Using Market Research In Your Business Planning

Teaching AdultsOver the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with a group of guys that I hope I taught them in a role of a teacher/instructor, as they taught me.  The basis of the class was developing ideas for starting businesses without a lot money.  Although we talked about a number of different business ideas, we also talked a lot about business theory.

Within the discussions of theory, we talked a lot about doing a business plan.  Many businesses start a business without a written business plan.  Within that plan, the marketing plan is a critical component.  No matter how good your product and your service, the business cannot succeed without effective marketing, which begins with careful, systematic research.  It is very dangerous to assume that you already know everything about your intended market. Read more of this post

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Five Reasons To Do Market Research

Research DefinedThere are many reasons to conduct market research.  It is mainly completed on the basis of services and products that the company is offering.  Although the number of reasons are literally limitless from broad position projects to determining the best version of a logo, there are five main reasons: Read more of this post

Market Research Findings Help Marketing

Last week, I wrote about using market research to develop your business plan. But, just as important as business plans is your marketing plan. There is an old quote in marketing that you “know only 50% of your marketing is effective, you just don’t know which 50%.” However, this old adage is just not accurate anymore. By developing your marketing campaigns in a correct way, you can track the effectiveness of your marketing.

Before doing anything, you need to think it out ahead of time and plan it. The old saying of the 5P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) rings true nearly every time and this is no exception. Once you have developed your marketing plan, implementation and tracking is easy to do. Here are some easy idea to help track your marketing. Read more of this post

Eight Things I Learned About Business At The Masters

The 2012 MastersDon’t be jealous sports and golf fans, but I had tickets to Wednesday’s practice round to The Masters.  Although I am a self proclaimed hacker, I truly enjoy playing as much as I can.  It is never enough, though.

Afterwards as I reflected on the day, the sights, and the sounds, I realized that my day was a lot like a typical day at work.  There are things I saw and experienced there that can be applied on a daily basis in a business.  Here are 8 things I learned about business at The Masters.

Read more of this post

What I Learned At AnalyticsCamp NC 2012

AnalyticsCampI had the fortunate experience last weekend to attend AnalyticsCamp 2012.  Now I can hear you saying, “What the heck is that and why should I care?”

[If you are starting to wonder what analytics is, here is something I pulled from Wikipedia.  It is described there as it is the application of computer technology, operational research, and statistics to solve problems in business and industry. Analytics has evolved with the application of computers to the analysis of data and this takes place within an information system or software environment.]

Here is what their website states it is:

AnalyticsCamp is the unconference for analytics. Whatever flavor of analytics you work with—web, email, social media, marketing, big enterprise BI, you name it—this is the place to meet and learn from interesting people in the field.

It’s a Barcamp-style unconference, and anyone can pitch a session. Sessions include technical, business and career topics, from beginner to advanced levels, so everyone is sure to learn something.

Now the why you should care is even better.  Because I learned some cool new stuff and I get to share it with you.

analyticsIn the first session I went to, I saw Martin Smith, Director of Marketing at Atlantic BT, discussing branding keywords into your online presence.  The discussion involved a number of topics including taking a logical approach to developing your website in relation to data analytics.  You just cannot look at the data.  Also don’t just market to only demographic and psychographics. You need to understand the pains & personas of your audience.  Lastly, Google Analytics likes “more & more, better & better, faster & faster”.

For the second session, Dean Peters of McClatchy Interactive discussed “Google Analytics API to create a Most Popular Pages Widget”.  There were a number of takeaways, especially if you are into code writing.  My biggest takeaway, is that the “Most Popular Stories” that many like on news oriented websites can be easily done on WordPress sites, which is the basis of about 15% of all the world’s websites.

In Ask a “Social Media Analyst”, Vimal Patel, of Argyle Social, and Ryan Sweeney, of Ignite Social Media, had a great discussion of analytics with Facebook business pages and the Argyle Social Platform.

