4 Unconventional, Creative Ways to Perform Market Research

Customer insights are solid gold. They unlock the door to commercial innovation, help you understand the latent needs of your target audience, and spark ideas for future products. It would be hard for any marketer to dispute the value of market research. What we are going to dispute is the misconception that market research has to be expensive.
If you have the budget for it, there is nothing wrong with investing in big data, qualitative customer insights interviews, market reports, and high-powered consultants. All of these tools are very effective at gathering and aggregating customer insights. When an advertising agency harnesses these insights to a creative campaign, they can have a huge impact.

But those aren’t the only ways to perform market research. Entrepreneurs, small- and medium-sized business owners, scrappy startups, and even frugal corporate heavyweights have plenty of options to collect remarkably accurate market research using lean methodology that does more with less. These four unconventional and creative ways to perform market research are as inexpensive as they are efficient. The best part is, they also yield near immediate results so you can go to market faster.

Social Media for Market Research

Social media isn’t usually considered a market research tool, but don’t let that fool you. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are mini focus groups that allow you to read (and respond to) customer comments, giving you a real-time view into the cause-and-effects that actually influence customer behavior. You can also introduce questions about possible new features or products into your forum, share surveys and polls, and even reach out to customers for one-on-one feedback about their experience. All for free.

Because many websites also use social media to enable single sign on customer login, social platforms have a wealth of data about where else your customers are shopping and socializing. While you may not be able to see the full picture or harness the full depth of that information without partnering (or paying) those platforms directly, you can conduct your own qualitative research by looking at what your top users and social advocates are doing online. We know it may sound a little old fashioned or labor intensive, so partnering with a digital marketing agency can make your life easier … but go ahead and do a little Facebook stalking, see what you can learn, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to learn more from time to time.

Research Livestreaming

If you want to enjoy similar benefits but take some of the legwork out of trolling social media sites for nuggets of information, research firm Harris Interactive’s new platform built for the modern digital marketing agency, Research Livestreaming, may be just the tool you were looking for. This tool offers a unique view into both your customers’ social media activity and more direct customer feedback. Customers opt in by linking their social media sites to the Research Livestreaming platform and then participating in surveys, polls, and discussions regarding various experiences and products. Customers are rewarded for their insights with monetary gift certificates or merchandise.

The tool provides a much more holistic picture into the market’s behavior and how social actions correspond to real actions. Because users also choose to participate in the Research Livestreaming platform, you don’t need to worry about being perceived as pushy or soliciting unwelcome information. The downside is that you can’t completely control the users you get to interact with. Although these individuals are all willing to share information, you aren’t receiving information from customers who had a bad experience or those who may be less inclined to share. In reality, you aren’t receiving customer information at all. There’s no guarantee that participating in Research Livestreaming is representative of your customer segment. That said, because users choose how and where to participate on the platform, it’s safe to assume that respondents are self-selecting into experiences they would engage with in the wild and your digital marketing agency can help interpret results into actionable strategy. In this way, Research Livestreaming provides exceptional directional insight into customer behavior and broad market temperature.

User Testing

If you crave more granular information, consider using simple user testing software such as usertesting.com. This is one of our favorite customer research tools to gain insight into task completion and user experience functionality. Your content marketing agency can help you prepare product prototypes, show customers your actual homepage, or ask them to imagine themselves in a situation and complete a task such as purchasing a product or searching for information. Each testing session is recorded, so you’ll be able to watch (and listen to users comment on) their experience every step of the way.

User testing provides a very narrow, but accurate view into market behavior. This can be invaluable when preparing for a product launch or revamping your online presence. Like Research Lifestreaming, you are somewhat limited by who signs up to participate on usertesting.com. It’s important to remember that while lean market research doesn’t give you an infallible look at customer behavior, it’s often faster and easier to collect. Responses from user testing are usually available within hours, rather than months (as is the case with traditional market research). With these tools, you can supercharge your testing and iteration process to meet your customers’ needs faster.

Site Surveys

And don’t forget about adding a customer survey to your homepage. You can ask simple questions like why they came to your site, or more broad questions like what they like or dislike your brand. Give them the option to respond with simple yes/no or radio button answers, or add their own verbatims. Survey creation software such as Qualaroo is easy to implement with a few clicks of a button, so everyone from a seasoned digital marketing agency to the most non-tech savvy companies can take advantage of this tool.
No matter how you choose to collect market research, the most important element is that you are connecting and engaging with your customers. How you do it – is just the details.

How Pier 1 Increased Consumer Response Through Data Strategy

It’s time for a more data-driven approach, so let display advertising services take the wheel of your marketing strategy.

Here’s an astonishing statistic: CMOs spend 20% of their budgets on creative, yet 71% of them don’t believe creative actually drives results. It’s a statistic that points to a much larger crisis of confidence within the marketing realm.
So how are brands that are unwilling to accept this state of affairs responding? By taking a more numbers-based, scientific approach to marketing through display advertising services.

