Is Storytelling Still Relevant?

Tips for Telling Your Story in Fresh Ways

It’s funny how industry buzzwords come and go. Do a quick internet search and you’ll find “Marketing Buzzwords for 2018” and even “Buzzwords to Stop Using.” 

STORYTELLING. You may be tempted to say, “Been there. Done that.” If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know the importance of crafting a story that captures your mission and helps customers connect emotionally with your brand.

But storytelling isn’t a one-time thing. Just like kids often want to hear stories again and again, we need to find engaging, fresh ways to tell our story.

At a recent AMA event, Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s CMO Bill Potts told the tale of how the rescue of a young dolphin (“Winter”) saved them from financial ruin. In truth, though, it is consistent, intentional storytelling that has made Clearwater Marine Aquarium one of the area’s most popular attractions (and revenue sources) for tourists and locals alike. (BTW, it’s right down the street from me, so let me know when you’re visiting!)

As captivating as Winter’s story is, the aquarium’s success isn’t from telling the same old story ad infinitum. Even the initial rescue was told in the media as multiple stories, all supporting the organization’s mission, Rescue. Rehab. Release:

  • Story 1: Dolphin is rescued and named Winter
  • Story 2: Winter survives, but loses tail
  • Story 3: Winter learns to swim without tail
  • Story 4: Winter gets prosthetic tail
  • Story 5: Real life sequel when second young dolphin is rescued

And those are just the stories from the first year!  Since then, the Aquarium has turned storytelling to an art form – one that generates incredible revenue for their non-profit organization and other area businesses in the tourism and hospitality. Every day, they tell the stories of rescued animals and of the lives they impact when visitors connect with animals that have physical or emotional challenges like theirs.

Sounds easy, right?

You may say, “Easy for them, stories come to their doorstep! How can my business create engaging stories when we don’t have ‘Abe the Baby Otter’ to post on our webcam?”

True. Some businesses have a product or service that’s made for storytelling. But that doesn’t get us off the proverbial hook. Here are some tips for telling your story in fresh ways:

  • Be Intentional: Don’t use “I just sell Widgets” as an excuse to give up on storytelling. Dig deep. Look for stories, and provide ways for employees and customers to share them with you. Do you personally follow up with customers to hear their story? Do your employees know how to look for, solicit and share customer stories with management? Are there milestones or events you can leverage for storytelling?
    • The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has an “Inspire Team” tasked with spotting stories as they happen each day as visitors interact with the rescued animals. Likewise, they create special events that generate their own media buzz. While they once returned rehabilitated animals to the wild without fanfare, they’ve learned that a “Welcome Home” release party is another story.
  •  Be Bold: You and I live and work in an ever-changing world. Keeping our story relevant is not for the faint of heart. We have to be willing to ask the tough questions, and be vulnerable, even if it means doing market research about our perceived product failures, or asking focus groups “what don’t you like about doing business with our company?” The information we learn will help us craft a better story, one that resonates as TRUE with your customers.
    • In “Six Tips for Telling a Better Business Story,” Forbes shares “Our best ideas are often accompanied by the disclaimer, ‘this may be a bad idea, but…’ There are definitely bad ideas, but they are often a starting point to great ideas.” Invite them from your team, explore them and find the balance between what’s too far in a bad way and what’s bold in good way.
  • Be Prepared. In a world fearful of “bad press” and fastidious protection of company image, I was surprised to learn that the Aquarium trains dozens of its front line employees how to interact with the media. Consider how much harder it would be to tell their story if all inquiries had to be directed to “the PR department.” Think, too, about the authenticity of their message when it comes from a wetsuit-clad medical assistant rather than some tie-wearing spokesperson. Good stories come from real people (like in a skillfully-moderated focus group!)
    • I don’t know how the Aquarium media-trains its staff, but I bet it includes some variation of the 5 C’s described by com author Margot de Cunha: Circumstance, Curiosity, Characters, Conversations and Conflict.
      • Set the scene and provide context for your reader.
      • Use curiosity to leave the reader wanting more.
      • Characters and conversation go hand-in-hand. Use dialogue; create characters.
      • Last but not least, conflict. If there isn’t any conflict, then there’s not much of a story.

Ready to go? I’m newly inspired to tell Insights360’s market research stories in fresh ways, and I hope you do the same! After all, as a Moderator, I’m a Story Collector. Let me know if I can help you uncover your customers’ stories – so they can become your stories too!

