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Posted On: 2005-09-01
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Ever since I took my job and became responsible for the production of several dozen direct marketing projects, I seem to be paying a lot more attention to my direct mail advertising. I examine my mail, I look at different solicitations, try to become inspired and produce pieces that don't just lay on your desk, but seem to serve some meaningful purpose, even if you don't buy whatever I'm selling. Now, I was stopped cold today by quite an unusual piece of direct mail that I'd like to share with you. It came in an inconspicuous brown envelope that had the consistency of what I would call a grocery bag, and a window on it revealing some sort of plastic card with my name on it. You can imagine my excitement when I got to it. Upon closer examination I found out that it was from the National Rifle Association, offering me membership in the NRA, as well as a gun owner's platform survey. Now, if you've listened to this show you know I'm fairly liberal when it comes to social issues, and I try to keep politics out of the podcast as much as I humanly can. I can tell you though that I'm a member of or on the mailing list of several left-leading organizations, including the democratic party. I have to give my counterpart, the NRA some props though. This letter is very well written and it clearly outlines the value of a membership in the NRA, even though that I think that I would have no official use for their official NRA shooter's cap, or the invitations to "exciting friends of NRA events." I still respect their efforts in getting my attention, though. I can excuse the implication of the wholly senatorial trio of Clinton, Kennedy and Schoomer, despite their self-described, non-partisan grass-roots nature. I can almost even excuse the fact that they've gotten me onto a mailing list despite having never bought anything gun-related in my entire life. What I can't excuse, however, is their "candid and scientific survey" whose first question happens to be, and I'm going to read this like literally, number 1: anti-gun nayers across the country are trying to drive gun manufacturers and retailers out of business by simultaneously filing dozens of frivolous lawsuits. Do you support NRA's efforts to encourage passage of state and federal legislation to block filing of these phony lawsuits? Memo to the NRA, not only is it illegal for those of us who live in the District of Columbia to own guns, the survey is obviously not meant to get a clear, candid and certainly not scientific picture of how your members and potential members think. I am not without humor and compassion for your inability to conduct effective marketing research. Therefore I am enclosing my completed survey with a CD containing a recording of this podcast. So, ladies and gentlemen, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA who so kindly solicited my input, I am presenting episode #6 of the 20-Something Marketing Forum, aptly named, "You can't get marketing research with a gun."

Rise and shine 20-somethings. It's time for the 20-Something Marketing Forum, with your host Jared Degnan.

And welcome to another delicious edition of the 20-Something Marketing Forum. I'm Jared Degnan, chief contributor and all-around marketing copy genius. Thanks as always to everybody for tuning in. If this is your first time joining us, the 20-Something Marketing Forum is an informative engaging look at overly ambitious 20-something professionals dealing with the realities of the modern workplace. Today's episode is all about marketing research and how many puns we can make out of it. For instance, did you know what happens when a market research survey comes out of the close? It becomes a standard deviant. Yeah, it's incredible that I don't have a boyfriend right now. Anyway, so marketing research. It's basically what happens when marketers just have to justify their existence through data. I love it. Not just because it's kind of like peeking under the hood of a car and figuring out how things work, it's also great because it can be a fantastic in if you're a 20-something professional. Let's face it. Marketing research, particularly targeted at consumers is not the most exciting thing in the world. Seriously. Who wants to sit for hours in front of their computer screens sifting through mounds of data searching for the meaning of life? Ok. Let me put it this way. Who besides me?

Anyway, marketing research is a skill, make no ifs ands or buts about it. And if you want to turn heads at your organization, I really do suggest that you learn all about it and how it can be used to leverage your daily marketing activities. I'll give you a great example of this. I'm always pushing my boss and my boss' bosses to get out of the old stodgy tradition of settling for marketing strategies that rely solely on certain types of content. This content as it is with larger organizations with multiple product groups seems to appease internal constituents rather than actual external audiences. Previously they had attempted to solicit feedback through direct mail surveys and change this, but they were expensive and took forever and a day to compile the data. Realizing that they were about to go forward on another direct mail survey, I convinced them to look into alternate forms of survey technology. What I ended up finding was a piece of software that cost about as much for two licenses as it did to pay for an outside company to come in and do the survey for us. Now if you know anything about software that's fairly expensive and it was a bit of a challenge to try to convince my team to lay out the capital at first, but in the end we were able to pull it off, we were able to get the software, and let me tell you that the returns gained from that software have been absolutely incredible.

