RADIANCE BLOG

Category: Market Research

The Many Lands of Colorado

As we begin a blog series about Colorado, we must first take note of the diversity of the state.  We have mountains, plains, and valleys, of course, but we also have large metro areas and small towns, agricultural economies and service economies, and myriad other variations on the Colorado theme.  The concept of “Colorado” is very different depending on where you are in Colorado.

After 20 years of working in Colorado demographics, I’m always intrigued to see how different organizations break out the state into regions for their work.  There are some strong patterns the regional analyses I’ve seen over the years, but there are always variations.  What is the overall pattern, though?  If we had to come up with a consensus set of ten regions, what would they be?  I decided to try to find out.

I found regional breakouts of Colorado that have been produced by a dozen large organizations or programs around the state. Those organizations divided the state into anywhere from 4 to 13 regions [1], all on a county-level basis.

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Aging in Wyoming

Earlier, we reported on a joint project that we conducted with Heinrich Marketing to examine the different ways that Wyoming youth move into adulthood.  Today we’ll look at the other side of the spectrum, examining how Wyoming residents age.

We examined the timeline by which different life events happen among older adults, including retirement, health issues, losing one’s spouse, and other issues.  We ultimately developed a timeline of these events to better understand how – and when – older adults face life changes that are associated with aging.

Check out the abridged version of our presentation here (pdf).


Adulting in Wyoming

Working with our partners at Heinrich Marketing, we recently prepared an analysis of the “adulting” process for young people in Wyoming.  We were curious about the timing and acceptance of various traditional indicators of adulthood, such as having kids, pursuing a full-time career, and others.  There are many models of being an adult based on these traditional indicators, so we examined 32 different models to see which was the most common in the state.

Check out the abridged version of our presentation here (pdf).

And stay tuned – soon we’ll post another presentation on Aging in Wyoming.


Considerations for researching your members

Corona takes many items into consideration when designing a research plan for our clients. In short, market research includes asking the right people, the right questions, in the right manner, and then conducting the right analyses. Here are a few of the considerations when conducting research with your membership.

Research mode

  • What type of contact information do you have for members? And how are they used to interacting with you? For many, this will be email, but it may also include phone, mail, or even in-person research at conferences. The goal is to select the mode(s) that will reach all, or at least the greatest number of members possible.
  • Quant vs. qual? Are you trying to measure opinions (quant) or do exploratory research or dig deeper into an issue (qual)?
  • Do you need multiple touch points? Announcements, invites, and reminders? Online with telephone or mail reminders?

Goals

  • What are your goals and expected outcomes? It’s often easy to jump into start writing survey questions or qualitative prompts. It’s often harder to think of bigger picture goals and how you will use the information you gain. Start with your goals to ensure the research will turn out successful.

Sampling

  • Sample all or some? For large organizations, you may not need to survey every member to have valid, representative results. You may want to give everyone an opportunity to respond or you may decide to only survey a random selection to minimize the number of members contacted.
  • Can you append data for actual behavior? While you can always ask about their membership behavior (e.g., length of membership, conferences attended, etc.), if you have that information already, you can just append it to their results. This will yield more accurate results and require fewer questions asked to respondents.

Frequency

  • How often should you conduct member research? Annual research makes the most sense for some organizations, while others may go years between efforts. There is no right answer, but in general, regular intervals make the most sense, and you will want to take into consideration the rate of change within the organization. If membership turns over regularly, or you’re in a fast-paced industry, more frequent research may be needed to keep the pulse of members.

Incentives

  • Do we offer an incentive? Generally speaking, an incentive will increase response rate. Furthermore, through our own testing, Corona has seen that the make-up of respondents includes a broader mix of people when an incentive is offered. Incentives serve to both encourage response and recognize their time and effort in completing the survey.
  • What type of incentive? While there are many options, the incentive should have broad appeal as to not skew the results by being over appealing to one segment and not at all appealing to another. Prize drawings, small token gift cards, and/or additional member benefits are all common options.

What other questions or concerns have you had about conducting research with your members?


Preferred membership benefits and how they can change over time

So far in this series on membership organizations, we’ve discussed communications, segmenting, and the importance of personal benefits. Here we combine the latter two and look at how perceptions of benefits change over time. The reasons someone may join fresh out of college or at the start of a new career is different than someone who continues to be a member as they near retirement.

This, in fact, is another benefit of segmenting your membership, both in practice and in evaluating results from any membership research. By looking at how results vary by age, time in the industry or their career, and/or time as a member, you can tailor services and messaging to each group.

For example, we’ve seen such differences as:

  • Resource access
  • Skill development
  • Career development
  • Broader industry efforts

Even if your organization is more homogeneous, such as a young professionals group, understanding where they are at will help you ensure the organization remains relevant to them.

