How-To Use Surveys to Inform a Marketing Plan

In mid-November, I was working on Po Campo‘s marketing plan for 2015 and realized it was largely based upon who we thought our customer was and what we thought she thought about us. We have a lot in the pipeline, both as far as new product development and marketing plans go, and I felt like it was time for gut-check with our customers to make sure we were on the same page.

Determining Objectives & Questions
I decided an online survey would be the easiest way to quickly check-in with our current and potential customers. From my past experience as a design researcher, I know that having concise objectives is key to a successful study. Using ($19/month for basic), I built a survey around answering the following questions:

  1. We think of our customers as mostly active, urban minded women between 25 and 45 who live in bike friendly communities. Is that true?
  2. We think “women-run”, “design-led” and “inventive combinations of style and function” are the brand attributes that resonate strongest with our customers. Is that true?
  3. We’re developing yoga, baby and lifestyle bags and exploring wearables. Do we have license from our customers to stretch our brand into these areas?

I ended up designing a twenty-two question survey, which included a few more questions than necessary to answer the above objectives but it’s hard to resist the temptation of asking people things that you’ve been wrestling with while you have their attention. For me that included getting clarification on whether they see Po Campo as more of a bike, fitness or lifestyle brand to help us sort out our chaotic retail strategy and which brand archetype best suits us to help us determine tone of voice.

Insights from the Survey
We had 624 total respondents, mostly recruited through our newsletter list (88%) and Facebook (12%). Most respondents were existing customers (66%), while 30% were potential customers, in that they didn’t own a Po Campo product but were familiar with what we do.

For the first two objectives above, our assumptions were pretty accurate. We did learn that women value that Po Campo is a women-run business much more than men do, while men value that we are design-led much more than women do. That learning kind of plays into the stereotypes of men and women but so be it.

The answer to the third objective gave me pause: the majority of both our current and existing customers will probably not be purchasers of most of our new products as they do not engage in the activities we are designing for. On one hand, this is okay, because we can expand our pool of potential customers; on the other hand, marketing to a whole new group of people will be a lot of work.

Learnings from our secondary objectives were even more insightful as they challenged my existing perceptions of our brand. When asked what type of store environment would be the best fit for Po Campo, the majority of people (69%) chose either a bike store or a Athleta-type fitness store. The lifestyle boutique and designerly gift shop were much less popular answers, with 14% and 11% respectively. I always kind of thought of us as more of a boutique brand but our audience clearly has us in a more athletic context.

"Which of these store environments would be the best fit for Po Campo?"
“Which of these store environments would be the best fit for Po Campo?”

To help us determine our brand archetype, I asked a fill-in-the-blank question that said “When I think of Po Campo, I picture a brand that is all about…”. The clear winner to this question was the response that said “…being down-to-earth, reliable and trustworthy”, the answer that represented the “everyperson” archetype. I always thought of Po Campo as the Explorer archetype so this was something new. In researching the Everyperson, it does make a lot of sense to me, and has helped me understand the role we play in our customers’ lives better.

Action Steps
Analyzing research without laying out steps of action is a missed opportunity. Based on our research, this is what I will do next:

  • Research the new markets we plan to enter to confirm that our offering fills a need and is differentiated from existing products and brands. If it is, develop a marketing plan for each of the new product launches.
  • Revisit our marketing plan and focus it in on “active healthy living”.
  • Revisit marketing plan to focus on telling the “women-run” part of our story better, especially for content targeted to women.

Click here to see the complete survey. Please note that logic was included in the survey, so not all people saw all questions.

Have you conducted any surveys lately? What tips do you have to share?

My Kickstarter Experience

Po Campo ran a Kickstarter for our Bike Share Bag in May of 2014. We met our goal in the first two weeks and ended up surpassing our goal by 56%, which was great. But it was a ton of work!

Background on why we did it
In October 2013, I started working on a bag to fit into the front basket of the bike share bikes in Chicago and New York, and other cities, to help you carry more stuff while riding, enabling you to use the bikes for more types of trips.

