As you might imagine, we get lots of questions about the work we do — why it’s different, how we do it and how to propose it to your clients. Below are the most commonly-asked questions, with some answers. Have a question you don’t see here? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list.
What the $%&# is attitudinal audience segmentation?
Attitudinal segmentation groups people together not by demographics, or what they’ve purchased in the past, but based on the attitudes they hold, and the problems they’re hoping to solve when they’re shopping in your client’s category. Our research tells you WHY they’re looking, so you can be laser-focused on the messages, benefits and content that your client’s best prospects and customers will find most engaging.
Why haven’t I ever heard of this kind of research before?
Weird, right? The fact is that, until recently, only the largest consumer products companies were incorporating multivariate attitudinal segmentation analysis into their decision-making. Even 15 years ago research of this kind could cost upwards of $250,000 to conduct, and results weren’t available in less than 9 months.
What changed? Three things: 1) The development of online survey functionality, allowing surveys to be developed and executed quickly and inexpensively; 2) The democratization of internet access, allowing virtually all potential survey respondents, regardless of income, age or geography, to participate in online surveys and communicate with brands; and 3) The exponential growth of computing power, allowing complicated, data-heavy statistical analysis to move from large university-based computer facilities to our laptops. Because this research is so (relatively) new, most companies — and certainly most marketing agencies — don’t even know it’s an option for them.
Our client says they already know their audience segments. How will this research help us?
Believing and knowing are two different things. While your client (or you) may see traits within their audience that seem like differentiators, it could be that those factors aren’t actually affecting purchase decisions. Or you could be assuming segments based on a single factor — company size, or household income, for example. Multivariate factor analysis will identify the group of factors that are truly responsible for the key differences between your audience segments — allowing you to base your strategy on facts.
Will it work for any industry?
As long as we can reach the people you want to understand, we can do the research. Every project is custom because every client’s goals are different, but the approach works the same way whether we’re seeking insights from students, socialites, sales reps or systems analysts.
How about B2B?
The reality is, everything’s P2P. Even if your client is selling to businesses, people within those organizations are making those purchase decisions. Their attitudes are certainly affected by the needs of their organization and their own goals within the company, but they’re attitudes all the same. We do lots of B2B projects for agencies whose clients are selling products or services, seeking memberships, or driving conference registrations and exhibitors.
Is this reliable?
Our work is quantitative research, based on survey data from large numbers of respondents. So unlike focus groups or one-on-one interviews, we give you statistically reliable insights you can depend on when recommending strategies and tactics to your clients. If we don’t think we can get enough respondents to make the work statistically reliable, we won’t do it.
Our client knows their customers pretty well. How can this add to that knowledge?
Your client likely does have some understanding of their customers and prospects, or they wouldn’t be in business for long. But it’s very common to develop a sort of “tunnel vision” based on our own opinions about the value of our products, and the reasons our customers would be interested in them. Attitudinal segmentation will probably validate some of those beliefs, but it also brings an expanded understanding of the different problems your client can solve for their customers — as well as information about where decision-makers go for information and advice, the features and benefits they find most compelling, the resources and content they’d find most helpful, and the messages you can use to get their attention and interest.
How is the research done?
Every project is custom-built for every client, so we start with a kickoff session where we cover a ton of ground about who you and your client want to hear from, questions they need to have answered and debates they’re having internally that we can settle with the research. We develop an online survey, in collaboration with you and your client, that includes an incentive for respondents who complete it. If we need to hear from respondents your client doesn’t have in their own database, we source and manage a group of panel respondents for you. Your client sends out the survey invitations to their email list, their social media properties, their stores — whatever makes sense in their case — and when we have the responses we need we analyze them to determine the attitudinal segments, visualize all the data from the survey and review all of the findings with your agency and your client in a workshop format.
How long does it take?
Our average project takes about 10 weeks from start to finish. Of course, every client is different — some projects take longer because your client needs longer for survey reviews and approvals, and the time we need to collect responses can vary depending on how we’re collecting them. Once we’ve discussed your needs we can give you a pretty good idea of when you’d have your results.
How much does it cost?
Each of our projects is custom-built, and each one has different requirements — some include a paid respondent panel, others require multiple surveys to different respondent groups — so we can’t tell you what your project would cost without a conversation. Plus, our clients are agencies — so our work is typically part of a proposal you’re preparing for your own client, and as such we believe your costs should be confidential. We’ve built this company specifically to serve small- and mid-sized agencies, and we’ve built our process specifically to make the work accessible for them and their clients. We’re pretty sure you’ll find our prices surprisingly affordable. Give us a call and we can usually get you a customized proposal within a day or two.
Do you participate in RFP’s?
No. We have found over the years that RFP’s are a poor way for us to share how we solve problems for clients, even though our pricing is typically far below that of other providers. We are a small company, by necessity focused on efficiency and effectiveness. RFP’s are the furthest things from efficient and effective, so we don’t do them. However, if your agency is engaged in an RFP we are happy to provide content you can include when proposing our services.
How many respondents do we need?
Ballpark answer? A minimum of 400. But depending on your goals and your audience, we might recommend more, or make do with slightly fewer. Once we’ve had a conversation we can let you know whether we’ve got a large enough group to proceed.
When it comes to clients, how small is too small?
As long as we can get the respondents we need, even the smallest clients can benefit from our research. We love the little guys. Heck, we ARE the little guys.