The last session I went to was an excellent open group discussion on “Comparing Web Analytics Tools”.  There was a lot of discussion between paper.li versus scoop.it for curation sites.  Another topic was the use of HootSuite, TweetDeck and Argyle for managing and analyzing multiple social platforms.

In conclusion, it was a Saturday full of coffee, networking, and analytics.  There was a lot of information that I absorbed.  There was a lot more that I know I missed because of the sessions I missed.  I would highly recommend the event next year and I am excited about how I can use analytics on a regular basis.

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies. He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes. He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research. He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“. If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

How To Use Market Research To Improve Your Marketing

so what's all this new marketing stuffEverybody wants to improve their marketing efforts. Improved marketing and promotion leads to more customers and better retention of your current customers.

However, many businesses spend thousands of dollars every year on a variety of marketing tactics without a lot of success. This is mainly due to the lack of understanding how to marketing and advertising in an effective way. If these businesses a little research before they develop their marketing, their messaging would be more effective. Although each business is unique, a few basic market research strategies can help. Here are two:

Determine a concise target market

Before you start any business or marketing campaign, you need to learn about who is the intended target for the business or marketing campaign. This can be done through either primary or secondary research. Before launching a new product, service, or campaign, you need to know:

  1. Who wants or needs the product or service I am selling?
  2. How many potential consumers are out there?
  3. Where are my potential customers located?
  4. How much are my potential customers willing to spend?
  5. Why will they buy my product or service?

By identifying your target market, you will be able to evaluate the viability of your business, increase its visibility, and make the necessary changes to increase sales. By developing a target market you are less likely to waste your advertising dollars on promoting to the wrong group of customers.

Develop a database

It is surprising to me the number of businesses, large or small, that do not have and maintain a database. By developing and maintaining a database, a company can get a full understanding of their customers’ profile. By using your customer data more effectively, new products can be developed more efficiently and a more cost effective direct marketing campaign can be achieved.

Many businesses do not truly conduct market research. They probably see it as too difficult, too expensive, or not a perceived value. However, the value of doing it ahead of time can prevent a considerable waste of money on products and services that potential customers may not want and marketing campaigns that they may not respond to.

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies. He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes. He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research. He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“. If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

Why you should do market research before you start your business.

I grow my business through networking. It is a requirement for me to be successful as there is not a lot of people Google-ing “market research Raleigh” in a given month (I’ve checked it and it’s only about 150 per month).

During the networking opportunities with those with complementary businesses, I get often get the question of “What is your ideal client?” I typically smile at this because, unfortunately in my mind, they are not out there. However, I did meet one last week. My ideal client is someone wanting to start a new business and wanting to do it right. “Right” is doing research immediately after concept but before doing anything else. The below is a great representation.

Concept Implementation Model
Many new business owners and entrepreneurs do not do any market research. They are tacticians. In other words, they are good at what they do, whether it is running a restaurant, building homes, or developing the latest tech widget.

The idea of doing market research at the beginning of the process can help confirm or refocus

  • You beliefs about your concept
  • Your intended target market
  • Your marketing/advertising program

Have you ever done market research before you started an idea or business? If you did not and did some afterwards, did you wish you had?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies. He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes. He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research. He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“. If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

What Will The 2012 Economy Be?

2012 Economy

Note: This is part 2 of a 2 part series looking back at the economics of 2011 and looking projecting the economics of 2012.  Part 1 can be found here.

During the next 11 months, we will hear a lot about the economy from the various people running for public office, especially at the national level.  Regardless of your politics, I feel like everyone can agree that the economy has seen better days.  Here is what I think the economy will be doing over the next 12 months.  I am not by any mean the Oracle at Delphi, but this is my opinion based on a lot of reading and research by experts in their areas of expertise.  Here are some areas of interest, including some not specifically discussed in Part 1.

Economic Growth

Many are predicting a growth rate of about 2% to 3%, consistent with 2011.  Goldman Sachs is actually forecasting quarterly growth at anywhere from  near 0% to less than 2% due to fiscal tightening and stress in European markets.  However, they believe that household income and cyclical sectors, like housing, coming back.

