Archive for the ‘Eve Lenkowsky’ Category
Just days before her nation’s Independence Day, Eve Lenkowsky ponders fireworks and shows how a market research technique can illuminate the factors behind the complex choices we make.
Seeing as it is Canada Day on July 1st (Canada’s national day) and will be the American Independence Day holiday of the Fourth of July on…well, July 4th, I’ve decided I want to write something up about fireworks. I absolutely love fireworks on the Fourth of July. Some of my best childhood memories revolve around staring up in wonder at the huge bursts of color, giggling at surprising bursts of sound, and running around in the fields with other children, chasing after fireflies.
When I think back upon each year of fireworks, I realize that several questions almost always subconsciously arise in my mind. Which kind of firework is my favorite? What pattern do I like best? What color do I like best? What sounds do I like best?
I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only person for whom these questions come to mind. Sure, we all are curious about what order the fireworks will be launched, and whether the next one will outdo the one just before, and how much longer until the grand finale, but I think that after awhile you might wind up trying to determine your favorite effect, and just not know the answer.
“But how can this be?” you might wonder to yourself. 2Don’t I know myself well enough to know what I like the best?2 After all, you know that gold is your favorite color. You know you can’t stand the sound of whistles. You’re not really sure what shape you like the best…they’re all pretty impressive aside from that fizzle-y droopy one. And come to think over it, overall, you’re not really sure whether you care most about color, shape, or sound—which of these you value most when it comes to evaluating a firework. Don’t worry…you’re not the only one. And I’m sure the pyrotechnics expert who is running the show would love to know what the audience likes the best and cares about most.
So let’s solve everybody’s problem with a little market research technique called a choice-based conjoint. It’s a statistical method that makes it possible to figure out how people value different elements of a product or service. We do this by asking people to choose one product out of a group of products, with each consisting of different combinations of features (or “attributes”). Naturally, there will be some elements that each person might really like and others that might not be so great. It forces people to make trade-offs, and helps to ultimately determine what they prioritize most when making a choice.
So with fireworks, for example, the attributes might be patterns, colors, and sounds. Furthermore, within each attribute, there are levels, or variations on that attribute. For example, with the color attribute, the levels could be red, gold, green or purple. When designing a conjoint, the researcher does not have to have the same number of levels across the attributes; for example, he could show 7 colors, 6 patterns, and 3 noises. Check out the table below for the attributes and levels we’ll test now:
Based on the attributes we’re testing here, you would ultimately be shown 64 concepts, which I calculated by multiplying the number of levels for each attribute times each other. So 4 patterns x 4 colors x 4 sounds = 64 concepts. It sounds like a lot of options to look at, but the way we simplify things is by showing you only a handful of options at a time. So you look at 4 concepts, pick your favorite, and then we show you another set of 4 options and you pick your favorite again, and so on.
By the time you’ve gone through all the groups of firework choices, it becomes possible to determine which attribute you value the most, second most, and third most. You might discover, indirectly through the conjoint, that you care the most about sound, then color, and lastly the pattern. We can also see which level you prefer within each attribute, which may or may not have been obvious to you from the start. Using the power of statistics, we can get under the skin of those things that really matter to people – something that isn’t always possible with direct questioning. In effect, the numbers tell us what we cannot see ourselves.
For business, this firecracker of a statistical method makes it possible for a company to get a better understanding of the choices its customers will make, and what parts of their product or service they value the most. This is of crucial importance when organisations are seeking to price their products and services: If we know the intrinsic value that customers place on different parts of an offer, we can more accurately price and market these goods and services prior to launch.
During a week of laryngitis, Eve Lenkowsky reflects on how frustrating it is to lose your voice—and how market research can be a powerful cure for millions of people worldwide.
Wouldn’t you bet my luck that the week the weather turns beautiful and everybody is ready to go outside and shout, that I should lose my voice! Since Saturday, I have been croaking, whispering, and wheezing at anybody who can stand being within earshot of my raspy voice. Luckily, I have people who care for me and who patiently crane an ear to hear what I am saying. But after a while, whether I’m trying to communicate with a loved one or a stranger, I wind up screaming but my words barely come out. Eventually, when you keep on yelling but nobody hears, you give up on trying to get someone to listen. It becomes very frustrating, and sometimes disheartening, when your voice is lost.
