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Here’s a sample transcript from an interview with a small business owner about how they communicate with clients and potential customers.
Reach Marketing Transcript
…But yeah we just use this like on an hourly basis, but you know we answer the phones, we get our mail here, so maybe 4 hours a week. I’m here… Not very much.
D: How long have you been, officing here it feels kinda co-working
R: It would be awesome if it was more co-working and we had more in common with the others tenants but really don’t, there’s like an insurance salesman and an IT group down the hall but we really don’t. We’ve been here for, well the comp. Is right a 4 years old, but we’ve been here for over 2 years, over 2 years so quite a while
D: What were you doing over 4 years ago? I know you always been doing marketing.
R: I’ve bounced over different jobs. I worked at an agency, well first I worked, I was a newspaper reporter for 5 years. I worked for the Star Telegram then I went to work as a copy write ad agency. And then I had 2 other jobs, both in marketing and communications, writing copy and not liking it very much. Then I started this 4 years ago. The last one was with the Irving Convention of Visitors Bureau, so yeah.
D: What made you want to make the change?
R: Ahhh, you know, a lot of things. It was sort of a nexus of personal and professional stuff. Now that I’ve done it, I can see that it was sort of in my blood. My dad owned his own business and there are a lot of things about my personality that were sort of latent when I was working. When I didn’t own my own business that are like Dad but now I see. Plus, I was doing freelance writing on the side and a little bit of – I mean you my graphic design skills are pretty limited- I was doing people’s newsletters and stuff like that. And there’s a big gap between the most I could do, nights and weekends, and the least it would take to sort of have my own business. So, at some point I had to just take the jump. It was never going to grow into, “now I can quite my job as having risk.”
D: Where did you find your customers to start out? I mean, a leap like that, I’m curious where you may have defined any base?
R: Yeah, it was tough at first. Like I said, I had some customers that I had been doing some things for and so I tried to up sell them. Then I got really involved in the Irving Chamber and still am. I make chill from the local Chamber of Commerce, we never would have made it without it. So, that was a huge source of, we get a lot of business from them and then early, early on, when it was, I mean, it started with a borrowed computer and my kitchen table. It was a couple of freelance websites, there’s a site called Guru, you guys heard of…, anyway stuff like that I would just blast out my resume and bid on various projects. So that’s where, that how we started making the initial, and those were, you know, pretty cheap, pretty cheap work at the time. We stay pretty cheap, even after we got a little bit larger, I mean our client’s still aren’t very large but even if we got a little bit larger clients who could’ve paid us we stayed pretty cheap and tried to build portfolio. A couple of our clients, we built a website of one client that was, if they’d gone to a real agency it would have been several thousand dollars and I think we did it for 1500 or so. Wow. Just to get that in our portfolio and we’re proud of it. So, that’s a long story but that’s how we do it. We bootstrap the whole thing and never borrowed, I really don’t want to borrow any money so, anyway. It won’t work for everybody.
D: Knowing that and knowing some of that growth with those customers, have you seen it, have you seen it double? Has there been a natural growth from those days when you were just developing a portfolio? How’s that process gone and in some way I guess, though what venues have those new clients begin to be found, those new customers?
R: Umm, our, not all of our sales, but are our best sales are referrals. And so we really try to reward referrals and if somebody refers us we’ll send them a $50 gift card, is what we’ll do. For, you know just, ask for testimonials, “If we do a good job for you can we put your quote on our website, whatever.” So that is the most, I think that’s, I mean, we do, we get people to pay us to market them to advertise them but I tell them that the most valuable form of marketing is what we can’t do for them, which is their personal network, looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand and handing them their business card is the most basic form of marketing. Anyway, that’s how we’ve done it. We did a little bit of, we pick here and there some promotions where we advertise on a website, post our portfolio for web developers. It was called haystack and they changed the portfolio, we did that for a little while and lent us a couple of jobs but it was nothing like just the networking. I started doing the networking, going to B&I groups and stuff, and now I don’t do as much of that except for the Chamber. We’re just focused on the Chamber. That’s, that’s what we’ve done. We just finished a, our latest little promotion which got no traction but we had a blast doing it. You know our company’s called REACH, I don’t know either of you are gamers, I’m not really a gamer but Xbox’s new HALO, you’ve heard of the game HALO, the new game’s called REACH. So we wrote this whole phony press release about how we were suing Microsoft and Xbox because of their infringement on our name and all this stuff. We posted that on our blog, and we were like “hey, follow us and re-tweet this and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of the game.” We had people who thought we were serious, I tried to be so over the top but anyway, I thought it was so ridiculous that no one would believe it but people would post on our blog, “hey, you’re not going to win a lawsuit against Microsoft.” So, anyway…
D: Did that reap any benefits, other than…
R: We had some, I mean, we had fun with it. Some lady in Coppell got the copy of REACH, she’s late 50s I think. She’s probably not playing HALO, she probably giving it to her kid or grandkids. I mean we probably got less than, we got less than 20 new twitter followers. It cost us 40 bucks, I thought it would be a great idea but nobody, anyway…
D: It sounds like components of that, I’m curious were blog and twitter, are those venues you use often? Is it the first time you’ve done that?
