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A Facility’s Art of “Hosting” Marketing Research


A Facility’s Art of “Hosting” Marketing Research


Yikes! Me welcoming people at a place I’m visiting for the first time too? “Oh, my. Please, no.”   Those were my exact thoughts when I first learned we would not only conduct research but also “host” the groups at our clients’ test kitchen some months ago.  

Fast forward to today, five months after my first panic attack - things aren’t only more comfortable – they can also be fun. 


One time, I had a respondent arrive 2 hours before the group and went to the bathroom at least 3 times???? Another time, a respondent literally asked me 1,000 questions about the “early bird drawing”. And the most interesting of all, I had a respondent who, after not being chosen for a group, stayed in the waiting room to catch some “ZZZzzzsss.”  I was thankful she left before the group discussion finished! Whew!!!

So many other respondent-related things can go wrong when you’re in charge of managing groups of respondents starting on time.  My pet peeves are: respondents not showing up on time and worse, not showing up at all. 

I noticed that in a 6 focus group study, you’ll have at least 1-2 groups that gives anxiety attacks because respondents aren’t picking up their phones when you try to reach them to check if they’re on their way while some just don’t show. And then you can only hope you have enough respondents who can clearly articulate their thinking in every group. 

And then, when you have to choose who will be selected and who will be paid and sent home - I always ask: “How can I turn these people away without them thinking something’s wrong with them?  I realized that being extra polite yet unruffled, and explaining each specific situation clearly helps when it’s time to send them off. 

We are so lucky to have long-term relationships with some of the best research facilities.  More than anything, this new experience of “hosting” respondents allowed our team to have a better appreciation for the facilities we hire!  It is definitely an “art” to recruit and host consistently great research projects, and to create a comfortable environment for our clients and respondents!


5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro


5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro

We love doing in-context or ethnographic research.  It’s so fun to immerse ourselves into a respondent’s environment and learn “what’s really going on” vs. “what respondents say” in a focus group setting. And, yes, video is a great way to effectively capture the interviews – it provides authenticity but also comes with some drawbacks. Regardless of someone’s moderating skills, it’s more awkward for a respondent when you add a video camera to the mix.  For the last few years, we rarely take video during our ethnographies due to the “cumbersome nature” of the equipment.


To solve one of these problems, we could enlist the help of our clients. However, walking them through operating a camera is technical and takes away from the ‘in the moment’ learning. 

At ABRG, we found a small and mighty answer to this multi-layer dilemma. Insert GoPro Hero 4 Silver! We chose a GoPro because its versatile capabilities allow flexibility for any ethnography or in-context research situation. 

  1. Mounting accessories:  we love the Go Pro’s various accessories and bought the suction cup, flex clamp, and hand grip. These make it easier to walk with it or mount it wherever you need to take video – bathroom, kitchen, etc. The clamp accessory especially, is useful doing in-homes because furniture can easily become camera equipment.
  2. Size:  It’s tiny, which is another asset when recording. Because it’s not bulky, respondents don’t notice it when they are being interviewed – it fades into the background. 
  3. Great quality video at close proximity – the video quality on a GoPro is stellar, especially when it’s put on the “narrow” setting.
  4. Mark-up ability: it is easy to mark up interesting, noteworthy parts of the interview in the moment!  This makes sorting through footage later so much less painful! 
  5. Remote control via iPhone app: the GoPro contains a remote feature that allows you to control angle, start/stop, etc. from your iPhone, which is awesome.  If needed, the interviewer can both record and conduct interviews without enlisting the help of another team member or client.  

All of these features are great but getting up to speed and feeling comfortable with it requires bit of “ramp up”. We believe in creating step-by-step Process Documents to keep us from reinventing the wheel so we put all our knowledge into words in the format of a laminated Process Document containing the ins-and-outs of “how to use a GoPro.” To easily access this guide when we are in the field, we made it so that it easily fits inside the GoPro’s case and color-coded it based on topic. Additionally, the GoPro, its parts and mounting accessories are labeled and correspond with the user guide as reference.   In conjunction with the process document, we also labeled all of the parts of the GoPro and the different mounting accessories. Wherever the GoPro goes, a user-friendly guide goes with it. 


To GoPro or no?  That is the question.  So far, we’re loving it.


QRCA Event - Think like a "Futurist"

QRCA Event - Think like a "Futurist"

When I saw the topic for this month’s QRCA event in Houston, “Think Like a Futurist,” I was immediately intrigued. Since this topic was unique from other QRCA meetings and I was not too familiar with the subject, I was very curious to learn more.

