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General Contractors & Brand Loyalty

 By Connor Duffey

When looking out into the consumer-driven world today, it’s rather easy to see why brands are more important now than ever. Brands are part psychology and part science brought together as an indelible sentimental mark rather than a trademark. All products have life cycles, brands outlive them. This attitude is echoed within the contractor world.

Strong brand names are important, according to a new study conducted by qSample among more than 300 respondents from qSample’s Contractor Panel. Nearly half of all respondents rated brand ‘very influential’ when it comes to their tool purchasing decisions.

Some trades had clear favorites when it came to where their brand loyalties lie. For general contractors, 28 percent of them chose DeWalt as the brand they ‘trusted/were loyal to the most.’ Milwaukee and Makita were a distant second and third at 15 percent and 11 percent respectively. Plumbers also overwhelmingly, over half of respondents, picked DeWalt as their brand of choice. For Electricians, Klein was their favorite brand, followed by Milwaukee.

‘Performance’ (38 percent) and ‘quality’ (32 percent) were the top two reasons cited as to why contractors selected their preferred brand. Most trades selected performance over quality (general contractors, HVAC Specialists, painters, roofers). A few trades chose quality over performance (electricians, framers and plumbers).

When it comes to launching a new tool into the market, a strong brand trumps innovative features. Yet, most contractors aren’t completely against trying tools from new/different brands. Despite their brand loyalties, most were at minimum ‘somewhat willing’ (54 percent overall) to try new brands. The study found that the trade least likely trade to try new brands was electricians. 10 percent of electrician respondents said they wouldn’t be very willing to try new brands but the majority said they would be ‘somewhat willing’ to try new brands. The most open to trying new brands were general contractors, painters and HVAC specialists, with more than 90 percent of respondents in those trades answering ‘very willing’ or ‘somewhat willing.’

The results of the survey indicate there are ways to entice contractors to try new brands and products. When respondents were asked which factors, if any, would be most effective in persuading them to switch brands, most tradesmen pointed to a solid warranty so they could really put it to the test. 35 percent of general contractors, 36 percent of electricians, 41 percent of roofers, and 44 percent of plumbers chose having a solid warranty as the top factor that could persuade them to switch brands.

The second most selected factor was Demos where the respondents could use/handle the tools. For HVAC Specialists, property managers and painters, demos would be the factor most likely to persuade them to switch brands.

Contractors have a lot to consider when they purchase new tools that are trade specific. Purchasing the wrong tool can have a huge impact on their company’s productivity and their bottom line.

When contemplating purchasing a new tool or switching to a new brand, contractors visit a lot of different sources. According to the study, most contractors, nearly 30 percent overall, rely on word-of-mouth reviews from other tradesmen. 22 percent of electricians rely primarily on trade magazines when considering a new tool purchase. Plumbers check out youtube videos for reviews more than most tradesmen. Others go straight to the hardware store and manufacturer’s websites.

-Connor Duffey

Contractor Brand Loyalty_111814(2)

Cutting Costs on High Tech Gear and Electronics

Consumers desire the latest electronics and high tech gear, but unfortunately cost can be prohibitive. Savvy consumers have blogs, websites and books dedicated to saving money both for the home and business. Here are a few non-traditional and creative ways to save money when it comes time to buy the needed items to outfit an office or the latest technology gadget.

 

Online Auctions

Online auctions claim to save buyers anywhere from 25%-75% on all sorts of items. One online auction generating attention is Quibids It’s free and easy to create an account but in order to bid, one must first purchase 100 bids at 60 cents a bid. Smaller bid packages may be purchased after the initial purchase. Items can be placed on a watch list to track selling prices at certain times. We saw two remote-controlled cars sell for vastly different amounts. In the early afternoon it sold for one bid (60 cents) and later that evening sold for 240 bids.

 

If one loses a bid on an item, QuiBids will sometimes offer the item at a Buy Now price, and will subtract the bids already placed on that item. For instance a $50 gift card that had $40 worth of bids already might be available to purchase at the remaining cost of $10.

 

Auctions are not a guarantee of lower prices, but often a creative way to try to buy high priced items at lower costs. All items on QuiBids are new and items ship for free within the U.S.

 

Use Online Shopping Carts

Another way to save money is to shop on-line at sites like Amazon. Items can be placed in a shopping cart for later and will adjust as the price either drops or rises. Amazon Prime membership will also save money on the item price and get two-day free shipping on Prime items. Overstock.com often offers cheap shipping as well.

 

In addition, if you place items in an online shopping cart but do not complete the purchase, you may receive an email within a couple of days offering you a discount on the items in your shopping cart. It’s the store’s way of following up to close a sale.

