Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development

Vivien Wilton-Middlemass, Head of Sensory Research at McCallum Layton will be presenting a paper on “Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development” at this year’s Insight Show, which takes place between 29-30th June 2010 at (Grand Hall, Olympia, London). Vivien’s session will be held on both days at the event, and will uncover:

· How to develop a successful brand/product strategy
utilising a combined sensory and consumer research
approach

· Explore the benefits of sensory research

· Using all our senses to create longer, stronger and more
profitable brands/products

If you would like to find out more information about this session or arrange a meeting with Vivien, please contact: John McCambley, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications on Tel: +44 (0)113 237 5590.

A Guide To Effective Employee Satisfaction Research

Most organisations put considerable effort into maintaining customer closeness, as this is rightly seen as a key component of running a successful business. As part of this process, it is important to remember that customer opinion can be heavily influenced by the attitude and morale of employees within your organisation, and that monitoring this is therefore crucial. Indeed, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development goes as far as to say, “Most research confirms that the quality of people management is a better predictor of performance than business strategy, research and development or quality management” (Change Agenda on Human Capital, 2003). This being the case, monitoring staff opinions and reacting effectively to their feedback can lead not only to improved retention and productivity, but can also be reflected in improvements in customer satisfaction, and so is a critical component in the management toolkit.

This is especially true in today’s tough economic climate, where there is far less flexibility in the offer of financial rewards – employee engagement is increasingly important in retaining talent. The recession has changed the playing field for many businesses, and they are having to re-evaluate what they can do to attract, develop and retain the best people at least cost, not simply for the sake of being a good employer but to secure the financial success of their organisation.

Measuring employee perceptions is not as straightforward as just taking more notice of discussions around the water-cooler, of course; here are some tips to help you design and get the most out of your employee consultation process.

Make sure the research format is accessible to all
Every staff member should be given the chance to air their views, in a systematic and structured way. This is important in terms of being seen to be inclusive, and also to enable results to be analysed, and recommendations targeted, in as fine detail as possible. In practical terms, this means undertaking a survey to which all staff, not just a sample, are invited to participate, and careful consideration must be given to the circumstances of all existing staff, making sure they can access the survey, and have sufficient time to take part.

If you are considering an online approach, for example, remember that any field-based employees may access their e-mails much less frequently than those based in the office. It may be worth thinking about offering different methods for different categories of employee, if necessary.

A high response rate gives the results more power
Just like an election with poor turnout, a low response rate can result in people questioning the legitimacy of the results. Therefore, plans must be put in place to maximise buy-in to the study. Before the survey is distributed, publicise the fact that it will be taking place. Explain the process, stressing that it provides an opportunity for staff to give their views and that the results will help shape internal policy. This message is best communicated from someone at a senior level, as having visible senior buy-in emphasises the importance of the consultation.

The questionnaire itself can also impact response rates, as can the organisation of the fieldwork period. Questions should cover all aspects of the working experience, but it’s best to avoid a long questionnaire, as this can make it harder for busy people to find time to participate. Open ended questions in particular should be used carefully: they can provide useful, detailed feedback, but they also take longer to answer than closed questions. Finally, set a reasonable deadline for completing the survey. Ideally, staff should be given a few weeks to respond, as this should still allow any who are on annual leave during part of the fieldwork period to participate. A small number of reminder communications during the fieldwork period can also help to increase response.

Remember the importance of anonymity
Another pre-requisite of a successful employee consultation is guaranteeing that anonymity is protected and emphasised throughout the process. If there is any concern that comments could be identified by senior management, the chance of obtaining honest, open feedback is lost. Commissioning an external agency to run the consultation project, and making this clear to all staff, can make all the difference to the success of the exercise – having the results held and processed by an independent party can provide reassurance that anonymity will be ensured.

It is also useful to explain how the results will be analysed. Whilst it is common practice to break the results down by department or level of seniority, the level of drill-down does depend on the number of employees in each subgroup. A good research process will prevent the possibility of someone’s answers being identifiable because they are the only senior manager within a particular division, for example. Finally, the methodology must also allow respondents to complete the survey in private; this can make a telephone interview inappropriate if respondents are contacted in the office.

Identify feasible improvements that will make a difference
Once the fieldwork is completed, that’s when the real work begins. Whilst each result may be interesting in its own way, it’s advisable to focus on finding out what’s important to employees themselves. This can be done by identifying the issues most strongly correlated with overall satisfaction. Most employees will be happy to accept that their job cannot be perfect in every way, but may still become disenchanted if they find fault in those areas that they value most in a job. By focussing on what is most important, it should be possible to identify the most pressing problems, and then prioritise changes that can potentially make the largest difference.

