Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Julia: Guys, I’m so excited to introduce you to JoAnn Kunberger, out of Texas, and she’s gonna be talking to us about market research. This is something that our team has been really curious about; how best to use market research for your products, for your business, whatever it be, when to do it, when not to do it. And so Joanne is here to walk us through it. So Joanne, tell us who you are, where you’re at, who you work for. Anything you wanna tell us about yourself. 

JoAnn: Thanks, Julia. My name is Joanne Kunberger and I am the director of client services at Reed Group, which is a full service market research company. The main office is located in Philadelphia, but we have a satellite office where I work out of in San Antonio, Texas.

Julia: Cool, tell me about how you got to do what you’re doing. 

JoAnn: Okay. Well, this is kind of a second career for me. I started after graduate school. I was in human resources and I did that for about 15 years and, for a few different reasons, I decided to make a career change and I fell into market research.

I don’t even know that I knew what it was at the time , but I had a good friend who had a permanent placement agency. And at the time, she needed an office manager. So she asked me if I would do it temporarily until she hired someone. And then she said, “And you can look at all the jobs that come in.”

So something came in for an entry-level market research job. And to be honest, I liked the hours. They only worked a 36 and a quarter hour a week. I thought, wow, this is great. I had been in human resources. I was working 60, 70 hour weeks around the clock. And so I started out and I decided if I was gonna make a career change, I thought the best move would be to start at the bottom and kind of work my way up.

And that’s what I did. So I started out in an entry level, word-processing position. And when I startedm everyone kept saying you’re really overqualified. And I was like, no, no, that’s okay. I just wanna learn. And I kind of got some promotions and worked my way into different areas. I did the programming side. I did the project management side. I did the coding side. I did the sample side, so that I could ultimately market myself as kind of, hey, I can do it all. And that’s how I ended at Reed Group and we’re a small company. And so I do it all.

Julia: That’s awesome. What a cool way to enter your career because it does make you more qualified, but also, you’re able to walk the rest of your team through everything too.

JoAnn: Yeah, one of the things that, for example, when I was doing word processing and we needed a change in something and the project manager would bring it to the programmers and they would say, that’ll take us three days. And I used to think, does it really? That seemed like a long time to me. So that’s why I decided I wanna do programming so that I really know, when I get to be a project manager and a programmer says to me, that’ll take three days. I can say, yeah, no, I don’t think so. 

Julia: For sure. That makes total sense. I used to do websites for our company and now we have somebody Savannah who’s our designated web developer.

And just the other day she was working on a project and it took a lot of humility to say, “Hey, I feel like this should be easier, but like, tell me if I’m not understanding this right.” Because yeah, I was like, this shouldn’t take that long, but then she could tell me, actually it did, but it’s because I didn’t have experience doing what she was doing. So if you were to define what market research is, how would you define it? 

JoAnn: I would say it’s figuring out what the market is doing. What consumers are doing, what they’re using, how they’re using it, how frequently they’re using it, so that companies can, for whatever their product is, whether it’s a service or a product or whatever, they can do market research and find out, yeah, there’s a real need for this in the market or there’s not. Or let’s invest a lot of money in this because people really like this or whatever. So it just kind of is a gauge on what the market is doing based on your product.

Julia: For sure. So when do you recommend that businesses do market research? How would they decide, yeah, this is what we wanna pursue or no, we don’t wanna pursue this at all.

JoAnn: Well, I think they should do it all the time, of course. Whenever they have some questions about…they’re developing a new product and they may be thinking, is this something that’ll take off or not? Hey, let’s do some market research and ask people. If you had this product, would you use it? How much would you pay for it? How often would you use it?

You can also do market research for customer satisfaction. Currently, my company has a client and so once a week we send out surveys to any of their clients who have interacted with them in the past week. And it basically says, gee how did we do? How was the person you interacted with? Were they professional? How did they treat you? Did they know what they were talking about? Was the schedule okay? So a lot of market research is customer satisfaction. 

Julia: Yeah. That makes sense. It sounds like a company could harness almost any goal, like whether it’s an internal goal, external, and figure out the answer.