First of all, for the cost of getting an outside company to do one survey, we now have the capability to design, launch and analyze as many surveys we want for whatever reasons we want. For instance, if I want a readership survey for one of our publications, boom! I've got it. If I want to figure out how well my last campaign was received, boom! I've got it. If I want to figure out how many Las Vegas show girls listen to this podcast, that would actually be another story. The point is that marketing research yields numeric answers to complex questions and if you use it like I do, you can build the rationale for just about anything. In fact as I say this, my boss is scratching his head wondering how I extrapolated that 72% of our clients in a recent survey said that they would bring on one or more additional products if he put a hot tub in my office. In all seriousness though, if you've got a project pending that you just can't seem to shrew up support for, take a break from pushing the idea at your supervisors and try a research survey. In my experience, it's easy to get buy-in for a research survey and then go around and use those results of the survey to leverage buy in for the actual product. Remember, numbers don't lie. Men maybe, but numbers don't.

This brings us to a really good point. Why is this so powerful? Well, to me it's as if Americans we're obsessed with numbers. We use them to measure our efficiency, our safety, our progress, as Penn and Teller points out, we all want to be number 1, we all want to be the best, and it's an obsession. The challenge with all of this is of course is finding the right questions in the right format and delivering it through the right channels. Without that, you can twist the data to just about anything. Case in point, my hot tub example. So, we're going to talk a little bit more about that today and what you need to concern yourself with when you're actually designing a survey and how you can leverage that to produce results to actually create buy-in for your product.

The following is graphic, clinical material. News and commentary proving once and for all, reality does indeed bite.

And now on to news you can use, information from the business, marketing and beyond worlds. First up, the Apprentice Martha Stewart is slated to be in on September 1 and we've got exciting news here on the 20-Something Marketing Forum. Among the malingering contestants, one girl actually hails from my old firm here in Washington DC. Sarah is described as an event planner from a health-care research firm who is not only an excellent event planner, but an ACC champion. My personal take on this is that Sarah has a good leg up and a good start because my old firm is known for its storied execution of posh meeting series for health care executives. But not necessarily creativity, which I think might handicap her. The one thing that I think she really does have going for her is if there's one thing that people in my old firm really do excel at, it's engaging other people in petty in-fighting and back biting. Now, I'm going to make a prediction and doubt that she'll make it to the final rounds, but I do vote Sarah in as the most likely to be bludgeoned to death by a French baguette. So all I can say is stay tuned for Sarah watch here at the 20-Something Marketing Forum, and a special game that I'll be rolling out that will be Bingo with my old firm, Culture. So those of you who are in the Washington DC area who know what I'm talking about, we're going to be looking for pull-ups, research lingo and the such. So stay tuned and you'll hear me blabber on about that.

In other news, I've actually taken on a new project, a small bar here in the District of Columbia where I'll be doing a little branding and marketing and logo stuff for them. So actually pay attention to my blog at http://marketingforum.blogspot.com. That's marketingforum.blogspot.com for all the trials, tribulations and adventures of this project and beyond.

