Sign up for the Corona Observer quarterly e-newsletter

Stay current with Corona Insights by signing up for our quarterly e-newsletter, The Corona Observer.  In it, we share with our readers insights into current topics in market research, evaluation, and strategy that are relevant regardless of your position or field.

View our recent newsletter from July, 2017 here.

* indicates required




We hope you find it to be a valuable resource. Of course, if you wish to unsubscribe, you may do so at any time via the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

 


If you are traveling to watch the eclipse, be prepared

Solar Eclipse. The moon moving in front of the sun. Illustration

As a bit of a space geek (don’t even get me started on my love of SpaceX), I’ve been planning for this weekend for a long time.  I bought my eclipse sunglasses and started looking into lodging over a year ago, so you can imagine how excited I am for this event.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it seems I’m not the only one who will be traveling north to watch the total solar eclipse.  (Though you can see the sun 92% obscured in Denver, it won’t be anything like the experience of totality.)  This has CDOT issuing all sorts of warnings about traffic over the weekend.  I was curious about how much of a doomsday prediction these warnings were, so I conducted a quick Google Survey to find out.

Though these surveys aren’t near as robust or scientific as the surveys we at Corona do for our clients, they are a great way to get a quick feel for how the public feels about an issue.  In this case, I simply asked 125 Colorado residents if they were planning to travel north and, if so, where they planned to travel to.  The results?

Again, these are very rough numbers, but with 20% of those surveyed saying they are planning to travel to see the eclipse (out of 5.5 million Coloradans), that could mean that as many as 1.1 million Coloradans will be on the highway on Monday.  CDOT’s estimate of 600 thousand traveling to Wyoming doesn’t seem far off from the 550 million estimate this quick survey would indicate.

So what to do?  Here are my recommendations:

  • Go anyway! Seriously, this won’t happen within easy driving distance of Colorado for another 30 years, and everyone I’ve heard speak about the experience says it’s completely surreal and unlike anything else you will experience.
  • Plan for safety. If you have somehow been living under a rock and missed all of the safety warnings about needing eclipse glasses, here’s another one.  Don’t look at the sun (except during totality if you travel north) without using eclipse glasses.    If you don’t already have them, you can try finding them at local libraries or hardware stores.  And if you can’t find them, check out community events where you could borrow from someone.  The process of the eclipse will take a total of almost 3 hours, so it shouldn’t be a problem to trade glasses here and there.  And if you still can’t make that work, there’s always a pinhole camera.
  • Plan for a good location. Many small towns in the path of totality are hosting events to watch the eclipse.  That’s a much better option than planning to just stop at the side of the road somewhere.
  • Plan for the worst-case traffic scenario. Though my hope is that everyone will be spread out enough that traffic won’t be as bad as CDOT fears, it’s a possibility that they’re entirely correct.  Get gas early so that you don’t have to wait at overcrowded gas stations.  Plan a variety of routes to get to and from your destination.  Take food and water in the car so that you don’t have to swarm the handful of restaurants in the area that aren’t equipped to handle this kind of volume.
  • Have fun! Try and relax, take your time when traveling, and enjoy the experience for what it is. Even if it takes way longer than you expect to get home on Monday, this may be the only time in your life that you get to experience something like this.

I’ll be out of the office on Monday, and I hope that many of you will be as well.  Enjoy the experience, and cross your fingers for clear skies!


Hey, did you hear that joke about naturally occurring data going to a bar?

By AdamTheBruce (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
There we were cresting a pass along Highway 40 in route to Steamboat Springs. I found myself scanning the beautiful terrain while engrossed in a conversation about one of my favorite research topics – naturally occurring data. Call it research purist meets strategist for the knockout round.

As a consultant who leads data-driven strategy processes I’ve learned that not all data is created equal. I’ve also learned to value experience and intuition just as I value data derived from research. After all, aren’t the most powerful insights those that derive from a combination of data, intuition and experience?