JoAnn: Right. Some companies will do market research amongst their employees. You know, say on their benefit package. With costs these days, we need to change our benefit package, which of these benefits that we currently offer are valuable to you? Which would you, you know, do you not use, that kind of thing. The other thing, it’s a great thing where you can say, how much do you think we pay for your benefits? 

Julia: Mmm. That would be a great one to ask.

JoAnn: Employees think, oh, maybe, you know, a thousand dollars a year for my health insurance or whatever the benefits are. And they don’t always have an idea. The one thing that I feel is important with market research is that, say if you were doing something with your employees, you wanna give them feedback. You always wanna give feedback to the people that you’ve asked so that they see that there was value to this. If you ask your employees questions and then they never see anything, they’re like, why did they bother asking us that?

Julia: Yeah, what’s the point? Do you think it’s important to inform consumers? Like when it’s consumer research, is that important, or do you just respond with how you would create your product or things like that? 

JoAnn: It’s harder with consumers because how do you do that? Now, if it’s people you send a newsletter out to all the time, then absolutely. You would put a little blurb in the newsletter. “Hey, we listened to you based on what you told us in our recent survey, we are doing X, Y, Z.” Or I’ve had clients who, at the end of the survey, they have said, “If you would like to get the results of this survey, we’ll be happy to send it to you. Please provide your email address.” The client used that also as a way of generating, getting more names for their email list. So you can do that. 

Julia: JoAnn, I’m thinking of all of these things now that I have participated in that I’m like, oh, that was market market research. I go to a climbing gym, and back when Utah was teetering between do we mandate a mask? Do we not mandate a mask? The climbing gym sent a survey out to ask everybody, what do you feel comfortable with? And then they told us the results and they made their decision based on their clients’ feedback. And now I’m like, wow, that was market research. That’s awesome.

JoAnn: It could be as basic as, where I live, it’s a community and we were having a meeting and the group that was running the meeting were asked, how do we know why people are coming to our events? And I said, during the event, just walk around and ask them! You know, gee, why did you come tonight? You know, that’s market research. Just kind of gathering information. 

Julia: So already we’ve talked about like different methodologies or methods to collect research, whether it’s verbal, narrative, surveys; what are some of the things that your company works on?

JoAnn: We do primarily internet surveys, we will send out an email, just because now that’s just the easiest, it’s the most cost effective. But we have a client that still does paper surveys because they send surveys to, their clients are mostly contractors and builders. And so those people have said, we’d rather have a paper survey that when we’re sitting in our truck waiting for the, you know, the concrete to be delivered, we can just fill it out, put it in the enclosed envelope and drop it in a mailbox versus pulling up my phone or my iPad and having to do it. So it really depends on the client, but primarily we do internet. We also have another client that also does some paper surveys because their population is some elderly people who are not comfortable with the computer. So you wanna really look at who you’re going to work with and see what they’re comfortable with.

As I said, you don’t wanna send out internet surveys to an older population that are like, oh, I don’t know how to do this. So you may wanna do paper. I mean, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages with all of those. I mean, with phone surveys, that used to be something that we did all the time, not so much anymore. The problem with phone surveys became when people started answering on their cell phones. You had two issues; one was, are they paying for their minutes? So they’re not gonna wanna do a survey. Another thing is they could be standing in line at the grocery store and they don’t have time to do it. So, you know, in all the different methodologies, you have positives and negatives. 

Julia: For sure. That’s so interesting. One of the questions that was submitted was, are there methods that are better for one type of business versus another type of business? What it sounds like is it’s not necessarily the business as much as it is for the people you’re surveying.

JoAnn: Right. And the other thing is cost. If you do phone surveys, that’s a lot more expensive than say, sending out emails and doing an internet survey because you’re paying for someone to be on the phone, asking the questions and entering the data and all of that. So cost is often a factor.

Julia: I had a baby four months ago and so our state sent out a pregnancy survey about the status of you and your baby. It’s 30 pages-long. It’s a booklet! So I actually have it on my desk here because I’m like, when will I have time to fill that out? And so I would imagine that that’s also something that you guys have to think about is, what will the people you want the research from, what are they gonna be willing to do and what are they not going to be willing to do?