HiTechmoney

Planning and Patience

A tried and true way to save money on electronics and high tech gear is to plan ahead. During the year there are times when high priced items are on sale. Televisions, cell phones, iPods, digital cameras, computers and more have yearly sale times, especially when new models come out.

 

It’s good to research before purchasing. Consumer Reports has a list of which items commonly go on sale and when so that you can better plan in advance. For instance, computers are a popular sale item before school starts and TVs in January. You can also avoid spending hundreds at once when you buy an item by pre-buying gift cards in smaller amounts to save up for a particular item. Purchase gift cards at many retail outlets as well as online via Google Play, Apple, Best Buy, Amazon and more.

 

Gift cards can also be used anytime, including during Black Friday sales weekend. Stores advertise specials on everything, including electronics. Long lines may deter consumers from Black Friday sales, but it’s worth researching what items stores are selling at discounted prices as often you can get items for pennies on the dollar. Buying gift cards ahead saves you spending the full amount all at one time.

 

Ask

A great way to have the latest smartphone and save on monthly bills is to ask the phone carrier if there are deals, upgrades or discounts available. Customer service agents work hard to create customer loyalty by offering discounts, deals, and reviewing bills to make sure consumers are getting the best rates. Many big phone companies offer deals and discounts to keep customers happy (this also applies to cable/satellite and internet services) and you will never know-unless you ask. Remember the person on the other end of the phone wants to sign new people up and make sales.

 

Saving money is a strategy that can be applied to every aspect of business, including keeping up on the latest products that help save time, money and manpower. High priced technology and electronics can be made more affordable by research, planning and patience.

High Tech Solutions for Mobile Offices

Offices are traditionally a sedentary place where business is conducted and your clients come to you for services. But for general contractors and those who work on job sites rather than in a traditional office, it can be difficult to maintain efficient technology.

 

Apple Pay

Apple Pay launched this week and although it has some glitches, it allows people to pay for services and products with a few clicks on their iPhones, even at retail stores.  iPhones and other smartphones are now also handheld computers that perform almost as efficiently as a laptop or tablet. The new iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy 4 Note can be both phone and computer in industries with mobile job sites.

 

Using a Smartphone means draining the battery but there are new ways to combat the constant empty battery syndrome. Samsung Galaxy 5’s are offering interchangeable battery systems so phones don’t have to be plugged in constantly. For other phones, pre-charged power packs are available.

 

Handoff

Apple also created ease for Macs and iPhone owners with the new OS X Yosemite operating system. It allows an instant switch from iPad to Mac to iPhone using Handoff. Contractors can easily start a document or project on one device and finish it on another. The new operating system also features an updated format that makes it easier to send spreadsheets via services such as Google Docs or Dropbox. This means that documents can be worked on at home and then accessed on the road.

 

Pocket-sized projectors

Pocket Projectors are the answer to packing light and still being able to present high quality presentations to clients and subcontractors. Projectors run anywhere from under $100 to several hundred dollars. They work with Smartphones and one can access and control the projector through an app. Samsung, Philips, Epson, 3M, and GE are just a few big names that offer pocket projectors. There are wireless options, and those that offer superior picture quality, though of course that raises the price of the projector. Recently, our team attended a technology day at a local business and the presenters brought a mini projector as part of their technology display. The projector was small, and fit into an adult hand, but displayed the PowerPoint and worked just as efficiently as a full-sized projector.

 

Mobile job sites also need data and many phone companies offer Smartphones as hotspots. Smartphones, projectors and other technology can be used as a hotspot to share Wi-Fi for up to ten devices.

 

Agent

This is a new app free through the Google Play store that can help contractors keep tabs on the little things.

• Agent helps conserve phone battery

• Agent silences phone during meetings, based on one’s Google calendar

• Agent can remember details, such as where a car is parked

• Agent can auto-respond to calls when one is driving

• Agent only allows urgent calls and messages through when one wants to sleep

The advancement of technology provides many avenues of professionalism and efficiency. It also provides the ability to easily offer clients high quality work. Understanding how to best utilize this technology is easier in today’s world as well. Many companies not only provide a manual but have created hands-on ways to learn to use new technology. Companies like Apple offer classes for those buying new products, and many also post how-to videos on Youtube.

Upgrading a mobile job site may take some work but once completed, the technology and efficiency is easily moved to the next venue. It’s an investment in organization, saving time and banking on that bottom line.

Did you know? We have access to almost 80K contractors for your marketing research needs. Call us today!

 

 

 

 

The Pros and Cons of Surveys

 

Research professionals who have been in the business for years have seen survey popularity with consumers ebb and flow. When surveys were new, they were fun and it was easy to find survey participants to complete them. However, it became evident that survey data collection was becoming more and more challenging, due to other activities on the calendar that became a huge distraction to the average consumer.