Lastly but certainly not leastly we can not ignore what's going on currently in the Gulf Coast region. Now, beyond all of the current efforts that are under way, and as I mentioned in the last podcast, I definitely encourage you guys to go out and give, give until it hurts, to organizations like Feed the Children and Red Cross, which you can access through the blog, but also I think that it's really important to pay attention to the marketing that's currently going on here in form of the PR. Now I've commented on Martha Stewart, I've commented on Ted Turner and the bison thing, but I also want to comment on what's going on currently now engaged with FEMA, the administration, and how people are dealing with it. So, as a kind of interesting little side note, this bar that I was at, I was actually taking some photos and I decided to do a quick interview with JC, who is our consumer correspondent, and actually a brand new correspondent, my friend, who will hereby be known as Jay, and also surprisingly some random guy from the bar who just decided to butt in on the conversation, you'll hear him. But I have to apologize, number one for the quality of the audio. It's actually being recorded from my video camera, that actually has a fairly decent microphone, but I wanted to go ahead and rip it because I thought it was some interesting commentary, and number two I apologize if any of you think that this is inappropriate. I definitely think it's interesting to look at crisis communications as a part of marketing and how you're going to be shaping the rest of your position. Because I think if you don't control the story now, they're going to be struggling to control the story later on. So I'll definitely try to keep tabs on that especially because of the fact that as much as I want to say this is a non-partisan podcast, this is Washington DC where I'm broadcasting from, and you really can't go out to the bar or anywhere for that matter and not talk about marketing. So here is my fun little interview in the bar scene.

Well actually, that's a good question, let's start talking about the communication strategy that has been in part by the Bush administration, granted we always say we're non-partisan here at the 20-Something Marketing Forum, but we all know that's crap.

I'm from Texas.

Yeah, so I see, but we don't talk about the democratic politics for so long. So let me introduce folks another great consumer correspondent, I guess we'll call him Jay unless he wants to be called by his real name.

Uh, Jay is fine.

Ok. So JC, we've got Jay, both these guys are my correspondents, and they're awesome.

I suppose.

Say hi Jay.

Hi Jay.

Yep, this is going to be a really intelligent podcast, I can tell you that right now. So, what about the, what about this crap?

Well it isn't bad on the leadership on the local level and state level. I don't think you really expect that much from the federal government. As far as preparation, I think the onus is definitely on the local government, local leadership. From the churches to the schools to the lawyers.

Who do you think is most to blame? Actually, let me put it this way. Because we're a marketing show, who did the worst job selling their blame?

Who did the worst job selling their blame? Um, who did the worst job selling their blame? Who did the worst job pointing the finger?

Yep. Who did the worst job pointing their finger?

I would say FEMA did the worst job pointing the finger. Because what

That's because they're being blamed right no.

Well no, no. But when you admit that you didn't know that people were at the Convention Center, but then try to blame someone later, I don't know,

They did not know people were not at the Convention Center. Did they not pick up a paper that day? I mean they're FEMA for god's sakes.

I think it's more a result of bureaucracy in the government from mismanagement. I think it's a difficult situation. I mean the government's proving right now that we rely on a lot of organizations like the Red Cross and Second Harvest to be our first responders. Um, nonetheless, I, for whatever reason they weren't as prepared as they should have been. I mean the fact that they put all those people in the Super Dome with no food and no water and no security. I mean you have more event security at New Orleans Saints games than they did in the state of emergency. So what is that saying about the plan?

We won't even get into the fact that it took them eight hours to get them all in, whereas it takes two or three hours to get 50,000 people.

The state of Louisiana.

Ok, and what do you believe this?

Because of the archaic levy. They should have replaced decades ago.

But who do you think did the worst job pointing the finger?

Everyone pointed the finger.

But who did the worst job of it?

Everybody did the bad job of putting the finger. But all we care about who really is responsible for all these deaths. It's the state of Louisiana who did not go after the, look at Holland. Holland, the country of Holland knows how to handle water. The state of Louisiana can learn from them, but they refuse to allocate the funds, update the technology of these levies that were done how many decades ago?

Ok.

They paid the price.

They kept waiting on the federal government to bail them out.

They paid the price for just not caring enough to attack the federal government or whatever was needed.

Or paying for it themselves.

Just to update the technology of the levies. Drove my Chevy to the levy. When was that? In the 30s or the 50s? Give me a break. So guess who died and why.

What's going on man?