Several years ago, I noticed a pattern. If I didn’t say the thing I believed to be true based on my experience and insights, I often regretted it later. I found myself wondering why I wasn’t valuing my own experience more.

And that same realization bopped me on the head again this year after returning home from Steamboat.

Why wasn’t I valuing my own experience as much as my intuition? Perhaps I’d given my intuition center-stage to honor it when I’m amidst folks who value facts and numbers.

But what about 20 years of experience? I’m not saying experience that is 20 years old. I’m talking about an accumulation of naturally occurring data over 20 years.

The thing I love about naturally occurring data is that it can be as powerful and valuable as data derived from surveys, focus groups, and other constructed research environments. (Thank you, market research profession, for honoring what I knew to be true.) That data exists all around us – and if we can stay attuned to it – we can gather that data up into trends, patterns and insights.

I always remind my clients that the world doesn’t stop when you are engaged in strategic planning. Day-to-day operations go on while we contemplate bold aspirations for the future. And the naturally occurring data we gather along the way can serve either the day-to-day, or the strategic, or both.

Experience has taught me that all forms of data are powerful – and together they can be synergistic.

Fact. Perception. Intuition.

Add it all up to experience. Naturally occurring.


Understanding customer satisfaction requires understanding the customer experience

When people think of doing market research on a new idea, many think it works like this:

The problem with this mentality is that humans are notoriously awful at forecasting their own behavior.  It’s easy to say “Sure, I would buy that!” in when clicking a button while taking a survey or when sitting in a focus group.  When it comes down to the actual experience of standing in an aisle in a store and comparing one product to a dozen others, though, the decision gets to be considerably more difficult.  There have been plenty of market research failures over the years, and marketers’ failure to put themselves in the shoes of their customers are often a key reason why.

So how do you get around this issue?  Here are a few possible solutions:

  • Replicate the purchasing decision as closely as possible. Rather than putting your product (or service) in front of people and asking for feedback in a vacuum, ask participants to compare your offering with those of your competitors.  Or better yet, don’t even tell them which is yours at first and see which they pick out and why.
  • Approach the problem from a variety of perspectives. Interest in a product or service has a wide variety of dimensions.  While the overall reaction you get may be positive, you may be able to identify areas for improvement if you break interest down into key components, such as the look and feel, usability, ease of use, price, etc.
  • Get abstract. We at Corona will sometimes make use of questions like “If [this product or service] were an animal, what would it be and why?”  While questions like this seem a little silly, it can be extremely informative to know if your offering is more of a cheetah or a walrus.  And the explanations of why participants chose their animal can be even more informative.  (Fair warning, though: some participants hate this question and will just refuse to answer.  That’s OK.)
  • Consider advanced techniques. There are statistical techniques that have been developed over the years that can help to evaluate the relative weight that survey respondents place on various attributes of a product or service, such as a conjoint or MaxDiff analysis.  The details of how these work are outside the scope of our humble little blog, but each of these ask participants to make a decision that requires comparing sets of choices to one another rather than just saying “Yes, I’m interested in A.”

Market research, as valuable as it is, will never be a silver bullet that will absolutely guarantee the success of a product or service launch.  However, by considering the experience of making a decision when designing your approach, you’ll have a very strong chance of making the best decisions possible to make your launch a success.



Researching things that go boom

OK, so there may not be a lot of actual research going on in this post, but we at Corona have a wide variety of interests and sometimes like to show those off too!  One such interest is that I have been shooting professional fireworks shows for over 20 years.  I got my start in helping out my dad back when I was in high school (and when the regulations for the minimum age for helping on a show were more…loosely enforced).  Since then, it’s been a summer hobby of mine for years.

Though everyone knows what fireworks are like when they explode, I have found over the years that very few people have any idea what it takes to put on a good show!  Even for a relatively small show (I was in charge of the show in Lafayette, Colorado for 5 years), it takes a crew of at least 5-6 people an entire day to get ready for the big event.  Here’s a quick overview of the steps involved!

