Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

We hope everyone has a safe and fun Independence Day! We don't know about you, but we are spending the day eating popsicles with our dogs and watching fireworks (without out dogs, they get scared). Happy 4th from Black Rhino Marketing Group!

Focus Groups: Yes!

Focus Groups: Yes!


Marketers are always talking about focus groups and how learning information from them is extremely valuable. Most business owners are rolling their eyes as they envision large conference rooms with two-way mirrors and product testing where the participants mostly just complain about the product and the business owners have to endure a torturous hour or so.

In today’s digital environment, and the age in which everyone is very vocal about their likes and dislikes it may seem like a focus group is unnecessary. The thing is, that’s not entirely true.

The part of the focus group that matters is the feedback you get from your prospective customer- in a third party environment. That’s not to say that the standard, old style two way mirror setting is the way to accomplish this. We’ve found that more casual, fun networking style events have a larger appeal and garner more interesting and ultimately helpful results.

For an example, read about a focus group event we hosted for one of our clients.


Regardless of the style of focus group you host the feedback is the most important. Many business owners have products that they love, and their family loves and they come to us stating that “everyone they have given it to loves it” Of course they do. When you are passionate about something you have created and you ask those close to you what they think of it, regardless of what they may actually think, they want to support you, so they tell you everything they like about it. Put simply, it’s a biased opinion, and no business owner will get an unbiased opinion from anyone they know personally, or otherwise, so long as they know you are the business owner.

Hiring a third party to host and discuss your product in an environment in which they feel safely protected from hurting the business owners’ feelings, however, changes the outcome quite a bit. Marketers use this feedback in a number of ways, including finding nuggets of truths from your potential customers about the advantages and disadvantages of your product, brand and message. Discovering that your new energy drink tastes terrible to your prospective audience, gives you the advantage to make changes to the formulation to improve the taste. Finding out that no one understands what your product does or how it works, gives you the opportunity to find clever ways to include that educational piece in your messaging. These are the things marketers need to know in order to help you sell your product to your target audience and that’s why we keep insisting that focus groups are something you need.

Game Faces

Game Faces

You’ve heard it from everyone, your colleagues, other business owners, your dog- networking is fundamental to growing your business. That means you need to get out there, meet new people and introduce yourself and your business to everyone.

That seems like an easy thing to do, and it is certainly an easy thing to suggest for someone to do. But the reality for many small business owners is that we are paralyzed by fear, or our expectations are never met, or, sometimes, we are having a bad day and don’t want to socialize. Whatever the reason, sometimes we just don’t want to go to that event.

Entrepreneurs are often caught up in trying to make the best impression, trying to make sure we meet everyone- and all the right people. We end up losing touch with who we are as individuals and everything becomes about the business. Many of us are also perfectionists, so when we attend an event – we want to make sure our elevator pitch is perfect, we are on top of our game and we are feeling good.

The thing is, nothing is ever perfect. And that’s ok.

This week I had an event lined up that I was initially very excited about attending, but as the week began and the date of the event crept closer I became more and more worried about attending. You see, over the weekend, my dog accidently smashed his very large (Great Dane) head into mine- and his canine tooth punctured the skin of my forehead. This giant gash on my face was an unforeseen accident- and it completely derailed my enthusiasm most things  in life (having a crazy bad headache will do that) and especially for the event later this week. As the week wore on and my face and eyes began to swell up more and more, and the bruising began to develop I was mortified that I would have to go to an event and meet people- I mean, what a first impression!

While I went through my week feeling like Sloth from Goonies, I looked for ways out of attending and even tried to convince myself it wasn’t going to be a worthwhile event.  I was still talking myself out of it in the car in the parking lot outside the event. I took one last look at my bruised- but thankfully much less swollen face in the visor mirror, took a deep breath and decided to go in.

And, I am glad I did.