R: It was the first time we’ve tried to drive traffic or tried to increase our presence much on twitter. We’ve, I’ve found that email marketing is still really effective, for us. You hear that it’s going away but whatever. For us it’s been really effective. I think part of it is because our database is a live database. It’s all people that are one step away from me. Either I know them or I know someone who knows them. We got the Chambers database, which there’s a lot of people that I don’t know but you know. So, when they get an email from me they are a lot less likely to, you know, like our open rate is a lot higher than the industry average and I don’t know what those are. I think that, melchip tells me that the industry average is like 2.4% open or something like that and we get 4-5% open. It’s still not a lot but… so I think that that’s one reason. I also think that email, it’s just so easy for people to engage with you. Like if you send them a direct piece of mail, they either have to find the phone number and call you and they’re not sure who they’re going to get on the phone or they have to go to, you know, your website. If you send them any form of marketing, I think, I think that the reason it works is that it’s so easy to click reply. And we set it up where it comes from me, I mean, we’re really small, there’s chasing rabbits 3d here but there’s m, there’s one full-time artist, and then there’s 2 part-time guys that work for me. There contract, they don’t really work for me but hourly contract. So the emails come from me, I mean it says my name on it, and I just think it’s easier for people to click reply and go “hey, I mentioned you to so-and-so the other day, he needs this thing done,” and that’s how we’ve got a lot of work. So back to your question, the blog has just become a place that I kinda throw up the same content that goes out in those monthly emails. I think we could do better at that I just don’t take the time because I don’t have the time.
D: This interview is all about chasing rabbits, so…
R: I went blog chasing rabbits, to email chasing rabbits, to how big my company is and back.
D: Well, we’re very interested in learning a lot of those aspects so wander all you like. It’s fascinating to be able to discover, especially by the way your thinking through those things. Email connects to blog so very well and I’m curious what information do you put into those emails? What typically, how are they composed? Obviously they’re personal, as you had said, what else do you put in those?
R: Well, I try to do something, I try not to be very salesy and I put some kind of, I read a lot of, you know, just junk, not junk but just stuff that comes to me via I follow on twitter and read, or scan, blogs and what-not about marketing. And marketing trends, marketing tools. Tools tend to get a lot more attention you know, everybody wants their top 5 things that are wrong with the ipad. And then, so I try to put something like that, some tips for marketers something and then I try to put something unrelated to marketing anything related to Irving. Another Rabbit to chase, we decided a long time ago that we would sort of do concentric circles. We would really focus on Irving first. If I got all, I was the agency of records for every business in Las Colinas we would be doing pretty well so we decided that there was no reason to go chasing stuff in Dallas if I could just focus. You know we did that, we’ve got some other clients, like in Dallas, so another ring but we’ve had spent any time going after any markets outside of DFW. So we’re really sort of focusing on Irving and slightly less along Dallas.
So in the news thing I’ll put something about Irving, like the new Irving convention center, some Irving kinda news. Kinda involved in the Chamber and City and stuff or about, a lot of people who know us know that a big part, what we want to be a big part of what we do is helping people in need. So every month we cut a che – we write support for organization who help people in need. The one we’ve given the most to, one we’ve helped the most is called Waters is Basic. It started at our church, it’s an organization that drills, it’s independent now it does its own thing, it drills water wells in Sudan for people who don’t have access to clean water. So we’ve just passed our 200th well. Are you a runner Imam? No, ‘cause we’re about to have a 5K. So anyway, the, Waters Basic is one of them, so I’ll put so news about, you know, clean water news or about Waters Basis or sort of other philanthropy things. So what did I say, “marketing news, local news, you know, philanthropy news” and that’s enough because 3 articles… You know, each one 500-600 words is plenty for any amount maybe to much. And that’s it so that what we’ve usually put in those.