Communicate the findings and the actions you intend to take
Post-survey communication can prove as important as the analysis itself. Sharing the findings with all staff is strongly recommended; if employees think you are merely paying lip service to the process without actively looking to change anything, this is only marginally better than not consulting them at all. Tell them where the results were positive, where they could have been better, and importantly, what you plan to do in response to their feedback.

Finally, follow through on your promises
Once you’ve informed staff what actions will be taken, it is vitally important to then go ahead and do what you said you would. If you don’t follow through effectively, this can engender a cynical attitude which could even result in a drop in morale. In her work on psychological contracts in organisations (1995), Rousseau observed, “We know that when employees feel that their boss or firm has broken their expectations about work and career opportunities they often feel less committed to the organisation.” And less commitment to the organisation translates into less commitment to your customers.

The Benefits of Online Customer Closeness

Sarah Askew, Associate Director at McCallum Layton, outlines the value that online techniques can bring in helping client brands develop powerful consumer insights.

Engaging Respondents And Internal Stakeholders…
Using online techniques to carry out research is nothing new but the explosion of social networking in recent years means that the ability to converse, group together and share opinions with strangers (as well as friends and family) online has become the norm in 2010. This has had an inevitable impact on the way that brands are choosing to carry out research. Increasingly, interest is shifting from remotely collecting data about respondents – who are objects of a set research approach – to engaging with them as participants in a much more discursive and interactive research process.

I’m genuinely excited at the growth of online qualitative methodologies and the opportunities they open up for all those involved – participants, clients and researchers too. The benefits that online customer closeness (and co-creation) bring in allowing consumers and clients to have more direct interactions naturally mean that the researcher takes more of a back seat. This has meant adapting from the guiding, directional ‘moderator’ role to that of a more passive, instrumental ‘facilitator’.

This shift from traditional roles does deliver its own benefits. Having direct conversations with consumers (rather than through the researcher as a conduit for debriefing findings) can be immensely powerful and engaging for clients. If the internet has created what Marshall McLuhan termed a ‘global village’, then it seems Web 2.0 technologies allow us to create ‘research villages’, where ‘hands on’ insight and interactions are opened up to people in diverse functions across client businesses. To give you a ‘real life’ example, we’re currently in the process of running an innovation community, which, amongst other things, allows internal clients, from departments ranging from commercial strategy to operations, to have direct interaction with their customers, via online forums. Feedback from the client team has been that, whilst the experience has lifted them out of their usual comfort zone, the direct insight they’ve been able to get into customers’ opinions – and the ability to have ongoing conversations – has been invaluable.

Empowering The Respondent…
The democratisation of the research process doesn’t end with client organisations though. One of the most powerful benefits which online customer closeness has delivered, has been the empowerment of respondents to become involved in setting the research agenda. Previously, the role of ‘respondent’ has largely been a reactive one – we set questions or topics to which they give us their responses, and whilst a good moderator will always ask for respondents’ own feedback and suggestions, the process is framed and driven by what have been pre-determined as the important areas of interest. Whilst I would never suggest that we should completely hand the reins of the research agenda to respondents, online customer closeness techniques enable customers to take greater control and direct their own conversations with brands.

Powerful Insights…
Referring back to our ‘real life’ example again, some of the most insightful and interesting threads in the forums have been those generated by participants. In discussion with the client team, we’ve been able to develop – and delve deeper into – those which are most of interest to the organisation. The client team have often been surprised and fascinated by what has mattered most to their customers, giving them a refreshing perspective on the customer experience. My advice for those wishing to get close to their customers would be to open up to listening to what consumers want to tell you – rather than what you think you need to know – and don’t be afraid to communicate with customers, using online techniques. They can’t bite in a virtual conversation!

View our online services offer <http://www.mccallum-layton.co.uk/onlineservices.aspx>

Find out more about how we can help develop your approach to customer closeness, Contact:

Sarah Askew, Associate Director
T: +44 (0)113 237 5590
E: sarahaskew@mccallum-layton.co.uk

McCallum Layton Launch New Integrated Online Research Service

UK Research & Marketing Insight Consultancy McCallum Layton has launched a new online service that provides a fully integrated research and insight management solution comprised of three elements:- e-qual; e-quant and The Hub.

e-qual provides a variety of online qualitative research techniques including: focus groups, bulletin boards and bespoke web communities.

e-quant handles web-based and email-based surveys and provides online data analysis tools and reporting.

The Hub is the agency’s insight management portal through which clients can access their projects from anywhere in the world via a secure login.

Duncan McCallum, Founding Partner said “We are committed to providing our clients with additional benefits that will improve their bottom line. Our new service will not only provide clients with greater insight from their research but will also help them manage and disseminate the findings with greater speed and efficiency. Whilst providing clients with online services is not new to our agency, we have greatly enhanced our offering in this area to complement our other research services and solutions. In the last 12 months over 20 major new clients used our services including Greggs, O2, Vimto and Bosch, and we are excited about rolling out further new client services in 2010.”