Well, back to what JC was actually just saying though, with the Red Cross, and organizations along those lines being the first to respond. And they're always expected to be the first responders. I agree with that and actually I totally expect them to be always be the first responders. But should FEMA and should the US government be the fourth, fifth and sixth responders? The question being, at what point were they supposed to step in, and I really think that for the most part that they relied way too heavily on those organizations and actually and private organizations who actually stepped in and did amazing jobs so far, throwing more money at them than the government had in several days.

Well they were there on the fourth, fifth and sixth days.

I'm not even sure how to comment on that.

Which obviously is about four, five, six days too late.

Pretty much. I mean I was making a joke with my dad. He used to do defense work, that I think our federal government responded more quickly to the invasion of Kuwait back in 91 than we responded to getting these people to safe grounds.

Well, actually I had talked to somebody earlier and I was actually reading on some blogs, and my personal opinions of blogs and their political views are slighted, but at the same time I get a lot of information from blogs, which is, I couldn't help but notice that the government had an estimate, financial estimate being around 1.3 billion dollars per day. Is what it's going to cost. And I can't help but think that somewhere in the back of my mind that that's why they actually dragged their feet for so long, is the financial obligation. And that really, for the most part in my mind, really stands out because we threw money at the Tsunami victims, we've thrown money in Iraq, but when it was on our own shore, they dragged their feet. I'm not, again, we're not really partisan here, but I have a serious issue with the administration on this.

Now you said you read blogs. Which blog do you love the most, Jay?

I choose not to comment.

Then I choose to kick you in the balls, how about that?

To each their own.

And if you have comments or suggestions, or you really hate this segment because I said this is all about marketing, and it has strayed so far off PR,

We could go back to marketing, we could say that the state of Louisiana and their congressional representatives and senators did a bad job of marketing the site of the levy trouble. The fact that they couldn't get the funding to correct their problem. I mean, their scientists and everyone saw this coming. I mean lobbying in places like Washington DC is definitely type of marketing. It's definitely take your issue and be a priority. That buy it now mentality, and try to convince congress to passing now, if you will, in the legislation that they take up, I don't know, it's kind of a marketing spin on things. From a political standpoint.

That is. And that's the thing. It's like being in Washington DC it's really hard to distance yourself from the political spectrum no matter what you do. Now, Hodgie, Hodgie, what would have you done, who do you point the finger at for the current disaster in New Orleans?

Oh, you have?

Yes, you're being recorded.

Honestly, you know, you can't really tell. Can't really, everybody has different opinion. It's just really hard to put the blame on somebody.

That's great. And this has been the 20-Something Marketing Forum. We'll see you later.

You're listening to the 20-Something Marketing Forum.

Let's do a little bit of listener mail. BJ from San Diego and the search engine marketing blog writes, I'm listening to your podcast here and it actually intrigues me being 25 and in marketing. I definitely agree that we are the next generation of marketers pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box. As far as the tone of your voice, I can definitely tell you're from the east coast. Good job, though. On to the next podcast.

Well thank you very much for writing BJ, and we corresponded a little bit. But as a side note, yes I am from the south, and yes I'm from the east coast, and no it doesn't sound like it. I sometimes get extremely irritated with people when I tell them I'm from Atlanta. Oh, you don't have an accent. Well, you'd don't have an accent either and you look like an asshole. Kidding. In a separate email, BJ goes on to say, I think that one of the things to address in terms of your podcast is ambition, because Fortune 100 and 500 companies are starting to see the VP and director positions filled by people in their late 20s because of their thought-provoking innovation and ability to connect with the upcoming generation. I think they're finding that is becoming difficult for the baby boomers to find targeted ways to communicate with marketing issues to our generation because we are so wired and on the go all the time. Whether it be on the train, texting friends about the previous night, setting up our own industry-specific podcasts, a case in point, and grocery shopping and going online through our mobile phone. The possibilities seem endless but I believe 20-somethings will find ways to attribute marketing dollars to tactics that baby boomers won't necessarily think about. I see this a lot of my company right now where I'm putting on multiple hats in order to show that various outlets are present to take all of our client's marketing efforts to the next level. That platform exists of course outside the box.