I think that it is times like these that make me appreciate being a market researcher the most. That’s because I spend most of my time listening to the voices of other people who might otherwise go unheard. Whether it’s a construction worker or a printer, a doctor or a lawyer, business owner or a scientist—these are the people whose voices really have something to say. They are the end-users, the experts, the consumers and people closest to the products and services that our clients provide. They have a vantage point that our clients can only guess at. Sometimes it’s good feedback, sometimes it’s negative—all of it is important.
I listen to people’s opinions and requests for improvement in many ways. Sometimes I have the pleasure of speaking with respondents on the phone, either asking them a specific list of questions or having an in-depth discussion to focus on subjects with which they have the most experience. Sometimes, we’ll do focus groups with a bunch of people saying what they think and commenting on each others’ views in a conversation. Other times, I’ll read through comments that hundreds of people type into online surveys when we ask them open-ended questions. Market researchers call these people’s comment quotes ‘verbatims,’ because the person literally tells us his or her point of view—verbatim.
Have you ever taken a survey that asks you to answer a question by typing in a comment? Or given some of your time to answer a survey over the phone? Well, rest assured, your voice will be heard! There’s going to be a market researcher out there like me who reads through all of your complaints, compliments, and suggestions, and then communicates your key points directly to the person who has the power to make things better.
Market research creates an open dialog that allows consumers to communicate back to the businesses that sell and advertise to them. Consumers are bombarded every day with messages from companies, and market research is one of the key ways that they can speak out and bring about change. Think of it as activism that is actively sought by companies, that benefits everybody.
So basically, my job lets me be the voice of thousands of people every year, sharing their opinions with our clients so they can make their products and services better. I can’t ask for anything more—and this week, with this sore throat, I mean that literally!
One of the biggest challenges facing any higher education institution is attracting students through its doors. The Tufts Gordon Institute, part of Tufts University’s School of Engineering in Boston, Massachusetts, recently commissioned global market research specialist B2B International to research the views of potential masters degree students across North America. The project’s objective was to assist Tufts Engineering School in updating its innovative masters program in management specifically aimed at engineering and science graduates—the Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM).
The MSEM degree is a relatively new phenomenon, only recently appearing at various top universities across North America. Tufts University has been one successful school with this offering, and its directors were interested to learn more about potential students’ preferences so it could optimize the program further.
Eve Lenkowsky, Research Executive at B2B International explains, “Typically, science and engineering college graduates have been faced with the choice of either learning about business completely outside of their scientific fields, or simply continuing with an advanced engineering or science program like a masters or Ph.D. Few institutions give ambitious science graduates the chance to make their skills more applicable to the modern workplace and, in particular, management positions. Our project confirmed that there is a rising need for this kind of offering.”
The study was conducted among American and Canadian professionals who had all previously completed an undergraduate course in engineering or science. Nearly all are currently employed in an engineering, scientific or technical role and stated a possible interest in pursuing a graduate masters degree or Ph.D. in engineering or science. Carried out via e-survey, some of the key findings from the study include the following:
Mary Viola, Engineering Management Program Director, concluded, “We were very pleased with the success of the research. The feedback from the participants reveals clear trends and preferences which we will build into our program to meet the needs of our potential students even more effectively. We look forward to better serving students who are looking to develop into leaders of technology companies.”
With 30 years’ experience in business-to-business market research, B2B International has built up an impressive client portfolio and has published books, white papers and articles on marketing and market research. It has offices in three continents (North America, Europe and Asia) where its research specialists have researched all the major geographical areas of the world.
B2B International’s offering includes market assessment and market entry studies, segmentation studies, product development studies, branding studies, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction research, pricing strategy and advertising studies. B2B’s leading practitioners have also run a large number of training courses on marketing and market research.
About The Tufts Gordon Institute
Their focus on engineering leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship – in classes, hands-on projects and real-world experiences – gives students the practical leadership tools they need not only to advance their careers, but to inspire teams, and to encourage and develop innovative ideas that will make a difference in the world.
