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Indiana's market researchers.

Every business is loaded with a nightmare agenda. Will the product or service sell? What should we charge? How do we package it? Where should we sell it? What should we say about it?

A raft of research firms around Indiana can help Sominex those nightmares. They can help businesses make informed decisions instead of relying on intuition. Their information collectors are better trained, better organized, better equipped to crunch data than ever before because there is a growing demand for their services.

Who are these people and what do they do? Here's an example: Bonsib Inc., of Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, uses Joseph D. Brown, professor of marketing at Ball State University, as its director of research.

Gemeinhardt Company, Inc., the leading manufacturer of flutes and piccolos in the United States and the world, came to Bonsib with a problem. The company's big customers march in public-school bands. The problem? Fewer children were enrolling, and music education budgets were shrinking. The client's business was pianissimo.

Brown designed a study to find out why kids don't begin to tweet-tweet-tweet like Pete. He talked to teachers, students, parents, even school-board presidents. Out of this came a 140-page book titled "Marketing Strategy for Music Educators," seminars around the country and advertisements. The message was, "There are ways to build a strong community image for music programs, and Gemeinhardt knows them."

Sales are allegro and market share is decidedly crescendo.

That's an example where marked research made life easier for the sales department. It can also help find a niche for an entire company.

Take, for example, James Ittenbach of Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc., in Indianapolis. He talks about finding the position for a client in the trucking industry, a highly deregulated environment with service that is almost a commodity. All the competitors offer the same basic cost, delivery time and bulk-shipping capacity. The client found himself in a brutally competitive situation.

"We looked at this through the eyes of the shipping manager," Ittenbach says. "What is his job responsibility? It is to get shipments off his warehouse dock and delivered on time, damage-free. We found that these objectives mattered more than speed and that the manager is actually willing to pay extra for the confidence that his job responsibilities are insured. We adopted a service orientation, and the client's profits proved that 'lowest price' is not always the direction to go."

Basically, market research grew from chief executives who were tired of hearing from the sales department that "nobody" wants to buy what the production department is making. In the late '30s, CEOs began to say, "Let's go out and talk to the 'nobodies' first."

With market research, sales can say to production. "Our customer wants this gismo. Can you make it?" If the factory can, then odds are better that sales could sell it.

Indiana market research companies vary in size from one person with an answering machine to an operation occupying a four-floor red-brick building near Keystone at the Crossing in Indianapolis. By rough estimate, the industry grosses $50 million in Indiana annually. Revenues nationally were up 16.8 percent in 1987 over 1986, and the financial community is bullish on marketing information as a growth industry.

Research companies appear in a variety of forms. Indiana has them all.

Advertising agencies

Some advertising agencies maintain research departments. It may be one person who doubles in media or account service on a daily basis. Some set-ups are more elaborate.

In-agency specialists say they have advantages. Frederick J. Bingle, director of Market Search, a division of Montgomery, Zukerman, Davis, Inc., of Indianapolis, explains the agency edge for a client: "They already know you and your business, what the issues and problems are. You don't need to repeat it all to somebody. They will suggest research that is needed. You won't have to tell them, 'Hey, we need to do this.' They will say, 'Here are some weaknesses. We suggest you do some product testing, a tracking study or an awareness and attitude study.' They will develop a program that is proactive.

"Another advantage is that if you do not have a research person on staff, the agency will serve as your consultant," Bingle continues. "It saves a salary drain on your payroll. It may also be able to conduct your research at less cost by shopping around for the best value. The agency may know who does the best work, who to contact for various types of studies and how to get the most out of the project."

The agency has a cash-register reason to make the client successful. If the product or service takes off, more advertising will be run, and the account will be more profitable.

Carol Meese, a behaviorist, is director of research at Keller-Crescent Co. in Evansville, heading a seven-person department. Meese says the aim is "to provide research results that are understood in marketing terms--not just research terms. Unlike a specialist or a full-service supplier, we have to use the results in communications, the measure what it achieves with consumers."

Specialists

The specialists, or "boutiques," claim advantages, too. Their view is that experience on particular terrain makes them more qualified to plow it than an agency or a generalist is.

