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Let’s Have a Focus Group!

focus group

Good business decisions start by asking questions. Will there be much interest in a new product or service? Will a proposed marketing campaign strike a chord with customers? What do people truly think of your brand? A reasonably simple, and relatively inexpensive way to answer such strategic questions may be through a focus group.

Unlike surveys, focus groups allow for nuance in the feedback you receive. (How many times have you filled out a questionnaire and the answer you really want to give is “it depends.”) The comparatively free-wheeling format of a focus group will also let you judge the intensity of feeling that’s coming from your participants. Additionally, focus groups may provide insights and creative ideas that you’ve never considered.

Another advantage of focus groups is that they don’t have a lot of requirements. Professional assistance is probably advisable but honestly, if you have the confidence and inclination, there wouldn’t be much harm in trying a do-it-yourself approach. Here are the necessities:

Limit the discussion to a single topic. They are called “focus” groups for a reason. The idea is to take a defined topic and explore the relevant thoughts and feelings of your target audience. Know what questions you want to have answered before you start.

Screen for the right people. Just as you wouldn’t ask bald men about hair-coloring products, not everyone will be right for your focus group. You should screen to get about 10 – 15 unbiased people who are representative of the target market in terms of demographics, knowledge and potential interest.

Choose an adept moderator. Obviously, this person needs to be at ease talking to small group of strangers. However, he or she also needs to be mentally agile, objective, congenial, willing to referee between stronger and less aggressive personalities, and able to keep the discussion on point and moving along.

Find an appropriate setting. A conference room at your place of business might be acceptable with accommodations that provide clean restroom facilities, refreshments/snacks and comfortable seating. However, to avoid unduly influencing the group, a neutral site such as a hotel meeting room or a private dining room in a restaurant may be the better choice.

Keep good records. You should do this on two fronts: have someone take notes to capture discussion highlights, PLUS be sure to make an audio/video recording as well. Video is important because a lot of communication is nonverbal, and seeing such reactions during the meeting may be just as illuminating as the comments you hear.

If you hold one focus group and find the exercise to be both worthwhile and budget friendly, why not make them a regular part of your marketing research routine? (The more information you gather, the better, and you’ll only improve facilitation with additional practice.) On top of everything else, we believe you’ll find conducting focus groups to be a highly interesting and potentially very enjoyable experience.

Could You Develop a Cult-like Following for Your Brand?

cult following band

Star Trek vs. science fiction. Green Bay Packers vs. the NFL. Macs vs. personal computers. In each pairing, the former is an example of the latter, yet fans of a specific “brand” may have little emotional attachment to the broad category. They may even be dismissive or hostile to other entities of the type. These brand enthusiasts know what they like and no substitution will do. They also expect to be customers for life.

Wouldn’t you like to have such partisans supporting your business; customers who will ignore your competitors’ promotions and who can be counted upon to defend your brand against all skeptics? It might be possible.

However, you’ll never attract intensely committed customers if you yourself don’t sincerely feel your offerings are special in some very important way. After all, you are the first evangelist for your business and if you’re not a believer, how can you expect to attract any followers?

Once you have the necessary mindset—and quality offerings—the necessary steps to developing a cult-like following will then require fostering an “us vs. them” mentality among your customers. If that sounds a little creepy, understand that you’re simply respecting your customers’ superior ability to understand and appreciate the exceptionality of your work. So, whether they realize or not, they are truly special. You’re only helping them accept their unique group identity. Here’s how you can start:

  • This may sound counter-intuitive, but you should create a slight barrier to someone becoming a customer. The obstacle shouldn’t be too hard to overcome, but significant enough to cause a little inconvenience or minor discomfort (such as registering, or paying a little more). It’s the same principle as hazing a prospective fraternity member. By requiring a special “commitment,” customers will be less inclined to walk away after they’ve “joined” an especially dedicated group. (Example: Chick-fil-A’s premium prices and being closed on Sundays.)
  • Within reason, develop a unique vernacular to associate with your products and services. This will serve three purposes: it will increase the distinctiveness of your company; it will create a “common language” among your customers and your business; in time, it will make competing products and services sound alien. (Example: The “Genius Bar” instead of “service desk” at the Apple Stores.)
  • Provide for direct customer engagement and communication, not only between you and your clients, but also among the customers themselves so that they can more easily function as the unique community you want them to be. Social media is a great place to start, and you may also want to establish dialogues on your website. (Example: Customer product ratings at Amazon.)
  • Reward customer loyalty with exclusive offers and opportunities to heighten their sense of belonging to a special group, as well as providing an ongoing incentive for remaining a customer. You might establish levels of “achievement” for your customers—statuses such as “gold, silver … etc.—creating a competition among faithful members. (For many years, Phillip Morris encouraged Marlboro smokers to save and redeem Marlboro Miles for branded merchandise.)
  • Make your brand prominent, its imagery attractive and easily accessible. Think of it like a flag that your customers can wave with pride, or wearing a team jersey. As part of this effort, you might want to give your customers opportunities to possess things like clothing and other knick-knacks emblazoned with your logo. (Harley Davison does this very well!)
  • Seek feedback and creative input from your customers. People who use your products or services will have the best insights as to how to make them better. Plus, such involvement will help transform a typical client-business relationship into a feeling of ownership on the part of your customers. (While more of a monopoly than a cult, Microsoft demonstrated this when it promoted features of Windows 7 as coming from customer suggestions.)

As you see, it requires extra effort to convert typical customers into walking, talking (and buying!) brand advocates. And your value proposition may not be one that easily lends itself to cult-like devotion (example: super convenient store hours). But if you get the feeling that your business may be one that naturally attracts a distinct market—one that’s open to a personal connection with a trusted brand—you may find a lot of profit in cultivating an intensely loyal customer base.

Twitter’s ‘How to Guide’ for Marketing with … uh, Twitter

twitter_news

The web-based program, entitled Twitter Flight School (twitterflightschool.com), is free and only takes about an hour to complete. To sign on, you just need a Twitter account and the willingness to share some of your Twitter account information with the app. To help you decide if the course is worth these modest investments, we’ve outlined it for you.

The basic program offers five modules—called Flight Path Courses. These are:

Twitter 101: Shaping Relationships between brands and people. (10 minutes.)

  • How Twitter Connects You to the World
  • How People and Brands Connect on Twitter
  • How Twitter Drives Business Results
  • Sample Tweets
  • Quiz

The Ultimate Guide to Content Planning: Building an effective and engaging content strategy for Twitter. (15 minutes.)

  • Content that Connects
  • Defining Your Goals
  • Listening to What Matters Most
  • Inspiring Your Audience
  • Developing Content
  • Executing Your Plan
  • Quiz

Meeting Campaign Objectives: Creating creative ads on Twitter that will engage your audience. (10 minutes.)

  • How Twitter Offers More than 140 Characters
  • Objective-based Campaigns and Ads
  • Choosing the Right Campaign
  • Quiz

Reaching the Right People: Targeting the right people at the right time. (10 minutes.)

  • Precise Targeting
  • Choosing the Right Target
  • Quiz

Launch and Optimize Campaigns: Critical information for launching and optimizing a Twitter campaign. (15 minutes.)

  • Twitter Campaigns and Ads
  • Campaign Basics
  • Followers Campaign
  • Website Clicks and Conversions Campaign
  • Tweet Engagement Campaigns
  • App Installs or Engagements Campaigns
  • Quiz

You don’t have to complete the entire course at one time. In fact, you can stop mid-module and resume later. And if you like this introduction to marketing with Twitter, you can move on to the “Deep Dive” courses.

Though the program is ostensibly created for marketing agencies, there’s no reason any business owner or manager might not find something of interest here. And even if you aren’t particularly interested in marketing with Twitter, many of the principles—such as first establishing marketing objectives—are always worth taking to heart.

The Benefits of Serving on a Board of Directors

joining a board

Being on a board is a major commitment, but incredibly rewarding both personally and professionally. Working side by side with colleagues across many different disciplines is a great way to learn more about other companies as well as share your story. A board is a great place to meet new friends, new clients, learn new skills, and in general build strong, lasting relationships.