What other factors have you seen vary by member tenure?


What type of benefits do members care about most?

Membership organizations exist to serve their members. So it’s no surprise that Corona is often tasked with uncovering what benefits members find most valuable and what new benefits members are seeking. Similarly, we often conduct research with non-members to measure their awareness of the organization’s benefits and whether they are a “fit” for them.

The benefits Corona has examined has run the spectrum, from career services to professional development to lobbying and more. While benefits are unique to an organization, we have observed some broad trends, such as:

Benefits that focus on the individual consistently rate higher than benefits that focus on the profession or industry.

This can vary by segment and organization, but in short, a benefit that focuses on personal gain (e.g., networking, career, skills, etc.) will rate higher than those that focus on the profession or industry more broadly (e.g., funding research, representing their interest with legislatures, etc.). This isn’t to say the other things aren’t important, but that they have relatively less appeal than personal benefits.

This makes intuitive sense in many ways. While people will support the broader industry benefits, they first want their own needs met. People ask what’s in it for them and the clearest answers are those benefits that they can see a direct advantage from. While people can often see the benefits of supporting their broader industry, it is not as direct or an immediate of a line from organizational offering to personal benefit.

Have you seen this with your own organization? What benefits have you found to be especially valuable among members?

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As a side note, when Corona researches benefits we don’t only research the value of the benefit, but also often how the organization is performing in providing that benefit and whether the organization is seen as the entity to provide it. Weighing all of these factors together helps our clients make a more informed decision to what benefits to offer.

This is the third post in a series of posts about membership organizations. Corona has worked extensively with membership organizations and is sharing some of its lessons learned over the years here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to get all updates, and sign-up for our quarterly newsletter here.


Measuring in Multiple Dimensions

The shortest route between any two points is a straight line.

Don’t dance around.

Get to the point.

Sometimes being indirect is the best route.

We hear such sayings everyday. Indirectness is often seen as a liability, circuitousness as a weakness. But in our work, that’s not always the best strategy.

Understanding people and behaviors requires us to understand the context in which they live, think, and make decisions, and that’s a difficult thing. In my 18 years of work as a market researcher, one thing that I’ve learned is that people have such a wide variety of perspectives on life that there’s no way I can take them all into account when conducting research. The best I can do is to piece together the patterns that I see in the data and use that to enlighten myself and my client.

In order to do that, sometimes you can’t just ask one question. You have to triangulate. This may involve asking different types of questions that circle back to the same general topic in different ways. It’s expensive, relatively speaking, because it keeps you from asking other questions in that same survey space, but it can be valuable.

However, it is indeed a luxury to be able to engage in this practice. So we look for other approaches where possible.

As a variant on that approach, one of my favorite tricks of the trade is to ask complementary questions, questions that help you understand the context of a particular issue. It may not give you different perspectives, but it’s an efficient way to add value in multiple ways.

For example, if we ask about desire for various recreational opportunities, we ask simultaneously how important it is to their quality of life. This gives us three measures for the price to two: desire, importance, and the combination of the two. It helps us understand the issue and its context. For mental health issues, we may ask about how common they are in households, but also what their impact is. Again, we get three items of information for the price of two.

More importantly, this gives us a context for measuring opinions and issues. By asking related questions in two or three different dimensions, we can measure issues with a more rich understanding.

I hope you found this post interesting, but also informative and important.


How to measure what people want

Recently after an interview for a project, some us at Corona had a discussion about whether or not it would be useful to use a survey for the project. Like a lot of projects, this potential client was interested in what new changes the public might want in their organization. And at first, this seems like it could be a great area to do a survey and ask people what they want. However, directly asking people about what they might want can backfire sometimes for a number of reasons:

  1. Various psychologists have found that people are not always great at predicting their emotional response to something (e.g., will X make me happy?). Part of the reason is that people don’t always do a good job of imagining what it will actually be like.
  2. People often think that they want more choices, but this is generally not the case.
  3. Depending on the topic, people might feel like there is a “socially correct” option and might choose that one instead of what they really want.
  4. I think in general, we don’t always know what we want, especially when the possibilities are vast. And sometimes what we want may not come through in the survey questions. Sometimes experiencing a change is very different than reading about a change, especially if you’re trying to gauge whether you will like the change or not.

In some situations, it may be more useful to try to measure behavior instead of opinions when trying to determine what people want. While it is sometimes difficult to do this, the data can be very rich and useful. One interesting approach is to temporarily make a change and record what happens. For example, New York City first made Times Square pedestrian only as a test to see what the impact might be. It was initially a hard sell because people were thinking about what the city would lose—one of the main thoroughfares. But there were lots of positives to making it pedestrian only—enough to make the change permanent. When you survey people about potential changes, sometimes it is easier to think about what you lose in the change, as opposed to what you might gain. And that can impact how people respond to the survey.