D: What made you decide, decide to share information philanthropy or your philanthropic efforts?
R: Aaaa, I just don’t, am not too interested in having the company just to make money. I think there’s easier ways to make money, I probably be as happy just having my own business. I think we’re here to help, to you know, to make the world a better place. It sounds retarded but anyway. We want to help others, we want to help people, we wanna help the least of these that’s part of why we do it.
D: Have your clients responded to that in anyway or indicated?
R: Yeah, it’s funny some of them love it some of them absolutely like that, it’s one of the biggest reasons they hired us. Some of them are like, “Oh, that’s good. Your checking off that box. That’s cool.” Like everybody has to do that kinda thing, give back. Which is cool, I’m fine… I don’t think that every company ought to have… if you’re a – if it’s not a passion for you to support whatever organization, water or whatever it is, then don’t do it. If you just want to have your business just to make money then go ahead and make money don’t just pretend like. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. There’s a lot that, sometimes I’ll, like in those networking events or whatever, I’ll give my info “this is REACH this is what we do, to let you know, we support this organization called Waters Basic and here’s what they do and we’re having a 5K so come out.”
Whenever I start talking about “over there” maybe it’s because we chose an organization that’s “over there”, which ever way the Sudan is from here, the people, some of the people you can just tell. Their eyes glaze over, and their like….it just doesn’t impact them at all. I think its…I don’t know, they can’t imagine that kind of poverty, or they don’t have any experience with anything outside of, you know, Irving or what. But people just don’t, some people do, but a lot don’t connect at all with a charity like that. Maybe they’ll connect more with a charity that’s local. We, not as much, we helped a little bit pro bono work for Urban Cares, they do a food, stuff like that. I think that they’ll identify a bit more with Urban Cares and we like that. I mean, I like that, I just feel like I want to help the people who need help the most. I think there’s a big difference between being poor in America and being poor in Sudan.
D: You mentioned about staying local and those concentric rings with your clients and you mentioned a little bit about ‘em but who are the bulk of your clients? What kind of work do they do? What are they like?
R: Almost all B to B clients, we don’t do much consumer marketing, which I kinda like, I don’t really want to get into coupons and someday, someday, someday. So we, so our design, I think that kinda matches with the graphic artist I use. He’s sort of his style is a little bit more I don’t know, reserved. He likes kind of, he good at corporate looking stuff. So that fits with us well. So clients, our biggest clients, right now is Fast Signs and most of their customers are businesses you know buying banners for whatever. Actually, their wanting to sell more of their real signs not just banners because the margin on banners is way to thin. Fast Signs is our biggest client, we worked for the North Texas Region of Fast Signs, so not the national account but there’s 22 stores in DFW. Those all together are our client. Before that our biggest account was an IT consultancy called US Analytics that were here and Oracle, what’s it called, Enterprise Content Management, Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) whatever, planning. That whole platform it’s like SAP oracle that kind of stuff. Their client were Wal-Mart, Higher Resources, they were and then, so, and then before that another IT company.
So we’ve worked for 3 IT companies. I think that works well because they sort of know that their geeks, and they sort of know that they don’t, that they need help communicating. We didn’t mean to do that, we sort of stumbled on that, and then beyond that the next sort of tier of clients are all much smaller businesses. I mean, Fast Signs, like I said is 22 stores, there’s 100 of employees that probably work there. US Analytics was probably 50 employees, 40 something, and below that there’s a whole bunch of companies that have 5 employees and they just need, you know, a web site or whatever.
D: Do you have any target or any idea of who you’d like your clients to be? Any designs on where you’d like to grow your business? What kind of client that might be?
R: Yeah, I do. I always think that I should have a more specific vision of that. What I would like to retire from, I can see what the agency looks like. I’m not sure what clients are going to make us look like. Umm, yeah, the agency that I worked at before, there’s some things that I really liked about and there were some things that I didn’t like about it: It was a small shop, there were 10 or 12 of us, it was fun to work at, it was kinda high stress and turn over, which is not good but it was…
Anyway, I would love to retire from an agency or sell an agency that was like that. 8 or 10 people that had worked with me forever and we know each other and we produce good work for some long standing clients that we don’t have to fight for or have to fight over because sells is – I do all the sells but it’s not the most fun thing to do – so, I can even tell you where our office will be because I’ve got my eye on this space that would be awesome. As far as who gets us there, I think I would like to sorta stick with the B to B market. I don’t think there would be any vertical that I would necessarily want to target. We kinda kicked around – after the 3rd IT company hired us – we looked at each other, “Maybe we’re gonna become the IT, you know, marketers”, and that would be great.