 

How do researchers compete for the consumer’s time effectively? Respondents who complete a survey are often rewarded for their time and participation. At a time when the economy was somewhat sluggish, survey honorariums became a huge attraction with research participants and viewed by some as a way to earn some income on the side. A focus group participant, for example, can earn anywhere from $50 and up for their time. With the growth of social networks, taking a survey has become easier than ever and many research firms, including qSample, take full advantage of the methodology.

 

For this post, we explored the pros and cons of surveying.survey_news

 

Pros:

 

Surveys allow marketers to gather many different opinions from a wide-market spread, or from many different markets. Running around the mall with a clipboard to complete surveys can sometimes lead to skewed conclusions, since the majority of survey participants will consist of local residents. While this might work if the research requires speaking with local area residents, an online survey is probably a better, cheaper and more effective method to reach a broader audience.

 

Surveys allow for sampling within certain regions, if needed. Surveys can be initiated in certain regions only, if needed. In fact, panel providers, like qSample, can target respondents’ zip codes for very selective geographic studies. If a respondent needs to live in Midland, TX because a researcher wants to discover the draw of living there, a researcher can pull respondents from that area only.

 

Surveys ensure that all respondents are answering the same questions. This is important so that the resulting data is very clear (i.e. 40% of respondents said that they like to pack a lunch and 60% of them do not like to pack a lunch). If participants receive different questions and options to respond, the survey results become null.

 

With modern surveys, marketers can compile results quickly and use technology to see trends. Gone are the days of hand-counting checkmarks in certain columns and then creating reports about those results (unless one IS running around a mall with a clipboard).

qSample has unique technology that allows instant graphing of results as they come in. Those results are open to all team members involved so that adjustments can be made if needed and communication is clear. Because qSample already has active panel members ready to participate and great software, surveys can often be completed within days.

 

Surveys protect respondent’s personal information and do not affiliate information with a name. Online surveys in particular guard the consumer’s private information so that it cannot be sold, rented or tampered with. There is no paper trail on respondents. Although certain demographics might be tapped for a particular survey, contributor’s contact information is kept separate from the results lessening the potential fear of identity theft, inherent bias, etc.

 

Cons:

 

Respondents may be biased when answering questions. Although researchers, not unlike lawyers in a jury selection process, can attempt to find any bias before running a survey, this isn’t always possible. If the goal is to find consumers who love General Mills, a marketer will initially ask consumers if they buy General Mills products before sending them to the rest of the questions and of course, it’s possible some would claim to buy the brand when they really don’t. This would immediately skew the results. Surveys must operate on the assumption that most contributors are answering to the best of their knowledge and allow for a small margin of nuances.

 

If survey answers are multiple choice, some answers may not be listed. Many wonder why there is not an answer that fits them on some survey questions. It is because the researcher wants participants to fit into the categories offered. Although they recognize that not all participants will comply, they want to connect mostly with the people that do fit into those categories. The best surveys will have an “other” or a “none of the above” option.

 

Respondents sometimes skip or are untruthful about personal questions, like income and age. Respondents have a natural inclination to be untruthful if they perceive that the question crosses a line. Annual income ranges are an example of this. Does it matter? Perhaps. Market Researchers know this and can work with it. If researchers want to know if those who make more than $100,000 like to buy a certain car or not, the survey should be approached with that qualification up front by gathering respondents who make that verified income range before even beginning the survey.

 

Marketers can be biased when putting together respondent qualifications or survey questions. It exists and is sometimes hard to pin down, but of course there can be bias when writing a survey. In addition, questions can be leading, which makes for a poor tool to gather unbiased data.

 

Sometimes surveys don’t hold consumer’s attention long enough to complete. Ideally, a survey is created with this in mind and retains the interest of respondents. Minimizing respondent fatigue and making the survey as user friendly as possible is paramount to getting the best responses possible. qSample keeps this in mind before fielding any surveys and employs several different tactics to keep respondents engaged.

 

Understanding the potential cons of surveys, market researchers have implemented methods to minimize these issues and gather accurate data.  With the large reach of surveys, and especially qSample’s online and mobile options, marketers can reach the exact market of people that they need and gather the best data possible.

 

How High Tech Has Improved Halloween

As we are constantly creating new ways for technology to improve our daily lives, routines, and ideas–it’s no surprise that technology has also upgraded our holidays. Halloween is no exception.

