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Live Your Consumer’s Life – a Follow-Up to the Steve Jobs Theory of Research

2017 January 20 by

Taste Test Experts

Taste Test Experts

Although we researchers excitedly confess more mid-sized companies are not only accepting our motto of “do your homework” – they are also setting aside budget dollars to conduct what we in the market research industry know to be the foundation of any product or service, marketing communication or message – CONSUMER RESEARCH. However, we still too frequently encounter potential clients who do not understand the value of conducting market research. “What’s the ROI?” we are frequently asked. The under-informed should actually be asking what the consequences might be if research IS NOT conducted prior to:

  • Launching a new product or service
  • Modifying an existing product or service
  • Identifying your market
  • Expanding into new markets
  • Identifying competition
  • Developing your message and touchpoints

Bob Gilbreath, co-founder and CEO at Ahalogy, an internet marketing and content performance analyst firm based in Cincinnati, recently penned an article on Linked-In outing former Apple founder, Steve Jobs for negating the profound impact market research has had on millions of product and service success stories. Job’s professed,

“Some people say, ‘Give customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”‘ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Gilbreath goes on to explain, “I wholeheartedly agree with these quotes. One should never conduct a research study that asks people what they want–yet it is a mistake that big and small companies make every day. I learned about the right way to research within the first few months of my time working in the new products team at Procter & Gamble, a company legendary for creating billion-dollar categories ranging from disposable diapers to Swiffer and Febreze. Broadly speaking, there are two types of research that work–and they are completely consistent with Jobs’ words and success.”

“First, you must spend time understanding and gaining insights into customers’ existing habits, beliefs, routines and unmet needs. We would never ask people, ‘What should we develop to make your life easier?’ Instead, we spent time with people in their homes and watched them at the store, then we dug through data about what they are buying and using. Your job, at the early stage of innovation, is to get into the shoes of your customer, understand her life, and look for insights that give you ideas on products that you could create that would surprise and delight her.”

“The second role of market research comes in evaluating the ideas that come out of customer understanding and insights. At Procter & Gamble, we wrote up descriptions of our ideas and shared them with people in one-one-one conversations and in national quantitative surveys in order to gauge their interest and willingness to buy. In big and small companies alike, it is invaluable to get direct customer feedback. While it’s tough to get customers to tell you what they want, they do a great job of reacting to ideas that you share with them. After all, reacting to new ideas is something they do every day when they turn on the TV, chat with friends or browse through a store. Customer feedback on ideas helps you refine your product, model the business potential, and sometimes prevent you from a costly failure.”

Here at FieldGoals.US, this is our passion. Bring us your products and services, your hopes and dreams, and we will quantify and qualify your market to guarantee your success. In this exciting new era of entrepreneurial enlightenment, let us guide the way.

Company Portrait


The Kind You Take Home to Mom: The Reality of a Family-Owned and Operated Company

2017 January 16 by

In my 20’s, “When are you going to get a “real” job?” seemed to be the only question that mattered in my career. I was working full time for my mom at her home-based market research firm and, seemingly, that couldn’t be my end goal. I must have something else more tangible in store for my very bright future, people mused – something my own, different, “real.” But I was confused. I mean, it felt real: I made real money, I managed real clients, I worked real hours in real business professional clothes, called real subcontractors, followed up on real projects. And yet, because of those kind of assumptions, I believed there must be something more legitimate outside of her company. I couldn’t ride her coattails forever. At some point I’d have to go out and make a name for myself. Didn’t I want to leave my mark on the world? What was my true passion? All. The. Cliches.

It doesn’t matter that ultimately there was another career path in store for me. The assumptions we make about small businesses are still damaging for our own business partnerships. We miss out if we write off the success, efficacy and quality of family owned and operated companies. Nepotism has painted a negative connotation onto the very things that make family businesses so crucial and beneficial to our economy. We see favoritism, poorly qualified staff, a lack of processes – when instead we should be seeing integrity, low turnover, expertise and endurance. When we look closely at family businesses, we see that in many ways they outshine their competitors in these areas.

The world’s economy IS family owned and operated. The Harvard Business Review estimates that 80% of the world’s companies are run by 2 or more family members. In America, 1 in 5 small businesses are owned/operated by multiple family members (Birnbaum) and 30% of companies with $1 billion + in sales are family businesses, including Walmart and Samsung (Kachaner, Stalk and Bloch). It’s absurd, then, that we still believe family companies are “rinky-dink” operations, run by a talentless and uninspired second generation. The very opposite is proving to be true in most studies.

