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Be Relevant, not Big January 5, 2014

Posted by Jack Macholl in Bank marketing, Communications, Customer Service, Interactive Marketing, Market Research, Marketing, Marketing Planning, Uncategorized.
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Marketing and strategyWe read and hear a great deal about “big data”, enormous data sets (minute details)  collected about customers that can become so large it is almost impossible to process with traditionally used business software. The buzz is about spotting trends and connecting with prospects/customers on a more intimate level made possible by technology.

What I’d like to see is relevance, the product recommendations marketers make based on fundamental customer behavior (what you’ve purchased recently, account types you hold at a bank, what credit card you carry, spending levels, etc.)  There is nothing more mind-boggling in this era of “big data” than to receive a postal mail or e-mail about a product I already have with the company. Focusing on five or six fundamental variables is the starting point I suggest. If your customer data doesn’t contain the basics or worse yet, you can’t properly access essential data you’re not even in the game.


Are 2-page letters read? Please take my latest marketing poll. September 2, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Market Research, Marketing.
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Book Review- Cognitive Surplus May 23, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Book Review, Communications, Market Research.
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Global Connectivity

Cognitive Surplus the 2010 book by Clay Shirky an Interactive Communications professor at NYU is a highly intelligent look at the enormous potential that people have to change the world through generosity (shared thought).  One of the most striking examples is Wikipedia, created by volunteer effort online using approximately 1% of the time Americans spend watching television shows each year.

Another example of connectivity that I found particularly motivating was PatientsLikeMe.com , an online community where people can share medical data to support others facing similar medical conditions. The site also connects medical research with people seeking answers.

The power of the Internet and tools like WordPress provide each of us with affordable, amazing forums to connect and make positive change happen at speed only dreamt about in previous generations. This book really helped me connect the dots on the evolution of the Internet and provided new ways to think about the future of information sharing.

“Sizing the Market” April 21, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Market Research, Marketing, Marketing Planning, Sales.

BONUS– here is a link to a podcast interview with Jason Kuhl Library Operations Director of the Arlington Heights Library

         CSM 472010 FINAL 

 that I recorded in 2010. You’ll hear an expert librarian walk you through some of the essential research sources available at many municipal libraries across America.

As I speak with small business owners daily, the common thread appears to be erratic levels of new projects or orders at their companies. Many are pondering the best way to “get new prospects.”  Given the fact that many are taking on the same business challenge, I thought a short review of basic market research will help business owners in their quest to identify more prospects by “sizing the market.”

Here are some of the fundamentals:

  1. Define your target market– what type of customer are you seeking? Be exacting or risk wasting time and resources.
  2. What does your target customer need? The term “pain points” or “problems” are often used in this discussion people buy benefits, how do you help them by solving a problem?
  3. What information do we  need?– again be exacting is it age, income, home value, education level, a company’s sales size, etc.
  4. Where do I go to find all this information– I have no budget for research… Start with the library, the U.S. Census (for basic demographics or county level business pattern data),  Dunn & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database, Reference USA. A good business librarian can help you narrow the proper source from an almost endless array of data sources.
  5. Data Collection– sources identified, then it’s on to extracting the required facts. Then determine is this enough? Will you need more? Much of today’s data can be easily downloaded and dropped-in to a spreadsheet program like Excel.
  6. Analysis– What do the numbers tell you?  Is your target too broad/narrow? Do the geographic boundaries you’ve set need adjusting?
  7. Market estimate– what are the total number of households or businesses your marketing will reach? Perhaps adjusting your expectations about market potential and your ability to reasonably reach them needs refining.
  8. Set expectations– realistically how much of the target market can you expect to capture and more importantly deliver proper customer service levels once you have them.
  9. Competitive analysis– who are your immediate  (often local) competitors? Realistically, how much market share can you take from their operation?
  10. Reaching the target– prospecting requires careful thought and resources to make the needle move. Once the market has been “sized” and everyone’s expectations are on the same wavelength, you can build a “bottom-up” budget based on objectives.