How Pier 1 automated its marketing messaging

The creative process in marketing is largely unchanged from its early history. People use a mélange of assumptions, guesswork and qualitative data to inform their creative approach. It’s art and science – a mix of intuition and information. Sometimes this approach works, but more often it results in work that’s too broad or somewhat misaligned with the audience.

In recent years, however, new data tools have been developed that allow for the creative process to be guided by fact rather than supposition. Today’s machines can analyze robust data sets with extreme precision, uncovering actionable insights and learning as they go.

Pier 1 offers an interesting example of this trend toward data-driven marketing. The company partnered with Persado to optimize the language used across customer marketing content. The technology involved in the campaign has the ability to alter the language seen in display ads in accordance with an individual consumer’s preferences.

Using the Persado platform & display advertising services, Pier 1 was able to compare customer engagement and response levels for various sponsored ads, each with different photos, captions, hashtags and headlines. The impact of each ad and its constituent elements is measured in real time to see how well or how poorly they resonate with customers.

In essence, the technology is a sophisticated form of A/B testing that includes a machine-learning component that composes new marketing messages guided by real-time feedback. All of it is based on linguistic science. The underlying technology analyzes millions of language variations to create an optimal message. The natural language processing algorithm used by Persado is designed to understand a brand’s specific voice and replicate it across all channels.

Why a data-guided approach is smarter

Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages. If they deign to give you their attention, you can be certain that concession will be almost instantly revoked if the message they are experiencing isn’t immediately compelling. Because of this, presentation is critical.

Data-focused tools such as the algorithm deployed by Persado & proper display advertising services can play a critical role in helping brands quantify audience response to messages. These tools play an equally important role in helping brands optimize their messages by incorporating this feedback and making informed adjustments in real time.

That doesn’t mean that marketing is now purely a science. As far as machine learning has come, it remains limited in many key respects. The optimal approach for most brands involves working with an agency that integrates data-based tools and human insight into one holistic marketing framework.

Partnering with the right consumer insight agency

Our display advertising team believes a data-forward marketing agency is your best bet for understanding and connecting with the right audiences. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn how we create modern campaigns that are rooted in human insight and executed with advanced digital tools.

How Can Small Banks Compete Against Large Banks? Supercharged SEO

Supercharge your SEO services and launch your community bank into the future with these key digital marketing strategies and concepts.

The banking industry has been consolidating for 30 years, dropping from 14,000 banks in 1985 to fewer than 5,000 today. With smaller players being swallowed by industry heavyweights, it’s natural for community banks to wonder how well they can compete against national lenders. Fortunately, there’s one simple tactic that can help even the playing field: Well-executed SEO services grounded in a deep understanding of local buyers.

How community banks can gain an SEO edge

Community banks are, at their core, local businesses. While they might not be capitalized at the level of the big banks, they can instead compete on responsiveness and understanding of the local market.

A local SEO strategy also pays dividends. Banks should give each of their local branches a dedicated web page rather than having each branch listed through a simple location finder. These pages should include information about each branch and its neighborhood and should be optimized for SEO. This means taking commonly searched phrases relating to banking in that area and incorporating them into the body and metadata of branch pages.

The power of the public’s endorsement

Adding customer reviews for each local branch to individual pages is also a smart tactic. Reviews play a critical role in establishing credibility and are a key cog in the conversion process.

This also extends to external entities such as Yelp! and other directories. Establishing a presence on these outside sites does more than allowing you to bump your online review count. Sites such as Yelp! validate your bank’s address, phone number, and name with Google’s search algorithm, giving your site a rankings boost. Linking with high authority publishers is also key. Inbound links coming from high authority publishers is perhaps the most consistently effective tactic in the SEO playbook.

Staying on top of local search terms

It’s also critical to give extensive thought to the kind of questions prospective customers are searching for in your region — everything from “how to open a checking account” to “nearest bank to me.”

These are the kind of questions for which community banks want to rank, so it’s important that they are addressed somewhere within your online presence. You can address them both on your sites and within the content you publish.

Stressing your competitive advantages

Community banks should play to their strengths when marketing. Larger banks tend to be viewed as faceless monoliths who treat their customers like a number on a spreadsheet. Community banks, on the other hand, are in a position to establish personal relationships by properly utilizing SEO services.

This may not affect whether a customer qualifies for a loan, but it does impact how customers feel about their experience. Community banks should underline the closer, more responsive nature of their relationships with customers in their marketing messages.

The takeaway

Small banks can neutralize the advantages of larger competitors by highlighting the benefits of a more personal approach and pursuing a smart SEO strategy. If you’d like to hear more about the impact of high-level SEO services, reach out to our banking experts today.

