Inclusive Research & a Box of Chocolates

The world may be divided into two camps:

  • Those who treat themselves to a single chocolate each day, relishing each delightful experience, and
  • Those who plunge into their box of chocolates, no holds barred, reveling in the glorious choice of flavors.

Which one are you?

Whichever type you are, I invite you to savor this gift I’d like to give you. It’s a gift of knowledge about an important and relevant topic:  Inclusivity in Research.

If you prefer “one-chocolate-at-time,” I’m sharing bite-sized videos (1-2 min.) with tips on how to write inclusive discussion guides — from Introduction to Group Dismissal:  

But first, a little background on my passion for this topic…

For my “all in” friends, you can take in the entire video in one sitting by clicking the button below (…and finish off that box of chocolates as you do).

Either way, I hope you find this series helpful as we all seek to be truly inclusive in our research!

XXOO -Alicia

P.S. What kind of chocolate-eater do you think I am? Send me an email and I’ll tell you!

Research Deeper

Elevate your Research with a Sociological Approach

However you come to research — whether as an agency, client or moderator– you know that the value (and rich beauty) of ethnographic (qualitative) research is its naturalistic approach. In “ethnos” or “in context” projects,  we study people in their near-natural settings, attempting to understand the meanings they attribute to things, language, symbols, relationships, as well as an exploration of  rituals, practices, and social environs.

As a Sociologist and a moderator, this is my passion:  discovering deep insights about real people in their worlds. And to be quite honest, I think it elevates the research I’m able to provide my clients. But in case you’re not a sociologist (or don’t have one on your team), here a few tips on how to delve into consumers’ behaviors and mindsets to uncover what really drives their decisions:

Here’s to uncovering those values and mindsets that drive consumers’ behaviors and decisions! If you need some help, I’m just a phone call away!

P.S.  And don’t think you can’t get these deep insights from online research – You can!  It just takes some innovation and creativity!

Place Matters

As researchers, we have a lot of theoretical discussions about the significance of place and how we imbue place with meaning. A social construction of people bound together because of where they reside, work or have a history, a sense of place can offer many insights in our qualitative research.

Recently, I attended and facilitated sessions at the Qualitative Research Consultants Association’s (QRCA) annual conference in Savannah, Georgia — a city brimming with a unique sense of place.

As a sociologist, researcher and member of the International Special Interest Group, I thought it was important for the QRCA’s annual conference to include a learning opportunity that would immerse us in a cultural experience beyond the architectural and culinary tours of this beautiful city. Thus – the Gullah Geechee Experience was born —  complete with historical storyteller, authentic Gullah Geechee dishes and an entertaining and educational dinner show.

I invite you to view a 4-minute peek at our immersion experience here:

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!


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!