Being president and CEO of a company was uncharted territory for me, but it is something special. As the first person in my family to go to college and as a first generation entrepreneur, there has been no road map. Luckily, I have a brand strategy background, which is more than most people have when starting a business. In my previous job, I was a brand positioning and strategy consultant. As I moved up in that company, I was less involved in daily projects. I missed that. Starting my own company, Joy Lynn, Inc., let me get back to what I love.
I started Joy Lynn, Inc. in 1995 as a market research company focused exclusively on qualitative research. Qualitative isn’t the big data of consumer research. It provides the “why” behind all the data. We help companies understand why their customers think and feel the way they do. Today, we work with some of the most recognized brands in the world. We work in many product categories, but consumer products are our primary business.
Qualitative research really empowers business executives to make confident decisions. It helps build much stronger brands in the long run by getting things right from the start. Without it, most companies would be guessing.
Most companies genuinely try to do all the right things to provide great products and services, but it’s dangerous to assume you know what your customers are thinking. Stop and ask them. Find out how people really feel about your company, product, brand, and competition. Sometimes that learning can be hard to hear, but it can also help avoid costly mistakes. You can then tailor products, services, and messages to better resonate with customers and keep them happy over time.
Executives are tied up in so many conference calls and meetings that there is little time to think or plan these days. Decisions are happening so fast that strategic planning and thinking can get neglected, yet that is what would have given them clear direction during their frenzy. Qualitative research takes [my] clients out of the office. It forces them to sit in a dark room, behind two-way glass, and listen to what people think. It gives them a place to really focus on the root of their business. Our strategic mind-set, combined with the consumer’s voice, can really aid in that planning and decision-making.
To succeed in this fast-paced environment, companies have to focus, and they have to invest in the long term. Many companies aren’t doing either. They are building businesses, but they are not building brands. They have become afraid to focus. They will abandon great ideas because they didn’t see results fast enough or because they required too much investment of time or resources. Building a true brand takes time, investment, and the discipline to commit without pulling the plug.
It also can mean tackling one small piece at a time, over time, or targeting one group at a time. People think that by committing to one target audience, they alienate another. Not true. People need to hear meaningful messages, and sometimes you have to break them down into very small pieces to get that.
Our business growth comes from providing consumer-based strategic insights to one project at a time and proving that the money invested in research was well spent.
The modern consumer is changing. Technology has simply made smarter customers. They research and compare. The power of word-of-mouth has never been greater. Consumer expectations are very high, but their tolerance and loyalty are low because they know it’s easy to find another alternative. If you don’t position yourself clearly and provide easy access to the right information, many consumers will simply pick a different product. They expect you to listen, be responsive, and adapt to their needs. They assume you have just as much access to information as they do, and they assume you are going to use it. If you don’t, what does it say about your company?