  1. Place and secure the mortars. Nearly all aerial fireworks are shot out of mortars (tubes), so the first step is to distribute large racks of mortars and secure them using braces, sand bags, or even burying them.  Professional fireworks are really powerful, and failing to properly secure the mortars to ensure safe operation can lead to disastrous results.
  2. Distribute and load the fireworks. This is possibly the easiest part of the process to understand, but it is also one of the most dangerous steps.  Crew members distribute the shells according to the plan and carefully drop them into their assigned mortar.  While every precaution is taken to ensure that devices are safe during this process, it’s not unheard of for a shell to ignite while being dropped into a mortar, so it’s important to keep body parts away from the top of a mortar!
  3. Wire everything up. Though it is possible to ignite a professional firework device by hand, a vast majority of shows are set off electronically.  That doesn’t necessarily mean computerized, but it means that an electric match is inserted into the fuse of the firework so that it can be lit from a safe distance.  (If you’ve ever fired off a model rocket, it’s the same concept.)  Once the e-matches are inserted, each is wired to a “rail” with a designated ID number so that we can set off that shell exactly when we want to.
  4. Connect the firing board and test everything out. I often describe the function of a firing board as being like a big kids’ version of the game of Operation.  There is a stylus with a metal tip and a wire coming off of it, and when you touch the stylus to a terminal, it completes the circuit, igniting the e-match and sending the shell airborne.  Before we do that, however, we always test everything out to make sure that our wiring is in good shape to shoot the show.
  5. If everything goes well, everything will be loaded, wired, and tested with plenty of time to spare (since weather or other issues sometimes cause delays).  Most of the time, though, there is time to sit, relax, and enjoy a nice, summer evening.
  6. Shoot the show! This part is just as fun for the crew as it is for the audience.  All of our hard work in the hot sun pays off for 20-30 minutes as we get to satisfy our inner pyromaniacs and blow up a ton of stuff in a short time!  It’s always a blast (pun intended).
  7. Clean it up and go home! You’d be surprised at how much work goes into cleaning up after a fireworks show.  Not only do we have to haul all of the equipment back into a truck that same night, we also have to safely inspect the shoot site to ensure that no fireworks are left in mortars and that there aren’t any “dud” shells that came down in the area.  It’s not the most glamorous part of the show and usually takes at least 2-3 hours, so the crew usually doesn’t leave until well after midnight.

Fireworks shows are a lot of fun for both the audience and the crew, but it is definitely a ton of work that requires a special type of worker to enjoy.  (Spoiler alert: fireworks crews aren’t paid like kings.)  I hope that this inside look will help you to appreciate all of the work that went into making your 4th of July holiday memorable!


Corona presents on marijuana research at upcoming conference

 

We are pleased to announce that our research supporting Summit County’s (Colorado) safety program for youth marijuana access has been accepted for a poster presentation at the annual APHA (American Public Health Association) conference in November.  If you plan to attend, please stop by and learn about our work.  Our project abstract is shown below.

Learning Areas

Summit County, Colorado, is located among the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies, immediately west of the Continental Divide. Our elevation ranges from a low of 7,947 feet above sea level up to 14,270 feet at Gray’s Peak. Included within the county are six municipalities, four major ski areas, and major wilderness areas. About 80% of the land in the county is federal public land.

Whereas Colorado leads the nation in developing marijuana policy, Summit County leads Colorado. As a major recreation area and larger mountain community, youth in the area are exposed to a marijuana-friendly and marijuana-tolerant culture. No fewer than five retail marijuana dispensaries do business in this tourism-oriented community of 30,000 permanent residents. So how does one prevent marijuana use among youth in such an environment? While marijuana remains illegal for people under 21, it is now easy and legal for adults to possess marijuana, and easy access among adults may lead to easier access (knowingly or illicitly) among youth.

