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October 2013

Cropped 2011 head shotIn the Swing 


We are in the swing of Fall activities: association meetings, networking, and planning projects.


This is often a time of year when companies are planning their marketing and communications activities for next year. You can always call me for an estimate for quantitative, qualitative, or secondary research.



The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Many people, at some point, think of becoming an entrepreneur or consultant. It seems like a dream, being your own boss, running your work life as well as your personal life. In reality, it's more like a Clint Eastwood movie--some good things, some bad things, and some truly ugly things.


First the good:

  • Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he lets you make the decisions.
  • You can even turn down work from clients/customers who you think will be more trouble than they are worth.
  • You can actually charge less than the companies you have worked for in the past, and keep more.
  • Your livelihood is not dependent on the poor decisions or misadventures of other people.
Then there is the bad:
  • You don't get a regular paycheck when things get slow.
  • You can't blame someone else when things go wrong.
  • There is limited professional and social interaction--which is why professional associations and networking groups are even more important than they were before.
  • You are responsible for business development as well as producing the product or service your company provides.
  • If you have employees, you have dozens of financial, legal and ethical issues you didn't have before, even if you were a manager who supervised other people.
  • If you are paying rent or you are leasing equipment, those bills don't stop when business is slow.
  • It's all on you.
The ugly--it is not inevitable, but it is highly probable at some point:
  • Getting paid. Sometimes, clients or customers are very slow to pay. And the bills keep coming anyway. You keep calling their accounting departments, and they don't take or return your calls. Make sure you have a contract that spells out payment schedules and consequences. And don't be afraid to take legal action, or to enforce the contractual mandates (e.g., late fees). Bad clients will not come back (that's okay); good clients, who may be having some financial issues themselves, will respect you and do their best to make sure you get paid.
  • Difficult clients or customers. Ideally, you are a partner with your client or customer in solving some kind of problem or fulfilling some need. They sometimes don't see it that way. While it is true that "the client is always right," there are some who are capricious, who don't respect your time or your knowledge; who are not good partners and who take the "always right" maxim to the nth degree.  As hard as it is to do, especially when business is slow, let them go. Be professional about it, but understand that as soon as you let someone walk all over you, it's not going to get better.
If you are considering this kind of lifestyle--especially if you have been downsized, and are "of a certain age"--consider all angles of it and then make the decision. Meet with an attorney and an accountant to determine all the things you need to do to protect yourself financially and legally. And if you still want to try it--go for it!
Small Samples

When and When Not Assembly line       


There are times when a company wants to conduct research, but doesn't have the budget for a large scale survey. There are also occasions when the population being researched (the "universe") is small. Does that mean that there is no way to conduct valid, reliable research? Of course not!


Qualitative research normally employs small samples, and can give you great insights into a brand's image, how people make purchase decisions, and unmet needs. However, qualitative research is not a substitute for quantitative data--ratings, rankings, and behavioral data or demographics.


Surveys with small samples can be problematic when it comes to statistical analyses, margins of error, etc. Even when a survey has a sample of a few hundred, if it is segmented by several rotations or usage groups, you could wind up with a sample of 25 for a given group. It is difficult to gain a reliable view of your marketplace in such a case. Here are some things to consider when planning a study.


How large is your "universe?" 

  • Suppose your are conducting a product placement, and you distribute the product to 150 people. If you complete the follow-up evaluation with 50, you have 33.3% of your universe. That's not too bad. Of course, if the 150 represent an entire universe of 100,000 or more, make sure you have chosen the product trial sample well.
  • If your universe is actually small--say plant managers for a niche product--try to get as many as possible. If you wind up with 25% or 30% of all the relevant plant managers, that's good.
  • If, on the other hand, your universe is, say, households that have pets, and you survey 150, you should be careful in how you digest the results and employ them. They can be directional, without being projectable.
  • If you have a large sample, say 900, but you have 3 rotations and four groups of graphics, logos or messages within each rotation, you will wind up with cell sizes that are too small to be useful. Instead, do some focus groups first to narrow the number of stimuli to which respondents will be exposed.
What do you want to do with the data?
  • Suppose you want to confirm findings you achieved with qualitative research or anecdotal evidence. A small sample may be enough to satisfy your need, especially if the findings are overwhelming. Even with a wide margin of error, if 90% of your sample like your product, you can feel comfortable.
  • If your research is a "disaster check," where you want to make sure that the final ad, logo, or message will resonate, you can use a small sample to make sure that consumers or customers see it the same way you do.
Custom-designed research is just that. It is designed to meet specific needs and situations. Your consultant should be asking questions about the nature of the population being investigated and what is driving your desire to conduct research. The answers will inform recommendations for sample size and methodology.
Upcoming Events
October 16th, 8am-10am


IABC/LI presents an important program on what you need to know to manage social media in your organization without creating headaches. "Navigating the Legal Pitfalls of Using Social Media In Your Organization" can help you sleep better, whether you are a manager of these channels of communication or a user. This event will be held at Learning RX, 333 Jericho Tpk, 2nd floor, Jericho, NY. Go to the new web site for more details and to register.
October 30th, 6-8pm
Women In Communications holds its next "Cocktails and Conversations" event at the headquarters of AOL, 770 Broadway in New York. The topic is "Content: Who's In Charge?" and it features an all-star panel. You can find out more and register at  their web site. They also have a young professionals event on October 23rd and a mid-career program on the 24th.
November 14th, 6-8pm
The NY American Marketing Association, hosts "How Great Brands Motivate Their Customer Experiences," with speakers from Google, Uniglo, Warby Parker and Kiehl's. You can visit this web site for more information and to register.

This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:
Ann Middleman