As we settle into the new year, Eve Lenkowsky reflects on how a little holiday-season market research could have saved on a lot of leftover pizza…
If you came to visit me at my place this week, you might begin to think I have an alcohol problem. And a cookie hoarding problem. And a really big purple carpet stain problem.
That’s because, this year, my boyfriend Mike and I decided it would be fun for us to host a New Year’s Eve party for our friends. About a month before the party, he made up his guest list, and I made up mine, and then we sent out an e-mail invitation and waited for the responses to flow in. People responded either yes, no, or maybe (on the evite, the choices were ‘I’ll drink to that,’ ‘My glass is empty,’ or ‘I might raise a glass’) and then, a few days before the party, we began to hunker down and prepare for the big event. At least 16 people were coming, and we were going to give them a good time, gosh darn-it!
Mike and I had recently been guests at an amazing Halloween house party held by some friends, so we decided to pull out all the stops too. We ran to our local liquor store and stocked up on enough alcohol to get us through another Prohibition. We went to the party supply store and came home with tons of silly party hats & headbands, glow sticks, confetti, and plastic ‘Happy New Year-inscribed’ eating ware. We filled up two shopping carts at the supermarket and ordered 6 pies of pizza on the big night (anticipating that each person could be hungry enough to eat 3 slices: hence 16 people x 3 slices = 48 slices, then 48 slices/8 slices per pizza pie = 6 pizza pies). We also rearranged all of our furniture, laundered our extra blankets at the dry cleaners, and vacuumed to high heaven in order to accommodate however number of friends that would decide to sleep over. We truly could not estimate this, but I had visions of people sleeping head to toe in the hallways and on the floor next to my humming refrigerator.
Fortunately, I know how to be the hostess with the most-ess and Mike sure can entertain, so things pretty much went off without a hitch. People joked around with each other, made new friends, played a bunch of games, listened to some great tunes, watched the Times Square ball drop on t.v., and ate and drank in a celebratory manner. HOWEVER, there were a few things that we did not anticipate and they all centered around the same theme – we went overboard!
For example, even though we’d bought two types of cookies, three more of our friends brought even more cookies to the party. Also, it turned out that many of our friends had gone to dinner before they arrived, so only 3 out of the 6 pizza pies were even opened – completely counter to our fears that we would run out. Our booze supply overflowethed to the point that we were begging our friends to take home bottles of alcohol at the end of the night. Lastly, while the party hats and noisemakers were certainly popular, I’d guess only about 2/3 of our guests actually were into them.
So while we were cleaning up after the party the next day, it dawned on me that we could have saved a lot of strategizing, money, preparation, and clean-up had I used some of the tactics I use as a market researcher here at B2B International. I write questionnaires every day; why don’t I sent out a quick survey to our friends next time I host a party?? That way, I won’t have to guess what they want – wasting time, money, and resources – and can get even closer to making my friends happy and anticipating their behavior by asking them directly. In fact, I believe my survey will incorporate some of the following questions and go a little something like this:
Booze & Food
Fun & Games
So that’s my little survey draft. You can do the same thing for your next party and write up a simple survey (but leave the more intensive business-to-business market research to the professionals). Feel free to borrow questions from my list, or come up with some of your own – whatever you think is relevant to your situation. Follow the tactics of the wisest business leaders and marketing managers who, even though they understand their industry really well, know it’s always worth it to ask the opinions of current and potential customers directly. Even if you think you know your friends and guests really well, they probably know themselves better. An added bonus: your friends will be glad you asked these questions because it will help them prepare for the big day themselves!
Well, that’s all the insight I’ve got for today. Now I’m going to try for a second time to scrub this wine stain out of my carpet while Mike tries to pawn off some vodka gimlets on our next door neighbors.
Market research specialist B2B International appoints three new research executives globally, a positive indicator in light of the current economy, according to director Nick Hague
B2B International appoints three new research executives, two in the UK and another in America: Afshan Bhatti, who previously worked with the Prison Service as a forensic psychologist and member of their research team; Simi Dhawan who gained experience as an interviewer within both the Business and Medical divisions of B2B International in the UK; and Eve Lenkowsky in the New York office, a qualitative research specialist formerly with Maritz.