How to Build Trust Through Community Bank Marketing

Leverage the unique opportunities of a small bank to drive effective community bank marketing strategies that will turn your small branch into big business.

Many agencies and marketers like to think that finance is a big mystery—an animal all its own with completely different rules. In some ways it is, but in most ways, it isn’t. Effective branding gains attention and keeps it; just like it does in every other industry. Community bank marketing is very similar to small business marketing, it just calls for a more sophisticated twist.
Here are 3 key concepts for building trust in small banks:

1. Get personal, to an extent

Small banks have the unique opportunity to build strong interpersonal relationships. To not just become a brand or company name, but to become Sammy, the helpful man at the front desk, who can help you get what you need. He knows your name and asks about your son’s baseball games.

Let empathy drive your services so that your consumers feel valued. Show them directly how your customer relations can brighten their day while your services exceed every expectation. Leveraging expertise and friendly service, you can turn your brand into a mentor for each and every customer.

Find an agency that understands the delicate differentiators’ in voice and branding to craft the perfect balance for your community. Drive real results with community bank marketing that cares just the right amount.

2. Leverage digital effectively

Digital is invaluable to community bank marketing because it’s a great way to establish one-on-one interaction and build strong relationships. Digital marketing for banks works a lot like digital marketing for anyone else but should be held to a higher standard. For example, a clothing company or salon should have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts; while banks should be on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but never Instagram. It’s just too casual.

The right digital strategy in banking is all about finding your line of sophistication and building that ever-important trust. Use digital in conjunction with strong branding to build effective consumer relationships. Post community views and common local phrases to evoke nostalgia and build understanding. Using effective bank marketing strategies, your brand can become a community pillar.

Represent your brand as a member of the community and follow through. Post photos and short videos of the front office team to build a connection before a customer even sets foot through your doors. Show the management team doing community service and attending local events, embody your brand through human interaction. Demonstrate a neighborly connection to develop a real personality.

3. Embrace ever-evolving technology

Maneuverability is a great advantage that small banks have over large institutions. Every day enhanced technology is being developed in all aspects of every industry—including banking. Due to the security necessary throughout the banking process, it can take years to implement any one new process across an entire large bank. For a community bank, that same process can take just a few months.

Incorporate cutting edge technologies into your services to provide convenience as well as modernity for your customers. Leverage your agility and technological know-how in your brand’s bank marketing ideas. This will draw in young consumers looking for a better way to the bank as well as the older markets that simply enjoy the advantages offered by new technologies.

More than a novelty, technology can cut your company’s operational costs while allowing for more personal service. Incorporating a one-on-one, on-demand experience for consumers to interact with your brand without having to walk in. Utilize effective customer service in combination with technology to add value to your services. Remember, it’s nice to like your bankers but your bottom-line is built on trust, experience, and results.

The takeaway

Small banks have a lot more going for them than meets the eye. Make sure your brand’s target audience understands all that your company brings to the table through genuine connection built the right way, digital that effectively reaches consumers and furthers that connection, and unique offerings that only smaller institutions can accomplish.

It can be a lot to manage yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an advertising agency that understands the demands, opportunities, and limitations that your company faces. When you’re ready to market your bank on the next level, get in touch with our community bank marketing professionals.

Creative and Media Under One Roof: The Agency Model of the Future

The decision to work with full creative brand consulting and media provider under one agency roof or many? It’s your choice…but make sure you chose wisely.

Creative and media went their separate ways more than 30 years ago, when big New York agencies determined they could charge clients more money for distinct services. Today, however, we’re seeing a reversal of that trend: Large industry holding companies (Publicis Groupe, WPP, etc.) are organizing media and creative under one roof — a development that bears very close scrutiny for anyone in creative brand consulting.

Why an integrated service model makes sense

Synergy may be a buzzword, but it describes a very real advantage that can be seized when the individual parts of an organization work together to achieve more than they could in isolation.

The recent “IHOb” ad campaign on behalf of the International House of Pancakes is a nice recent example of this process in motion. The campaign, which cleverly stoked social media buzz about a potential name change for the legacy pancake purveyor, was the combined creation of Initiative and Droga5, media and creative agencies working under the umbrella of IPG. The campaign, which earned industry praise, allowed IHOP to develop impactful creative work, and then increase the impact and reach of its distribution.

This encompasses the overarching concept of consolidation within the space, in which ad clients are increasingly folding all of their needs into a single agency or holding company. Many observers contend that this model — which theoretically allows creative, media, and data analytics to work synergistically — is better suited for modern advertising.

By rolling services together, campaigns can be adjusted in real time to account for the reaction of audiences. Campaigns can also leverage data to shape the direction creative takes, allowing for more refined messages and better audience targeting.

Why is this shift occurring now?  