No longer just the motion sensor in a candy bowl or a block of dry ice melting away slowly in a witch’s cauldron-this high tech Fall holiday now includes:

Interactive Costumes- Gone are the days where a ghost outfit is sufficiently created by throwing a bed sheet on and cutting facial holes. Many costumes include flashing lights and dramatic movements at the flick of a remote control. Nick, 18, wore the same costume for the past two years. When he pushes the remote, fake blood runs down the mask, and people can’t help but comment on it. So much for an 18 year old boy being worried about wearing the same thing year after year!

Movable Decorations- Theme parks, haunted houses, spooky mazes, pumpkin patches and even houses advertise the high tech Halloween craze. It’s not just lights, holograms, and digital sounds that are scaring both the young and old these days. Halloween decorators all look for technology to take spooky to the next level.

For the Halloween season, Knott’s Berry Farm in California becomes Knott’s Scary Farm, and this year they have a special section of the park called Special Ops: Infected where guests are armed with infrared-emitting rifles to hunt zombies. It’s apparently possible to still play video games this year while outside enjoying the Halloween festivities.

(Anti?) Social Spheres- If one is too scared to go to a haunted house, digital cameras have brought the scary home. Many theme parks such as Silverwood Theme Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (aka ScaryWood during Halloween) take digital photos of startled guests and post them online. Googling “Haunted House Photos” will illicit pictures of people’s reactions to being scared. Talk about hours of fun while being safe and sound in your own home!

When Halloween is over and all you have left is empty candy wrappers you can use technology to keep those spooky memories alive throughout the year. Uploading photos to Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook is only one way to savor Halloween memories. You can also take advantage of specials on sites like Snapfish that constantly offer specials to print pictures of your little princesses and monsters. Snapfish also has an app that offers specials when you order directly through the app instead of on the website.

Spooky Smartphones- For Smartphones, there are Halloween apps to add spooky ringtones, Halloween wallpaper, photo montages with choices of costumes and even Halloween countdowns. Smartphones can also help people celebrate Halloween by becoming part of a Halloween costume. Digital Dudz, part of the Morph Costume Company, has a free app to create an incredible costume. Just download the app and then place it in one of their t-shirts, masks, or morph suits to create an ultra-modern costume. Eyeballs move, hearts beat, and there is even a throbbing brain as part of a Zombie Brains Mask. The app is free, and the apparel can be purchased online through their website.

We found apps to manage your whole home Halloween setup- including sound systems and lights. There is always still room for the dry ice, but why not add digital sound effects from phone apps to make your doorway a little darker?

When unsure of Halloween plans, a smartphone will help! The Pinterest app will help with collecting ideas for costumes, props, Halloween recipes, party ideas and high tech costumes.

Always Watching- Lots of available gear can help capture scary moments. Purchase high tech gear at places like Home Depot trick_or_trackeror online to make your own home haunted and reap the benefits. Wireless cameras and motion detectors can be put in pumpkins, props and on porches to keep an eye on trick or treaters stealing candy and even cue you when they arrive. Many can also be linked to smartphones,

Super Safety- Halloween apps can also be used to improve safety during the spookiest night of the year. You can use your smartphone to monitor your family members as they go trick or treating, or as they stumble through a corn maze. Glympse is a free location app to share GPS with others that’s available for both android and iPhones. And Glympse isn’t just an app to use for Halloween but throughout the year at festivals, concerts, or other crowded places you and your family may wander.

As technology continues to improve our lives not only daily, but throughout the year, we will continue to see high technology used in our customs, cultures and celebrations. Halloween is only one night a year, but available technology to make it more scary, fun, and safe will make it a treat that will last.

Focus Group Evolution

“After working with the team from qSample, we decided to move all our survey research to online, and now we are able to conduct research fast, with less expense, and with more accurate samples than ever.” Jim Kitchens, Ph. D, President of The Kitchens Group.

After realizing that using online and mobile technology for gathering insight is more efficient and faster than the traditional ways of conducting in-person research (or even on the phone), many qSample clients have embraced new virtual options offered for their quant and qual needs.

qSample blends both qualitative and quantitative research to provide the most comprehensive research solution for its clients. The ability to conduct online focus groups using a custom online chat platform takes advantage of both methodologies. As a result, clients receive respondent data in more detail. This process also allows the researcher to cross reference quantitative data when conducting qualitative research.

Clients see success in the number of responses and the quality of the feedback received as well. There is no doubt about it: online options are less expensive, more time efficient and also often require less manpower to administer. In addition, online options bring benefits including the ability to gather more respondents and increased opportunity for communication throughout the process.

Social media has responded in kind. We as consumers can now take surveys on Facebook and survey sites and these sites make it easier to get questions out to the masses. We can vote, see other people’s responses, add commentary and review products and services online as well.

