing research, you will always be left throwing things on the wall and seeing if they stick?
Bob: I think that is correct. I don't know what else you do except go by your gut instinct.
Many entrepreneurs can start out with their own knowledge, but there is a point where they need to forego their personal instincts and ask for feedback from their customers and prospects.
You need to talk to customers. Your gut instincts aren't enough any more.
Gerry: When you start off really small, you know your customers, but as you grow you don’t have this option. It becomes a necessity to reach out and start a dialog.
I suppose that works at the beginning.
Market research is a form of insurance, the only insurance they can buy to prevent a life-threatening decision.
Why do small businesses need marketing research? They are close to their customers and employees and see what their needs are – and have that zig-zag streak of lightning from their intuition that .
Gerry: So you say. How do you know that? Are they really close to their customers and employees? Maybe they should do research and find out?
Do they feel the pulse of their market? They may have at one time, but not any more. How many customers can you actually stay in touch with and truly understand? Is it 10? Is it 20?
What if you have 3000 or 30, 000 customers – how do you know what all of them want? You need market research to be the eyes and ears.
It is inconceivable to me, to think that unless you have just a handful of customers and know each one personally, that you are actually in touch with your marketplace. And even then you may not be.
We have blinders on sometimes. We are only human. Customers may not want to tell us bad news about why they're leaving.
You may be doing business with someone currently because of convenience or price, not loyalty. You have no idea if they are really happy.
Bob: A number of questions we get now during these types of economic times. Market research is the first to go. It's cut at a disproportionate pace.
Everyone waits for sales. However, people are making decisions that go beyond price and it is important to think past this. There are many other elements aside from price during the buying process.
The companies that stay in touch with their customers today will be 12-24-36 months ahead when this economy turns around. They have a pulse on their clients and prospects. They know that it goes beyond just cutting their prices to maintain the market share. They will be ahead of the game when the economy changes.
Marketing and marketing research is so important especially in a down economy because when it ends, the companies that continue to conduct market research will be 24-36 months ahead of the companies that do not.
What are some other reasons that are more important? Or what are other reasons companies should not be cutting their market research during the recession?
Bob: We are always asked, what is the first study I should do? Our answer would be you need to know if your customers are satisfied. They need to be happy with all of the nuances in the way you serve them. This can be from any point of view- your product, your advertising, your service. You need to understand how you service them. Protect what you have.
Gerry: Repeat sales are not necessarily an indicator of a satisfied customer. Market research is vital.
All of these things are obvious. Why do so many companies fail to understand what you guys make so simple and clear to understand?Bob: Because their eyes glaze over. They are in a mindset that research isn’t going to tell them anything they don’t already know. This is the lamest argument I have ever heard. The answer to it is if you knew it, why you weren’t acting on it. This is why most businesses fail.
Is there hope for the future?
Bob: I think what people are doing is asking for more direct accountability for their research dollars. They want a better understanding of the ROI. That is developing a different kind of research mind. I think it is a slow growth but it is happening.
Gerry: There are those who love the qualitative and others the quantitative results and processes. These are the two schools of thought. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work with the data and reports.Bob: Companies want to trust that the research was done properly and they want a clear concise short report of action steps. They need to come up with consumer insights that will help the company set themselves apart from the competition. This is where research has to go...not just a provider of data any more, but a provider of insight.
It almost sounds like marketing researchers need to do market research on what their clients want at this point. What clients want now has changed so dramatically.
Bob: Good point. I think to a great extent they do, but they also need the support of a CEO or director of marketing to do that or somebody way up. Bottom up they'll be fighting this war forever. They need to get the support from the people at the top and take action, as a result of it, so we are not running in place. You have to have the support from the top.
Gerry: We interviewed many market researchers. My sense is that the larger providers and users is that they are pretty clear about what Bob just said, but the difficulty is training an entire generation to be able to fulfill this new set of demands. There is also another point of view of other US market researchers who have adopted the POV that what I want from my research dept is just the opposite of what we just spoke about.
" I don’t want insights, I don’t want speculation, I don't want analytical kinds of things. What I want is the best possible data. Clear data; unencumbered, statistically reliable data from the right people. Not tainted or influenced." Then it's the purview of the brand group to interpret the data. There are are still some companies who prefer their data this way.
We don't work that way. We do have opinions on what steps a company should take with the data we gather.
Bob: Some researchers just haven’t had the psychological tools to make those recommendations and are not embraced as people who can think and offer up action steps.
They may be able to present it in a fun meaningful, brilliant, entertaining way. People love it. Then they go away forever. Reseach isn’t just about getting that data in an entertaining way. It should be about consumer insight and what happens after the presentation.
How will the client use the data? How can they take that data and decide on actions. The researchers need to educate them on what is next – the execution and planning of the strategy.
