Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Surviving an Office Move

As the newest member of the Mindspot team, surviving an office move felt like a fitting topic for my first contribution to our Mindless Babble Blog. Immediately after joining the team in February my first project was to find new office space. After a tireless search, a massive amount of coordination, packing, painting, installations, several truckloads and some strong movers I am happy to report that we survived the move to our new office in Southwest Orlando!

At this point in my life I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to moving. From my university days, first big job in the city, moving to the US in 2004, into my first new home and now an office move; I have pretty much experienced it all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something I particularly enjoy but sometimes you just got to suck it up.

Today I want to pass along some moving tips I learned along the way that might make your next big move a little easier….

Moving Tips

1. Get Organized: If you are about to embark on the daunting task of moving, getting organized is critical. Make a wish list. Figure out how much square footage you need, number of offices, and your desired areas. Start a folder to keep information in one place. You are about to be bombarded with addresses, floor plans, contact numbers and lease agreements. If you are organized from the start it won’t feel so overwhelming.

2. Do your Research: This is no plug, I promise. I truly believe research is the key to finding the perfect space, negotiating the best price and ultimately surviving a move. You need to know the market – How much inventory is out there? What are the going rates per SF? What are the average lease terms? You must dig deeper than the property manager’s sales pitch and empower yourself with information. Our old friend Google is a great place to start.

3. Utilize Resources: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be prepared to listen. Simple questions can often lead to unexpected answers. While viewing a property that wasn’t right for us I asked if a reception desk in the space was staying. As it turned out it wasn’t but the question prompted the property manager to introduce me to another tenant that was selling office furniture. That’s how I came across an incredible deal on our new furniture!

4. Don’t Give-up: I have to admit I started to get frustrated with the process after viewing 20+ properties. By that time I had new office furniture but no place to put it. I felt like I had seen everything on the market and was starting to think the perfect space didn’t exist. That’s when I took a time out and re-grouped with the team. You will be amazed how helpful a fresh perspective can be. We reviewed the pros and cons of each property, which resulted in us finding the perfect space. Did I mention our new office has a fantastic balcony and huge patio? Bonus!

5. Schedule Installation Dates Immediately after Signing your Lease: As a company specializing in online research we have grown dependent on technology and our clients are accustomed to communicating with us in real-time. Like us, most businesses can’t afford for phone and internet services to be down for even a day. You might be surprised to find out how long it takes to get those services hooked-up at a new location. Contact your service providers and schedule installations immediately.

6. Look for Good Customer Service. I must give a shout out to Deborah Socha, our commercial account rep at Bright House. Deborah helped restore my faith in customer service. She made herself available to us around the clock and addressed our questions without being pushy. She not only helped get our commercial phone, and business class high speed internet hooked up quickly but she recommended some other great suppliers. Be sure to take the time to make the right decision when it comes to your technology provider. Choosing the right solution for your business, one with strong customer service will pay off in the long run.

7. Start Packing Items you Don’t Use Every Day: When coordinating an office move business doesn’t just stop and wait, you need to juggle both. My advice is to start packing items you don’t use on a daily basis a week or two before the move. This includes files, pictures, stationary supplies etc. Getting those things packed prior to moving day will make things feel a lot more manageable.

8. Moving Announcements: We can often overlook minor details. Changing your address in your email signature is not enough. Make sure you take the time to let your clients, partners and suppliers know you moved. Click here for a sample of an announcement we had sent out to our contacts. Even if you don’t get a lot of foot traffic it is important to notify everyone so they can update your address to ensure nothing is lost during the transition.

9. Analyze Expenses: My final piece of moving advice is to analyze your expenses. We can all be found guilty of over-spending from time to time. An extra expense here and there adds up after a while. When coordinating a move take the time to review your business expenditures and start fresh. Make some calls and get new quotes because price and service offerings have likely changed since your last move. Shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your phone and internet services, water cooler rentals, insurance policies etc. The cost savings can really add up and help off-set your moving expenses.

That’s enough babble from me today… We’re all settled and comfortable in our new space. For those who haven’t stopped by to check it out, what are you waiting for? Our new address is 7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Suite 330, Orlando, FL 32819. Come hang out on the balcony – we’d love to see you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

15 Tips for Getting the Most out of Focus Groups

Research is simply a process to get information and insights you don’t have that you need.