Focus groups are a great way to help find evidence when trying to prove or disprove a theory and even with a large number of research dollars earmarked for qualitative research, companies always look for ways to make that money work more efficiently. Focus groups do not aim to reach consensus on the discussed issues. According to Monique M. Hennick in her book, “International Focus Group Research: A Handbook for the Health and Social Sciences”, ‘focus groups encourage a range of responses which provide a greater understanding of the attitudes, behavior, opinions or perceptions of participants on the research issues’.

Focus groups started right after World War II when the military was researching how US soldiers were responding to the propoganda films made famous by Uncle Sam. Robert K Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld disagreed with the leading questions that were presented to the soldiers and developed specified criteria to gather nonbiased feedback from them. Merton’s resulting book, “The Focused Interview”, published in the 1950’s, became a guide for scholars and researchers in the area of market research.

Social scientists came on board with focus groups in the 1980’s and despite the fact that focus groups were initially developed as an academic research method, they have become more synonymous with market research (Jeremy Munday, 2006). Marketers realized that groups might hold a key to discovering how/why/when people buy, when they need services and how they like to receive and dissimilate information. This all, of course, impacts their buying decisions.

In the 1990’s, online surveys became popular and soon thereafter, marketers realized that there was even more potential for gathering feedback online.

When implemented correctly, online market research can help companies determine proper targeting of the market and discover opportunities that may not have been clear before. In addition it can help evaluate success of a campaign, service or product and help identify the need for a change in tactics.

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There are different types of focus groups. One of the most common types  – Instrumental Focus Group,  where the goal is to eject opinions, behavior patterns or knowledge. There are also Expressive Focus Groups, where the primary goal is the health and welfare of a participant (s). These groups are commonly held in the social services industries and in therapy or counseling venues.

How groups are structured varies greatly and is dependent on client request-as well as surveying recommendations to obtain the best feedback possible. Groups can range from completely structured/controlled to non-structured types; organized to receive responses to specific questions or more of an open-ended discussion. In a way, we start a focus group when we roundtable at work or conference call with other people to discuss a particular topic.

qSample often holds virtual focus groups in our customized chat rooms. The advantages of virtual versus traditional focus groups include:

Geographical – The location of respondents no longer matters so much, unless of course the client specifies that all respondents should be from a specific region or area. This allows marketers a larger group of respondents to pull from. In the area of attendance, virtual groups allow us to pull in feedback from professionals and executive who would commonly not have the time to participate.

Financial– The client can save money by using online options to hold focus groups. There are no longer costs for hotels, space to hold groups, production teams, recording equipment and more. The participant fee is commonly lower as well and all that’s necessary is access to a computer, which most of the population has.

Flexibility– Virtual survey and discussions can be much more flexible in both timing and format versus a traditional group. This is because the method can be applied to elicit information from any topic, from diverse groups of people and in diverse settings (Stewart, D.W., “Focus groups:Theory and practice, 2nd edition”). In addition, holding a group virtually may prevent biases amongst the participants and therefore skewed feedback.

Virtual focus groups also help with streamlining both projects and data. David Warwick, the President of iverificationservices.com says, “As we have completed projects with qSample, they have consistently helped us improve the projects and streamline the processes involved. Their advice and recommendations have improved the overall quality of the project objectives.”

To learn more about qSample’s online focus group capabilities, email inquiry@qsample.com

Social Media Users Earn Less

A recent study conducted with qSample’s general consumer panel reveals that more than 60% of respondents surveyed access Facebook 3-6 times a day. Results also show those who are logged in that frequently earn an income of $50,000 or less per year.

The survey was conducted during the last week of September, with more than 400 respondents participating.  Among those who completed the survey, their employment status were as followed –  41% are employed full-time by a company other than their own, 17% are retired and 13% are self-employed. Others label themselves as full-time homemakers, full-time students or chose “other” for employment status.

Compared to Facebook usage, respondents use other social media sparingly. They report using other social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pintrest and Instagram only a few times a month. And their main reason for using Facebook? Over 66% say that their primary reason is to connect with friends and family while16% use it for entertainment purposes. Please see the infographic below for additional survey results.

Social Media Users Earn Less400

Originally, Facebook’s enormous user retention success was partly due to the member’s ability to post, share and save pictures. Although some sites originally based on text have since added this capability (with Twitter on board only within the past two years), users seem to spend more time on the platform than any other social media sites.

Twitter has tried to replicate the activities of Facebook in allowing the addition of pictures to updates, changing each user’s homepage to stream updates, making media visible within that stream, and (more recently) tagging pictures with user’s names in hopes of increasing usage of the site.