The research does not stop there. Knowing what your prospects read, watch, listen to, blogs they read, trade groups they belong to, will allow you to make tactical marketing plan decisions that deliver a strong return on the marketing dollar invested.

I know the process seems daunting and often people throw their hands up returning to “gut instinct” or inconsistent approach to prospecting. The time and money invested in a thorough market sizing exercise will surely help you develop an effective marketing plan that pays dividends.

Clarity through Focus Groups January 4, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Customer Service, Market Research, Marketing, Marketing Planning.
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The many facets of marketing

The recession economy of the past few years has prompted many companies to forego market research in the name of cost containment. One of the staple research techniques focus groups have become less frequent due to the expense and time-consuming nature of the data collection.

As a quick review here’s why you may want to rejuvenate your market research and consider a focus group of clients and or prospects this year:

  1. Focus groups provide human reactions-facial expressions, body language, voice intonation and “human animation”
  2. In a group setting the moderator can ask “drill down” questions, seeking clarity or deeper explanation on  a subject’s commentary.
  3. The marketing team (client) can be present, usually behind a one way mirror set up, with the ability to see/hear the discussion. During a break the client can ask the moderator to ask specific questions or seek out additional thought from a given subject, building on an observation.
  4. Focus groups can also be video/audio taped or webcast, capturing and sharing information with colleagues and agency partners.
  5. A company can also identify customer service or product quality problems hearing first hand from the end-user is often invaluable
  6. You can also learn positive things about your business-clients often supply unsolicited praise for employees or perhaps make suggestions that spark line extensions or new product/service development concepts.

As we begin to emerge from the darkness of the past few years of cost cuts, rediscovering market research should be an important part of your integrated marketing program for 2011 and beyond. Seeing things through the customer’s perspective can add needed clarity to your customer service and marketing planning initiatives.

Please share your thoughts on this topic- let’s learn what works together.

Don’t Fear the Librarian April 9, 2010

Posted by Jack Macholl in Market Research.
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 For those who have studied integrated marketing communications or “IMC” we realize that research is the beginning and destination point of the IMC process.  In essence, we can never stop learning or evaluating the changing world and our effectiveness as players within it.

 Today research seems to have fallen by the wayside with business owners reverting to “intuition” or “gut instincts” to make product offer and marketing decisions.  Not to discount the importance of knowing one’s field, however, running marketing or product programs solely from instinct or anecdotal information is a risky practice at best.

 In order to begin writing a strategy based IMC plan you must be able to develop a “Situation Analysis”– a combination of internal and external factors

Budget the prevalent research ‘stifler”

 In recent years money to fund market research has been difficult to come by. That said it is not impossible to find low or no-cost sources to study the market, your competitors and identify new areas of opportunity.

 For purposes of this post, let’s assume that you are already compiling internal (research) information– data on sales, profits, market share, strengths/weakness analysis, (SWOT) client service and return on marketing investment.

 I’m going to the library-really!

That’s right— although once most of us finish school we rarely see one, your municipal or university library is be a fantastic source of market research data. Since the common complaint I hear is lack of budget or understanding of the value of paid research by management, this track offers some thoughts on ways to avert these arguments and gain valuable knowledge.

 To compile the latest in common library research sources I reached out to Deb Whisler, Director of Marketing and Public Relations and Jason Kuhl, Information Services Manager my contacts at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library www.ahml.info  in the suburbs northwest of Chicago.

 The Arlington Heights Memorial Library is a fantastic repository of information that spans traditional printed reference sources to the latest electronic databases. Certainly each community has different resources, so be sure to visit or phone your local library experts to discuss your research objectives and narrow down some quality local (tangible-printed sources) or online resources.

 If it has been a long time since you have been to the library, you might be surprised to find out you can use many library resources without ever leaving your home or office.  Most subscription databases available at the library are also available remotely to library cardholders through the library’s website.  If a question comes up while you are using one of the databases, many libraries offer a chat reference service that allows you to chat online with a librarian without ever having to leave your chair!