 

 

 

 

 

The Wild and Wooly World of Professional Memberships

A recent American Marketing Association (AMA) event I attended this month at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa prompted me to reflect on the ROI of professional memberships in organizations like these. Ever since completing my Ph.D. and entering the marketing world, I have been a member of the AMA in the cities where I’ve worked: Atlanta, Houston, and now Tampa.

I’ve attended some interesting events, connected with local professionals, found vendors, partnered with a coach and even hired some contract employees for Insights360.

Did you notice what is missing from my list?  Business generation.  I have only secured ONE project from my contacts at the AMA; but people give business to people they know and like, so I keep engaging! Fortunately, that’s not how I measure the return on my membership investment.  I find great value in my memberships, as they deliver solid returns in the form of:

  • Idea Exchange. As a moderator, most of my work is solitary, unless I am in the field. Membership in these organizations provides me the context to have an exchange of ideas with other smart people. I love to ask questions, and in return, others share what they know about local resources and “whom to talk to where.”
  • Local Market Perspective. At these events, I get up to speed on the local industries, assess the players in the market, and get take the pulse of the local approach to doing business. It’s fascinating to see the how the modus operandi differs from place to place. (Tampa businesses are a different animal than those in oil-and-gas-heavy Houston.
  • Learn from Others’ Marketing Journeys. While at our most recent event, I was able to hear about the Lowry Zoo’s marketing challenges directly from the CEO, Joe Couceiro. (There’s nothing quite like sharing your seat in the audience with grazing giraffes!) I asked about the Brand Discovery they did under his leadership, knowing that qualitative research played a key role!

Need more reasons to join an association?  Check out: 13 Basic Benefits of Joining a Professional Association.

And, as you can see from my accompanying photos, I always sprinkle in the fun — into research and into daily life. Pourquoi pas?

Here’s wishing you a ROARING first quarter — and remember to sprinkle in the fun and connect with colleagues and the professional organizations near you!

Show the Love: Secrets to Winning the Hearts of Your Customers

Ahh, February… il mese dell’amore, the month of love. (Everything sounds better in Italian, si?)

This is the perfect time to share a few thoughts on Relationship Marketing.

I love this definition from Forbes magazineRelationship marketing is a strategy designed to foster customer loyalty, interaction and long-term engagement. It is designed to develop strong connections with customers by providing them with information directly suited to their needs and interests and by promoting open communication.”

Developing strong connections. YES! I’m all about that.

It is often said that 80% of your company’s profits will likely come from the top 20% of your customer base. And at the very top of that 20% are those wonderful people called “loyalists” or “advocates.” Loyalists talk up your brand, actively engage in promotions or brand activities and rarely switch to another company, even if discounts or incentives are offered. They are, in modern terms, your BFF’s! (tus mejores amigos!)

So it’s obvious that the more loyal advocates you have, the better off you are. Which leads us to this question: How do you create loyalists?

The Marketing Teacher explains that the idea that consumers can be moved along a continuum of loyalty using a number of integrated marketing communications techniques is often referred to as a loyalty ladder (or branding ladder).

From Prospect to Customer

Perhaps the hardest rung to climb is the first:  motivating a prospect to make the first purchase and become a customer. In my business as a Moderator and research professional, I attend a fair share of conferences to stay up to speed on the latest techniques and to build partnerships. As a result, I meet a lot of people! Some are colleagues, but some are prospects – people I’d love to join me on the loyalty ladder!

Like everyone else, I leave each seminar with a briefcase full of business cards. But here’s where relationship marketing comes in. Here’s something I do:

  • Before heading home, I purchase a bunch of postcards from the conference venue, and mail them to the people I met with a short note reminding them how we connected. Last month, I attended the Qualitative Research Consultants Association’s Annual Conference, and by the time my flight home landed, I had “Greetings from Arizona” postcards written to the prospects I met! (Note: No address on a card? Scan the postcard or do a little research! Simple fix).

Once you have a customer with one foot on the ladder, showing the love gets even easier!

  • Your first business interaction is key, and we all know how to do this well.
  • With your first transaction under your belt, don’t wait for an invitation for a second! Follow up promptly and personally to express your appreciation. One of my personal thank you gestures is sending a bottle of a Chilean wine called Santa Alicia (of course!) at the conclusion of a project.

Creating Advocates

We’re reaching the top of the ladder now, which is where it gets challenging again. How do we move customers along the continuum so they become our loyal advocates, telling others about us like they are part of our sales team? Tip: Show regular and consistent appreciation.