Results from our survey also indicated that over half (51%) of the respondents use social media between 5:00pm-11:00pm and they are choosing the time brackets of noon-4PM and 9:00am-11:00am as secondary options.

Although several of these stats are not surprising, it’s a great idea to always keep up with what the consumer is thinking, and perhaps sometimes delve into why they think they way that they do. Here’s why:

The more marketers tune into consumers and their target audiences, the better they can hone specific messaging to draw them in. As an example, if 70% of a target audience is made up of moms, they can develop messaging that is attractive to most moms.

If companies know when their audience is logged onto certain sites, they can determine if advertising at certain times is beneficial or not. For digital advertising, there is often a choice of the time of day that ads run and advertising is sometimes more expensive during these prime times. Knowing when an audience in online is key to ensuring that a target market is seeing the message.

As always, things to consider when analyzing survey data include human behavior, personalities, potential reasons for responses, etc.

For this survey, we should consider that people who make under $50,000 a year may have more time on their hands than those who are earning more, giving them more time to connect with friends and family on Facebook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates are lower in those with a professional or doctoral degree, while they run close to 11% for those with less than a high-school diploma and 7.5% for those with a high-school diploma.

Many of us know people above the $50,000 annual income category who choose activities other than social media. When asked for their reasons for not being social on-line, their answers often have something to do with lack of time (or as one mother-of-five said “I’m afraid it would be a huge time-sucker.”). In fact, 5% of people do not use Facebook at all, 55% don’t use Twitter, 54% don’t touch LinkedIn, 70% of people have no interest in Pintrest and 85% do not use Tumblr.

We should also consider that although people in this response group primarily use social media to connect with others, they may also be using Facebook to network and research potential ways to increase their income. With more education, telecommuting and contracting opportunities accessible via the internet, it is much easier to obtain additional sources of income. And many of the options are available to all who have internet access and not limited to those with a higher education level, who reside in a specific location or have other demographics that are needed for performing off-line jobs.

Why do we use social media so much? It appears that people find true value in it. Surprisingly, only 7% of respondents use it to “pass the time” versus using it for business purposes, connecting with family and friends, entertainment or “other”. On this scale, using it for “other”, whatever that may entail, describes only 2% of our general population consumers.

Consider how modern house plans differ from older house plans. In many regions, large front porches are gone and former “front porch activity” is delegated to the backyard area, which is often fenced off from other people in the neighborhood. Many now sit out in the backyard area with specifically-invited family or friends versus greeting the neighbors on their after-dinner strolls. Is social media a way that people reach out to be social, but to also stay within their comfort zones where life feels safer?

A large majority of people are coming home from work and logging onto social media. And although it appears that the majority of these people earn less than $50,000 annually, they are a market for product and services. Companies who reach the audience where they naturally spend their time will likely see the results in the bottom line.

 

Replicating Apple’s Success

Replicating Apple's Success

Apple didn’t invent laptop computers, MP3 players, smarthphones and PCs. Its success would lead people to believe otherwise.

While Apple does create some great products, a large part of its success lies with not only with a marketing strategy that is unparalleled in the industry, but in the little details that differentiate Apple from the competition.

We’ve compiled a list of examples of what makes Apple stand apart from the crowd and how companies can implement some of these strategies for their own success.

UNIQUE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Apple is known for its great customer service. This is evident by how they simplify their SKU process. Each store from Wal-Mart to Target to Best Buy, all have different SKU numbers that relay basic information such as price, model number, to determine if the item is in stock. At the Apple Store, the SKU provides this information, but it also provides details about the warranty, the date the product was purchased, and so forth. This makes it easier for Apple employees to help their customers when they have problems with a product.

The simplistic SKU process isn’t the only way Apple excels in customer services. Their employees tend to have better product knowledge, perhaps because they’re better trained or simply because their focus lies on a specific product, rather than providing supports for 10 different brands.

Businesses live and die by their customer service. In today’s world, bad customer service isn’t relegated to word-of-mouth reviews. With websites like Yelp, customer service doesn’t end when the customer buys the product. Providing bad customer service can become viral. So, it’s important to have great customer service.

BE INNOVATIVE

Apple didn’t invent smartphones, MP3 players or PC computers, but they certainly act or would make one think they did. Apple simply boil these inventions down to their simplest functions, and builds from there. For example, Apple made it easier for non-computer savvy consumers to transfer music from their computers to their iPod. Apple also created iTunes as a way of making it even easier for consumers to purchase the music they wanted (without picking up any malware and/or being sued by music industry) and easily transfer that music to their iPods.

A business doesn’t need to invent the next big thing. Simply looking at existing products on the markets, and determining how to make that product better is sometimes enough. It can mean making a product simpler, or it can mean adding features that competitors haven’t thought of.