 For External factors, let’s explore the possibilities:

 External research essentially covers factors or “forces” occurring outside of your business. Depending on what your organization does this factor will vary but we’ll concentrate on the essential information you’ll likely need to construct a plan that adequately identifies challenges and opportunities.

 As you prepare to visit with a business librarian you’ll want to consider specific requests and the end-purpose, so they can provide maximum guidance and support.

 General literature search-  Largely articles about your organization sometimes referred to as a “content analysis,” this search can unveil what the marketplace (consumers/competitors) are saying about you. This data can be derived from basic search engine queries, however most libraries have access to one or more databases you can use to locate articles specifically from business magazines.  Two of the most popular are:

  •  Gale Business & Company Resource Center
  • EBSCO Business Source

 General industry search– you can often uncover industry trends in print sources and through inquiry within subscription database sources that may be in place at your library.

 There are a number of resources and subscription databases that provide industry information. Some of the best are:

  •  Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys available in print volumes and as part of the Standard and Poor’s Net Advantage database, this source offers detailed, up-to-date analysis of more than fifty industries.


  •  Plunkett Researchthis database provides a thorough analysis of over thirty industries. Information includes detailed market research and trends; company profiles; statistics; and associations.


  •  Market Share Reporterthis print volume is a compilation of market share reports for companies, products and services.

 Learning about Consumers

This is a massive area to cover, however; successful marketing and product development requires meaningful offers and advertising messages that will resonate with a particular demographic group(s). Understanding who your clients or benefactors are lets you identify:

  • Who are your consumers/supporters?
  • What products do they use?
  • What type of lifestyle category do they belong to?-psychographics
  • What motivates them to buy products or donate to charities?

Some of the essential research sources to answer consumer questions include:

  •  The United States Census www.census.govthe place to go for demographic information.


  •  Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics and Sourcebook of County Demographicsthese volumes offer demographic and income information along with spending indices  for every county and zip code in the country.


  •  Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) Lifestyle Market Analystprovides information about interests, hobbies, and activities by demographic area.

 Exploring research sources for business to business planning

 Learning about businesses- sometimes referred to as “firm-a-graphics” this information is particularly important in business-to-business (B-to-B) applications.

       There are a number of sources you can use to learn about companies.  Among the essential sources available to help you acquire detailed company information include:

  •  Lexis Nexisdatabase that contains detailed company profiles that include financial, legal, and intellectual property information. Much of the information is provided by Hoover’s, another standard source for company information.


  •  Dun and Bradstreet Million Dollar Databasea database containing company profiles for public and private companies


  •  ValueLine Investment Surveygeared toward investors, these reports provide important financial information for publicly traded companies.


  •  EDGAR http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml    Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It can be used to retrieve filings from public traded companies.


  •  State Manufacturers Directories—published for each state, these provide basic information about manufacturers. 

 There is no question that the time you spend on market research will supply functional data that provides a foundation for product (offer) and marketing (promotion) that serves the needs and interests of your clients and potential customers.  Delving further into market research also gives you the “diagnostics” that help you understand the impact of new offers and associated marketing campaigns on sales or contributions (in the case of non-profit organizations).

 At the conclusion of the IMC cycle, “evaluation” is the (“back-end”) research phase that requires a look at findings; enabling you to learn and alter your marketing “mix” including distribution (place) and price. After that, you begin again, ready to regroup and embark on the next marketing challenge.

 Today’s business owners and marketing professionals need to adapt and reinvent themselves to remain competitive. Do not give up hope when research funds are cut or eliminated— ask the librarian, it worked when you were a kid didn’t it?

  Are you ready to begin the research phase with these new tools and begin exploring opportunities for your organization?

 For additional articles on Integrated Marketing and Research subjects you can also visit www.wisdombridgemarketing.com/articles