After you have reviewed all of the information you do have, and you find you still have unanswered questions, you may need research. In the initial stages of a product or service offer, focus groups are often conducted. Focus groups are exploratory and qualitative in nature. Since, you are looking to learn something and not to quantify findings, it is better to talk to people in-depth and focus on specific topics of conversation to get quality and quantity of learning.

Consumer driven insights can move your business forward because your customers and prospective customers want to help you provide a better product or a service they want or need. And, people love it when you ask their opinion! Think about it. If a company seeks selects you from hundreds of other people and offers to pay you for your opinion, would you feel pretty special? I’m just saying –don’t be afraid to ask your customers for help.

You can ideate with consumers, or find un-met needs, or even improve a product because there is a competitive product out there with a better idea and you didn’t even know until you discovered it while conducting exploratory research. You may have heard the saying “innovate or die”. We know it well here at Mindspot, where we specialize in online research –with the internet’s speed of information, Facebook connecting the world, and new ideas posted in 140 characters or less on Twitter, we have to be nimble and quick.

Perhaps, your product or brand positioning (you know, that place where your business, product, or service resides in the mind of your customer relative to your competition) is no longer relevant. Focus groups are a great forum to explore potential positioning statements, concepts, or ideas.

15 Tips for Getting the Most out of Focus Groups:

1. Keep an open mind. If you have already made up your mind and there is nothing that can make you change your mind, you don’t need focus groups.

2. Teach internal stakeholders (your boss, the advertising agency, the CEO) the benefits of exploratory research with customers – it is an opportunity to listen. Companies that listen to their customers are companies that win.

3. Define who you really want to talk to and learn from. Is it your current customers, is it a new market segment of customers, or is it your competitor’s customers?

4. Define your key objectives. If you only learn one thing from your customers what do you want to know?

5. Ask objective questions and don’t lead the witness. A leading question will get you a pre-determined answer in most groups. “Hey how much do you all like this great new product?” versus “Here is a potential product that company xyz is considering offering to people like you – what are your thoughts?” I could write about how to ask questions forever, and that’s a long time, perhaps another time.

6. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. If you get negative feedback it doesn’t mean the moderator or the participants suck (to use a marketing term). It means you now have the opportunity to know that your idea, concept, or advertisement may be polarizing or even poorly received by your target audience. With this comes the opportunity to make it better.

7. Don’t take it personally. If you get too attached to the creative or the idea you will miss the opportunity to have a winner. If you conduct a number of groups and your creative (ads, commercials, etc.) does not resonate with the consumer, be ready to make changes. It is always better to spend a few dollars on research versus spending the big bucks developing a campaign and having it bomb. Most clients do not allow their advertising agencies to have many in-market disasters. And the post-mortem on the campaign that bombed will likely be conducted by another agency.

8. Don’t be afraid of losing control (within reason). If your focus group participants are really taking an idea and running with it (It’s called a run). Let ‘em talk! You will learn more than if you asked the questions. Just watch your time.

9. Be polite. Always say thank you. Be considerate of participant’s time –they don’t have to do this.

10. It’s OK not to say please. You are in control and a trusted guide, and most focus groups are paying gigs for focus group participants. Your participants are there to do what you say and help you. If you say please it makes not helping or doing a particular exercise an option –and it’s not. This is not impolite. Really. It assures your participants you have a plan for the next 2 hours and they will know what is expected of them. You are there to guide them and make it easy.

11. Dress for the front room – not the back room. If you are moderating in-person focus groups and you have people watching and helping in the back room don’t dress for them! If your participants are showing up in jeans and tennis shoes –wear jeans and tennis shoes. You’ll blend in, which is what you want to do. Consider it…for most people it is easier to talk to people who are like them. If you want to impress the back room – do a good job.

12. Have a great discussion guide. Not a good discussion guide –I said a great discussion guide. Why is good not great enough? Because this is where the guts of the discussion resides and where you should spend a significant amount of your time up-front thinking about the best ways to introduce your topics and get the most relevant and insightful information possible from the people who are showing up to help you get the answers.

13. Ask for clarity. If you don’t understand participant feedback during a group, ask clarifying questions. “Can you give me an example of how that works?” Don’t fill in the blanks. You will be wrong.

