Going Beyond Target Consumers to Drive Your Innovation Journey

Editor’s Note: If you’re attending the 2018 Corporate Researchers Conference, please join Gwen Ishmael and Paul Ponsford of Delta Faucet Company for “#TomBradyFail—An Innovation Lesson from the New England Patriots” on Wednesday, October 10. Their talk will dive deep into this blog topic of how different consumer types can support (or inhibit) innovation. Contact us for a registration discount code.

As  noted in Forging a Clear PATH to Corporate Innovation, it is critical to involve the right types of consumers at the right points along the Innovation Journey. Instead of simply focusing on your Target Consumer, it is important to recognize how other types of consumers—Lead Users, Creatives, Early Adopters and Brand Advocates—can contribute to and strengthen the innovation process.

These different consumer research groups form naturally around shared traits and preferences, the exact kind of commonalities that can spell gold for marketers—and market researchers. But the keys to tapping into their potential lie in understanding and identifying members of each group and knowing when exactly in the Innovation Journey they can contribute most.

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Forging a Clear PATH to Corporate Innovation

Forging a Clear PATH to Product Innovation

A clear definition of innovation, leadership who supports it and employees empowered to execute it are hallmarks of a strong innovation-oriented company. But, as my colleague Paul Donagher noted in Innovation Journey: Is It Better to be Lucky or Good?, the voice of the consumer is also important to product development research though including the right kind of consumer along the Innovation Journey is critical.

To include consumers in idea generation, we need a repeatable and reliable process that produces groundbreaking, market-relevant concepts by bringing creative individuals and forward-thinking consumers into the innovation process. This consumer-oriented process includes the following steps:

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Finding Our Groove at The Quirk’s Event

vinylI was recently explaining the idea of an in-home interview to my husband. “You would never let someone into the house!” he replied, knowing that I would be skeptical, at best, if invited to participate in one. However, I would agree to participate in this type of immersive research. Even though I am unabashedly, undeniably and thoroughly biased, I believe that helps me understand why some of the busiest professionals working in some of the most sensitive and regulated industries agree to do the same.

Yes, financial advisors are busy. Yes, doctors have to be careful about what they say and share. Yet both are willing to meet with us at their offices and talk for rather lengthy periods of time. There are certain industries—financial services and healthcare being two prominent examples—where compliance concerns, traditional thinking and precedent can falsely limit the qualitative method possibilities.

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Two Common Product Development Mistakes to Avoid

Two Common Product Development Mistakes to AvoidEditor’s Note: Our qualitative researchers go beyond people’s words and actions to reveal the meaningful insights behind them. They have decades of experience across a myriad of industries and brands. But who are they? And what drives their desire to connect with others? Take a two-minute peek into today’s featured moderator: Rob Darrow.

When I first entered the field of market research years ago, the CEO of our small boutique firm routinely stated that “our greatest challenge doesn’t come from other research firms, but from prospective clients who feel they don’t need research.”  Thankfully, most companies recognize that market research plays a critical role in market success, but even that enlightened view is not sufficient to guarantee success.

After all, what does “market research” for any given organization actually mean?  When is it needed?  How should it be applied? Even those who are committed to better serving their customers can find themselves making some very basic mistakes when it comes to using or not using market research.  Following are two common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to market research and product development.

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How Market Research Has Evolved Over the Past Decade

Evolution of Market Research

In July 2006, I boarded a plane to Portland, Oregon. It was the beginning of my service at Market Strategies International. A decade is not a long time but long enough to witness some changes. Let me share with you a quick inventory of what has changed from 2006 to 2016 in the market research industry:

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Where Will Pokémon Go Take Market Research?

The next tech trend has arrived, and who would have thought that it would come in the form of a 1990s video game revival of Pokémon?

Suddenly seeing Pokémon everywhere evoked memories of listening to my younger sister describe her valiant efforts to “catch ‘em all” as she immersed herself in the world of her coveted GameBoy Color, describing her collections of Pikachus, Bulbasaurs and Mews. Faithful fans, my sister included, would likely cringe at my coarse recollection of their favored childhood diversion, but they are probably too busy wandering into your backyard to capture and train their brood of digital friends via Pokémon Go – the latest, and arguably most viral, generation of the Nintendo gaming franchise.

In case you haven’t noticed the headlines, here is a quick download on the phenomenon (don’t worry, I’ll connect this to market research soon):

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Training for Decision Day


I run competitively, mostly in races around my home state of Arkansas, and I’m currently training for the Hogeye Marathon, which is known for its hilly, difficult course.

Training for a marathon involves many aspects from experimenting with different fuel/gels to finding the best pair of shoes to take you the distance. But the most important is probably the long run. You have to start out with a short distance/time and then gradually build up—maybe a mile or so every week—until you’re at least somewhat close to the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. This requires planning—working backwards from race day to establish a training plan to ensure there is sufficient time to gradually build up the distance.  Without a proper plan and follow-through, race day will surely be a disaster.

The same can be said of business decision-making. A snap decision on an important issue without proper forethought and planning could be an embarrassment at best and career ending at worst. So what does it take to get to “decision day” for your desired outcome?  Here are a few considerations:

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Explaining Research Results by Local Culture

Recently, a market research project made my mouth water–literally. We conducted a study on the food people eat and how they cook. It was an online bulletin board across the US, Brazil, Poland and China. I want to make your mouth water, too–below are photos of homemade pasta and noodle meals taken and posted by respondents.

2016-03-local-culture-1     2016-03-local-culture-2

2016-03-local-culture-3     2016-03-local-culture-4

2016-03-local-culture-5     2016-03-local-culture-6

2016-03-local-culture-7     2016-03-local-culture-8

Can you guess which meal is from which country? (Answers are at the end of this post.)

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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

How to Avoid Product Pitfalls through Deep Understanding   
feet under seat 2As a qualitative market researcher who conducts focus groups around the country, it’s fair to say that I know a thing or two about air travel. This exposure has made me notice the many little things that contribute to making a flight pleasurable or miserable. There are so many things, in fact, that I will only focus on one of the details that recently made an impression on me.

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Bring Customers to Life at Corporate Events with Onstage Focus Groups

clapping audienceLet’s face it–attending multi-day conferences can be challenging. After a while, speeches and workshops feel the same, and most speakers talk about the same topics with slight variations. You’re sitting there thinking, “Oh no, not this again,” as your mind wanders to everything you need to get done back at the office or home.

Successful corporate events are those that enlighten and entertain at the same time; this should be the goal of every event planner and decision maker influencing meeting strategies and agendas.That is why staging a customer focus group for a large audience can easily become the most memorable highlight of a conference.

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