According to  600 executives at U.S. companies who were surveyed in the latest Bank of America/Merrill Lynch CFO Outlook Survey and highlighted in a recent Triangle Business Journal article, only 38% expected the economy to expand in 2012, down from 56 percent in last year’s survey and 66 percent the previous year. 

Stock Market

I will have to admit full disclosure.  This is the area I am least educated about.  Even for a numbers guy, the market can be confusing if not followed constantly.  So based on that, it looks like, generally, the market will continue its volatility, even continuing the trend of 3% to 4% swings on any given day.  Many are expecting a drop during the first quarter, a spring gain that turns into a summer slump.  The year is projected to end on a rise, similar to 2011.  All of this hinges on the ongoing national debt issues and the European crisis.  According to the Wall Street professionals assembled by Barron’s, the market is going to increase by 11.5%.  However, that seems to be the same number over the past 2 years.

Employment & Unemployment

At any given local area, it is difficult to determine what will happen, but hopefully the national trends with provide some insight to what might happen as you couple it with what is specifically going on with new job announcements and layoffs. 

Based on the Blue Chip Consensus Survey, many are seeing an unemployment rate of less than 9%.  A recent Goldman Sachs is seeing this increase over the next year.  Others, including the White House, are saying anywhere from 8% to 9%, as seen in the video here.

Despite those concerns noted in the  Bank of America/Merrill Lynch CFO Outlook Survey, most CFOs don’t expect their companies to reduce work forces in 2012. Only 7 % predicted layoffs, as compared with 6% last year.  Meanwhile, 48% of executives surveyed expect their companies to stay the same size and another 46% said they expect to hire employees. These percentages are similar to last year’s survey.

A good sign is that much of the hiring seem to be from small businesses, which are historically the drivers of employment growth and market recovery.

Housing

“Housing has to come back at some point.”  I know many people, including myself, say this.  Unfortunately, we all have been saying it for a while, too.  There are some signs that housing might be coming back in 2012.  We have seen builder optimism increase for several months in a row and the US Census Bureau announced that November was the sixth consecutive month of gains in new single-family construction spending. 

Triangle Region & NC Economy

Generally, there is limited optimism in many of the 2012 economic forecast, according to research done by WRAL.  Recently, Appalachian State University economics professor Harry Davis predicted the economy would grow at 2.25 to 2.5 percent in 2012.  He also noted that residential housing growth is only around 6%, as compared to 26% in previous economic recoveries.  Also, Dr. John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo noted that housing prices in Raleigh are near the bottom at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce 2012 Economic Forecast. 

However, growth is a positive for the Triangle area.  Silvia noted that Raleigh is #1 in terms of growth and employment in the state of NC.  However, Anthony Wilson of ABC 11, WTVD noted that “Raleigh has persistent long-term unemployment, and companies can’t find trained workers.”  Davis believes that unemployment will drop from the current 10% to 9.3%, still well above the national figure.  However, some are very bullish on the 2012 NC employment situation.  NC State Economics Professor Mike Walden is “predicting we’ll see 40,000 to 50,000 jobs created in North Carolina in 2012,” said Walden. “Compared to the 20,000 created in 2011.”  This is a drop of the unemployment rate to less than 9% this year.

Overall

However, the issues that continues to worry people is the fact that the US debt will be greater than the US GDP.  If a business had more debt than it brings in, it would not be able to survive year after year.  Many are optimistic about an economic growth during 2012, but risks remain.  High unemployment, easing of imports, uncertainty of the housing market, the European economies and markets are all risk factors that could complicate 2012. 

Lastly, the Presidential Election is going to be a contributing risk.  Regardless of your political ideology, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, there is a lot at stake beyond which Party is in the Oval Office come January 2013.  The entire House is up and 1/3 of the Senate.  Whoever controls these will be able to affect business and the economy for the next 4 years (if not longer).  I feel this will inhibit any major politically related economic issues.  No one wants to be on the wrong side and not win their election on November 6, 2012.

