Even when there is only one destination, there are generally multiple ways to get there. This is true in everyday life; it's also true in the life of a research project.
Now, more than ever, credit unions are deploying multiple research methodologies to measure product interest, brand awareness, service levels, and overall satisfaction. Contrary to what you might think, using two, three, or even four research methods for one project won't put your credit union on a research collision course. Instead, this strategy can yield data that is well rounded and well suited for the single project at hand.
The practice of combining research approaches is especially prevalent among brand strategy initiatives since in many cases, ideas and viewpoints are explored within small segments and tested among broader groups. A traditional mail survey still may have a place in the development of a brand, however, to delve into the core of an identity, different forms of research are also needed.
Focus groups are effective for branding initiatives because of the qualitative format. More open-ended, more in- depth and "richer" than a traditional quantitative study, focus groups are ideal for gaining reactions and impressions in real time. This type of research is best for questions that require more than a single, multiple-choice answer such as the emotional appeal of a credit union's brand.
Quantitative, or telephone surveys work well for gathering specific information from a large population and testing viewpoints that emerge in the qualitative settings. They are less successful at obtaining general data due to the fact that to be successful, the duration of the survey must be kept short. As the brand is developed, a quantitative study can serve to validate information from prospective members that a qualitative study by design cannot.
Here's an example to illustrate. One large credit union realized the importance of combining and deploying multiple research strategies when a charter conversion created a new market in a major metropolitan area. Although qualitative research would yield brand viewpoints most effectively, the credit union needed validation among a larger sample of its potential market. Thus, a blended strategy of qualitative and quantitative methodologies was pursued.
The focus groups were charged with the assignment of creating brand position statements for the credit union. In the sessions, members were encouraged to identify the strengths of the credit union and non-members provided insights pertaining to the most appropriate and convincing ways that the organization could position and market itself within the new charter.
A quantitative study followed the qualitative phase, whereby successful positioning points and taglines were presented via a telephone survey to several hundred non-members who were eligible for credit union membership.
By merging qualitative and quantitative approaches, the credit union developed a positioning statement that is meaningful and compelling to its existing members and its target markets. The research findings also propelled the credit union toward an actionable plan, one that is specifically geared toward increasing brand awareness.
The moral of the story is this: consider your options when a research decision is on the table. Taking one route may be the tried and true solution, but a slight change in course could enhance your project with unanticipated insights and refocused direction.
Neil Goldman is president of Member Research, Los Angeles. Mr. Goldman can be reached at (888) 2-Research or ngold1 aol.com. Mr. Goldman will also be a speaker at The CU Journal's SEG & Business Development Conference.