The Need For Continuous Insight (Special Report)

The current unrelenting economic uncertainty means that the need for continuous insight has never been more pressing. Figures for the third quarter released at the back end of last year showed that the economy contracted by 0.3%, when many pundits were expecting growth. We are experiencing the longest economic contraction in half a century and talk is now about a W-shaped recession. So, what does this have to do with market research? The answer is – everything.

Do you know how your customers are feeling as the situation drags on and on and how it will affect their future behaviour? Do you have detailed plans concerning the development of products/services that you might need to be marketing in six to twelve months time? Instead, wouldn’t it be great if you knew where your market was going and how consumers’ thoughts were being moulded on an almost daily basis? Well, you can, but not if your insight is always gleaned from looking in the rear-view mirror by, for example, undertaking tracking surveys twice yearly as opposed to more frequently. What you have to do is immerse yourself in research on an almost daily basis, formulate numerous scenarios and adapt to the changing circumstances.

Let’s take an example. The majority of the public still view financial institutions with barely disguised hostility. What will happen if bankers’ bonuses unleash another wave of public outcry? Will advertising attempting to portray banks as friends of the consumer have any traction? Furthermore, as a well trusted brand, Tesco’s entry into market could make bigger waves than many think. There is also the danger that a new bank might appear which enshrines in its ethos a sensible and well publicised wage structure for its staff. What financial institutions need is an almost constant update of their customers’ dispositions, and, based on this, a number of alternative plans ready to action when the time comes.

The above is just an example using the financial sector. Think of your own market and there probably are pressing problems which, whilst possibly present before the recession, are now being exacerbated by it; all the time this being accompanied by an accelerating change in your customers’ mind set and behaviour. When challenges do suddenly emerge from the mist you need to have plans in place so you can react immediately. Keeping ahead of the pack is not a question of spending more market research pounds but of thinking ahead and spending them more wisely.

A technique we have found to be particularly fruitful is micro-tracking. For this we recruit a small number of client customers and talk to them every week, by ‘phone, or on-line, and explore their views on what has recently happened in the news, what their family and friends are doing/feeling, how it has affected them and what effects it might have on their future behaviour. We then run larger less detailed surveys every month to check key findings.

Micro-tracking can be supplemented by the creation of an on-line forum or notice board with access provided via a link from your website. Also, look to monitor blogs about your company and your competition, continuously, not just in response to some new marketing activity. In some instances frequently reconvened focus groups provide a rich seam of information concerning the way customers’ thoughts and behaviours are being moulded by events. These techniques can also be supported by analytics to gain even more insight, for example, by the use of ‘what if?’ models and other modelling techniques such as competitor analysis.

The key is to continuously collect and use data from a variety of sources which, when analysed together, provides pointers as to the direction in which your consumers and your market is moving. This data can then be used to formulate a number of possible scenarios each with an ascribed likelihood of occurrence. Armed with this information you will be able act immediately, not six months down the line when it might be too late.

Thinking Ahead

Kate Thompson, Partner and Head of B2B Research at McCallum Layton, explains how business brands can leverage market research in order to position themselves as thought leaders

Consumer-facing organisations and their PRs have been making use of market research to promote their clients’ interests for many years. It is rare that you can open a paper without seeing statistics from ‘a recent survey’ conducted on behalf of one company or another. Whatever we may think of the findings, the fact that the client has bothered to do it says something about their commitment to their market and willingness to invest in their profile.

The large accountancy practices picked up on this marketing technique years ago, and started commissioning research studies on topical themes such as up-coming fiscal or regulatory change, to demonstrate the expertise they could offer in the field in question. Other parts of the B2B sector, though, have been slow to recognise the potential value of this approach.

As part of the marketing toolkit, issue-based or thought leadership research can be one of the most powerful ways to show you have your finger on the pulse of your market and that you have the capacity and knowledge to support existing and potential customers.

The technique is simple – find a theme of topical and relevant interest to your market, commission a research study to collect information on how this affects customers, and use the results to demonstrate your understanding of market needs, showing that customers will be better off coming to you than to your competitors. Here are some pointers to taking best advantage of this potentially valuable idea.

1. First, take your theme …
This is actually the most difficult bit, but the end result can be well worth the time taken to define what issue you can capitalise on. The theme needs to be relevant to your target market and something to which you can add value.

Consult widely in-house and talk to existing customers about what issues are taxing them at the moment and what changes are on the horizon that will affect them, then whittle these thoughts down to a topic on which you can add commentary that will strengthen your market positioning. If it’s controversial, that’s even better (provided you can believe in the stance you are likely to take on the results) – the debate can run and run, quoting your name at every turn.

2. Check what you know already
Having settled on an issue, gather whatever intelligence you already have in-house. The research study will not come free, and there is no point spending money finding out what you already knew. Identify the gaps in your knowledge that you can use the research to fill.