Gerry: Let's go back. I'd like to bring us back to a discussion of why small businesses and guerrillas should be interested in market research right now given the state of the economy. What Bob and I tell people is the most important thing you do right now is to stay close to your customers. It's like dancing with the girl you brought to the party. Retain them.
Then up sell and cross sell.
Next is to get referrals from current customers.
Those are the three most important things we have to do in this economy.
We think marketing research is the best possible tool to stay close to your customers.
It needn't be expensive.
Quantitative research you have a statistically reliable sample.
Qualitative research you have a small number of interviews to get a feel of what is going on.
We recommend a 20-minute qualitative interviews with customers to see how things are going and how you can help. It is a structured survey-a written script of what you want to ask your customers, asking each the same kinds of questions, it's not word-for-word, and you would look at the answers from across 10 or so customers, seeing insight and patterns. This is a research gathering.
Bob: The book goes into all this. Any company can do this and should be doing this. It's not brain surgery. It takes a little reading and understanding. It takes a few hours of writing and practicing mock interviews.
Gerry: We tell clients they should be doing a thorough analysis of secondary information on their business, competition, and elements of the economy once per year. This is a good time to do that.
Secondary research is so easy because of the internet. This is a good time to do it. You would be amazed at how much information you can get on the internet. Included in this is to personally visit your key competitors. You will see the market through the eyes of your customer. You can learn a lot of valuable information from your competition.
Bob: This is all really simple stuff that any company can do and use inexpensively.
Gerry: Here's another one: Survey your employees. Formally gather information from them. They are in touch with your customers. Your company. This is inexpensive. They are on the front lines!!!
Bob: There are all kinds of ways in the book to ask the question, compile the data.
What are the three reasons our listeners should buy your book?
Bob: 1. To understand that by talking with your customers, you will make smarter decisions.
Gerry: 2. If you make smarter decisions, you will make more money.Bob: 3. How to ask the right questions in order to make smarter decisions and avoid bad decisions.
Let’s say we talk again in one year, what will be the biggest change in marketing research?
Bob: My guess is it will be the social networks and how they will be more effectively used to gather more information.
We'll be talking about better understanding consumer emotions, not just the logic of why consumers make purchases.
And the last thing is how to integrate large amounts of information with attitude research or data mines.
What do you guys think about crowd sourcing and social media? What do you think about its effectiveness?
Gerry: It is fascinating. It is still in the domain of a sociological experiment. You have a problem and go out to the crowd and ask them to give you their solutions. I don’t think it qualifies as formal marketing research though. You don’t know all of the characteristics of the responding audience, their auspice, their motivators...theyre are issues with respect to compensation.
It is a wonderful experiment and may work for some entrepreneurial companies but right now I don’t think it is part of the standard mode of research. The jury's way, way, out on that.
Bob: There are two things I would point to. There was a recent article about Twitter and how it is effective about predicting whether a movie will be a hit. They can monitor the chatter about a particular movie.
If there is more talk, they can say that the movie will be more successful. If you are able to simply monitor chatter about a movie then you can say Hey, I have a hit on my hand and I can throw more marketing money at it. BUT it doesn’t give you a lot of “whys”. It only gives you what is going on. It doesn't give you a lot of insight into why it is going on.
Gerry: They can be used in addition to marketing research. They are not a substitute though. The internet is certainly changed the world of marketing, turned it on its head. But I think people err if they think that because the internet exists that classical marketing tools are no longer effective. The internet has made it more complicated, not less.
You cannot solely rely on the internet for your marketing needs.
Bob: I still don't know how Twitter is making money. I think within Twitter there will be keyword services they will sell. And you can get all the chatter around a keyword. But there's still the need to understand WHY there is that chatter, what it means.Can you leave us with a parting thought, a story?
Gerry: It seems as though there was an old man, a young boy and a donkey who were on their way to town. The man was leading the donkey and the boy was riding it. They passed some of their neighbors and overheard some negative sounds. “Look how that poor old man has to walk and the healthy young boy rides.” The man and the boy looked at each other and thought about it for a second. They changed positions. They then passed by another set of neighbors, overhearing more negative talk. “Oh how mean. The adult is riding and the young child is forced to walk.” So they decided they would both walk. They soon passed some more neighbors and once again they heard some negative talk: “Oh look at them, what a foolish pair to be walking, there is a healthy animal to ride.” They thought about it and they both got on the donkey. They continued to walk and overheard, “Oh it is so cruel to make that poor animal carry such a heavy burden.” So they got off and picked up the donkey. They were crossing a bridge at the time and the donkey didn’t like being carried and started to squirm. It fell into the river below and was washed away.
The marketing strategy moral is: if you try to please all of the people, you can kiss your ass goodbye.
( Post-show observation. That last moral applies to life, too. )
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