Just a note:  Everything above is a compilation of information I have researched and my own opinions.  I did resource other articles and websites not specifically mentioned above that I want to give credit.  Here are the additional resources for your reference.

What do you think the 2012 economy will be for the US as well as the NC areas?  Do you have contingency plans if it is better/worse than you expected?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies.  He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes.  He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research.  He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“.  If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

What Was The 2011 Economy?

2011 Economy

Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part series looking back at the economics of 2011 and looking projecting the economics of 2012.  Part 2 will be released on Thursday and can be found here.

Sir Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  This is especially true in business.  This was a blog I thought about writing back nearly 2 months ago, but felt it would be better to write and post it now.  This information is based on factual information.  There are no politics, no opinions.  It is what it is.  The purpose is to understand what happen in 2011 to set the stage for 2012.

Stock Market:

  • 12/31/2010: DJIA closed at 11,577.51, NASDAQ closed at 2652.87,  S&P 500 closed at 1257.69
  • 12/31/2011: DJIA closed at 12,217.56, NASDAQ closed at 2605.15, S&P 500 closed at 1257.60
  • Change: DJIA  +640.05 (+5.5%), NASDAQ -47.72 (-1.8%), S&P 500 -0.09 (-0.00007%)

Labor Force (actual people wanting to work, Not Seasonally Adjusted, CPS based)

  • December 2010: 153,156,000
  • November 2011: 153,683,000 (December not reported yet)
  • Change: +527,000 (+0.34%)

Employment (actual people working,  Not Seasonally Adjusted, CPS based)

  • December 2010: 139,159,000
  • November 2011: 141,070,000 (December not reported yet)
  • Change: +1,911,000 (+1.37%)

Unemployment rates (Not Seasonally Adjusted, CPS based)

  • December 2010: 9.1%
  • November 2011: 8.2% (December not reported yet)
  • Change: -0.9%

US Economic Growth

  • Q4 2010 (Billion): $14,775.4
  • Q3 2011 (Billion): $15,176.1 (annualized)
  • Change (Billion): +$400.7 (+2.7%)

US Retail Sales

  • 2010 Top 100 retail store sales (,000): $1,559,183,000
  • 2011 Top 100 retail store sales (,000): $1,614,320,000
  • Change (,000): $55,137,000 (+3.5%)

US Building Permits

  • 2010
    • Total Permits (Thousands): 604.6
    • Single Family (Thousands): 447.3
    • Multifamily (Thousands): 157.3
  • 2011 (through November)
    • Total Permits (Thousands): 561.2
    • Single Family (Thousands): 384.3
    • Multifamily (Thousands): 177.0
  • Change (YTD through November)
    • Total Permits (Thousands): 4.2 (+0.8%)
    • Single Family (Thousands): -32.4 (-7.8%)
    • Multifamily (Thousands): +36.5 (+26.0%)

Was there something I missed?  Let em know what you think.

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies.  He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes.  He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research.  He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“.  If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

Everyone is NOT your customer!

Target MarketWhether you like it or not, everyone is not your target market. 

This is true even if you sell something everyone needs, like water, clothing or food.  If you think everyone is your target market, we need to talk.

Now this does not mean that you will turn away a customer that is outside of your target market who happens to walk through your doors and hands over their business to you.  However, by targeting your customer, you are focusing your time, efforts, and your marketing dollars in a way that is most effective and efficient to grow your business.

The best example I use is McDonald’s and Hardee’s.  For both of them, especially Hardee’s, their primary target market is 18-25 year old men.  Because they know that a large percentage of their customers fall into this category, a large percentage of their advertising is directed at them.  However, if a 35-year-old “Soccer mom” appears in the drive thru at the local Hardee’s, the order taker is not going to tell her to move on.

Have you defined your target market in a broad sense?  If you have, you may want to reevaluate it based on your best customers. 

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their customers though a variety of market research strategies.  He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes.  He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research.  He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“.  If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your customers, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

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