Brand Review – The Value We Deliver

Jacquie Potts pictureWhen Marketwise Strategies embarked upon a brand review, we wanted our clients to be central to the process. That’s why our Managing Director, Jacquie Potts, approached some of our key customers and asked them to let us know: Why they chose to work with us; How they felt about the experience; and – importantly – What ‘value’ means to them.

To maintain confidentiality, an associate carried out the research on our behalf, interviewing 16 clients – from universities, major not-for-profits and the private sector.

This is what we found:

Clients especially valued our
• Acting as a ‘critical friend’ – giving time to understand their organisation and the wider context of the issue
• Providing weekly updates throughout each project – and “keeping the communication going”, especially within complex projects.
• Going beyond simply delivering research findings, by providing clear recommendations for strategy.

They said that we are different from other research firms in
• The “personal ownership” and “demonstrable care” that we give to projects
• The academic backgrounds of our staff, creating a ‘different feel’ and bringing specialist expertise (e.g. in bioscience)
• Our diligence and persistence, to successfully deliver even the most complex work
• Our ability “to cater for very specific things, like the emotional sensitivity of the work”.

They particularly remembered
• The professionalism and experience of our staff
• Our rigorous and thorough approach
• Regular, transparent, open communications.

Summing us up in a sentence, here are some of the things that clients said:
• Accuracy, responsiveness, commitment to deliver what they say they are going to do – very professional.
• Dedicated, committed… principled.
• A friendly, flexible company who engage the client at every level.
• Good at getting to the nub of an issue.
• Intelligent and robust approach.
• Very rigorous and robust.
• They are thorough, professional, they are a pleasure to deal with – and you feel confident that they are going to manage what comes along.
• I just think they handle projects really well.
• I know that I can be confident – whether I am working with them on a project or recommending someone else within the organisation to work with them on a project – that they will deliver.

Changes we are making
• Some clients said that they would like to hear from us more often in between projects. To help us keep in touch with every client, Dr Paul Koshy is taking on responsibility for ongoing client communications.
• Some of our services were not sufficiently ‘visible’ – for example some clients did not know about our work in international markets or about the range of branding research that we conduct. To help remedy that, we are building a new website to better profile our full range of expertise.

We are grateful to each of the clients who took part in the research, which is helping us to better tailor our services and our client communications. Over the next year, we will be putting into practice several more changes that the research has prompted.

New Researcher Appointed

To support our growth in education markets, Marketwise Strategies has recently recruited Antony Mullen, who brings qualitative research experience gained in higher education and freelance roles.

Antony’s past projects have included research into: e-portfolio development, for a Russell Group university; interdisciplinary learning; and the use of mainstream cinema in secondary schools (published in a peer-reviewed journal).

Since joining Marketwise Strategies, Antony has been researching demand for a suite of new degree programmes and has just completed a project involving research among Pro-Vice-Chancellors, directors and managers in UK universities. He also played a part in winning the latter project, conducted for a statutory body.

Antony’s background includes secondary school teaching and a master’s degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature. He is also currently studying for a PhD, at Durham University.

Marketwise Strategies’ Managing Director, Jacquie Potts said, “I am delighted that Antony has joined us. His knowledge and experience will further strengthen our team in education markets.”

A year of success in HE markets

Libary shotMarketwise Strategies has reported its most successful year yet in Higher Education. Working with 11 universities and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education – and delivering multiple projects for many of those – the company has consolidated its position as a leading provider of bespoke, strategic, market research, across the HE sector.

Throughout the year, the company also completed a steady stream of programme portfolio projects, at undergrad and postgrad levels and across executive education and CPD. Other key projects during the year included a detailed review of the UK market for online learning.

Managing Director, Jacquie Potts said, “The year has brought a huge variety of projects. A key theme has been brand and reputation, with projects delivered in the UK and internationally, at corporate and faculty level. Another of our most interesting challenges was a major piece of research to assess the opportunity for an Asia campus, for a research-intensive university. A key challenge for our research team was the need to access some very difficult-to-reach audiences across multiple continents, while ensuring robust and reliable data to inform our client’s decisions.”

“We were also delighted to provide multi-stakeholder research to inform Durham University’s credit union scheme, offering low cost, ethical loans for postgraduate study.”

Marketwise Strategies has also continued its role in supporting technology commercialisation, working with two leading Russell Group universities to assess markets for their innovations.