It was a great event, I met a bunch of people and made a ton of new connections. That last breath in the car was the “let all the worry go” breath- and it worked. It worked like it always does. And I was able to go in there, be myself and talk about my business. Was it perfect? Certainly not. Did that matter? No.

So listen, the point here is, I know it can be hard and there are a million reasons why you don’t want to go to the networking event. But, if I can do it with a head wound and swollen face- then you can do it.

Breathe. Let the worry go. Put your game face on. You’ve got this.

The Things People Say (Why Customer Listening is Critical)

The Things People Say (Why Customer Listening is Critical)

Last week we held a Focus Group Event.  If you’ve ever done or been in a focus group, you wouldn’t apply the word “event” to it right?  Focus groups are usually in a boring conference room, with boring food, and people sitting around a conference table.  Often a one-way mirror for observers.

Well, this one was certainly not that.  It was a terrific, fun event. No kidding. Now, I’m not going to go into details, because I think that would be giving away something pretty cool and unique we’ve discovered.  But I will show you some photos—of our guests actually enjoying an evening of socializing AND participating in focus groups.  If you want to know how we pulled that off, you’ll just have to contact us—sorry! Suffice it to say, we were really proud of it; our client was ecstatic and now he’s got some major fans.  That’s a big win, win, win!

So let’s talk about Focus Groups.  Or what I’d rather call it: Customer Listening.

Customer Listening is fascinating.  Enlightening. Oftentimes surprising.  And always absolutely critical.  That is if you want your product/service/marketing to be relevant and ring true to your actual customer; and if you want to find out whether or not your product/service/marketing is solid or needs some changes (that’s something you want, right?  Boy I hope so!).

Customer Listening can take several forms:

  1. Surveys
  2. Phone Interviews
  3. In-person interviews
  4. Focus groups

Whatever form it takes, your goal is to LEARN.  And you do that by ASKING and LISTENING.  When you’re with them in real time, you’ll want to listen carefully and probe—pull those emerging threads of insight that just might take you beyond your list of questions to some unexpected golden nugget.  I’ve actually heard taglines emerge…straight from the customer’s mouth.  What could be better—more real?

What questions?  It really depends on who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish, but here are just a few that are always insightful.

(NOTE: replace “we” with “company, service or product”):

  • How are we performing overall?
  • What makes us stand out from the competition—how are we different, what do we do really well?
  • Any special stories about working with us—ie tough problems solved?
  • What can we be doing better, add or change?
  • Would you recommend us? Why/why not?
  • If you could describe us in one short sentence, what would you say?
  • How did you find out about us?
  • If it’s a new company/product/service: How do you find out about others in the marketplace—where do you go for information, what steps do you take?
  • What key criteria do you use to select a company/service/product in this market?

Goodness, this barely scratches the surface.  It’s undeniable, we love Customer Listening, because the things people say are priceless. So if you want to know more (or you’re dying to find out about our super-duper cool Focus Group Event idea), just reach out.  We’d be happy to ask you questions and listen to you!

neighborhood factor

Neighborhood Factor

Neighborhood Factor

This week we attended this great conference put on by NBHD Factor, a division of DNA Info. The conference took place at Chop Shop in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. We learned valuable information about new analytical data for marketers as it relates to branding and marketing to individuals through neighborhoods across the country.

We learned some surprising statistics, interacted with some phenomenal panelists and had great networking opportunities. The day got us thinking about ways we can use this new information to help our clients. We love days like that!

Think About This:

Individual Identity is tied up in the neighborhood a person lives in, plays in and works in. In some cities, like Chicago,  with a wide variety of neighborhoods, this sense of identity as related to a particular neighborhood means even more. As marketers we strive to identify specific target audiences for our clients brands - usually this results in a basic demographic overview with behavioral data. What applying neighborhood data does is include emotion and identity into the mix - that's a huge step for any brand to understand and leverage.

My team looks forward to utilizing this new, cutting edge data to help propel our clients brands as the landscape of identity and individual interaction with brands continues to evolve. Learn more about Neighborhood Factor.