David Palmer, partner with his wife Cynthia in Palmer and Palmer of Indianapolis, explains, "We are specialists in the food field. It helps to know the industry, the channels of distribution, the nuances associated with types of products and the process of developing new products. We take pride in the fact that we both have marketing management backgrounds, and this helps provide actionable research. We have been in the client's shoes, and that is a plus."

Other specialists in Indiana include:

--Donald J. Hargadon, who was with Indiana Bell for many years, is a consultant for the communications industry and other services.

--Karen Gentleman is a focus-group expert with extensive experience in retailing, in research (as research director at Indianapolis-based Melvin Simon & Associates, Inc.) and in real estate.

--Doris Wallace Interviewing Service does mall and home interviews exclusively.

--Emmis Research zeroes in on broadcast listening and viewing habits.

Generalists

The generalists, or "full-service" companies, believe they have the edge because they can handle a project through all its steps under one roof. They will design; conduct focus groups; interview by phone, in person, at malls, at home or at the office and by mail; tabulate and cross-tabulate; prepare a report; analyze and make recommendations.

In Indiana the generalists include Walker Research, Inc., Herron Associates Inc., Strategic Marketing & Research Inc. and Circle City Research in Indianapolis; Midwest Marketing Research in Goshen; Data Management in Valparaiso; Custom Research & Tabulation in Fort Wayne and Product Acceptance and Research in Evansville.

Ittenbach of Strategic Marketing & Research explains his full-service company's approach. "As a client, you have an informational need based upon a marketing need. A custom research house can bring you a fresh perspective. Our account executives are senior analysts, so they can help you decide whether you need research.

"It is expertise and creativity in the up-front design section that is most critical," Ittenbach says. "Sure, we can do qualitative and quantitative evaluations using any technique. But if we don't ask the right questions of the right people, then you're not going to get what you need.

"Our other key value is interpretation of results. It's not much help if you are handed a computer printout and we show you 50 percent said 'yes' and 40 percent said 'no' and 10 percent had 'no reply.' We explain the implications. We envision ourselves as the marketing director and say, 'Based on the results, here's what we'd do.'"

Among the generalists, Walker Research is an Indiana institution. It is unquestionably the largest data gatherer in the state, with about $21 million in annual revenues. It is the 16-th largest researcher in the country and the second-biggest privately owned.

The Walker Research story is a collection of stories. The best known is the woman-in-business classic. It started in 1939, when Tommie Walker Anderson, wife and mother, took a 50-cents-an-hour, part-time job obtaining opinions for Indiana Bell and tabulating replies on the dining-room table. This led to distributing products door-to-door for in-home tests that would determine whether the new item would be marketed, changed or killed. On one of her calls, she met a woman whose husband was district sales manager for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. A&P was in ful stride at that time and needed studies on its private brands. So did, as it developed, Procter & Gamble Co., General Foods Corp., Pillsbury Co., Kellogg Co. and Stokely-Van Camp, Inc. The list grew. Anderson is still a member of Walker Research's board of directors and is active in charity and civic work.

The second Walker Research story is civic work and community help. It comes naturally to son Frank D. Walker, chairman and chief executive officer. He had one of his first bouts with public opinion in 1953, when he managed the campaign for president of the senior class at Broad Ripple High School for a kid named John M. Mutz. The kid lost that one but seemed to have potential.

Walker has been taking the pulse of the Indianapolis metropolitan area to aid not-for-profit organizations for decades. The bimonthly Walker Poll tracks the joys and jolts of being a Hoosier according to 100 randomly selected respondents. Questions have been tacked on to guide everybody's favorite causes: The Indianapolis Opera, Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement, the Children's Museum, the Commission for Downtown, the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indiana Repertory Theater, the United Way of Central Indiana and many others.

The charge? Nothing. The value at market prices? $75,000 to $100,000. Walker won't say.

The third story is national leadership in its field. Walker Research has published findings of a national "Industry Image Study" biennially since 1974. A late, unreleased figure: "Eighty percent of us say we had a pleasant experience being interviewed."