Summit County decided that a campaign aimed at preventing youth access to marijuana would be a good start. But to do this, we needed to know how adults viewed the risks of marijuana use in a number of contexts, to help enlist their participation in this cause. Via surveys, we learned from parents, young adults, and others about how they viewed marijuana risks both for adults and for youth. We examined several facets of risk and safety, including comparisons of marijuana to other legal and illegal drugs, safety in a recreational context (e.g. while hiking, biking, driving, skiing, etc.), and opinions about the safe storage and disposal of marijuana products to prevent unintended exposure of youth to them.

The results will inform a campaign aimed at recruiting adults into a movement to help limit access to youth.

Learning Areas

  • Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
  • Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
  • Program planning
  • Public health or related education
  • Public health or related research
  • Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives

Formulate a strategy for a public campaign to educate about risks of marijuana. Formulate a strategy for a public campaign to promote safe management of marijuana use where it occurs. Define what safe usage means in the minds of users and develop education strategies for areas where public perceptions of risk may differ from known risks. Compare perceptions of safe marijuana use against those of other legal and illegal drugs.


Ugh, Millennials

Is anyone else tired of talking about millennials? Millennials have seemingly been on everyone’s mind, with many worrying over their spending habits, charitable giving, large debt, voting behaviors, and other things. Why do we care so much about this generation? Don’t they already have a problem with entitlement and being all about “me me me”; we probably shouldn’t feed into that, right?

Pictured: Gregory (myself) the Millennial
Fun fact: depending on where you draw the line, 70% of Corona staff are classified as millennials.

As annoying as it might be, there are some very good reasons to focus on the millennial generation. The baby boomer generation is now on the decline and currently there are 11 million more millennials. It is estimated that millennials will comprise over a third of adult Americans by 2020,  up to 75% of the American workforce by 2025, and currently account for over one trillion dollars in consumer spending in the U.S. Despite this, millennials have less money to spend and are encumbered with greater debt. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the conclusion is that millennials are important because they are the new money – they are very quickly becoming the largest group of consumers and are therefore greatly impacting all businesses and organizations.

The millennials, as a generation, share some commonly seen characteristics:

… and the facts don’t end there. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to pour over some of the linked materials to familiarize yourself with this impactful generation. If they haven’t yet, millennials will be disrupting your organization sometime in the near future, and it’s inescapable that we all need to adapt.


Thinking strategically about benchmarks

When our clients are thinking about data that they would like to collect to answer a question, we sometimes are asked about external benchmarking data. Basically, when you benchmark your data, you generally are asking how you compare to other organizations or competitors. While external benchmarks can be useful, there are a couple of points to consider when deciding whether benchmarking your data is going to be useful:

  1. Context is key. Comparing yourself to other organizations or competitors can encourage some big picture thinking about your organization. But it is important to remember the context of the benchmark data. Are the benchmark organizations similar to you? Are they serving similar populations? How do they compare in size and budget? Additionally, external benchmark data may only be available in aggregated form. For example, non profit and government organizations may be grouped together. Sometimes these differences are not important, but other times they are an important lens through which you should examine the data.
  2. Benchmark data is inherently past-focused. When you compare your data to that of other organizations, you are comparing yourself to the past. There is a time-lag for any data collection, and the data are reflecting the impacts of changes or policies that have already been implemented. While this can be useful, if your organization is trying to adapt to changes that you see on the horizon, it may not be as useful to compare yourself to the past.
  3. Benchmark data is generally more useful as part of a larger research project. For example, if your organization differs significantly from other external benchmarks, it can be helpful to have data that suggest why that is.
  4. What you can benchmark on may not be the most useful. Often, you are limited in the types of data available about other organizations. These may be certain financial data or visitor data. Sometimes the exact same set of questions is administered to many organizations, and you are limited to those questions for benchmarking.