The event was hosted by Connexion Research, a full-service research company with a boutique facility in Houston. Prior to the meeting, I got the chance to take a tour of their new office space. April and I have definitely been inside a lot of research facilities, but this one has a more modern flair to it. Danelia Argueta, the Marketing Director at Connexion, explained that the company strives to promote an environment of creativity, and has the latest video and audio technologies available for its clients. I was thoroughly impressed with the staff and the facility, and am definitely interested in conducting research using their space in the future.

Dr. Andy Hines was the renowned guest speaker for the event - he is a futurist and Program Coordinator at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Foresight. He has written five books on the topic, and to say he is well-versed in the field is an understatement. The 4-hour workshop helped me gain a high level understanding of how to anticipate and influence future changes. To help teach the methodology, he guided us through an activity where we selected a specific topic and mapped out the different possibilities of future change within that topic.

Throughout the workshop, it became clear how closely marketing research and foresight go hand in hand. In much of the research we conduct at April Bell Research Group, our job is to help clients understand new possibilities for product development through the lens of their consumers.  Some of the methods Dr. Hines teaches are very similar to our current brainstorming techniques (mind mapping, design thinking, etc.) where we help clients create new visions for the future.  I also learned some new methods that will help facilitate learning with our clients.

Overall, the experience was a memorable one. It was great connecting with QRCA members, and most importantly, getting a glimpse into the study of Foresight.

Qualtrics RoundTable 2014

Qualtrics RoundTable 2014


We had the pleasure of attending the Qualtrics Roundtable in Dallas for the second year in a row. It was nice to see some familiar faces, as well as meet others who are just getting started with using Qualtrics. There were some great speakers throughout the day. Allison from the American Heart Association started off the Customer Spotlight sessions, by discussing how she uses Qualtrics at her organization. AHA’s use of the survey platform is very different from ours since they are in the medical field - they use it for program evaluations as well as tests for healthcare providers. Brad Boeke from SMU was another customer who was featured, and it was interesting for me to see how Qualtrics can be used in an educational setting. SMU uses the platform to conduct performance reviews of its staff and for school-wide voting. Listening to both of the speakers helped us gather ideas on new types of surveys we can conduct for our customers.

The most exciting presentation of the day, for me, was listening to Steve Brain discuss the Qualtrics Product Roadmap. Having used Qualtrics for over a year, I have already seen improvement in the survey and reporting functionality, so I was definitely eager to learn what else they have coming up.

A few new solutions Brain mentioned that I am especially looking forward to:

- Ability for text (SMS) surveys

- Improved mobile responsive surveys

- Vocalize - live reporting dashboards

- Ability to create different “projects” to help categorize different types of surveys (Customer satisfaction, employee insights, market research, product development)

The event was a success overall, and I’m looking forward to the new features Qualtrics has coming out in the near future.

Mayuri Joshi isResearch Magician at April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at

Qualtrics Roundtable Event in Dallas

Qualtrics Roundtable Event in Dallas

A few weeks ago, my staff and I had the pleasure of attending a Qualtrics roundtable event here in Dallas at the Gaylord, and it was great!  

For those of you not familiar with Qualtrics, it's an online survey platform that enables companies to gather real-time insights.

One of my clients has a license to the platform for in-house tracker surveys, but not enough bandwidth to create and run these surveys consistently. So, since we've been helping this client create, monitor, and report results via Qualtrics, it was great to meet some of the faces behind their very attentive support staff.

The more we have been using this tool, the more we appreciate its robust capabilities!

Coca-Cola VP talks about Truth, Insights and Community

Coca-Cola VP talks about Truth, Insights and Community

It is obvious that Stan Sthanunathan, Vice President, Marketing Strategy & Insights at The Coca Cola Company, loves his job.

He opened with 

"The marketing research profession is the best profession in the world....for one simple reason. Insight is the most critical thing." 

Well, he certainly knows his audience because most of us here at The Market Research Event agree with least I do:)

Diane Hessan, President & Ceo of Communispace facilitated the discussion, and she told me prior to the session start that it would be worth blogging about...and it was!

This is what I enjoyed most about his presentation:

1. Visionary thinking...

"The responsibility of companies is to help create the future.....but you have to learn how to stop looking in the rearview mirror?" 

 2. Perspective on hiring

"Hire people that are not the same as you had before." He said that many of his "strange hires" have turned out to be "great hires." He also cautioned companies not to"outsource your thinking." 

3.Clear communication of the brand

"What makes coca cola what it is today? It's the community we have established..that we touch people on a daily basis." "It's a drink that promotes happiness." Check out what Coca-Cola is now doing with a program they call 5 BY 20.

DFW AMA Presentation this Friday

DFW AMA Presentation this Friday

If you're in the Dallas area, then I hope to see you this Friday, March 27 at the DFW AMA Market Research SIG. Wow, that' s a mouth full of acronyms. If you don't know the acronyms, it's the Dallas Fort Worth American Marketing Association Market Research Special Interest Group. I'll be presenting on "Using Design Principles to Deliver Powerful Research Presentations."

