Category Archives: Research Methods

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 SurveyMonkey.com ($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?

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How to Increase Online Sales: Part 1

Every year I say I want to increase our online sales because, like all manufacturers, we make mad margins on products sold through our online store, which in turn improves our cash flow and bottom line. While our online sales have grown steadily year after year, for 2014, I intend to make a concerted effort to grow them more aggressively. How will I do that? Good question! I’m not entirely sure but thought I could use this blog as a way to share my journey as I go and hopefully help you shortcut the process.

So, for some background info, my goal is to increase our online sales by about 38% to cover the majority of our overhead expenses. It seems ambitious, but I believe it is doable if I put a solid plan together of how that will happen. 

Basic business education tells us that there are generally three ways to increase sales:

  1. Sell more to existing customers
  2. Find new customers
  3. Raise prices (or decrease costs)

I want to consider working on all three things but we need to do some research first.

How do we get our sales today?
My first thought is to try and understand what’s been working so far. I generate the “Sales by Traffic Source” report from Shopify (our e-commerce platform) for 2013 to see where most of our purchasers are coming from and find out that the vast majority of traffic comes from pocampo.com, meaning most people go to our homepage before clicking into the store. Not terribly insightful. Next, I go to Google Analytics to dig deeper into how people end up on our homepage. (Disclaimer: I am definitely a Google Analytics novice, which means you may find better information elsewhere. However, being an entrepreneur means you spend time everyday figuring out something new, which is what I’m doing here)

Since I’m most interested in sales, I go to the conversions menu first, expand “Ecommerce” and check out our conversion rate and average order value, among other things. I plan to use these values for benchmarking our progress as we grow. Next, I click on “Time to Purchase”, also under Ecommerce. Here I find out that 88% of our visitors are purchasing on the same day that they are coming to our site and that 81% are purchasing on their first visit! This suggests to me that when people come to our site, they have already decided that they want to buy.  To confirm that, I then opened up “Multi-Channel Funnels” and peek at “Path Length”. Yep, 70% of conversions have only one path, meaning the purchaser only clicked on one thing before coming to our store to buy, or just plain typed our URL into their browser window. While I like the thought of people exploring us on the web by searching through Google or whatnot, that apparently is not happening. 

I’m curious what the first (and only) path is, so next I go to Acquisition>Channels and change the Conversions option to “Ecommerce”. Here I learn that Google is responsible for about 22% of both my traffic and online sales. The direct channel, most likely meaning people typing our URL directly into their browser, accounts for 19% of traffic and 27% of sales. Facebook comes in third place with 4% of traffic and 2% of sales. Our Mailchimp newsletter shows up towards the bottom of the list which surprises me because it seems like we always get a bunch of orders whenever we send out a newsletter. I suspect that some of the direct sales are from these newsletters and make a note to check our Mailchimp settings to make sure clicks are being tracked properly.

It’s now obvious that people have already decided that they want to buy a bag from us by the time they come to our site and that they are coming to our site from Google or just directly. If from Google, what words are they searching to find us? I go to Acquisition>Keywords>Organic to find out. Most are irksomely not provided, but there are a lot of variations of our brand name. So even if our consumers come to our website from Google, they already knew that they want Po Campo!

Okay, so it’s clear that people who purchase from our online store come to our website with the intent to buy and don’t dilly-dally. But do they come knowing which bag they want to buy, or do they just know they want a Po Campo bag and browse around a little first? To find out, I go to Audience>Overview and see that most visitors see about four of our pages before leaving. That hints at a little browsing and I’m interested which four pages people are going to most often, as well as the sequence of those pages. In Behavior>Behavior Flow, I sort by “Converters” and see that half of all traffic visits our homepage first. After that, most people go to the Bike Bags category, then to a specific bag, then to Cart. Sometimes after that third step, they go back and look at a different bag or look at a video. However, it does seem that people are coming to the site with a specific bag in mind.

Lesson 1: Our current customers know Po Campo well
Based on my first go at Google Analytics research, it seems safe to say that our sales are coming from people already very familiar with Po Campo. Therefore, it seems the best place to start is to figure out how to sell more to our current customers. See Part 2 for that.

Did I make any mistakes in my usage of Google Analytics? Set me straight in the comments below.

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I’m a cobbler and my children have no shoes

My background is in design research and design/brand strategy. I believe in the importance and power of these disciplines. Yet, for my own business, I rarely do either. What the heck?!!?

Since acknowledging that the adage about the cobbler’s children without any shoes applies to me, I googled the expression to find out how I turned out like this.

A couple of theories of why this happens:

  1. Externally Motivated. Is my drive to please others stronger than my drive to just do high quality work? It’s a possible explanation as to why I conducted proper research for my clients and just do minimal internet research for myself. With the former, I would have an audience gathered around a big conference room table to listen to my every word and congratulate me on what a good job I did. With the latter, I have to wait months to see if my conclusions from the research were correct and, even if they are, there is still no one to pat me on the back. I never knew that praise was important to me, but it is.
  2. Limited Resources. Whether money, time or talent, you’ve only got so much of each. Whenever someone would suggest that I do research, I would say, “But I don’t have time!” even though I knew that research doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. So, while this may be true for others, for me it was just an excuse.
  3. Lack of Confidence. I never received proper training or education for design research and strategy. I developed my methods myself based largely on intuition and what seemed to work in the field. Interestingly, I felt like that sufficed when working with clients but fills me with doubt when working on my own business. The stakes certainly seem higher now, so maybe just going with my gut doesn’t give me enough confidence?

Obviously, these are all rather lame excuses for not doing something that is incredibly important. Doing my first bit of consumer research this past week, albeit a very small bit, was a good confidence re-builder. It forced me to acknowledge that there are things about my consumer that I do not know and that I can use my old research methods to start to figure them out. I’m looking forward to doing more in the future.

Any other examples from other entrepreneurs out there that found themselves neglecting their specialty in running their own business?

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