Like most research, external benchmarking can be useful—it is just a matter of thinking carefully about how and when to best use it.


Activating research

Research that just sits on the shelf (or these days, in a digital folder) is research that probably should not have been conducted. If it is not going to be used, then why do it?

Effective research takes many things, from the beginning through the end. We’ve blogged before about the need to start with end in the mind, but what happens when you get to the end? Then what?

Sharing results internally, with the right audiences, and in an effective medium, is key. Here are several ideas of how to do that beyond the common report or PowerPoint deck.

Make it interactive. Can the data (in part or whole) be made to allow for manipulation by users? This could be a fully interactive dashboard where the user gets to select variables to look at, or it could simply be a predefined analysis that users can pull up, filter, and review. For example, Corona often delivers open-ended verbatim responses with a series of filters built in so users can quickly drill down, rather than just reading hundreds or thousands of verbatim comments.

Video summaries. Can you tell the story through video for greater engagement? We have found that video works best in short clips to convey the primary findings and are often best accompanied by more detailed reporting (if users need more). Longer videos can be harder to digest and cause people to disengage. Corona has created short videos to communicate general findings to larger groups of employees who may need to know the general gist of the research, but do not need to know as much detail as core decision makers.

Initial readouts and workshops. Can you involve the users in designing reporting, such as holding a workshop to help build their dashboard so it includes the metrics they want? This not only helps create a more effective dashboard for them, but also creates buy-in since they were involved in its creation. Similarly, sharing preliminary findings can help focus additional analysis and ensure their questions are being addressed in the final report.

Also, consider the following to make any of the above more effective:

  • Who needs what? Who in the organization needs what information. Share what it is most important so critical points don’t get lost in the larger report.
  • How much? Consider the level of detail any one person or team needs. Executives may want top-level metrics with key points and recommendations; analysts may want every tabulation and verbatim response.
  • Who has questions? I think when people read a report or finding, they often think that’s it. Encourage questions and allow for follow-up to make sure everyone has what they need to move forward.

What challenges have you had making use of research? What have you done to try and overcome it? We’d love to hear bellow.


Getting the most out of your customer survey

There are a multitude of tools available these days that allow organizations to easily ask questions of their customers.  It is certainly not uncommon when Corona begins an engagement for the client to have made internal attempts at conducting surveys in the past.  In some cases, these studies have been relatively sophisticated and have yielded great results. In others, however, the survey’s results were met with a resounding “Why does this matter?”.

The challenge is that conducting a good survey requires a much more strategic view than most realize.  This starts with designing the survey questions themselves.  We always begin our engagements by asking our clients to think through the decisions that will be made, the opportunities to improve, and the possible challenges to be addressed based on the results.  By keeping the answers to these questions in mind as you design your survey questions, you can minimize the amount of “trivia” questions in your survey that might be interesting to know, but won’t really have any influence on your future decisions.

Even after having questions designed, you have to consider how you will get people to participate in the survey.  If you have a database of 100,000 customers, it may be tempting to just send invitations to all of them.  But what if you plan to send out a plea for donations in the next few weeks?  Consider the impact of asking for 15 minutes of time from people who might be asked to support you very soon.  Being careful to appropriately time the survey and perhaps only send it out to a small segment of customers might help to minimize fatigue that could negatively impact your overall business strategy in the near future.

Finally, once you’ve collected the results, simple tabulations will only tell a small part of the story.  Every result should be examined through the lens of the actual strategic impact of the results.  A good question to ask throughout the analysis of your results is, “So what?”.  Keep the focus on the implications of the results rather than the results themselves, your final report of what you learned with have a much better chance of making a meaningful impact on your organization moving forward.

Obviously, we at Corona are here to help walk you through this process in order to ensure the highest-quality result possible, but even if you choose to go it alone, keeping a strategic view of what you need to learn and how it will influence your decisions will help to avoid a lot of wasted effort.