In today's marketing world, researchers must do more than simply report that data. We must turn that data into a story for our clients that produces that "aha" reaction. They want to understand the insights and know the next actionable steps, and they don't want to have to work for it. So what do we have to do? We have to go from researcher to "storyteller".

In Friday's presentation, I will be leaving you with design principles and tips for creating effective and clear reports and presentations. It will be held at the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, 10707 Preston Road, Dallas, from 11:30 to 1:00. Click here to register, or go to

The Joy of Super Bowl Sunday--The Commercials

The Joy of Super Bowl Sunday--The Commercials

One of the main reasons I tune into the Super Bowl is to watch the highly anticipated Super Bowl commercials. And this year did not disappoint.

As usual, Budweiser did an outstanding job. Their best commercial, and the top rated commercial, was “Fetch”, where the Budweiser Clydesdale was imitating the dog, which was an extension to last year’s hit commercial where the dog was imitating the Clydesdale. Here it is if you didn't get to watch:

What makes the Super Bowl commercials so unique, is that it’s more about the entertainment factor than it is about the actual product. With that in mind, the strategy behind that is that whatever company can be the most entertaining, the most outlandish, the most controversial; basically whoever can produce the commercial that makes people talk is who wins. That’s who will be talked about on the morning radio shows the next day and will make their product memorable in the minds of the consumer. has produced some major buzz from their commercials. They don’t advertise any other time, except the Super Bowl, but everyone knows who they are because of their infamously over-the-top racy Super Bowl commercials. As soon as their commercial aired, I knew it was a commercial. Most people don’t even know who GoDaddy is, but because of the racy content, they will be curious enough to look up on the Internet. Check out the 2 commercials in this year's Super Bowl:

It’s fascinating to analyze the lengths and creativity that goes into marketing in a Super Bowl commercial. To be entertained by all the Super Bowl commercials and to see the Top Ten ranked commercials, click here.

Interesting Learnings from the "Experience Generation"

Interesting Learnings from the "Experience Generation"

Hello all, it's been several weeks since I've had a change to blog.  I wanted to post a follow up to an interesting workshop I had the pleasure to attend.  I met both Tamara Sachs, CEO and Robert Miner, President of SachsInsights at The Market Research Event in October. Their compelling qualitative research work is supplemented with high quality "video storytelling", and it's fascinating!

I was fortunate to sit in on their workshop and I am posting a small clip here of the workshop Robert Miner gave on "MilleniAdults--the experience generation."

Mr. Miner mentioned several key points that define this segment:

1) Belief in a Kaleidoscope of Options

2) Definition of Success Varies Across the Segment (financially secure, life experiences, making a difference)

3) Entry Level Debt

4) Online Social Networking

For more video footage of the ethnographic study conducted by SachsInsights, you can visit their website.

Good stuff!!




When Time is Short and Money is Tight

When Time is Short and Money is Tight

I attended another interesting workshop last week at The Market Research Event. Speakers, Tina Bronkhorst, Vice President Digitas and Jennifer Drolet, Vice President, iModerate gave a compelling story for the benefits of a hybrid research approach.

"Current consumer demands and expectations for 'real time' dialogue are changing the way we, as marketers, need to think about research", say Tina and Jen. Below is a bulleted summary of their reasoning:

  • It’s harder to be heard : 20 years ago, just 3 exposures created awareness, now it takes 150
  • Consumers have an amazing ability to multitask
  • Consumers aren’t as overwhelmed by information as they used to be
  • They trust their peers more than they trust marketers
  • Real time dialogue is everywhere (myspace, facebook, blogger)
  • They are coming together with common interests. One example of this is the Starbucks gossip site, which lets those who have a similar feeling toward the brand chat together.
  • And there are a host of others: blog, microblog, online chat, RSS, widgets, social networks, social bookmarks, message boards, podcasts, video sharing sites, photo sharing sites, virtual worlds, wikis...and the list will be greater as we move forward.
  • So, marketing doesn’t own the brand completely anymore
  • And, consumers trust their ability to make smart choices and they aren’t afraid to trust their instincts (Yankelovich Monitor 2004/2005)
  • Instead, they prefer to take a chance with a personal experience, instead of playing it safe
  • Thus, we need to focus on listening more instead of shouting louder (active branding)
  • Stop push marketing and start pull marketing

They gave practical examples of how to develop hybrid approaches, where qual and quant data are collected at the same time. These include conducting:

  • Online survey with IM-like chat intercept (iModerate)
  • Online focus group with closed ended, open ended, IM-like chat and redirects (invoke)
  • Online communities (communispace, passenger)

April Bell