How are segments determined?
Our segmentation analysis is driven exclusively by respondents’ attitudes. They tell us whether or not they agree with each of a set of statements, and we use those ratings to identify groups of statements associated with groups of respondents. Unlike some segmentation approaches, we don’t have predetermined segment “buckets” that we’re just using to sort your respondents — we don’t know before we do the analysis how many segments we’ll find, or what attitudes will define them.
Of course, there’s a more technical answer to this question, which involves orthogonal varimax rotation, the Kaiser-Guttman rule, scree plots and interpretability criteria, but let’s leave that to the statisticians, shall we?
Other than the attitudinal segments, what kind of questions can we get answered?
Lots! Our surveys typically ask questions about demographics, the decision-making process, competitive awareness and usage, resources for finding information about options, influences on decision-making, important features and benefits, customer experience with your brand, social media and device usage, spending, message appeal and more. Since we’re building the survey specifically for your client, we’re incorporating the topics and issues of greatest interest to you and to them.
This stuff is complicated. How am I supposed to sell it to clients when I barely understand it myself?
We’ll help you sell it in, and are happy to schedule screen-sharing calls with you and your client to show them examples of the work and answer questions. Once we’ve done a few projects together, it gets easier to talk to clients about it on your own. Whenever you or your clients have questions, we’re super-responsive so you get what you need, when you need it. Helping you sell our research is part of our process.
Can we show examples of projects in our category?
Typically not, for one of two reasons: 1) We work across a wide range of industries and categories, so we may not have done a project in your client’s particular niche; 2) Even if we have, we’re not website developers whose work is public for everyone to see — our work is research, and it’s proprietary unless the client allows us to share it (or it’s done for public thought-leadership efforts). We do, however, have a variety of example projects that we are permitted to share in sales discussions.
What if our client doesn’t want to share their contact database?
No problem! We give your client links to the online survey, and they send them out an invitation to their contacts. They never have to share their contacts with us.
What if our client doesn’t have a database of customers or prospects?
We can help! Maybe your client doesn’t have a list good list of customers, or maybe their list is too small to do this research. Perhaps they’re a new firm, or an established firm introducing products to a new market. We work with reputable panel providers to source respondents from a wide range of B2B and B2C industries. If you need respondents for your study, we can determine their availability and cost before you propose the project to your client.
How do you get respondents to participate in your surveys?
We incorporate incentives into our surveys to reward respondents for taking the time to share their opinions with us. Every project is different, so the incentive strategy will be developed specifically for your project, based on who your client wants to hear from. Typically we set up a sweepstakes drawing where everyone who completes the survey has an opportunity to win a prize. We can provide sweepstakes rules for your lawyers to review and will administer the sweepstakes for you — posting the rules online, setting up the entry form in the survey, and selecting the winners. Your client fulfills the prizes.
Are your surveys anonymous?
Yes. Respondents are more likely to provide honest feedback when we offer them anonymity. We can, however, provide different links to the survey so your client can offer one link to their customers, a different one to their prospects, another to their social media fans, etc. This allows respondents to remain anonymous while providing insights about how these groups may differ from one another.
At the end of our surveys, we typically offer respondents the opportunity to enter a sweepstakes drawing for a prize. They provide their contact information for the drawing, but their information is not connected with their survey responses and is not shared or used for any other purpose.
Can this be profitable for us?
Obviously, research is a cost. But for agencies, our research can provide a number of opportunities to drive revenue and profitability. Segmentation insights can help you win your new business pitches, and can offer opportunities for new work with existing clients. Some of our agencies bundle segmentation research into a larger initiative, such as branding strategy or website development. Others mark up our fee to cover their engagement in the research strategy and development phases, and offer it as a stand-alone project to their clients. We built our practice specifically for agencies. We understand that both you and your client need to be profitable, or the lights don’t stay on. So we’ve priced our work unlike any other research provider we know, and as a result, lots of our agencies use us to support the majority of their clients.
How much time and effort will it take from our team?
Our goal is to collaborate with your agency and your client on this work while making it an affordable process that’s easy to participate in. Your agency team will participate in the initial kickoff discussion (usually about 2 hours), review survey content and make suggestions for edits, coordinate reviews and approvals with the client, help them develop their email or social media invitations, and participate in both a 2-hour Agency Preview workshop and the Client Results workshop when the results are in.
We’ve had some bad experiences with research. What makes this different?
Join the club! It seems like everyone who’s tried to use research has had the experience of ending up with unhelpful data, inscrutable findings and dusty binders that never get pulled off the shelf. We built our work specifically to provide engaging, helpful data to marketing agencies. Years of marketing strategy work, both in agencies and on the client side, give us insight into the kinds of information that would be helpful to you — for content marketing, website development, search strategy, social media engagement and more. We walk our clients through the research in person (or through an interactive screen-share) so that you, your team and your client understand what the research told us, and have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the findings. We want to change everything you think you know about research.
Do clients mind that you’re not an agency?
Not only is research a specialty, but this type of research is the definition of “small niche”. It’s unlikely that any agency, much less a small- to mid-sized agency, would have our type of expertise in-house — it just doesn’t make operational sense, and your clients sure wouldn’t want to be paying for that overhead 24/7. This type of research is ALL WE DO. And we only do it for agencies. We believe in experts, and in expert partners — and our clients have been very successful in demonstrating the economy and value of experts by bringing us into their client relationships.