HSCS-005 – Find a need, fill a need (Pt5, Run your business like Gordon Ramsay)

Last episode we talked about how to discover what your customers really want. Now we’ll talk about transformational change. Plus, I’ll share my recent experience providing feedback as part of a customer advisory panel. Finally, I have a few more online resources to discover networking events near you.

Topic #1 – Give your customers what they really want

Build a babyDuring the last episode (#4), we discussed how to find out what the customers really want.

What will the market bear?
Are you charging too much?
Are you charging too little?

Once you have that directional knowledge, you have to take those learnings and fill a need.

I love the quote in the kids movie “Robots”: “Find a need. Fill a need.”

If there isn’t a good hamburger for miles, be known for serving the best one.

If the locals are all young bohemians, serve cheap good food that they can afford.

If the local butcher says thick steak is his number one best seller, and there are no steak houses in town, perhaps you should transform into a steak house.

“Find a need. Fill a need.”

Topic #2 – Learning what your customers want (continued)

ChasingI was asked to join an advisory panel for a service I subscribe to. In this case it’s regarding a mobile site for a service I use.

Survey was simple. It let me comment on specific screens/functionality. Gave me an open ended response field to type in a verbatim response — as opposed to closed ended questions where I can only choose from the answers provided. They even displayed screen shots of the mobile website as a reminder of the interface. (very smart)

It gave me a sounding board to provide three points of critical feedback about the user experience. But they might have lost out on my valuable input due to a stupid mistake on their part. The survey invitation email subject line simply said “WAP Survey”

Very careless. “WAP” is a meaningless term to most people. Speak to me in English, not acronyms. They’re lucky that I’ve worked in mobile marketing and know what it means. Otherwise I would’ve deleted the email without opening it.

Topic #3 – More useful online resources to find events in your area

During episode #3, we talk about how to use to find networking events close to home. Here are two more:

Learned about them listening to CC Chapman’s excellent podcast on new media.

Personally, I got better search results on But you might have better luck depending on where you live.
Read more

HSCS-004 – Give your customers what they really want (Pt4, Run your business like Gordon Ramsay)

Do you honestly know what your customers and prospects really want? In this episode we discuss a reality check for business success. Ask yourself some hard questions. Plus, checkout some free/inexpensive tools to help you find out what you need to know.

Topic #1 – Find a need, fill a need

Angry pirate - click to view source creditDo you honestly know what your customers and prospects really want? Perhaps your stubborn attitude is the reason why your sales are down.

Are they really happy? Ever survey them?

  • Use customer comment cards? (How was the experience? Would they recommend you?)
  • Go out on the streets and literally ask people in the neighborhood what they think? (Ever heard of you? How do you compare to the competition?)
  • Put a sample in their hand to see reactions.
  • Ask them to complete an online survey (or paper survey if necessary).
  • Invite them to your office for lunch.
  • Invite them to participate in an advisory board.

Be prepared for honest criticisms:

  • Functional (Overly complex? Too simplistic? Opportunities for improvement.)
  • Aesthetic (Butt ugly?)
  • Cost (Overpriced? Underpriced?)
  • Value / ROI (As compared to competition. Both factual and perceived.)
  • Quality (Have standards been slipping?)
  • Service (Too little? Too much?)
  • Lack of support

What are the right questions to ask? Well that’s a topic for another time. Just don’t overwhelm your customers. Ask straightforward, meaningful questions.

Topic #2 – Tools to find out what your customers really want

ChasingSome of my marketing research colleagues might be gagging on the simplicity of these suggestions. But reality is, most small+mid-size businesses cannot afford formal methodology based research. They need directional info quickly and cheaply.

Free polling software:

If you are already using an email marketing service, some have built-in survey applications:

Having difficulty with fielding customer support inquiries. Checkout popular paid services like:

Read more

Lessons Learned From NASA Mishandling of Air Safety Survey

NASA logoDamage control is an art form, best left to public relations professionals. While pharmaceuticals and other giants have learned from years of safety recalls (i.e. Tylenol, Vioxx, B&L MoistureLoc) what to do and not do in the face of media viciousness and consumer outrage, NASA fumbled terribly. Read more

Teens on MySpace

Whether or not MySpace accounts are mainly teens to twenty somethings is highly debatable. One school of thought is that MySpace registered users skew much older than the demographics suggest, because they may lie about their self-reported demographic info.

But this TRU research survey mentioned below specifically sampled teens about their destination choices. Those participants indicated MySpace as one of their top destinations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really suggest what the up and coming new alternatives to MySpace will be.

For further information:
Rob Callender
707 Skokie Blvd., 7th Floor
Northbrook, IL 60062
(847) 564-3440

Dec. 13, 2006



Northbrook, Ill. – Six months after achieving a major upset over more-established websites, MySpace ( continues to solidify its position as teens’ most-visited web destination.

According to a new TRU survey of more than 2,000 teens aged 12 to 19, more than one-third of respondents (34%) listed MySpace as one of their two most-visited websites. Runner-up Yahoo collected 19% of teens’ votes, while third-place Google claimed 14%.

MySpace’s achievement is even more impressive than the numbers suggest because the responses resulted from a write-in question, TRU Trend Director Rob Callender said.

“The internet offers virtually unlimited content,” Callender said. “So the fact that more than one-third of teens were able to agree on a single web destination—without the benefit of a list of choices—speaks volumes about the impression MySpace has made on teen life.”

And MySpace has been able to build this consensus with impressive speed, Callender said.

“MySpace made its TRU Study debut one year ago. At that time, nine percent of teens listed it as a favorite—good enough for third place. Six months later, it vaulted to first place with mentions from 24% of teens. This fall’s results show MySpace consolidating its lead even further.”