They are awesome to work with, you know. It’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if I answered your question. I think they are gonna be companies, certain companies and the size of them, at least for now, needs to be, those companies that have five employees and just need a website that only has 10 pages on it are not our sweet spots because we can’t be very profitable with those. So we need to be targeting companies that, I don’t know, in terms of revenue, but in terms of employees it needs to be, you know, 10 to 60-70 employees or something like that. Because they have ongoing marketing needs, they don’t just want business cards or brochure and they are done that for quite 5 years. They are gonna be engaged in marketing but small enough that they don’t have any marketing staff. You know, like for instance, one of our clients, they have one girl who is in charge of marketing, and By the way, she is also the office manager, and you know, that’s perfect because she is overload and she is not a marketing expert. It’s just something that the president has given her, “hey, would you make sure the website is not down, or whatever?”
D: In doing so, obviously, you wanna grow that as much as you can, and you wanna retain the customers you have. What are some of the challenges that you’ve found in doing so, in communicating with them clearly? It sounds like email is working very well. Have you run any road block in that process to try communicating with your customers well or in growing?
R: Well, if you mean communicating with them like, you know, sort of “hey, how is everything going on?” Or you know, that’s pretty smooth. Communicating with them when we are actually working with them is completely different. We definitely want to run into road blocks. Mostly, I think mostly it can be traced back to my aptitude with project management. So for the last, I don’t know 2 or 3 years, I’ve known we need it a staff person whose job it was. And again, the model in my head is that agency that I worked for in Dallas and he was a copy writer, he was a speech writer, actually for governor [Name]… So he was cool, and you know, he was the figure head and he wrote the copy and sort of like that. Then he had an XO or whatever it was, that was a bulldog. I mean, she got stuffs down, she made sure we met deadlines, she made sure we billed, you know, she was the project manager. So we need one of them, but, you know, we can’t hire one right now. So anyway, to answer your question, communicating with clients is hardest whenever you have, you know, deadlines, or they are reviewing the work, or you’re trying to get signed off, or…
D: The fact that you mentioned about direct mail and it’s an aptitude at times as far as people picking it up and using it, as an example print, do you use any other print or what other venues do you use to communicate?
R: We don’t do a lot of print, you know, outbound marketing, like that. Like we have done 4 direct mail campaigns in 4 years that we have been in business. So, not very much, yeah I think 4. But we still do a lot of print, and I like print. Like if we get a print job that is relatively small like an invitation or a newsletter or something like that, then I will do it instead of getting Jim, my art director, to do it. Because I think he can do a little higher level work. I like prints, but just nobody wants it, nobody … Unless something like that, something that has to be print. An invitation to [Name] their annual meeting, that is gonna be a print invitation. But it also, you know, is a very small job. So, anyway, I don’t know if that answered your question. We don’t do much print with the purpose of generating sales leads.
D: Sure. This is, it’s been around forever and I am curious about it, phonebook. Do you ever put anything on phonebook?
R: No, one of our very first clients was doing a lot of advertising in phonebook and I told him, he didn’t have any numbers either. I don’t know which book he was advertising in, but he wasn’t tracking, he didn’t have any phone number that was listed that was unique or anything like that. So he didn’t know if any of his customers are coming from the phonebook and the phone company didn’t tell him how many books they print. So I took him to my house, we use our phonebook everyday for my four-year old to sit on as a booster sit. That’s the only use of phonebook in my house. So we sort of canceled that and got him go to some other stuff. You know, unless you’re chasing ambulances or something like that, I don’t think that a good venue.
D: Other than print, you know, web, and twitter, is there any other tools you are using to communicate or to find new clients?
R: To find new clients, we don’t. I mean, so most of them are coming to us from referral of people that I meet. To find new clients for our clients, everybody is asking about social media, so is the twitter, but people are more comfortable with facebook. So we have done quite a bit of that lately. We just gave away an IPad on [Name] facebook page, and I tell you that last year, we have a client which is like our one consumer kind of client. He set up a whole bunch of free rounds of golf. I mean, we had 50 days of free golf, every day with cart, which is…
R: Yeah, are you a golfer?