First of all, BJ, thank you so much for your insight. It definitely is very cool how dynamic the newest generation of marketers are becoming, and I think that really does hit the nail on the head when you mention multiple hats. The reason why I bring up marketing research today is because the more skills you have in your arsenal the better equipped you are to take advantage of those kind of solutions. BJ, I'm certainly going to continue to bring thoughtful, entertaining, and sometimes whacky tactics to you and the rest of my listeners, so thanks so much for sharing.

Now I actually checked out his blog at laundrymedia.blogspot.com, and it's really got some great insights and just search entering engine marketing tactics, so if you're into that type of thing, I definitely encourage you to check it out. I'll have a link to it on my website at marketingforum.blogspot.com. And I want to remind you that I do want to hear from you guys. I love getting this kind of mail. I love hearing from you. In fact I just found out that I have listeners in Singapore, I have listeners in Canada, and I actually have listeners in Australia. So for those of you guys who are in Australia, I do want to put a big shout out to you guys. And, just so you know, I'm still looking for more correspondents and more experience and more stories about how you navigate your careers and experiences both good and bad, and I want to set you up, if you're interested, to help report on the 20-Something Marketing Forum, if you're interested in becoming a correspondent, all it really does take is a computer with some sort of microphone, and an Internet connection and I can show you how to set up Skype. And report in for free on my podcast. If you're interested or you have stories to tell, of course you can always email me at jsdwdc@yahoo.com, or drop me a line on the comment section of the blog at marketingforum.blogspot.com.

As a quick reminder, I do have an incentive set up for my correspondents. If you do put in regular contributions to the forum, and do become an official correspondent on a particular topic, I will make for you your very own full-color business cards with your information on them so you can go out into the world and let people know that you are making the world safer, one marketing campaign at a time.

It's time for the game plan. Yeah, I never know whether or not I should use that sound clip. Anyway, it is time for the game plan once again. That time of the podcast where I give you tactics that you can use in your day-to-day life to advance yourself and your career. Because I know there are a lot better things that you can do with your time than studying marketing research, I am going to distill my marketing research spiel in three main rules for the game plan today. Rule number 1 is work backwards. What do you want to accomplish with this particular project and this particular survey? Do you need the data to support a decision, and if so, what factors, qualitative or quantitative, will be most effective? These factors are going to be the components of your actual survey. Keep in mind, though, that one question rarely is going to yield any valid data to draw assumptions from. For example, a one to five rating of overall customer satisfaction will get you the overall answer of how many happy people there are with your product, but it won't tell you the all-important question of why. Two sets of data, however, like pairing our previous questions with one prior on the survey asking what elements of the product did you find most useful, will give you the beginnings of the why answer, and that my friends is gold. If you are simply getting a snapshot of a target audience or you're collecting feedback creating an effective survey is not always going to be that easy, mainly because you have no idea what you find out, and therefore you don't know what kind of questions to ask. In this instance, I seriously advocate taking cues from previous surveys that your company has done, or using actual survey templates.

My favorite site to find templates, however, is http://www.surveyconsole.com and you'll find this link on the marketing forum blog, marketingforum.blogspot.com. And it features over 400 feed templates that you can view online and then apply to your own survey. Now this isn't cheating per se, but how you structure your survey, the order of the questions, and your stated answer choices are very important to get right if you want to have an effective and valid survey response. Therefore I suggest you take a look at this particular website because it's going to give you an example, some really good particular surveys. Rule number two is know your audience. Different constituencies of course will respond differently to different types of surveys. For instance, many elderly respondents might not want to take an email survey, skewing the results if age is an important factor in any way, shape or form. So that contributes to the importance of what type of survey you put out. My personal recommendation is to choose a piece of survey software like Persius that allows multiple input types from one central survey, being email

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