How to Get More Accurate Data from Focus Groups

The best way to understand a focus group is to know what they did, rather than what they think.
The best way to understand a focus group is to know what they did, rather than what they think.

We often engage consumers to answer some of our business questions through consumer surveys or focus groups.  However, how accurate can the data be?  Are the respondents giving projections on what they will like to be, vs. what they are?  Will they be influenced by group think from other members of the group?  Or will they be nice and say nice things about your brands even when they don’t feel so?

Understanding the mind is certainly a big hurdle.  Relying on what consumers say means you have to trust them a lot, and hopefully their answers really reflect the real reasons and motivations behind their decisions.

I found that the best way to get more accurate data from focus groups is to observe their actions.  Very seldom do they try to hide what they have done.  They may mask the reasons and motivations, but they will often tell the truth about what they have done.

Find out what they do, and under what circumstances did they make the decision.  Get them to do the act itself, e.g. observe them buying the product from the supermarket, and using the product in their daily lives.  Understand their daily surroundings, and the environment they are exposed to most of the time.  It’s true that sometimes consumers don’t really understand the true reason they do something, as it’s in the subconscious mind or habit.  Through their actions, you can observe and deduce for them their real motivations for buying certain products.



Modelling after Good Managers

In sports we learn from the best.  Do the same in your company.
In sports we learn from the best. Do the same in your company.

You may work for a big company with hundreds of thousands of employees, or you may work for a smaller company with perhaps just 30 employees.  Regardless, working in companies nowadays require not just the right technical competencies like marketing or sales, you need to navigate through much bureaucracy and build many quality relationships in order to do a good job.  In bigger companies, this is even more true, as you will spend even more time on building relationships.

I have found that the best way is to interview and find out how the better managers do it.  Every company is different, and it often takes different approaches or strategies to win internally in each of these companies.  You can read books for some macro generic guide, but it often takes real experiences in the real world to understand what it takes to succeed in each different environment.

Modelling after above-average managers is the best way to learn how best to thrive and succeed in your company.  Here is how you do it.  Observe how these managers act in different situations, and how they solve problems differently from the weaker managers.  Treat them to lunches, and make friends with them.  Interview them and find out their thought process, and understand the strengths that may not be apparent from mere observations alone.

Work on the Strengths of Your Brands, not the Weaknesses

Focus on your brand's strengths, and build muscles in the right places.
Focus on your brand’s strengths, and build muscles in the right places.

Let’s face reality.  Nobody is perfect.  Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses.  However, everybody tries to fix the weaknesses, rather than developing the strengths.  This is especially true in Asia where parents and bosses are just not satisfied with weaknesses in their children or subordinates.  If a child gets 90 marks on all subjects except for one subject where she obtains 50 marks, the parents will expend stupendous efforts, time and energy to focus on the weaker subject.

Same thing for a brand.  No brand is perfect.  You cannot be a brand that pleases every person on planet earth.  You cannot be a brand that is low priced, and yet offers you luxury quality materials.  Your product cannot be a sports car and yet be roomy enough to hold a big family.  You cannot be the best tasting beef burger, and yet boast of low calories.  Every brand has a strength, and that is what you focus on developing.

Volvo has strengths in safety of its cars.  Yet in certain years it tried developing powerful engines for sports cars.  Will the loyal customers of parents love how the brand is developing?  I certainly don’t think so.  Parents love Volvo for its safety, and now it has confused that strength with its sports cars.  If I have responsibility over the Volvo brand, the paramount objective is to strengthen its safety core even further, far away from the reach of competitors.  Volvo will be forever the safest car in the world.  It may not be the fastest, loudest and most sexy car, but it will be the safest car of them all.

Truth, Love and Power in Marketing

The Ultimate Goal of All Brands
The Ultimate Goal of All Brands

I was just reading Steve Pavlina’s website on the pinnacle of human development through Truth, Love and Power.  Steve claims that personal growth will have to start with these three fundamental elements.

In marketing, it is also through truth, love and power that we grow our businesses.  It is through truth of what our products can do that establishes trust with our consumers.  With the truth about how our products can make consumers healthier or make their lives better, consumers will be willing to form a stable, long lasting relationship with us.  If we resort to marketing gimmickry and falsehood, we can get customers to come once, and then never again.

Through love, consumers want to have deeper relationships with their friends and loved ones.  If we can help them to make this easier, consumers will love us to bits too.  There are various kinds of relationship enhancements that a product or service can do.  One is to make the consumer more attractive.  Another is giving gift options for them to share their love.  Also, if you help them to save time, they will have more time for their loved ones.  Gradually, your brand will be included in their circle of loved ones.

Finally, power.  Achievement has always been what keeps us all motivated in pursuing our goals.  Men, especially wants to display their achievements through status symbols of an expensive watch, or the latest Mercedes series.  Women too are not to be left behind.  Women are getting more educated, and are increasingly found in the upper echelon of the corporate ladder.  If you can help them to reach their achievements earlier, or allow them to show their success through your products, your brand will achieve success too.

Go For Win-Win or No Deal

Make the best hotdog that you can for your consumers. You will be happy, your consumers will be happier too. In the long run, your business will outlast others.

Often times when we do business with our clients, we may be too focused on getting revenue and profits from them.  This in itself is not bad, but we need to remind ourselves regularly to take a balanced perspective.

We need to 1) be right with our own integrity, 2) think long term in terms of mutual interests, and 3) build relationships through win-win deals and not short change one another.

Why did Jeffrey Skilling of Enron did all that he do and landed himself with 24 years of jail term?  He rose quickly to the top in Enron, and rapid too was his descent to the bottom.  Neglecting his own integrity, he hurt himself for short term gains of heroism and money, and disappointed millions of clients, investors and employees as Enron folded.