JoAnn: Right. It’s funny, I met with a client last night and before we even sat down, she said, “You’re probably gonna tell me this is too long.” And I said, “You’re probably right.” Because one of the things that you wanna pay attention is you want people to do your survey. Whether it’s on the phone, internet, paper.

So since you got a paper survey, if I’m creating a paper survey, I wanna put as much white space as I can because you don’t want it to look like there’s a ton of questions. And you don’t wanna have a lot of pages. Because right away, like you said, I’m not gonna have time for this. You put it aside. And when you put it aside, the chances of you picking it up again and filling it out are slim.

Julia: And especially because this one in particular, the only reason I’m gonna do it is because women’s health is important to me, but not any other reason.

JoAnn: It’s the same if you’re doing an internet survey, you just don’t want it to go on and on and on. I mean I’m in this business. I do every survey that I receive and there are sometimes I am like, oh, come on, this is crazy! The one important thing that I stress to my clients is don’t ask a question if you are not gonna act on the results.

Julia: Ooh, I like that. 

JoAnn: We often ask questions and then I’ll say to a client, what are you gonna do with this? “Well, probably nothing, but I just wanted to know.” There’s lots of stuff we wanna know. Right. But is it worth paying for first of all, or taking the chance that the person is gonna halfway through, say, forget it. I’m done. This is too many questions.

Julia: I love that. Don’t ask something that you’re not gonna take action on. That’s really great. So I’m hearing some tips from you, make sure if you’re doing a paper, one there’s white space, don’t make it longer than it has to be. What are some other tips about market research that people find surprising?

JoAnn: Well, I think think one of the things, and clients say often, let’s ask a lot of open ended questions. Because then people will be able to tell us what they wanna say. Here’s what happens. Let’s say you have a hundred people respond to your survey and you have an open ended question. You’re gonna have two people say this, two people say that, one person says this. So oftentimes, you don’t get anything out of it. I can say to a client, you have 50 different things that came up. None of them were overwhelming that you can act on.

Julia: It’s hard to find the commonality.

JoAnn: Right, and you’re paying someone. You know, if you hire me, you’re paying me to go through all of those verbatim comments to figure out the commonality and stuff.

I always try to see, and this isn’t always possible, but if you can come up with a list of things, you can always at the bottom put, is there anything else? But you wanna try to, if the question is what’s your favorite color, we can ask that as an open ended question. But if you can give red orange, green, yellow, purple, at least people, it’s a good place to start and you get a whole lot less. The other thing that happens is, in open ended questions, respondents don’t always just stick to what the question was. 

Julia: They can go on rants and other things?

JoAnn: Exactly. I’ve gotten religious stuff, politics, all kinds of…all that gets thrown out, obviously, but it’s just costing you money because you’re paying someone.

Julia: I think it goes back to the idea of, if you’re not gonna act on it, don’t ask the question, but also don’t ask the question if it’s going to produce answers that are gonna cost you money, cuz you want a good ROI on something like this. That’s so interesting. Any other tips or pieces of advice?

JoAnn: The one thing I would say and I try to tell people this, is you need to do your research before you decide. So you need to really figure out what your objective is. You need to figure out what kind of research do you wanna do? Do you wanna do qualitative? Do you wanna do quantitative? Do you wanna do a focus group, something like that?

You can decide, do I wanna hire someone or do I wanna do this myself? So this client that I met with last night decided, I’m doing this myself. And then called me in a panic and I met with her and she had a questionnaire that she had done in Survey Monkey. And she wanted to use the free part of Survey Monkey. So then when she gets to the end and her questionnaire is all finished, she realizes that she has things in there that are not in the free part. So now it basically says, Hey, if you wanna continue with this survey, you need to pay for it. So then she called me, she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know how to change things. There are things that you can do on your own with Survey Monkey. Survey Monkey is a very good tool to an extent, you know, but then for her, she was with this group and money was an issue. So they were trying to do it free. And then I said, the thing with Survey Monkey is that this is what you’re gonna get for data. And then what do you do with it? Because again, that’s when people are like, ooh. 