CREATE A UNIQUE DESIGN AESTHETIC

From software to hardware to packaging, Apple has a very distinct design aesthetic. Their design aesthetic is simple, sleek, and clean. This aesthetic is even found in their stores. In fact, this design aesthetic is synonymous with their brand. Even without the Apple logo, customers can quickly identify an apple product.

Have an aesthetic that flows from the design of the product all the way to the packaging of the product. Only change the design aesthetic if it is needed. Allow the customer to recognize the aesthetic and the company’s brand. Eventually, the customer will see the two as inseparable.

BE DIFFERENT

In the beginning, Apple was a challenger in the computer market. Instead of focusing on “Big Business” like their competitors, Apple focused on the average consumer and small business markets. At one point, Apple computers was marketed to design-savvy customers. These were graphic artists and those in the layout and design departments of newspapers and magazines. If a company or customer had to use computers to create designs, Apple was the go-to brand.

When Apple entered the MP3 market, the focus of their marketing and ad campaigns were about being different. The famous dancing silhouettes were of people dancing to the beat of their favorite music. Each silhouette ad featured a different song.

A tenet of business is product diversification. One of the ways businesses can succeed is by having different products lines with multiple models. Apple is different in this way. They have done the opposite. The company has five product lines. Most of the products they produce have only one or two models.

Even product pricing tends to be a strong point for Apple and a key differentiator among the competion. For example, most PCs in the market place are listed at different price points – Dell sells computers for as low as 249 dollars. The lowest price for a MacBook is 899 dollars. Apple is known for producing high quality products. As such, their core customers believe that whatever Apple produces are worth the high price tags.

Know what the competitors are doing and try to be different. Find their weaknesses and use that as a way to stand out. For example, if a competitor has bad customer service, then have exceptional customer service. Do the competitors’ have a history of building sub par products? Then build high quality products.

Yes, Apple is a marketing savant. In 2001, their stock price was listed at less than three dollars. Today, their stock price is above one hundred dollars a share. Any company can learn from Apple and translate that into success.

 

How to Find your Target Audience

Four Steps to finding your target audience

Finding the target audience is one of the most important tasks marketers must complete in order to effectively market products and services. Unfortunately, some marketers do not take the time to find their target audience, or they targeted the wrong audience. This usually will result in failed marketing campaigns.

qSample, a research and data collection firm, compiled a comprehensive step-by-step guide that will help marketer find their target audience.

STEP ONE: Know Your Product

Why? If a marketer doesn’t understand the product, then how can they possibly sell that product? Knowing the product is the first step in finding the target audience.

Every marketer should ask themselves the following questions about their product or service:

1. What problem does my product solve?

2. What features does my product have?

3. Does it have more than one use?

4. How much does my product cost?

5. What type of person would find my product useful?

6. What are my products key selling points?

Once these questions have been answered, marketers will have a picture of their client or customer. 

STEP TWO: Determine the Need

If there is no need for a product or service, then there are no potential customers. If there are no potential customers, then there won’t be enough sales to make the business profitable. How does one determine if there is a need for the product?

Develop a few keywords or phrases that best describes the product. Use Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool to see how many people have searched for the product or service. Try to use broad keywords and narrow keywords as well as negative keywords. For example, if someone is selling a product line of cute kitten-wear, they should use keywords like “clothes for kittens,” “kitten clothes,” “kitten dresses,” and “kitten sweaters.” According to the keyword tool, there was an average of 880 monthly searches for “kitten clothes.” Apparently there is a small target audience looking for kitten clothes.

Another way to determine a need for a product or service is to ask current clients or customers about their experiences with the product or the service by creating a survey. Why did they choose this particular product. How did they use it? What did they use it for? How old was the customer? Were they married? Did they have children? Where did they live?

There are plenty of plenty of do-it-yourself market research technologies on the market. If you already have an idea about who you want to target, companies like qSample can provide access to online panels for research needs. Surveys can be used to determine psychographic information such as customers attitudes, their values, interests, behaviors, lifestyles, and so forth.

STEP THREE: Create a Profile

Whether it is a business or a consumer, determining who would most likely to buy a product or service is key. The following questions, marketers should be able to answer at this point:

How old is my client?

Where do they live?

What is their income?

How many employees do they have?

Are they married?

What’s their revenue?

The above is a sample of the types of questions marketers should be able to answer. Why? Knowing the demographic and psychographic information is an important step in finding where marketers can effectively rearch their target audience. What’s the point of a great marketing plan, if the target audience never hears it?

