Know Thy Market

SmartPoint Research gives clients insight into what customers really want

Founder and president Daniela Hassman.

When a company needs to know what its target audience thinks—what consumers are willing to pay for products or services, which packaging entices buyers, or even which name most resonates with customers—it’s time to contact the experts at SmartPoint Research Inc. Its team knows how to develop marketing-research studies and find the perfect participants for focus groups. The company, explains founder and president Daniela Hassman, solves problems for two types of clients. “One set is marketing-research companies, and the other is what we call end clients—those who are selling products or services to consumers and businesses,” she says.

When supporting marketing-research companies, Hassman says her team functions mainly as an extension of its clients’ existing capabilities. “They commission us for individual portions of studies,” she says. Because these companies have internal resources that are already geared toward specific aspects of the marketing-research process, the services provided by Hassman typically revolve around recruiting marketing-research participants from Vancouver and other cities. “Our marketing-research clients usually design their own screeners and that kind of thing,” Hassman says.

End clients, on the other hand, are usually looking for a wider range of services. “One of the things we do, for example, is conduct pricing studies,” Hassman says. “That’s where clients just don’t know what the optimum price is for their product.” To determine what type of person would be most helpful in a given focus group, Hassman’s team sits down with the client to find out exactly what information they’re looking for.

Once the client’s research objectives have been clearly outlined, SmartPoint Research designs the research study and determines whether it will be a quantitative or qualitative study, depending on the research objectives. For focus groups (qualitative), a screener is developed to identify suitable study participants. For quantitative research, respondent specifications are outlined. Finding the right people—and enough of them—is crucial to gathering good data. “For a quantitative study, it needs to be an adequate sample size that’s statistically significant for that particular target market,” Hassman explains. Questionnaires are then developed, which will capture feedback from the study participants. These questionnaires can be loaded into one of several flavours of online survey software used by Hassman’s team, or incorporated into a discussion guide and asked by an experienced moderator, such as Hassman, in face-to-face focus group sessions.

The data from these completed surveys and focus groups are highly valuable, but only if they can be translated into understandable pieces of information. “After the participants answer the survey, our analysis team then cleans up the data,” Hassman says. From there, SmartPoint Research produces detailed reports that include graphs and key findings for the client. Hassman gives an example of the benefits of a well-managed study. “One client, a beverage company, increased their sales by two million dollars,” she says, “and the only change they made was to optimize their pricing as per the study we did for them.”

Studies can focus on one or more issues, such as pricing, packaging, or branding. Wondering what to name your new gizmo? “We can conduct focus groups to find out exactly what name would be most appealing to a product’s target market,” Hassman says. One past project focused on the Vancouver real-estate market, which has recently softened. Several real-estate development companies worked with SmartPoint Research to determine what today’s buyers want. “The market is unpredictable right now, so they wanted to find out what their target market is looking for, what type of branding and design elements would resonate with them, and which price points would be optimal,” Hassman explains.

Whether a client needs qualitative studies, which often leverage focus groups, or quantitative research, where online surveys are popular, SmartPoint Research is able to craft the right solution through experienced and attention to detail. “Instead of using call centres, our coordinators handle recruiting study participants, as well as liaising with clients,” Hassman says. It isn’t how most other research companies do it, but Hassman says a focus on personal attention sets SmartPoint Research apart. “It’s how we minimize errors and improve the value of the results for our clients.”