I: no, but I like it
R: It was a great deal. I mean, I was really impressed. He has the connection with the courses. He set it up, 100 free rounds of golf. Anyway, we got the same amount of traffic, if you figure it that every one of those rounds with cart is worth 40 bucks, easily, if it was worth 50 buck and 100 rounds, that would be $5000, or probably less than that but probably more than $4000. We got the same amount of juice from a $500 IPad as we did from a $4000 of free golf. So, you know, IPads are really hot right now, and social media is hot right now, so we crossed the streams.
D: You are obviously in the business of marketing, and so you are used to communicating, especially for others. But is there anything that you can think of that would help your efforts to communicate or discover new clients? Any tools you wish you had?
R: I wish I had more staff. I don’t know about tools, I wish I had an IPad, but that’s not really for business reasons. It’s because of the cool factor. Um, I can’t think of any tools that… We are not afraid of buying tools either, so we’ve invested in some pretty computers, display for my art director guy, any kind of software that we need, so if there was something like that I really thought we need it, that it would really help, we have bought it by now. So, yeah, that’s good.
D: Do you enjoy what you do?
R: I love it. I hope that it grows to a point that I can do it for the rest of my working life. You know, with small businesses you got ups and downs, and sometimes you think “man! Is this really a long term viable option to do this forever?” but yeah, I love it.
D: I’ve been asking a lot of questions, you know. Iman, what type of questions do you have?
I: Oh, you already covered almost everything but the question is about your challenges in your communication. Any specific challenges you have with your customers, your old customers, or new customers, in terms of attracting and then retention?
R: Well, maybe not with the attracting and then retention. I think something unique to my business which you guys are definitely aware of is walk in the fine line. I told you about the project management, part of that is also kind of communication and walk in the fine line of this, whatever we do for you, needs to reflect your business objectives, needs to reflect your company, your culture. So you have to admit that, Mr. Client. But you are also not the designer. So there is a fine line of “let us be the expert in communicating through word, or design, or through choosing which medium we use, or whatever. Let us be the expert on that.” But we are also not sales leads for hire, we are not gonna take a commission on whatever sales, you know, we don’t close sales. So, you have to be involved. So, that’s the hard, that’s the fine line to walk with: speaking and communicating with clients. And the clients that we have lost, I tell you, there have been two clients who fired us and both times we really tried to find “what did we do wrong? What could we do better? Or what can we learn from this?” So those are not easy things and I thinks a lot of it in both cases, a lot of it came back to walk in that fine line and setting expectations. Do they expect now that we are just an on call “button pusher”, or they are hiring us for our expertise in some area or something like that, or they are just hiring us because they don’t have Photoshop and need somebody to push the button in Photoshop? Because if they are, then eventually, they‘re gonna realize “I shouldn’t have paid this much for just pushing buttons.” You know what I mean? And so, both of those cases I think, you know, came down to something close to that.
We’ve lost other clients but it’s because we did a good job. They just engaged us for one project or whatever. We lose them, but you know, we don’t work for them anymore because we finished their website or we did whatever. But yeah, I think those two that we have lost are speaking about retention and communication; both had to do with that problem of communicating and that fine line and expectations.
D: What’s a typical day for you?
R: I like it that there is not a super typical day. One of the unique things about us right now is my schedule in terms of our kids. Instead of sending our kids to  schools or something like that, specially [Name] now is 4, so when we started, he was 1. Anyway, so Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have kids in the afternoon from 2 o’clock to 5 o’clock, so that 6 hours of my week when I have my kids. So that’s definitely a challenge. I mean it’s hard to run a small business on 40 hours a week but I have only 34 hours a week. So I kind of reorganize some stuff a lot of times but… Anyway, so typical day, Tuesdays and Thursdays are slightly different. Some days, if I have client meetings or, except for you guys that I am wearing jeans, you know I am like all dressed up, and I’m schmoozing, and that kind of thing, and I have to shave that day… But like the other days, again I can wear jeans and I can sit in front of my computer all day and do my work. So those are really, a typical day is one or the other.
D: You have a virtual office obviously, so where are you usually doing most of your work? When you are schmoozing, you probably out that client and or visiting around but, I am curious, where are those places that the work happens?
