Group Speak

By: Troy Nottingham
January 10, 2018

Part 2: You gotta know why …

In our last post, we talked about the importance of knowing “why.”  But how do you get to the why?   Well, the good news is there’s more than one way.

Sometimes the best way to discover “why” is to actually be with and observe someone as they navigate the decision process.  Researchers call this “ethnographic” or “observational” research.  In layman’s terms, it’s “understanding-the-decision-as-it-is-being-made” research.  This methodology is helpful because it can be difficult for people to recall in detail their decision-making process, particularly if the decision was made days or weeks or months ago.

Is this type of research more expensive?  Than a phone interview or focus group, yes.  Than making the wrong marketing decision, no.  Here’s an example of when ethnographic research surfaced a critical finding that changed the trajectory of new product sales:

Our client, a leading manufacturer in the equipment industry was expanding beyond its traditional B2B sales channel (service companies / contractors) and into big box retail.  However, the product did not move off the shelf as expected.

Why won’t consumers buy the product (in retail) that they have historically bought (through service companies / contractors) was the question the client posed to us.

To find the answer, we went shopping with people interested in this type of product for their home.  We did what they did, saw what they saw, heard what they heard and then discussed what they learned, how they felt, what they planned to do as a result and why.

The research proved that this is not a “build it and they will come” scenario.  When we talked to people we learned that (1) while the brand has equity among service companies / contractors, homeowners did not associate the client’s brand with this category, (2) homeowners do not think about going to big box retailers for this kind of equipment, and (3) homeowners are not only uneducated on the category, they have no interest in learning more.

The client recognized that the product would not sell itself – it must be sold to homeowners.  They shifted their strategy to have an in-store sales presence and focused on building the brand in the category…all because of what we learned when we stopped to ask the customer “why?”.

Moral of the story:  It worked and now big box retail is a profitable channel for the client.