  • Keep an eye on your customer’s social media posts. Look for reasons to send them a note congratulating them on quarterly sales or the launch of a new product. Don’t be shy about reminding them how you can help them in their success. Use LinkedIn or other venues to recommend them and send them leads that may be helpful.
  • Rather than sending Christmas cards that may get lost in the busy-ness of the season, I send clients Thanksgiving cards to express appreciation. Can’t wait until next Fall? A colleague sends a Spring message thanking them for helping her business grow and blossom.

Final Thoughts

Understanding why your customers are loyal to your brand gives your organization incredible leverage and knowledge you can really use. Proctor & Gamble understood this when they hired Insights360 to research how to transfer the loyalty their Hispanic customers had for a toothpaste brand in their home country to the U.S. market. And likewise, we learned how to leverage this brand loyalty to motivate purchases of other items in P&G’s suite of products.

So don’t let the Month of Love (il mese dell’amore) go by without showing some love to your customers! You’ll be glad you did!

Ciao!

Taking Strategic Risks

Happy New Year, colleagues!

A new year is synonymous with the word POSSIBILITIES for me.

This can be exciting, a little overwhelming, but also feel a bit risky. Personally, I’m a “calculated risk taker” – and I’ve always gained from each risk I’ve taken, even if the end result was not the total success I was striving for.

With inspiration of a new year before us, I challenge you to take some small “risks” in one or more areas of your business. Let’s start with marketing and consumer research.

Is 2018 the year to consider a fresh perspective on your marketing?

It’s proven that the resources of time, energy and dollars invested in marketing are critical to a business’s success. What’s the obstacle for you?

  • Do the perceived risks and investment outweigh the benefits you hope for?
  • Does your lack of know-how (as in, “I don’t even know where to start!”) hold you back?

Read on, we can help.

#1   Customer and Product Research

Every company THINKS they know their customers and what they want. Savvy companies are willing to risk their preconceived notions in order to learn what their customers really think, how they perceive their organization and what they really want in a product or service. Strategically planned and moderated focus groups can be a great tool to tap into consumer mindset if you are…

  • Considering entering a market that is new to you
  • In the development phase of a new product or service
  • Want to find out about the motivation behind a specific action or inaction

#2    Promotion

Are you considering a new marketing message or promotional vehicle? Even talented marketers can develop messages that don’t motivate the desired response or can even offend their target market or the general public. They may also err by selecting the wrong media.

Control your risk by testing your marketing and concept ideas on REAL Consumers. Focus groups are a great way to test various marketing approaches and get feedback directly from your target market.

We DO research. We can help you do yours.

Just like you know your business, we know ours. Insights360 moderates focus groups and other forms of qualitative methods (dyads, one-on-ones, web discussions, web usability testing, phone interviews, ethnographies, etc.). This is our expertise.

We can help you answer these key questions that will minimize the risk in your research investment:

  • Which methodology can make participants more willing to share what they REALLY think?
  • Do you know which non-verbals to look for and what they mean? Does boredom mean the same as disinterest in your messaging or product?
  • Do you know how best to present stimuli to avoid order bias and group think?

Conducting a successful focus group isn’t easy. These tips provide a glimpse of some of the things that should be considered:  https://www.associationadviser.com/index.php/tips-for-conducting-focus-groups/.   But don’t let the complexity scare you away! If you’d like a partner to help you plan your research, my team and I are here to help. Just reach out and let’s have a conversation.

Let’s take 2018 by the horns and make some strategic investments and calculated risks, starting with our marketing and consumer research.

The team at Insights360 is here to help you take small risks that reap big rewards!

Warmly,

 

 

 

Shine a Light on Your Personal Brand

Which tree is a darker green color?

Which of the red snowflakes is larger?

(Pssst…in both cases, they are the same!)

 

The question of perception is a fascinating one and one that is critical in brand management. Knowing how customers, employees, vendors and competitors perceive your company is something every marketing professional should always keep an eye on.

But let’s bring it home… How are you perceived by your clients, colleagues, and others in your world? Do you they see you as you think they see you?

A Self-Awareness Window

One tool I’ve found interesting over the years is the Johari Window, a self-awareness model developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955. The four quadrants illustrate how information about us can be known in varying degrees by ourselves and others.

Pay special attention to the “Blind Self” quadrant. These are the areas where you are unaware of how you are perceived.

This concise video by Brendan Baker Media breaks down the model. At 3:25, Brendan offers suggestions for getting feedback to help fill in those blind spots.

Knowledge may Sting but it’s Priceless

In my last blog post, I shared how I asked a colleague’s observations of interactions (including my own) at a recent event. This got me to thinking: how often do we ask others how they perceive us?