Family run companies are successful because we literally bring you home with us. The dinner table sings with updates about clients. The values and vision shared with you at the conference table are the same values and vision we laugh and aspire to as we pass the mashed potatoes. The Christmas presents are newly branded wearables, the bonuses are shared and set aside for whoever needs it the most at the moment. Your project becomes a guest with its own room, a fresh set of sheets and towel at the foot of the bed. There’s nothing more personal or more cared for than your satisfaction, because that is the currency of our family’s livelihood. As Jeffrey Miller points out in an article by The New York Times, small businesses “have the strength of the entire family, meaning all sorts of thinking and fiscal resources.” Associate professor, Patricia M. Cole, says, “a family business can become like a turtle that pulls inward under its shell” and we’ll pull you in with us. Family business is statistically more resilient in hard economic times in this way, too. The family enterprise is the beginning and the end of the plan – that’s all the motivation that’s needed.

We need to throw away the idea that the family-run business is lacking in some undefined way. It’s time to come home and meet my mother. As the matriarch of the family business, Lori Mader is not just a character or a “bird” as she calls herself. She sets the core values –  and her intelligence and business acumen drive the success of the services. Her oft-joked about personality is the hallmark of her relationship with clients and the extremely loyal and long-term employees and subcontractors that are happy to be part of the family. She’s not traditional, but what she has created as an extension of herself through the company is what makes FieldGoals.Us special and different. Harvard Business Review calls this “family gravity” and they explain it like this:

“The firms we studied usually have one key family member (but up to three) standing at the center of the organization, like the sun in our solar system. These people personify the corporate identity and align differing interests around clearly defined values and a common vision. They focus on the next generation, not the next quarter. They tend to embrace strategies that put customers and employees first and emphasize social responsibility. And they have strong personalities that draw talented people into their orbits and keep them there.”

That magnetic pull is real. The relationship we all have with the company is real and our ability to outperform most market competitors is real too. It doesn’t get more real than the legacy Lori has created and continues to solidify for our family through her company. That’s what family owned and operated “really” means. Welcome home!

Author credits go to Emilie O’Neal – educator, mom, daughter


Lori and Emilie (circa 2015)

Lori and Emilie (circa 2015)

Incentivizing Providers to Improve the Quality of Care for Senior Medicaid Recipients

2014 February 28 by

There is a fine balance – especially for non-profit, long-term care facilities – to stay in the black on the balance sheet while following core values, which often include taking care of our older adults who do not have the financial ability to “self-pay” for personal care or skilled nursing. Often, the discrepancy between what Medicaid reimburses and the cost to the facility does not encourage a great deal of advocacy on behalf of the facility itself. In Pennsylvania, our Governor would like that number to be increased or incentivized to encourage a larger percentage of bed usage from the Medicaid sector.
There are required quotas for state approved facilities.

Pennsylvania is a rapidly aging state: one in five residents is currently 60 years of age or older. By the year 2020, one in four Pennsylvanians will be age 60 or older. Two-thirds of nursing home residents are Medicaid patients, and the data show unreimbursed Medicaid costs in Pennsylvania will exceed $470 million this fiscal year. Dr. Stuart Shapiro, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, is one of many sounding the alarm. He and Genesis HealthCare Vice President Paul McGuire joined Smart Talk a program sponsored by public radio station WITF in Harrisburg, PA – to talk about long-term care in the state.


Dating all the way back to 2001, when a comprehensive study of the Medicaid reimbursement system ‘s effect on the quality of long-term health care providers showed that an increase in Medicaid reimbursement improved quality as measured by professional staffing – the quandary over the necessary level of Medicaid reimbursement to nursing care facilities versus the level that incentivizes attention to improved care and a higher number of Medicaid admissions and lengths of stay – has been examined by our State and National lobbyists and legislators.

Just today, in the Bangor Daily News, lawmakers were reported to confront a difficult reality in the coming weeks: the state has been underpaying its [nursing homes] for years, and a bill pending before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee would give them a needed raise….in 2011, MaineCare — Maine’s version of Medicaid — paid the [homes] $29.4 million less than it cost them to care for their residents. To make up the difference, the homes shift the charges to the minority of residents who pay for care from their own assets or whose bills are paid by Medicare.

For private, not-for-profit retirement communities and CCRC’s the incentive to admit long-term Medicaid patients or to keep those who may or may not need to be held in excess of a rehab stay – does not exist. Meeting the minimum requirement makes the most financial sense in a world where most revenues are reinvested in the care of self-pay residents. Accounting meets altruism, and the CEOs and Chair people of the Board are caught in between.

