John Edeson, product manager for Dow Jones (Factiva) in London, runs focus groups of users to ensure that the enhancements they make to their programs are customer-driven. “That makes it special for us,” he said.
Jeff Grizzel, conference director for FDAnews and a speaker at the Marketing Events Boot Camp at next month’s Business Information & Media Summit in Miami Beach, has developed a group of people in the industry that he says is “kind enough to take emails over the years” on a variety of topics to help him decide if those topics are in-person-event- or webinar-worthy.
Ed Keating, chief content officer for BLR, during a session a couple years ago on new products, emphasized the need to get away from asking work colleagues what they think, instead suggesting customer advisory boards.
We hear a lot today about data and getting an amazing amount of it from your subscribers, members and prospects. And that’s only becoming more important. But there remains a sizable place for getting data on a more intimate scale. On Monday, I wrote that the Washington Nationals chief marketing and revenue officer said the key was getting fans face-to-face with her salesmen. Even if you don’t sell something, you get valuable information.
“We have been very pleased with the recent focus groups that we’ve had in different parts of the globe,” Edeson told me. “I’ve been to the ones in London and Frankfurt. We’ll get maybe a dozen users in the same room, and I take a backseat. We’ll talk about the recent enhancements we’re working on, what they like, and the challenges involved in the various information landscapes.
“The attendees come in person to ensure that the enhancements are customer-driven…I do get daily feedback from customer service or on social media, but to have users of our product sitting in front of you talking functionality and efficiency, there’s nothing better.”
Grizzel must come up with the topics for events and then see them through with the help of staff. To achieve this, he will sometimes “fire off an email to 6-8 people”—especially on a subject he’s not entirely familiar with—saying something like, “The FDA just released this; is it pretty straightforward or am I missing something here?”
These may be high profile lawyers and/or industry people, so their feedback can be essential in selecting topics. “No, that’s pretty basic,” they may respond, or “We don’t think the industry will like how firm this new rule is—we will have a hard time complying.” With that, he knows it’s a topic of value.
I also like that Grizzel still gathers feedback at his in-person events manually. “From the very first mention at the podium, what I like to do is take a hard copy of our evaluation form, hold it up and say: ‘In your folders you have this blue sheet; carry it around, take notes on what you like, don’t like, speakers who are good…’” He will then constantly remind people and have staff standing at exits with wired baskets. (And he doesn’t have a big staff.) Sometimes [attendees] are really great; they’ll be very specific about what they want to see.”
Jason Shrensky, entrepreneur-in-residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, advises running a focus group with your clients and prospects at your next live event. “Invite 6 to 10 of them to a group dinner. Ask the group what they perceive to be the value proposition [of your company]. Ask them what you could do better to communicate the value [your] different offerings to others and/or within their organizations. …you will be surprised (especially after a few drinks) how helpful and frank your focus group will be.”
Even when it comes to social media, the best thing you can do is get information from your audience, consultant Rachel Yeomans told me late last year. What platform(s) are they on? What do they look to get out of social media? How do they use it? Do a survey, poll the group on your forum, put a link on page one of your publication, ask them at conferences.
“It’s a much better way to be confident about your decisions,” she said. “That will then define who you are as a company and the audience you’re trying to reach.”
To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.
Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.