It may feel strange to ask, and we may even feel vulnerable, but what you might get back could be priceless. For instance, it could help:

  • Increase the success of our communications
  • Be more memorable in a sea of human interactions
  • Improve how we impact people positively
  • Limit how we impact others negatively
  • Reduce unconscious negative behaviors, both verbal and non-verbal

An End of Year Challenge from me to you

I challenge you to ask one person for feedback before the end of 2017. (Bonus points if you ask one person in a couple different areas of life:  professional, family, social circle…) Take this learning and apply it to how you present yourself and how you interact with others in the new year.

Observation is my craft and I am always happy to share what I’ve observed if someone asks me. Tell me what you learn and how you felt when you asked for this feedback.  I’m really curious!

   

 

 

Identify your Personal and Company Values

How do you ‘show up’ in the world?  

As a business owner, I am always the face to the company. When I step out into the world, I am ‘Alicia’ but also ‘Alicia the Business Owner’.  At business development and networking events, I represent what my company stands for and the quality of what and how we will deliver our services to our clients. Insights360 has gone from just “moi” to “moi plus 6” in 10 years, supported by highly talented, competent professionals who help with market research projects and with supportind and building the company.

How do I show up in the world as a business owner, moderator, and manager? What do I want my team and company to represent? These are the three traits we practice as we conduct our market research business.

At Insights360, we have:

  1. Unwavering professionalism….always.
  2. Sharp observation and attention to detail.
  3. Keen interest to keep learning.

“You must create a collective mentality….we’re all singing the same song, and we’re all singing the same tune. We’re all working together. We’re pulling the rope in the same direction,” said James Franklin in a TedxPSU Talk. Having clarity around these values ensures that my team and I are all working toward the same goal.

This past week, we attended an American Marketing Association Tampa workshop about content management. After recapping the workshop with my colleague, I asked for feedback on what she noticed. She replied that she noticed that when I interacted with others, I spent more time asking questions than speaking; that I appear to take note of details and that I show a genuine interest in those that I am engaging with. “Well, that’s good!” I replied. “Looks like I’ll keep my day job Moderating a while longer.Authenticity and active listening do not go unnoticed.

Here’s some thought work for us all:

  • Challenge yourself to identify your own core values. Can you name 3?
  • Pay attention to whether that’s how you are actually showing up in your interactions.
  • Ask someone you trust for feedback. Be prepared for what you may hear.

Keep me posted on what you learn. You know I’m genuinely interested!

 

 

 

 

3 ways to Improve your Google rankings with SEO friendly content marketing

Here are some tips on ways to improve your website’s content search engine rankings

Have you heard? “Content is King!” This week Insights360 attended the AMA Tampa Bay Workshop Series and we gained some valuable insight on content marketing. Glen Selig, crisis management expert and owner of The Publicity Agency and PR NewsChannel, joined us as guest speaker.

Glen shared his expertise in writing SEO and human-friendly content that can help improve a website’s rankings with important search engines, like Google.

We’ve saved you some time and condensed his teachings to three main takeaways.

Follow these simple tips to make the process of applying the principles of content marketing to your business less overwhelming. Above all, remember this: The idea is to convince Google that your content is what the consumer wants.

1. Write SEO Friendly Headlines and Subheadlines

Include common words and phrases that describe the subject or story in the headline. What would a real person, with a real problem or questions, type into a search engine bar? Start there.

In the sub headline, try to answer, solve, address, or expound on the topic or question posed in the headline.

2.  Write for Humans.

Don’t neglect the reader. Remember that the content must be enjoyable and easy for the reader to follow. Keep it natural and conversational.

The main body of your content should include keywords and phrases that search engines will find relevant to the pursuing consumer, but Google’s algorithms are very smart. If your paragraphs are jam packed with keywords and awkward sentences, your rankings will drop.

3. Link to Authoritative Websites

Link to popular and authoritative websites that provide support for the argument or point you’re trying to make, provide genuine value for your readers, and makes you look good at the same time.

That’s it! Simple, right? Insights360 will be putting these content marketing tips into action!

Let’s see… can you find an example of each of these three tips on this blog post? Comment below!

The Summertime Homestretch!

We are officially into the Summertime Homestretch! Here at Insights360, summer projects are gearing up. My team and I find that we are most productive when we take time to disconnect on weekends, and certainly over vacation.

But have you heard of people who have vacation days and don’t take them. What’s that about?