London Proves ‘Healthy’ for Marketwise Strategies

Tower BridgeMarketwise Strategies is growing its London client base, with five major contract wins in recent months. New research projects span education, health, technology and transport.

Research Manager, David Bain, commented, Its encouraging that major education and not for profit organisations in London have approached us and have chosen to trust us with some very sensitive and challenging research.

The projects won include research among teachers and other education professionals, in schools, colleges and universities, and depth interviews with CEOs and Heads of R&D in some of the UK’s leading life sciences and industrial biotechnology companies. Outcomes will inform strategies for the development and launch of health-related services, literacy products and support for innovation in high growth industries.

“We have also been hard at work delivering a variety of research projects within our long term contract with University of Westminster, and in the private sector, so London is an increasingly important market for us”, said David.

Now we are looking to build upon those successes by developing a base in London, and targeting more clients in the capital.

Listening to people: still relevant in a digital age?

When online survey tools are readily available and sometimes free,David Bain 09-0065LD-041 and when social media offers rapid qualitative and quantitative responses, it can be easy to dismiss traditional market research methods, such as depth interviews and focus groups, as out of date. In reality, both online and face-to-face (or telephone) methods have their place, but how do you choose the right methods for the right situation?

Our Research Manager, David Bain, has some thoughts to help you decide:

  • How much do you already know about the issue youre looking to research? If you want to conduct a customer satisfaction survey or find out what stakeholders think of your brand; have you ever researched these issues before? If not, then do you know what is important to your customers, partners, or employees? How will they evaluate your service, and how will they judge your brand?We usually suggest talking to a small number of stakeholders, in depth, right at the start, to get a feel for this, before developing questions for any survey research. This helps to ensure that a survey asks the right questions, in the right ways and therefore that it really does measure what it sets out tomeasure.
  • Who should we talk to? In research among organisations (rather than consumers), there is often a decision-making unit rather than a single decision-maker – therefore more than one person has an opinion that the researcher needs to know about and understand.When we consult secondary schools, for example, we are conscious that the job titles of staff who help students with their university applications vary from school to school. In some cases, talking to the Head of 6th Form has given us the insights we needed, in others we have held mini-groups with several teachers and careers advisors. Sending an emailed survey to heads of sixth form, however, simply would not have worked the response rate would have been low and there would have been no guarantee that the questionnaire would have reached the right respondents. The first rule in market research, therefore, is to ask the right people. Depending on your product or service, those people may or may not be easy to target through online panels, email lists or social media.
  • Reading between the lines: There is nothing like body language and the importance of what someone doesn’t say. Depth interviews and focus groups capture this and allow a skilled interviewer or moderator to qualify what is actually being said – or not said! For instance, in one recent Marketwise Strategies project, for an online information service, it was essential to be able to discuss in detail the potential content, functionality and pricing model for the service. Pricing, in particular, was complex and depended on the skill of the interviewer and their ability to probe and confirm participants answers (or lack of answers) as the discussion developed.
  • Serendipitous responses: Great ideas can come from discussion in an interview or focus group, that would not necessarily be encouraged by a multiple choice questionnaire. Sometimes we have presented product prototypes that were designed to be used in a certain way, then found that potential customers have responded with: “Okay, but have you thought about using it like this?” Research that proceeds too quickly to quantitative measures, rather than exploring the possibilities qualitatively, can miss opportunities.
  • Do they need to touch and feel the product? If you are researching a completely new product or service there is no substitute for being able to give someone a sample to turn over in their hands, or showing them a visual outline of the service model. We found this when talking to architects and engineers about a new type of recycled building material the range of comments that people were able to make about its weight and texture, from actually holding the material, would not have been possible if they were simply viewing images online.

If you have previously researched the same topic area, among the same group of stakeholders, and are clear that you now need, for example, to track customer satisfaction or brand awareness, then you might opt for a short, sharp online survey with a large number of respondents, that you can repeat annually. If, however, your needs are less clear cut, then we hope that the ideas above will help you to evaluate the options.

A general rule…

Think about the questions that you want to ask. If it is how often, how many, how much, how satisfied; then a survey might be just right. However, if you want to know why do our customers think this about us, or how do our customers behave, then you might get far more value by listening to what they have to say through qualitative, (often face to face or telephone) research.