Another contribution is the slogan, "Your Opinion Counts." Walker Research developed the line as a tribute to the people who say "hellow" and answer questions -- the raw material for the market research factory. The slogan was later donated to the industry and has been adopted enthusiastically.

Finally, there is the "University of Research Training" story. The company is a little touchy about this one. But the fact is that "graduates" of Walker Research are scattered from coast to coast, north and south. It would make sense to print up a diploma and have Walker sign it. Most of the alumni would hang it proudly on the wall.

Few outsiders know that there really is a formal "Walker College." That's what insiders call it. Sessions have been held at Eagle Creek Park in Marion County for the last year and a half. The "professors" are real ones: Frank Acito from the faculty of the Indiana University Graduate School of Business and past chairman of the marketing department, aided by David McKay. The class work for 30 to 40 volunteer "students" is designed to update them on the latest marketing trends.

Besides its headquarters building in Indianapolis, there are Walker Research branches in Fort Wayne, Tampa, Fla., Winston-Salem, N.C. Cincinnati, New York, Phoenix, Ariz., and San Francisco. The firm employs about 300 full-timers, more than 100 part-timers and hundreds of temporary interviewers who may swell the payroll to a thousand.

While Walker Research is the leader, business is growing for everyone--especially from the service sector. "More service industry people realize they have to do better to satisfy their customers and improve customer relations," Hargadon says. "They see research methods that work for brands also working for services--everybody from service stations to banks, churches, utilities and TV cable companies."

The jobs that Indiana research companies take on span the gap from piccolos to truckers. Karen Gentleman tells about a dilemma at Melvin Simon & Associates that focus groups solved.

The task was to find a name for a shopping center that would communicate the difficult "price-quality" concept. The you-get-good-stuff-for-less-money thought is hard to sell. The groups wallowed in words; "off-price," "bargain," "clearance," "low-cost," "great-deal," "mall," "outlets," "shops," "stores," "strip" and so on.

The pair that clicked? "Consumer mall." This seemed to tell customers they got what they wanted--a good deal on classy merchandise. It is working now to identify three Simon centers: Eastgate in Indianapolis, Century in Merrillville and Arborland in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ross E. Brady, Jr., vice president and general manager of Herron Associates, Inc., speaks guardedly about a job his company did for a state-of-the-art business machine company. It wanted to know where to send its salespeople for the best results.

After hundreds of telephone calls, Herron researchers learned which one of four countries would be the most productive. They found they should concentrate on larger organizations. They discovered that transportation, communication, utility, finance, insurance, real-estate and wholesale firms (in that order) were more likely than other types of companies to be planning a purchase next year and that a service contract is usually sold with each machine.

This guidance aimed the sales department in the right direction at the right targets with excellent results.

Bingle at Market Search discusses recent Indiana State Fair research that indicated a need to widen appeal. People said they liked the fair, and some came back year after year. Only about one-third of those in Indianapolis, however, went in 1987. They thought the event was too agriculturally oriented and that there was nothing new.

The agency responded with advertisements that addressed the "variety" issue. One featured a girl who loves the fair and goes with her friends for rides, games, stunt cars, lemon shakeups, elephant ears and concerts. In the tag line, she says, "Just for farmers? You must be kidding."

In another, world-famous adventurer Charles Farrington, in pith helmet and bush jacket, doubts whether the fair can offer him anything new. Interest is piqued when he hears about a tractor pull for kids, a husband-calling contest, the "rare and exotic shish kebab, the elusive pork tenderloin sandwich and the silent-but-deadly elephant ear." Farrington wants to get his stuffed for the game-room wall.

The commercials got attention. They communicated the "more to do, more for you and at th fair" message. The hinges-of-hell heat wave probably singed a lot of plans to attend, but mid-way way watchers say they saw more young, metropolitan people this year than in the past. Researchers with questionnaires on clipboards were in the crowd so that results will be known in time. Stay tuned.

J. Douglas Johnson teaches at the Indiana University Graduate School of Business. He was formerly a senior vice president at McCann-Erickson Worldwide in New York.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Marketing; includes related article on focus groups and a directory of Indiana's market research companies
Author:Johnson, J. Douglas
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Directory
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:2463
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