The TRU Study reveals some interesting demographic differences:

» MySpace takes top honors among each age group (12- to 15-year-olds, 16- and 17-year-olds, and 18- and 19-year-olds) but significantly more of the oldest teens say it’s one of their most-frequented destinations compared to other age groups.
» MySpace takes first place among both guys and girls, but significantly more girls say they visit the site most often.
» MySpace is the most-visited website among African-American teens, Hispanic teens, and white teens. Interestingly, significantly more Hispanic teens claim MySpace is one of their most-visited sites compared to the other ethnic groups.

The Fall 2006 TRU Study also reveals that nearly six teens in 10 (58%) say they’ve checked out someone’s profile on a virtual-networking site. Nearly half of teens (49%) say they themselves have profiles on a virtual-networking site. MySpace again leads: 40% of teens say they have a MySpace profile, compared to 10% for Xanga and nine percent for Facebook.

This research data is part of The TRU Study. The largest study of its type, The TRU Study provides a twice-annual profile of teen attitudes, values, lifestyles, consumer behaviors, and trends. The research is based upon responses from more than 2,000 teens nationwide. The sample is representative of the overall U.S. teen population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and region of residence.

TRU, based in Chicago, is the nation’s pre-eminent market-research firm specializing on the teen market. Last year, TRU conducted 1,000 qualitative-research sessions, in addition to many in-depth interviews and customized quantitative studies. Over the past 24 years, TRU has interviewed nearly one million teenagers.


Article: Consumers Punishing Physical Stores for Sins of Online Counterparts

eWeek reports: Consumers Punishing Physical Stores for Sins of Online Counterparts

“Nordstrom, for example, has a reputation for delivering extremely personalized and attentive customer service for people visiting their stores. That high-touch attribute is quite difficult to replicate online, setting the company up to disappoint online visitors. Those disappointed online visitors could then potentially punish the brick-and-mortar locations.”

“Retailers have been very slow to understand that, to the consumer, it’s one brand.”

“The retail brand today transcends the channel. When [customers] have a poor Web experience, as in poor page loads [or] unsuccessful transactions, it’s taken out on the storefronts, too. Consumers don’t understand the complexity of delivering an optimal Web experience.”

Key take away: A company must work hard in both the physical and online worlds to deliver a consistent message and high user experience. Failing in one environment will discourage the consumer to interact with the brand in the other.


Use Yahoo Answers for fielding simple questions

Your a marketer, you need some quick opinions and you have no budget for formal market research. What can you do?

Yahoo! Answers is an easy solution to add to your personal marketing arsenal.

It is a community of registered Yahoo! users that participate in answering questions asked by other Yahoo! users.


    Yahoo Answers Screenshot

  • Fielding a question is quick and easy to do.
  • You have a wide range of categories and sub-categories to submit your question to. (i.e. Beauty & Style, Business & Finance, Entertainment & Music, Health, Society & Culture, Technology , plus many more.)
  • You get relatively instant feedback.
  • It’s free.


  • You have limited ability to target demographically or geographically. Although Yahoo! collects self-reported information (i.e. gender, age, location) from its registered users, we users can’t take advantage of that to target our question(s). Basically, you can select a category of interest and add some descriptive text (e.g. “Teens only please”).
  • The answers you get are in no way statistically significant. But at least you get verbatim opinions, which do have value and provide unanticipated insight. Also, some people post answers solely because it helps them gain more personal points, not because they want to be helpful or enjoy expressing their opinion.
  • You’ll get the majority of responses in the first 12-24 hours, then little else. Since so many people are submitting questions, yours will be push down fairly quickly.
  • Most responders do follow your instructions, but be prepared for some nasty responses. There are a small group of people who are beligerant, but you have the ability to report them to the Yahoo! Answers administrators.

Of course, nothing is completely “free.” You have to invest a bit of time…

  • You need to create a Yahoo! acount
  • You have to participate by answering other questions to earn points. Those points allow you to post your own questions and have advanced functionality.

In summary, if you need to get some quick opinions from the community, or validate an assumption, try posting your question on Yahoo! Answers.

I hope you find this useful.

Web Site Redesign: user research is critical

Does your client think the Web site redesign can be done without benefit of any basic research? That’s a sure sign of trouble ahead.

You need to understand how the site is currently being used, who is visiting and are their needs being met.

You can gather this information from a variety of sources:
– Primary research
– Secondary research
– Site logs
– Interviews with stakeholders
– Customer service

If you can’t get the above, set up an online survey triggered by site visitors. If you want to assess customers, set up a survey triggered when a customer logs into his account. If you have email addresses for consumers who registered at the site for something, send an email inviting them to participate in research. In my experience, inviting 50,000 consumers by email usually yields 1,500 completed surveys within 72 hours. That’s a significant representative sample to gain some learnings from.

Questionnaire design is an art form. Most research professionals keeping survey length to 10 questions max. Best is to sketch out what the most critical learnings your after. Then prioritize the questions, rewrite and rewrite again until you’ve come up with a good balance. Don’t forget to include 2-3 profile questions at the end to help segment your responders.

A good survey should:
1. Set expectations upfront as to what you want the participant to do and how long it should take.
2. Include clear, easy to understand questions. Include instructions (e.g. Please select one of the following choices.)
3. Set expectations as to how much longer the survey will take (e.g. “Almost done, just 3 more questions please.”)
4. Use form field validation to ensure you questions are answered.
5. Be error free. No spelling errors, confusing text or broken functionality.
6. Include a thank you message at the end.

Interested? Check out these easy to use and relatively inexpensive online survey tools:
Insight Express
Survey Monkey

What do you think? Please post your comments. Thanks.