STEP FOUR: Fine Where your Target Audience likes to be

Data is king at this point. When marketers know who their audience is, they can then find the best ways of reaching that audience. The best way to accomplish is to use market research data. There’s plenty of free data about various groups of people. If a company is trying to market a video game for a specific console, then there is plenty of data from the Entertainment Software Association provides some market research. Sometimes “free” data isn’t enough. Companies like qSample and their online panels can provide extensive data about target audiences not found anywhere on the Internet. For instance, qSample’s surveyed their homeowners panel and found that the first major purchase for new homeowners was a sofa.  A furniture company with an effective marketing campaign would target new homeowners.

How should the furniture company go about finding new homeowners? The company’s marketer could look at websites and forums devoted to new homeowners and create a Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign. Perhaps the company has a large enough budget to buy TV commercials on the Home and Garden TV channel.

Creating effective marketing campaigns is difficult. The task becomes almost impossible, when marketers can’t effectively find their target audience. The four steps listed above, should help any marketer, from a novice to a seasoned professional, find their target audience.

The Art of Good Time Management

We try, and try, to get it all done, but sometimes, at the end of the day, some tasks go unfinished. When it comes to social media marketing, our tasks are plenty, and the days are short. How can we better manage our time so we can get it all done? The trick is adopting better time management skills, and that requires strategy.

Here is a useful guide by qSample that will help you better manage your time.

Make a List

When it comes to social media marketing, making a list of all necessary tasks, and the frequency at which they must be completed, is an important time management strategy.  It’s important to note the frequency of each task to plan effectively.

Create a list of all of the tasks that need to be accomplished. See where you can delegate any task to a coworker, or if you have the resources, outsource to a freelancer.

Here’s an example:

Short Content: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest Daily
Blog posts Three times a week
AdWords Campaign Weekly
Infographics Three times a week
Webinar Bimonthly
e-Newsletter Weekly
Analytics Weekly
Content meetings Weekly
Brainstorming Weekly
SEO Weekly

Prioritize

Prioritize the list. Look at your social media analytics for all of your platforms, and see where you are getting your greatest return on investment.  Make sure you spending your time wisely. If you are not getting any significant engagement from a particular platform, devote more time and effort to areas where you getting the most engagement. At a later date, you can focus on a strategy that will boost engagement with your audience. Quite frankly, you don’t need to be everywhere on social media.

Example:

1. Long Content

2. Short Content

3. Brainstorming

4. AdWords Campaign

5. Analytics

6. Content Meeting

7. SEO

8. e-Newsletter

Get Automated

There are plenty of apps that will automate your social media posts. Schedule your posts daily, weekly, or monthly. If you are responsible for creating several blog posts within a week, try writing them all at once. What you post on your blog can also be used for e-Newsletters.  Most analytic programs can be downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet.

Remember you don’t have to answer every email as they come, and you don’t have to answer every phone call. Set aside some time to periodically focus on those tasks throughout the day.

Create a Rough Schedule

Now you can create a schedule. Use a calendar or Post It Notes. Either way, write down a rough time frame you can set aside to complete specific tasks. In the office, there are always meetings and distractions, so there is a slight possibility you may never complete your tasks in the given time frame. The time frames helps you remember what needs to be done. Think of your schedule as a gentle reminder.

Always schedule a time for your thoughts and ideas. Write them down and then try to find a place in your schedule to execute those ideas.

Block off some time to devote to catch up. Sometimes we are given special projects, a new social campaign that we must implement, or some other such task that takes priority over everything else. Other times, our tasks couldn’t get completed in time. Use this time to catch up on uncompleted items.

Think about when you are the most and least motivated and the most and least creative. Build your schedule around that. If you are a morning person and feel you are the most creative, write blog posts in the morning.

Lastly, don’t schedule things back-to-back. You will need a break, take lunch, run to a meeting across town. Try to leave as much time open, if possible. Give yourself some breathing room.

Here’s an example of a rough schedule:

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
8 -8:30 am Analytics Research for Blog/Write Blog/e-Newsletter Research for Blog/Write Blog/e-Newsletter Research for Blog/Write Blog/e-Newsletter Edit Blogs
9 -10 am Schedule short content Schedule short content Schedule short content Schedule short content Schedule short content
10:30-12 am Research for Blog/Write Blog Research for Blog/Write Blog/e-Newsletter Research for Blog/Write Blog/e-Newsletter Edit Blogs Edit Blogs
12:30 -1pm Content Meeting AdWords Send out e-Newsletter Catch-up
1:30-2:30 Infographics Infographics Infographics
3 pm Post due SEO Post due Post due
4 pm Brainstrom

Yes, everyone can agree there is never enough time in the day to get it all done, but with a little strategy and planning you can get the important things done.

 

Time Management