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About ten years ago, when Forrester was writing some of our early research on effective Web design, we noticed a pattern among leading companies. They told us they were finding it very helpful to use design personas - models of customers based on qualitative research into real customers, but presented as vivid stories about individuals (not segment descriptions). These tools enabled them to stay focused on the needs of their most important customers when designing online experiences.
Since then, design personas have become fairly mainstream design tools in North American companies, and increasingly common in Europe and Japan - not only for Web design, but across all channels. However, the quality of personas varies enormously from company to company. For example, I'm evaluating personas from UK interactive agencies at the moment and although some are clearly well researched, engaging, helpful to designers and believable, others seem to be mere stereotypes.
Some recent events make me hopeful that major moves are afoot with enhancing panel quality.
Since the beginning of online surveys, there have been questions about how clean the online panels that enable them are. Questions abounded about representativeness, fraud, professional survey takers, inattentive survey takers and the like. The response from panel vendors has been that they have strong measures in place, and that the problems were overstated. Naysayers have claimed bad sample numbers that range from 20-30%. Buyer's of sample were largely in a "trust me" position, since most of the quality measures were in the hands of the panel vendor. Associations (such as ESOMAR and ARF), have come up with protocols that all good panels should follow, and many have.
Marketers don't think they're very good at measuring social media.
When my colleague Emily Riley asked marketers to
rate their ability to measure the impact of their social media
initiatives, the average grade they gave themselves was 4.5 out of 10.
Not a great score -- especially given that accountability is one of the
key selling points of interactive marketing. So I've spent a lot of
time this year trying to understand why marketers aren't good at
measuring social media -- and how they can do better.
Last week I co-hosted a session at Forrester's Consumer Forum on innovative research. John Kearon, CEO of Brainjuicer, lead a discussion with panel members Sion Agami from Procter and Gamble, Jan Angel from Altria and Bob Pankauskas from Allstate.
These three market researchers shared how introducing innovations to the research mix lead to additional insights and increased commitment from senior management. But it's not always easy. Some best practices they've shared with the audience:
Social networking, watching user-created video, and listening to user-created audio online are at the top of social media activities that youth engage in at least monthly. Data from our Technographics online US Youth survey shows that boys and girls use social media in different ways.
Girls favor communication activities, such as posting comments on other people’s profiles, commenting on blogs, and contributing to online discussion groups and they are also more active at maintaining their own blogs and Web pages.
During what I call the “black and white” days of the internet in 1995, when email was a green screen “app”, I presented a direct mail CEO with a business plan for direct marketing online. When he voiced his disbelief in the power of digital marketing, I walked him back to his office, installed the Mosaic browser, and stood behind him while he used the mouse to navigate a few sites I suggested. In about 10 minutes, he went into a trance of amazement at the data, the content and the interactivity. He went on to refocus the company on interactive media.