We were planning on launching the bag in May/June to take advantage of as many of the summer riding months as possible. In late February, I shot a video of the bag to share with the various bike share systems to see if they’d be willing to help me market it to their members. We decided to post the video to our Facebook page because we needed some content that day and a bunch of people saw it and shared it. Then the Huffington Post wrote about it, followed by several other publications.

So, here we were getting this great buzz in March but not being able to sell the bag until June. I wanted to do something to keep the momentum going, and doing a Kickstarter seemed like just the ticket.

In addition to piggy-backing on the media coverage, I thought Kickstarter could help us reach a new audience. Po Campo’s audience is mostly female, but bike share riders are mostly male, so effectively selling the bag would mean getting access to a more male audience. Kickstarter’s traffic is 72% male.

Plus, I had been feeling like Po Campo needed to do a Kickstarter for awhile, mostly because it seemed like every cool product company had done one and we hadn’t. I am aware that that isn’t a good reason but there you have it.

How we prepared for the campaign
May is National Bike Month, so we wanted to take advantage of that and run the campaign during May, thinking that the media would already be actively looking for bike stories that month. That gave us a little over a month to prepare.

According to Kickstarter stats, projects looking to raise between $1,000 and $10,000 are most likely to succeed. I chose a goal of $7,500, which was about 50% of the costs of the production run. I really wanted to make our goal and not stress too hard about it, and this seemed like a feasible amount. I knew I’d be able to cover the rest of the production cost with cash flow from the core Po Campo business.

Here’s what we did to get ready:

  1. Added a “wait list” to our website to capture people who came looking for the bag after the Huffington Post article. I wanted to sell 25 bags the first day to these people, and figured we’d need at least 100 people on the waiting list to do so.
  2. Scripted the video and recruited Sara Potts of Lady Lens Productions to produce the movie. The video took about 4 weeks to complete, from start to finish.
  3. Brainstormed backer reward ideas and reached out to simpatico brands to collaborate with (most of these partnerships were scrapped for fear that Kickstarter wouldn’t accept our project).
  4. Connected with all the bike share systems to tell them what we were doing and pitched ways they could help promote it.
  5. Made a list of “influentials” in the bike share community and reached out to them to see if they’d be willing to take a photo with the bag.
  6. Combed through our media list to identify journalists that seemed to be a good audience for our story and put a pitch together.
  7. Made a week-by-week plan about which aspect of our project we would focus on each week to try and keep it fresh.

How Kickstarter became a time-suck
In the 4-5 weeks leading up to the campaign, I devoted about a third of my time working on it, or at least thinking about it. That’s a lot, considering our Kickstarter goal was just 2% of our projected sales for 2014. There’s just something about Kickstarter that demands a lot of your attention.

I thought that once we hit the “go” button that we’d be able to just relax and execute our plan, but that’s not what happened. Our campaign had a familiar curve, with a big spike the first few days and then slow growth after that.

Our Kickstarter Funding Progress
Our Kickstarter Funding Progress

I hadn’t anticipated how exhilarating those first few days would be and how you spend the rest of the campaign trying to recapture that thrill. Every day I would try to think of more people to ask to become a backer of the project, or to at least share it with others. I would go to every event and networking opportunity I could think of with the bag in tow to tell people about what we were doing. I probably continued to spend a third to a half of my energy on the campaign, which is ill-advised. It was like I was in a Kickstarter vacuum and everything else came to a standstill.

What I would do differently next time
First, I would NOT make my email address the destination for all the notifications. Getting the emails of new backers would get me too excited, while a lull in new backers would bum me out. One can not effectively run a business when on an emotional roller coaster like that.

Second, I would start the planning and media pitching much earlier, maybe six months in advance, so as to not scramble during the campaign. Like all marketing, it always surprises me how many people you have to tell to get any traction at all.

Lastly, I would choose a project that was newer for us, or something that challenged us more, where we could invite our backers along with us on the journey. I felt like we were still just making a bag – I mean, a really cool bag – but nothing too different from what we had done before. Candid updates from the Kickstarter creator are some of the best aspects of backing a project, but because our process for making bags was already pretty established, it was hard for us to make this process very exciting.

If you’ve done a Kickstarter project, was your experience similar to mine? Share in the comments!