“If we could reach people earlier with some limited home and community-based services, we could delay more people going into facilities,” said Brenda Gallant, Executive Director of Maine’s long-term care Ombudsman program.

“Maine’s Nursing homes will always be an important component of long-term care. But services should be available for all those who want to and can remain safely in their homes, be it adult day programming or help from an in-home aide. For taxpayers, those services are substantially cheaper than nursing home care. The federal government has an interest in paying for them through Medicaid.”

No matter what your party affiliation, there is one dynamic affecting not only our manufacturers and services providers, but also our long-term care facilities. America is aging – and we – as product and service providers – have an obligation to address all areas of need, especially healthcare. Here at FieldGoals.US we specialize in 55+ older adult research – and partner with long-term care providers to ensure preparation for your 1-year, 5-year – and beyond – plans to reach the ever-changing face of our aging nation.


What are you, Brand Power??

2013 October 30 by

Brand Power


I admit I may watch more TV than the average human—and in doing so I have probably internalized my fair share of commercials. Everyone knows this should be the time to go to the bathroom, refresh your drink, check Facebook (again) – or just sit watching, eyes glazed over, knowing the advertising is most likely just going in one ear and out the other.  When I think about the commercials I like most, generally it’s the sappy ones—like Extra commercial where the dad makes his daughter a paper crane every time she is sad.  Then at the end, when she’s moving to college, her box full of dad’s origami cranes falls out. That one gets me every time.

But recently I have noticed a rash of strangely plain commercials—always the same backdrop and actors—advertising a variety of products.  They are mostly products you would find in your grocery store and the commercials just give you “bare bones” information.  When I started seeing them regularly, I wondered if they were some kind of cheap-o, bargain-brand advertising.  Then an affection grew for the simplicity of it.  I don’t really need a whole emotional, heart-felt commercial about baking soda – “bare bones” can do the trick!  I wanted to investigate because I wondered where this kind of third party advertising came from and why I don’t remember seeing it before.

Most of these commercials are produced by a company called “Brand Power.”  With the logo in the corner of the screen and an introduction with their slogan “Facts and Value” it seems to involve “double advertising.”  So…let me get this straight—this is an ad for Cornflakes in an ad for Brand Power?  What is this?  The actors are corny, and it looks like it might have been made in the 1980’s.  Upon further investigation, I discovered the Buchanan Group produces these commercials—the company behind Brand Power, Medifacts, Infotalk, Zoot and a variety of other worldwide advertising vehicles.  Inspired by the infomercial—only shorter—the Buchanan group is an “advertising vehicle for manufacturers and their ad agencies.”  Using nine different “platforms” they have cranked out over 2,000 campaigns, claiming to deliver a “highly predictable and effective piece of copy.”

I thought I was so smart questioning Brand Power and their bland commercials when all along they willingly admit their campaigns to be “highly predictable.”  In fact, that is the point.  That is how they sell their services.

I guess I should say that is ONE way they sell their services.  Going along with their slogan of “Facts and Value” the Buchanan Group—which by the way is a MEGA company with offices in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and, of course, the Americas—launched an online community called Home Testers Club in Canada in 2012.  This type of program originated—with much success—in their South African market and the company has plans to extend the program to Asia and the US.  The CEO of the Buchanan group explains, “It’s a natural extension.  For years, Brand Power has been helping Canadians buy better by telling them new product stories from the manufacturer’s perspective.  Now we’re providing a forum for consumers to share new product insights with each other as a means to making purchase decisions that are even more informed.  People have a natural inclination to share information; Home Tester Club is simply a conduit that supercharges the scale of those conversations.”

Buchanan Group organizes it all and even distributes products to the home testers with a rating system.  Marketing teams are becoming more geared towards social media marketing and are learning that consumers often base their buying decisions off of what their peers are buying. In our increasingly virtual society, we no longer have to rely upon what advertisers are feeding us about their products; we can do the research ourselves.   On that token, third party advertisers –  like the Buchanan Group –  are profiting.  Their simple slogan says it all: “Facts and Value.”  They present you with the simple facts about the product—shown in their no frills commercials—and then follow up with consumer reviews to allow consumers to make informed decisions about the products they buy.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Sorry Mad Men, but I can Google your product and see if it is right for me.

Contributing blogger, Kathryn Aulenbach, has traveled across the globe conducting ethnographic research in many cultures. She is currently a Senior Project Manager at FieldGoals.US. Contact her at Katie@fieldgoals.us