According to the results from Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 report, our nation’s vacation usage has fallen to 16 days a year—nearly a full week less than the average in 2000. These findings provide a comprehensive look at America’s vacation habits to date. The survey, conducted by Oxford Economics, included 5,641 U.S. employees who earn time off.  55 percent of Americans didn’t use all of their vacation time in 2015, resulting in a total of 658 million unused paid vacation days per year! Jaw. Dropped.

Is it about prestige? Shankar Vedantam in his Hidden Brain podcast, which aired on April 27, 2017, shares a study where Americans feel and are attributed higher status by others if they are SOOO busy they can’t take their vacation days.

In Europe, people would look at you and think you’re crazy.  Let’s not be crazy, my friends. Take your vacation. Hear this video message….

 

Prince. Master of his craft.

Have we mastered ours?

 Prince wearing the Insights360 colors!

An actor is only as good as his/her last performance. I feel the same way as a Moderator/Researcher. You’re only as good as your last groups and your last report. As in most anything, there’s no alternative for practice and a commitment to continuous improvement. In his 2008 book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” With each project, I strive to master my craft by putting in the hours.  And it shows. Clients and colleagues mention it and they refer me, and that’s a great vote of confidence.

There is no other more obvious example of mastery in my generation than Prince. A legend who defied music genre and amassed a remarkable body of uniquely creative work in his lifetime. He elevated music to the spiritual. This April 21st marked one year since his death. As a native Minnesotan, I was shocked by Prince’s death. I was in the Philadelphia airport when I saw the news displayed on one of the monitors. I instinctively called a fellow music-loving client in Minneapolis to make sure he was aware of the tragedy. “What a loss… what a loss,” I kept saying.

Prince’s Memorials: Left – tributes to Prince left outside Paisley Park, Right – outside First Avenue

To honor Prince’s memory and to create fun and memorable experiences with my clients, I took a group of them to the Prince Museum at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, MN. Together we enjoyed a guided VIP tour and, with some, even a Prince Dance Party, where we danced non-stop to some of Prince’s top hits.

Next time we do research in Mpls., I’d love to take you to Paisley Park.

Prince once said “A strong spirit transcends rules.” Prince’s musical mastery and unbridled creativity will forever inspire us.

Here’s to all of us who aspire to mastery. May we be inspired by creative spirits to keep reaching in our own fields. Let’s share our passions and be bold in doing so.

Rock on,

 

 

What’s your Prince memory?

What are you currently mastering? Share below.

May Day

Work. We all do it. Love it or hate it… it’s a part of our reality. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a 9 to 5 employee, or a CEO, work is interwoven into our daily lives. Financial rewards are necessary, but, if we’re honest, they only bring certain satisfaction. Work that inspires, educates, and elevates us is a rarity.

Some of us have the pleasure of feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated by our jobs, while others find that work is something to be endured. In the worst cases, we may be subject to unjustified, unequal pay or other unfair labor practices, like discrimination.

On May 1st, May Day is celebrated around the world by many different cultures. It’s a day dedicated to honoring worker’s rights. We at Insights360 would like to honor all those workers who help make our world go ‘round and make our lives more comfortable and permit us to do OUR job in research. Muchas gracias!

May Day Today

May Day is particularly significant in France, where it is known as Fête du Travail, or Labor Day. While it is normally a day off, with the presidential elections just days away, people have taken the streets to have their voices heard.

In the U.S., many immigrant workers and advocates are protesting against the current administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and stance. We offer them our solidarity.

But it also means hope and new beginnings.

In Europe, where you still see tall, ornate maypoles in town squares, May Day recalls the celebration of springtime. Dancers intertwine ribbons, creating colorful designs. I think they’re just ‘jazzed’ that they’ve survived the winter and they’re alive to see the blossoms of yet another spring. Huzzah! Herzlichen Glückwünsch!

Let’s Rethink Work

WHAT JAZZES YOU? Okay, survival definitely would, but what else? What are your passions and how might you incorporate even just a little bit of these into your work? Your work will go from b&w to technicolor when you infuse it with a bit of fun, passion, and your intent to labor for something meaningful. Now there’s something to celebrate.

P.S. As a child, my mother and siblings celebrated May Day by preparing May Day baskets and gifting them to our neighbors. My siblings and I would drop off the baskets on their doorsteps, ring the doorbell and hide. As we hid, we waited to see their delighted reactions at the discovery of their baskets. It’s such a fond memory. Here’s a picture of some of the beautiful baskets my mother still makes today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        Happy Spring!