Do we shortchange our clients in the name of protecting company’s interests and profits?  My dear friends, is it worth that short term gain to get that promotion or accolades from your company, while sacrificing your integrity?  The outside world may change, but maintain your principled center to live a fulfilling life of integrity.

From the business perspective, is it worth all that much to gain that short term spike in profits and revenue?  Some brand managers and even general managers get rotated every two years.  This happens in quite a lot of big, structured companies in the name of ‘broadening employees’ experiences’, and ‘prevent boredom’.  Good intentions, but be prepared for short term tactics to rake in the profits and sales from some of your brand managers.

Brand managers and marketing managers should take a long term perspective to build brands that can last, and form relationships with consumers that can endure for generations.  Always think long term in how both you and your clients can benefit the most from your dealings.  Go for win-win deals.  You may not see short term sales spikes.  What you will see is long term steady growth in sales, happy consumers, happy employees, and a much happier you.

Think Twitter is Useless for Product Marketing? Think Again! Here are 4 tips

Leverage those Twitter accounts with lots of friends!
Leverage those Twitter accounts with lots of friends!

Twitter has been debated back and forth among marketers as to its usefulness for marketing.  Twitter’s greatest limitation is its short character allowance, making it hard to make a proper marketing promise to readers.  Here’s how you can go against the grain by leveraging Twitter to your marketing efforts:

1) Tweet about your benefits.  No matter how much you want to tell your potential consumers, you can and should distill your message to a powerful, short tagline.  E.g. Fedex’s ‘Absolutely must be there overnight delivery’.

2) Check out for influential Twitters to help promote your message.  Like blogs, the accounts with the biggest followers will give you a bigger reach for your readers.

3) When you tweet, include a hashtag, your twitter (or your brands’) name and a landing page url.  This gives credibility, easy understanding, and allows your readers to go to your landing page for more information.

4) From p0int 3, after you have included all these information, keep your message length less than 73 characters.  This makes it easy for others to retweet your message without losing any information from truncation.

7 Tips to Build Killer Blogs

Blogs are getting more competitive nowadays as the supply is often greater than the demand.  A good way is to establish your blog in a narrow niche, and avoid fighting with the big guys for big category hot topics like selling online or stock picking.  Here are my 7 tips on how you can build better blogs:

1) Focus your blog on a narrow theme.  If you talk about caring for cats, then stay with caring for cats.  Don’t bring in topics about dogs or caring for parakeets.  This way, you will build a strong following of cat lovers.

2) Here’s a good template for your blog posts.  Have an outstanding headline that gives the reader benefits or evoke their curiosity.  Put in relevant images that augment the messages in the post.  Establish a lead paragraph that gives relevance of the message to your readers.  They have to know why it is important for them to continue reading your post.  Add personal stories in the body of the post, and then end with a discussion question.

3) Provide internal links to your other posts in the body of your message.  This will help to generate extra traffic for your other good posts, which may otherwise be forgotten with time.

4) Here are some post ideas: 1) Review a book or movie on your blog niche, 2) comment on a quote, 3) comment on a paragraph, 4) comment on a recent news, and 5) step by step how to’s.

5) Short, short, short.  Internet readers have short attention spans due to the vast distractions available online.  So have short posts, short paragraphs with few sentences, and keep the sentences and words short.

6) Use to check your blog’s website score.  This website can also provide you with suggestions on how to improve on critical elements in your blog.

7) Engagement with your readers are critical.  This builds friendships with your loyal readers, and let them know that you care about their comments or questions.  A lot of comments that go unnoticed will seem cold on your part.  Imagine talking to a friend that does not reply to you.

That’s the 7 tips folks!

Be a Killer on Blogs
Be a Killer on Blogs

Maximize PR Opportunities in Online and Offline Media

Newspapers need news to survive.  Feed them.
Newspapers need news to survive. Feed them.

PR nowadays are done for both online and offline media.  Traditionally we may have a press conference, and invite the editors for a meal while telling them what’s new about the company.  Then they will go back and think about how to fit your article into their magazines or papers.  They may discuss with you, and this goes back and forth until you get a mention in certain offline media.

Nowadays, with things travelling at internet speed, you need to be quick with your PR releases.  There’re lots of PR opportunities online and offline, and you need to shoot PR news to them frequently, quickly and timely.  Here are some stuffs you can write a PR article on:

  1. New packaging for your products
  2. New product launches
  3. New spokesperson for your brand
  4. New store
  5. New slogan for your brand
  6. Association of your brand with someone famous
  7. New uses for your products

There are always new angles to pitch your brand to the writers.  Keep them excited, and update them regularly.  Blogs and magazines need news to keep their readers from getting bored.  You are there to help them.

What Consumers Look for in Facebook Fan Pages

Try beating my level of discount! Take that!

Social networking sites are now the top sites where people spend the most time on, followed by online games and email. Many brands have set up their very own fan pages with activities, contests and brand information. But what are customers looking for in these brand fan pages? Here are the top 3 wants:

1) Discounts and promotions.

2) Purchase information or direct purchase.

3) Product reviews and ranking.

Learn from iPad’s Simplicity in Advertising

iPad2 with its minimalist ad design
iPad2 with its minimalist ad design

Can ads get simpler and more direct than this?  Instead of a whole article on brand philosophy or a laundry list of all the technical features, the iPad 2 ad features just the essential benefits to attract its potential consumers.

Some of you may ask?  Is it because iPad 2 is so well known that it can get away without telling more?  Perhaps.  Regardless, the key lesson is that less is more, and we can all learn to give powerful messages with less words.