So before you even start, you kind of wanna figure out all these things. If you’ve decided, gee, I wanna hire someone because this is bigger than I can do, just kind of figure out if you have a budget, all of those kinds of things, so that when you call a market research company, you can say to them, this is what our objective is. This is our timeline. This is what our budget is. So you have all those things kind of ahead of time. 

Julia: For sure. So that was actually gonna be my next question, was how a company should decide whether they should hire a market research group. And it sounds like budget is a factor, obviously. I would imagine, one of the ways that we serve our clients is by saving them time. Your client, they could do the survey on their own, but they would save a lot of time and energy by hiring somebody to help. 

JoAnn: Exactly, I mean, we left it last night. I said, This is how much I’ll charge to take this and do it and do it all the way to the end, analyzing the data. Analyzing the data is the biggest part.

Julia: If people need help with the analysis, are there any other factors that people should consider when deciding whether to do it themselves or outsourcing? 

JoAnn: One of the things that I think comes into play are personal biases. So now I’ll give you an example and I’m in this business and I have, you know, biases. So let’s say, we have the open ended question, what’s your favorite color? So now if I’m reading through all the responses, my favorite color is orange. So every time I go through and I’m reading colors, yellow, green, blue, every time orange is there, I’m like, oh, they have the same favorite color as me. I keep going orange. It jumps out at me. When I’ve gone through all the results, I say, oh, orange was the predominant color because that was my bias. So that’s what stuck in my head. So when I go through open ended verbatim, I go through them multiple times until I can go through and I don’t have those things that stick in my head.

Then I see, only 2% of the people like orange. But because that was my bias, that’s what jumped out at me. And that’s what sticks with you. So I would just say, if you’re gonna do it yourself, really try to remove yourself or know what your biases are and try to step away.

Julia: Well, and even, I would imagine bias towards what you want the results to be, cuz I think about even our company, I have the things that I love, how we serve people, but that might not be how they love, like our clients love it. And so if I’m submitting a survey to our clients, asking for the feedback and I want the results to say one thing, we can always read things differently too. 

JoAnn: And that’s important in how you write your questions. You have to make sure there are no biases when you write questions. And people don’t intentionally write a question with a bias. So that’s why, again, it’s just always good to have someone who’s removed from your company to look at it and say, “Let me tell you what I think you want people to say on this question,” and and clients are always surprised. Well, how would you get that? From reading the question, there’s a little bit of a bias in there, so that’s why it’s always good. And even if you’re doing it yourself, have a friend or someone who is not in your business read the questionnaire and see what they think. 

Julia: That makes sense. And I can see how it would be extremely helpful to have a third party who is not, has nothing at stake. You and your company don’t have anything at stake if I don’t get the results I want.

JoAnn: And they can say, I don’t know, what are you talking about in this question? I don’t understand this. Or, you know, after I got to question 97, I got a little tired, you know?  

Julia: Let’s not send a 30 page book out.

JoAnn: Right. So you can have someone look at things, like you said, they don’t care what kind of results you’re getting, because they’re not in that business. 

Julia: That’s awesome. This has been so helpful. I feel like I have had so much cleared up. I can see how this would be so good for businesses to either do internally, if they’re working on their people and culture or externally, if they’re working on their services. I’d be curious to hear from you, what you’re hearing from your clients about market research these days. Has it been helpful for them?

JoAnn: Extremely. I just finished a survey, we did a first part just to kind of gather information. And then from that, we picked out three major areas and did a follow up survey, really focusing on those three areas. And I have gotten such phenomenal feedback from all of the people involved at how helpful it was, and they just had no clue what people were thinking. And they were shocked because they went in and said to me, “Well, I know what they’re gonna say.” And then the data didn’t show that, so it was very, very helpful for them. 

And sometimes, and we always get this, well, is that a normal response rate? Should more people have done it should. That’s always a concern. One of the things now, when you send out emails and people are doing their survey surveys on their phones, you have to be very careful when you write the questions. If someone is looking at the survey on their phone, you don’t want them to have to keep scrolling to get the whole question.