When deciding whether or not to join a board, take the time to do some research. Do an internet search in your area for organizations that fit your interests. For example, if you are a marketing professional (like us!), you will find the Society for Marketing Professional Services Tampa Bay (for which our senior project manager, Nikki Devereux, serves as Director of Communications), American Advertising Federation Tampa Bay, the American Marketing Association Tampa Bay, and more. If you are an artist, a builder, an educator, or just about anything, there are several associations throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough County, so do some research and see what you find for your industry.

When you’ve found a couple organizations, check out their event schedules and attend a few events. Prepare by looking through the list of presenters and find out if any of them are people you’d like to meet personally – then make a point to do so at the event. At the event, see if you like the content of the program, mingle with other attendees, and perhaps introduce yourself to a board member or two. This exercise is not just a good way to do some research on the organization and its programs, but a good way to practice networking and hopefully meet some good people.

After you’ve decided on an organization that matches your career and interests, become a member and start attending events on a regular basis. Get to know the board members and find out if you can sit in on the board meetings to see how they operate. Take a board member out to lunch to build a relationship with them and to learn more about the board. Eventually, a position will open up, and since you’ve been proactive and are already attending board meetings, you may be a favored candidate.

networking

Society for Marketing Professional Services board members.

Once you’re on the board, it starts getting interesting. You may have signed up for a position that you’ve never had in your career before, so you’ll be learning on the job. You will be working closely with the rest of the board members, and planning events and monthly board meetings can be fun. It gets even more interesting when you start forming committees to take on special projects. For example, last year the Society for Marketing Professional Services Tampa Bay worked on an image campaign to rebrand the Tampa Bay Chapter into something more unique and thematic. The campaign brought a lot of the members closer as they were working in smaller groups and often meeting a couple times a month to work on the project. It was a super creative project, so it was a lot of fun for all involved and the results were amazing. Everyone on the board was proud of the final campaign.

In addition to learning a new position, you will find yourself spending a lot more time with these new people at meetings and events, and thus you become something of a family. You work together, you play together, you learn together. It’s a great way to build those long lasting business relationships and sometimes even friendships! Either way, it’s good for business as your fellow board members will learn to trust you as they work alongside you, and if they need your company’s products or services, they will more than likely turn to you. It’s a win-win situation.

Video Production: Tips for Staying Organized

video production staying organized newsletter

We have been doing a lot of video production lately, so our minds have been on video production and best practices for smooth sailing. Specifically, we want to discuss how important it is to stay organized.

It is important to be specific, concise, and to think about every angle in video production from the very first brainstorming session. Below is a list to help you stay more organized in your production, or at least to understand the process a little better when you hire a company.

  • Brainstorming – This is the foundation of your video. During your first brainstorming session, look at samples of work you love, choose elements of those videos that you love and take note of those so that you can incorporate them into your final video. Start thinking of the individual shots that you will need and keep a list.
  • Storyboarding – This is where you start to get more specific. With the initial shot list and favorite samples in mind, you will start to visualize the video and how that final product will look. This is a very detailed process in which you imagine what each frame will contain and, if you can sketch, you sketch it out. If not, a paragraph or notes will suffice. From this you can begin building a more detailed shot list as well.

video storyboard

  • Equipment list – Now that you have a shot list, you’ll want to make sure you have the equipment you need to execute the shots you want. Again, be very specific and make sure to cover every single base. There’s nothing worse than realizing that you don’t have a key piece of equipment when you need it on the day of the shoot!
  • Scheduling – Once you have your storyboard and detailed shot list complete, you can start scheduling your shooting days. The shot list will inform this scheduling. This is another place where being very organized and specific will help cut down on resources like time and travel. Make sure to leave time for retakes, breaks, and travel between locations.
  • Organizing Files – Sometimes, you’ll be downloading files on location, so you’ll want to think about your folder structure before the shooting day. This will help you to be more agile when it’s time to download the files on the fly, but also, this will make post-production run more smoothly. You cannot be over-prepared for a video shoot.
  • Editing – Another time where it is important to think the process through very carefully so that you can organize your files in a way that makes sense. You will refer back to your storyboard during editing to use that as a guide for your decisions about composition, sound, color correction, etc.

Video production is a creative endeavor, but it also requires a technical, organized mindset in order to execute it efficiently. Pinstripe Marketing offers full video production and animation, as well as consulting services to help your team create videos in house.

 

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