What's this "Why" all about?

You might have seen the "why" advertising that we are running. Or, maybe a client of ours told you that we are particularly good at answering why questions.

Please read on to see what we mean by why questions, why they are important to marketers and why Calo Research Services is particularly well-suited to answer them.

What does Calo Research Services mean by why questions?

These are questions that probe the reasons behind the buying decisions made by consumers and business customers. They are designed to help our clients explore issues such as:

  • Why has our latest advertising campaign failed to deliver new business?
  • Why do users fail to upgrade to newer versions of our product even when those upgrades are free?
  • Why are customers willing to pay a premium for the training course we are offering?
  • Why is that combination of features most attractive to consumers?

Why is it important to answer why questions?

Understanding why is critical to successful marketing because it allows marketers to replicate their successes, identify factors that are preventing successes and design better marketing programs for the future.

Can you provide an example of how answering why questions has helped a B2B client replicate its success?

We have done numerous studies on the impact of trade show booths. One of our clients, an exhibitor at a trade show, did not need us to determine that its booth was a success. The client's marketing team determined that by tracking the number of visitors to the booth, the leads that were generated and the deals that were done. They needed us, however, to tell them why their booth was a success. By conducting research that told them why potential customers stopped at their booth and what engaged them at the booth once they were there, we provided information that allowed them to replicate that success at future shows.

And do you have an example of how answering why questions has helped a consumer products marketer address a problem?

A pet food manufacturer came to us with the following problem. They had tested the food with animals, so they knew that they had a great tasting product. They had an attractive couponing program, so they had buy-in from retailers. They had sufficient advertising to build consumer awareness. Yet, despite these efforts, sales were not meeting expectations. By interviewing consumers and identifying all of the touch-points the consumers had with the product from point of purchase to serving, we were able to identify the critical factors that were keeping the product from being a success.

Why do companies turn to Calo Research Services for help in answering their why questions?

First, we have successfully resisted an industry trend that treats interviews as a commodity. Viewed as a commodity, the goal of many research suppliers is to deliver a large number of interviews as inexpensively and quickly as possible. On the supplier side of the business, this is referred to as "selling interviews by the pound." Though we doubt that any research company would actually use this derogatory expression with their clients, a review of supplier advertising in trade publications shows that the commoditization of interviewing is well underway. Large telephone interviewing facilities boast about the number of stations in their phone rooms and companies with Internet panels promise to complete thousands of interviews on a weekend. Those are not bad tools if you want to know how many people purchased smoked sausage in the past 7 days. But, if you'd like to know why consumers and business purchasers behave the way they do, then you need a company that provides a more considered approach to answering your marketing questions.

Secondly, Calo Research Services has developed a staff oriented around answering marketers "why" questions. It starts with the President of our company, Nick Calo, whose 20 plus year career in marketing research has been focused on learning why consumers and business decision makers behave the way they do. With graduate degrees in psychology and marketing, he started and managed the Diagnostic Research Group at Burke Marketing Research in the 1980s - a team of social scientists focused on learning "why," not just "how many." Since 1986, he has managed Calo Research Services, working with his Director of Interviewing Services to build a team of senior interviewers trained to ask open-ended, in-depth questions to get beyond the top-of-mind answers that respondents typically give and other company's interviewers are all too eager to accept.

What data collection methods do you use?

Since our founding in 1986, we have used the full range of data collection techniques available to marketing researchers to acquire information for clients. Methods that allow building of rapport with respondents are the most valuable for answering why questions. These methods include:

  • Telephone depth interviews
  • In-person one-on-one interviews
  • Focus groups and variations of focus groups (e.g., mini-groups, triads)
  • Hybrid methods: interviews that combine the best elements of telephone and Internet interviews to provide visual stimuli and in-depth probing

Who conducts these interviews?

Most of the focus groups at Calo Research Services are conducted by the President of our company, Nick Calo. Nick has conducted more than 2,000 sessions in a broad range of consumer and B2B categories. He also conducts in-person depth interviews for the company, particularly on business-to-business issues. Additional background on Nick can be found using this link (Nick's bio).

The telephone depth interviews are conducted by our Director of Interviewing Services and her staff. Several factors set her staff apart from other telephone interviewing staffs.

  • Management Orientation: The management of most telephone interviewing staffs focuses on how quickly interviews can be done. Our philosophy is to focus on how well the interviews are done. Interviewers are evaluated based on their ability to obtain in-depth information from respondents, not on their ability to conduct as many interviews as possible during their shifts.

  • Maturity: The typical phone center in the United States employs a high number of high school and college students. That workforce is transient and does not have the communication skills and life experiences that are valuable when interviewing executives and professionals. The mature adults that work in our interviewing facility have the work experiences, education, and life experiences that allow them to be conversational with the business and professional audiences that our clients target.

  • Supervision: The relatively small size of our interviewing facility (e.g., 14 positions) permits careful monitoring of all interviewers. And, all completed interviews are reviewed by in-house staff.

  • Training: In addition to an initial training program that stresses probing and clarification of respondentís comments, our interviewers receive on-going training from senior company management and our Director of Interviewing Services that builds their interviewing skills. The skill building that we stress focuses on strategies for screening respondents, developing rapport and probing for additional information. This ensures that we include the right respondents in our studies and maximizes the information obtained from each interview.