14. Say it twice. Not everyone thinks the same way and if a concept is abstract or difficult to grasp say it once, then say it again a different way and use an example.

15. Determine the type of group you want to conduct:

a. Online: These are fast from start-to-finish, high degree of sharing due to anonymity, more data collected and less expensive than in-person groups.

b. In-person: Use when it’s important for your respondent to physically touch and/or use a product or when you have everyone in one location.

c. Hybrid (a combination of in-person and some online groups): Often used when people are getting comfortable with using online groups. Then they usually switch to online groups for the next project.

To make sure you get the most out of your focus groups you can always call us for advice. We normally do not self promote on our blog and this time it’s necessary! Why? We have a special Earth Day Promotion and you can help save the planet. Seems like a good reason.

The author of this Mindless Babble Blog is the President of Mindspot Research and Business Solutions. www.mindspotinc.com

Friday, February 25, 2011

Affinity Groups: Thank You Social Media

In this day and age, social media is running through the veins of not only our personal life, but our businesses as well. Half a decade ago, I don't know what was more painful...having a tooth pulled or getting a client to agree on a social media plan. That was after, of course, we went through the education process of why a social media plan is important. Now there are websites dedicated to finding your next job position with exciting titles like: "Social Media Manager", "Social Marketing Manager" and even "Social Media Analyst". In some cases, these positions even make-up the team of an entire department within a company.

So how is this changing "the game" and how does the interaction takes place? We're glad you asked! Correct us if we are wrong (and please feel free to comment below), but there appears to be a shift happening: moving from a "macro" approach to a more personal "micro" connection...also known as affinity groups.

Facebook - Full speed micro!

Facebook is all about friends/"likes" and how to keep connected. This holds true for individuals and businesses as well. Now, for example, we have your average individual on Facebook. They are infatuated with their Miniature Poodle, Miss Fru Fru. This individual could create a page to share their love of dogs or they could even create a page to show their love for Miniature Poodles. This individual chooses neither of these. They choose to create a page specifically for Miss Fru Fru, share it with everyone the dog may or may not have come in contact with, and to show off her amazing lion cut that more than likely completely embarrasses this dog, but still generates the "Awwww" reaction upon passing glances. Along with this, a Twitter account is set up so that Miss Fru Fru can tweet about the amazing nap she just had and how her owners will never find her secret stash of hidden socks she keeps lifting from the laundry basket. This may be diving a little too far into it, but the point stays the same: affinity groups are quickly on the rise within the realm of social media.

Why go through all that trouble? This allows people to connect not just with a type of animal or even specific breed, but on a much more personal, one-on-one level and gather like-minded people together. This applies to advertising and marketing as well. When placing an ad or trying to reach a certain market, you want to get the most out of your budget. You want to have your target clearly defined and connect with them. This can be done through social media. The Hilton Hotels have seen this great opportunity and offer a multitude of Facebook pages for specific Hilton locations, encouraging guests to post pictures and updates from their stay there, forming a company location affinity group.

A little blue birdie sending love and keeping you connected

Another company that is a prime player in the social media realm is JetBlue. JetBlue has been known to respond to most tweets about them in a fairly quick fashion. From tweets about missing sunglasses, issues with confirmation numbers and even as far as responding back with a "we love you too" comment here and there, JetBlue stays connected with its clients through social media by utilizing Twitter's potential to the fullest. Now granted, JetBlue can't get to every tweet, but they have a great track record of allowing their customers to feel appreciated individually through personal responses, and not just a tweet blast to the masses stating their apologies. Connections like this will continue to keep their customers happy and loyal.

Current research shows that the top-three social media sites businesses engage in are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you are new to the social media arena, we recommend you have a social media plan that includes a strategy, rules and guidelines your employees must adhere to and someone on your staff dedicating a minimum of 3 to 5 hours a week to keep everything current. Social media can be a blast, but remember that the focus should be on relevant media being shared to your audience and how it is an extension of your marketing plan.

So if you ever catch yourself wondering what Social Media can do for you, then ask yourself, "How connected are we with our clients/customers and how can we build a better connection to shift to a more personal level?"

Collaborative article by Gerald Rollason @Mindspot and
Cheryl Parker @evok