A pop up shop is another example of this. A shop can temporarily appear for a few days or a month to see whether a more permanent location is a good idea. Even if your online shoppers say in a survey that they would visit a physical location, a pop up store will let you know whether that actually happens.

So the next time your organization is considering making a change, it might be useful to think about whether a survey is going to be the most useful way to decide what to change or whether measuring behaviors as part of a test might be a better approach.


Measuring Reactions to Your Ideas

Market research can be painful sometimes.  You may have poured your heart and soul into an idea and feel it’s really good, only to put it in front of your customers and hear all the things they hate about it.  But it’s better to know in advance than to find out after you’ve spent a ton of money and risked your brand equity for your idea.

It may not be as sexy as measuring customer satisfaction, prioritizing product features, or helping you optimize your pricing strategies, but sometimes market research is simply necessary to make sure that you haven’t overlooked something important when developing a product, service, or marketing campaign.  No matter how much we try to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, it is impossible to be 100% sure that your own background and experiences have ensured that you fully understand the perspectives of customers who come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.

In our own work, we frequently work with advertising agencies to help inform and evaluate ad campaigns and media before launch.  Considering the enormous amount of money required to reach a wide audience (though television, radio, online ads, etc.), it just makes sense to devote a small part of your budget to running the campaign by a variety of people in your audience to make sure you know how people might react.

In some cases, what you learn might be fairly minor.  You might not have even noticed that your ad lacks diversity.  You might not have noticed that your ad makes some people feel uncomfortable.  Or perhaps, your own world view has given you a blind spot to the fact that your ad makes light of sensitive issues, such as religion, major tragedies, or even date rape.

Unfortunately, we saw an example of this issue in Denver recently, where a local coffee chain’s attempt at humor infuriated the local neighborhood with a sign that read, “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.”  From the perspective of someone less engaged in the neighborhood, you can understand what they were getting at – that good coffee was a sign of progress in the natural development of a thriving city.

However, the statement completely misses the fact that gentrification often results in people being forced from the homes they have lived in for years and the destruction of relationships across an entire neighborhood.  In this particular case, the coffee shop was located directly in the middle of a neighborhood that has been struggling with gentrification for the past decade or more, and tensions were already high.  The ad was like throwing gasoline on a fire and has resulted in protests, graffiti, and even temporary closure of the store.

It’s certainly easy to blame the company, the ad agency, and anyone else that didn’t see that this campaign would be a bad idea.  However, the reality is that all of us have our blind spots to sensitive issues, and no matter how much we feel like we understand people of different backgrounds, there will always be a chance you’ve missed something.

So, please, for the sake of your own sanity and those of your customers, do some research before you launch a marketing campaign.  At a minimum, run your ad by some people who might see it just to see how they react.  And if you want a more robust evaluation of your campaign, which can help to ensure that your advertising dollars have the biggest impact possible, we can probably help.


How do you measure the value of an experience?

When I think about the professional development I did last week, I would summarize it thusly: an unexpected, profound experience.

I was given the opportunity to attend RIVA moderator training and I walked away with more than I ever could have dreamed I would get. Do you know that experience where you think back to your original expectations and you realize just how much you truly didn’t understand what you would get out of something? That was me, as I sat on a mostly-empty Southwest plane (156 seats and yet only 15 passengers) flying home. While you can expect a RIVA blog to follow, I was struck by the following thought:

What does it mean to understand the impact your company, product, or service has on your customers?

I feel like I was born and raised to think quantitatively. I approach what I do with as much logic as I can (sometimes this isn’t saying much…) When I think about measuring the impact a company, product, or service has on its customers, my mind immediately jumps to numbers – e.g. who (demographically) and how satisfied are they with it. But am I really measuring impact? I think yes and no. I’m measuring an impersonal impact; one that turns people into consumers and percentages. The other kind of impact largely missed in quantitative research is the impact on the person.

If I were to fill out a satisfaction or brand loyalty survey for RIVA, I would almost be unhappy that I couldn’t convey my thoughts and feelings about the experience. I don’t want them to know just that I was satisfied. I want them to understand how profound this experience was for me. When they talk to potential customers about this RIVA moderator class, I want them to be equipped with my personal story. If they listen and understand what I say to them, I believe they would be better equipped to sell their product.

This is one of the undeniable and extremely powerful strengths of qualitative research. Interviews, focus groups, anything that allows a researcher to sit down and talk to people is creating some of the most valuable data that can be created. We can all think of a time where a friend or family member had such a positive experience with some company, product, or service that they just couldn’t help but gush about it. Qualitative research ensures that valuable of that feedback is captured and preserved. If you want to truly understand who is buying your product or using your service, I cannot stress the importance of qualitative research enough.