3. Set some time aside
It’s important to make sure you allocate enough time to plan the programme properly. This might be a good ten weeks, depending on what you decide to do.

Care also needs to be taken over the design of the research itself, and there will need to be a well thought through, co-ordinated programme of follow-up communications.

4. Two’s company?
You may want to consider partnering up with another party to undertake the research, such as a trade body, key customer/supplier, the relevant trade press etc. This could bring added credibility to the study, although you may risk losing a degree of control.

5. Don’t cut corners
Ensure that the study methodology, sample size, selection, and wording of the questions etc. will all stand up to scrutiny when you publish the results. When you put your head above the parapet, don’t give competitors or the press an excuse to take shots at your leadership position on the grounds that your study is not robust enough.

6. Think ahead
Most research studies have a finite shelf-life, particularly those designed to address a topical issue. As soon as the results are in, you will need to hit the ground running with a co-ordinated programme of marketing activity to capitalise on what you have gained. Consider how the report itself will be produced, and gear up the most appropriate person/people to add expert commentary to the findings. Draw up a plan as to who you will want to provide the report to (include all respondents who took part in the research itself – this will generate goodwill among those who have taken the time to participate). Build publication of the report into a wider campaign, perhaps including customer seminars on the issues raised, speaking slots at conferences and one-to-one meetings with customers and targets to underline your commitment to them.

Consider releasing highlights to directly relevant media if applicable, but rather than just broadcasting a press release, consider offering exclusives to certain journalists, with briefings on the findings and perhaps case studies around respondents who are prepared to go on record. This can be one of the best ways to promote your business in your target market, but only if you get the message out there effectively.

Fitter, Leaner Research (Greater Insight 2009)

Making your research budget stretch further in a recession is easier said than done, but by following a few simple tips, you can make your investment work harder and even enhance the insights gained.

We all know the saying ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. Well, the same is true in getting the best from your insight – numerous small savings add up. Also, by following some simple rules you’ll find that your insight will be fitter, leaner and better directed. Let’s look at some areas where savings can be made.

Before spending any money, email work colleagues to make sure nothing similar has been recently undertaken. It’s not uncommon in companies for similar projects to be commissioned by different departments unbeknown to each other. To overcome this we have set-up client research libraries where a simple word search facility can find relevant material and avoid duplication of effort.
Consider whether data you already hold could be interrogated further to provide the required information. For example, amongst other things, analytics can be used on sales and customer data to build predictive models and segment customer types.
If you have an agency roster, halve it and give twice as much work to each agency. Fewer agencies doing more work will enable them to gain deeper knowledge of your company and markets. It will save time at briefing meetings, lead to more insightful results, and also give you the opportunity to negotiate retrospective discounts based on agreed spending levels.

Rather than giving the project go-ahead over the ‘phone, invite the agency to a meeting; use it to make sure your research is as focused as possible. Discuss potential outcomes, how they might help and to ensure that you squeeze every ounce of worth from the project.

Review the proposed methodology with a critical eye. Would telephone interviews do rather than face-to-face? Could the number of focus groups be halved if, for example, assumptions were made about the effects of limiting the locations sampled? Test these assumptions with a few telephone depths rather than convening full groups to cover every variable. Look for creative methodologies to provide the required information. At McCallum Layton we’ve developed a hybrid qual/quant methodology which runs simultaneously using the same sample; this can lead to substantial savings.

Keep questions focused and tightly worded – stick to the ‘must knows’; eliminate the ‘nice to knows’. Cutting 1 minute from a 5 minute telephone interview can save around 15% (unfortunately not 20% because of set-up costs). Also, do you really need 1,000 interviews when, in most cases, 400 is the optimum sample size. Maybe you could run a biannual tracking survey instead of quarterly one.
Look at your sample structure – the more complex the greater the cost. Do you really need a quota of left-handed grey haired grannies in Kent? Often, it’s easier and cheaper to let numbers fall out naturally and apply weightings to the final data.
If commissioning focus groups, consider whether it’s essential that you attend accompanied by numerous colleagues. Travel and accommodation expenses can be horrendous and nowadays you can view the groups on-line or download a video to your office the next day.

When it comes to the final report, just how detailed does it need to be? Naturally, a 2-3 page summary report of key issues will cost a lot less than a detailed report running to many pages. Instead of hard copies use on-line methods to circulate findings and recommendations; McCallum Layton’s Hub enables clients to log into their own secure area on our server and access a ‘library’ containing virtually everything to do with their project from questionnaire design to data tables. There is even a tool that enables clients to further analyse their data and design their own charts.

The above are just a few pointers, there are many more but unfortunately space constraints prevent me from detailing any more. However, I will end with a few last words of advice; don’t confuse stretching your budget with purchasing cheap research, if you look for cheap research that’s exactly what you’ll get.