And you don’t wanna use, like, say a 10 point rating scale. Because they’re only gonna see the first three or four points on their phone and they don’t know that it can go down. So we’re designing questions a little bit differently, but that’s the thing. Companies always feel like when they do a survey, they’re gonna get a 98% response rate. And you’re just not. It’s not gonna happen.

Julia: Like if you get a 20% email open rate, you’re lucky.

JoAnn: Right, so a lot of education on that. Now what I do say if people, they’re not getting a good completion rate and I do this across the board with any internet studies, I monitor the data as it’s in the field.

So if I see at question five, a lot of people are stopping the survey, I really look at question five. What’s the problem? Is it too long? Is there something with that that question’s not clear? So I kind of keep track of those kinds of things as the survey is going along, you don’t want people breaking off the survey and not coming back in and finishing it.

Julia: For sure. Sweet. Well, I wanna finish up with something that is somewhat of a surprise because I just thought of it. It’s like hot takes, so I just want you to give me your opinion and if you’re like, Julia, I don’t wanna answer that question, that’s fine. Because I’ve just had so many thoughts about this. What is your take on surveys that have a percentage of completion? Yes or no? 

JoAnn: Yes. as long as they’re not too long. You don’t want someone to do 20 questions and they’re only at 1%. 

Julia: Okay. Yeah. Good qualifier.

JoAnn: Because they’re gonna say, oh my gosh, I’m only at 1%!

Julia: Right. As a non-market researcher, I like it when I can see, because then I know whether I’m gonna abandon it or not.

JoAnn: Exactly. But if it’s a good questionnaire, you’re not gonna abandon!

Julia: Exactly. And if I know, hey, I completed one question and I’m 17% of the way done, I know it’s not gonna take that long. Next one. Gifts, rewards, if somebody says, “Hey, fill out this survey and we’ll give you a 20 bucks at Target.” What are your thoughts? 

JoAnn: It depends on the audience. There are a lot of corporations, they just cannot do that. Either the legal department won’t let them do that. As a market research company, personally, I don’t like doing it cuz it’s a lot of work for me. But there are some cases where it’s very beneficial and I think if the client can afford it, if it’s a restaurant or something and you’re trying to get people in and do their survey, absolutely. I say here, give them this coupon for a free appetizer.

Julia: Sure, cause then you’ll get a higher completion rate. Recently, I got a survey that said they would send me a gel pen, which I don’t know if you know what those are, but in fourth grade, they’re a type of pen that I was obsessed with in fourth grade. So my 30-something-year-old self just felt like all of my dreams came true because I filled out this survey and got a gel pen, which in all reality is not a good enough motivator outside of my fourth grade dreams.

JoAnn: But you did it! So maybe, you know, that company was trying to tap into everyone’s fourth grade. 

Julia: Every millennial woman knows exactly what I’m talking about. So that was their target audience. They did a good job. Last one,. This is a hard one, maybe, ideal number of questions on a survey?

JoAnn: I like max 15. But here’s what happens. So clients will send me something and say it only has 15 questions, but they’ll have question one: please rate each of the following A, B, C, D, E, F. And I try to say to them, that’s…

Julia: Seven questions, or however many that is.

JoAnn: Yeah, that’s not one question. So that’s what I would say, and again, are they yes/no questions. If they’re yes/no, true/false, you can put in a few more. If it’s rating scale questions where somebody has to really read it and think about it and, you know, I would say 15, no more than two open ends.

Julia: All right. But you’ve heard it here. You heard it from JoAnn, everybody. Thank you so much, JoAnn. I really have had a lot of fun and have learned so much. If anybody has questions or wanted to get in touch with you and your company, how could they do that?  

JoAnn: They can go to our website, is www.reedgroup-research.com. 

Julia: Awesome. Awesome. 

JoAnn: And my contact information is there. I’d love to hear from people!

Julia: Yeah, for sure. If you guys have any questions about market research, JoAnn is our new go-to, so thank you, JoAnn. We really appreciate it.

JoAnn: My pleasure! Thank you.

Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.