Delivering ad services in a piecemeal fashion has been a revenue driver for the last few decades, as companies could shift away from a flat commission model taken by separate on media and creative initiatives. Many of the ad industry’s new leaders, however, no longer believe this model is optimal, according to Madwell CEO David Eisenman.

Eisenman told Adweek that 90% of the RFPs his agency received in the last year included creative and media elements. This change, he said, has been driven by Millennials, who are stepping into the advertising C-suite and bringing a fresh perspective.

Publicis Groupe, one of the industry’s key players, has been pursuing an integrated model since restructuring its organization in 2015. The company streamlined all operations into four so-called “solutions hubs” that comprise all corporate business.

Under this model, the holding company acts as chief business delegator, helping coordinate client services with its constituent agencies underneath. Ultimately, the talent spread across various agencies can be tapped to service a single client, allowing for the most efficient spread of resources. This, of course, benefits clients — why only have access to creative brand consulting in one talent housed agency when you can access teams spread across an entire holding company?

Concerns and drawbacks

While an integrated model seems to be a winner for clients, some observers have cautioned that excessive integration may lead to problems. Creatives may not always appreciate being spread across an organization, mercenary-style, to work on seemingly random projects.

Additionally, if integration is handled poorly, quality may suffer. Firms that pursue widespread integration need to be certain that it is implemented carefully and methodically, given its potential for organizational disruption.

The takeaway

We take pride in our ability to provide clients with a sophisticated, engaging, end-to-end solution for their marketing and advertising needs. If you’d like to hear more about how our team of experts can best serve you through creative brand consulting, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Struggling for Good Content? Consider the UGC Technique

UGC is an underappreciated technique used by creative brand consulting firms, yet provides overly successful content creation for your brand.

It’s a fact of life that creative brand consulting firms are always in need of fresh and compelling content. Unfortunately, they often struggle to meet these demands. That’s because it typically requires time, talent and money to generate high-quality marketing content.
Here’s the good news: Agencies and brands are solving this problem with content generation strategies that ensure access to a consistent pipeline of high-value material.

One of the most overlooked of these strategies is the use of UGC — or “user-generated content.”

Who’s down with UGC?

UGC is simply defined as any content created and shared by consumers, fans or any unpaid contributor. This content often takes the form of videos, photos, testimonials, social media posts, and stories.

One recent example: Coca-Cola’s wildly successful personalized Coke bottle campaign. The beverage giant replaced its iconic logo with 250 popular first names and sold hundreds of millions of bottles of cola as a result.

As part of its product rollout, Coca-Cola asked consumers to upload photos and videos of themselves drinking from their personalized bottles. Thousands did, giving Coca-Cola free content and advertising — and providing a great example of the power of UGC in action.

Coca-Cola isn’t the only beverage company to use UGC to great effect. Pepsi’s “Max It Now” campaign was built around legendary NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, who famously raced under the number 24.

Pepsi asked fans to complete 24 social media challenges (such as Tweeting why Pepsi Max is better than Coke Zero in 24 words, or Instagraming a photo of themselves with Pepsi Max) in order to win prizes.

This UGC campaign was hailed for the way it engaged with a dedicated cohort of so-called “superfans” a.k.a people with deep loyalty to Jeff Gordon, NASCAR — and now, very possibly, Pepsi Max.

Tips for your next UGC campaign

We’ve discussed one benefit of UGC — providing access to a stream of valuable content, an eternal need for brands. Yet there’s another important advantage: UGC resonates with audiences.

Why? People perceive non-commercial content generated by people like themselves to be more authentic. Similar to word of mouth advertising, they also perceive UGC to be more trustworthy than conventional marketing or advertising. In today’s ad-soaked environment, more consumers than ever simply tune out anything with an overtly commercial feel. UGC cuts through this barrier.

Additionally, a UGC campaign allows brands to place consumers front and center. Rather than dictate the story through a creative brand consulting firm, UGC campaigns allow consumers to play a key role in telling the brands journey themselves. When this occurs, brands create campaigns that connect on a more personal level, while also encouraging consumers to feel like they are invested in the campaign — and by extension the brand itself.

So now that we’ve established why UGC works, let’s review a few tips for your next campaign:

1.Create excitement and anticipation

This is one of the best ways to ensure that you receive strong user participation. Set a content submission date and spend the days and weeks ahead of that date building anticipation across all relevant marketing channels.

2.Offer creative awards for participation

This is the key to engaging with people who aren’t already dedicated fans of a brand. Public recognition, company swag or prizes help people feel like their work is worth it.

3.Ensure your campaign is legally compliant

Is your campaign a sweepstakes (random drawing) or a contest (with criteria to meet)? Depending on your jurisdiction, these may have differing legal requirements. Check with an attorney if you have any questions.

Finding the creative brand consulting Firm

Our team of creative renegades specialize in strategic UGC-based campaigns that move the needle. If you’d like to learn more about the power of UGC, please don’t hesitate to call us today.