R: I work here some if I like if I have a meeting or somebody is going to come by, like I will stay here after you guys are living and work a little bit, or I need to do a lot of phone work, because I’m on my cell otherwise and that’s not always the best solution. So, this is what’s better, the landline. So if I have to call a lot of people or something like that I come here. Or if I have meeting, I go wherever the meetings are. One of our clients actually had a cube for me and that was pretty cool. I was on site with them quite a bit each week, so I would go and work at their office. That was a good relationship to have. But yeah, other than that, I’m either at home, which I like to do, because I am next to [Name] so I can do that. But it also is good to be working at home if I’m alone. There’s family there and, you know, you get interrupted. So other than that, the places I am at a lot is actually our church that has a little coffee shop and it’s free Wi-Fi and it’s quieter than Starbucks like I go to Starbucks or some places like that every now and then, but I hang out at that coffee shop and work a lot. It’s one of these places: it’s a coffee shop, or it’s home, or it’s here.
D: Are there any other firms that you are aware of that kind of have the same working arrangement? Is that becoming more common? I’m curious about that.
R: Not firms. I know a plenty of people who work from coffee shop, they don’t have an office. But there usually is just one guy or, you know, a couple of people, which we are. But we just sort of, because of our customers, because we are trying to get bigger accounts and our customers are also a little more corporeity mind set, like when I go to a client’s office and he is wearing tie, I don’t wear ties. Any way, we did that to sort of give that we need to be a little more, a lot of, especially with the web design stuff, and a lot of our customers come to us. It’s not that they don’t have a website it’s that the website was built up by their nephew in the basement or something like that. So they need the impression, at least the impression, that they are not hiring their nephew in the basement but they are hiring an agency.
D: Did we have any other questions?
I: I don’t think so.
D: More importantly, do you have any questions for us? And anything that’s important is fine.
R: What’s the deliverable here on your project? Is it a paper, or…?
D: In our project, Pitney Bows, you may be familiar with them…
D: They are our clients. It’s becoming far more common for anthropologist to actually work for companies. Actually they have an anthropologist who is working at Pitney Bows’ headquarters and she is our contact point.
R: Where is the headquarters?
D: Um, New York, New Jersey, where was she? Up in New England, she didn’t exactly say. But she is on staff there and their team is about innovation and in doing that, in their team she is the only anthropologist part of the group. They are finding processes that are not working well and by doing that, she is trying to understand the human quotient of that. When an anthropologist too gears toward ethnography, can come into a situation, they are keenly aware of the study of how people do things, how they use things, how they interact with things, how that affects them. So if you are a person who is absorbent in that, then you can apply that to problems that are happening, and then you can give recommendation to the company to be able to change processes, organizational hierarchies, anything, you know, or even just a simple tool, how someone uses something, to be able to advise them to improve productivity, or image, or simply change that. So what we’re doing…
R: With (company), I would assume that they pay a lot of attention to the stuff they make.
D: Yes, they do. And also to how their customers, or their potential customers may need new products or how they can change their image. So, she’s on staff doing some of that for their company as well. As far as how our class works with that, I’d say we have twenty-ish in our class?
D: And we’re all broken up into groups and we are meeting with different small businesses to be able to sample how those small businesses communicate best. We’re gonna put that together and give our general report of all of these different disciplines and how they’re communicating as a combined report to our client, in this case, (company), in advising them of all of these things. And also in the informed consent, the data’s all gonna be confidential, and just for them, and it’s totally connected and we’re not sharing with any of your competitors or anything like that. So that data, what were doing, is collecting across a broad range of small businesses.
R: So, just to throw something else out: I have a guy that is sort of my business mentor for lack of a better word, he’s just a guy that has been successful in business, he’s a little older so I bounce ideas off of him. He and I have been talking about this whole deal, he read somewhere, he forwarded me a blog post by Seth Godin years ago, or at least a year ago and it was about organizing customers. So you’re talking about the way people interact in anthropology makes me think of this. So the example was: Godin went to some, his kid or his cousin or somebody’s high school musical, not the show “High School Musical” but a kid in high school, in a musical and they wanted to put on, I think it was “Grease,” and they, but you know, there are licenses or whatever, you can’t just put on “Grease,” so they contacted the license holder in New York or whatever, and they we’re like “yeah, you can buy a license to put on Grease, it’s… do you guys read this blog, so I don’t have to repeat it?
D: No, I haven’t
R: Okay, you know, it’s whatever, it’s a hundred grand or something and they’re like pffft! We’re a high school, are you kidding? So what they did, was they organized a bunch of other high schools in their district, or I don’t know how they found them but they got together a bunch of other theater departments and his schools and then they approached, they went back to the licensors and said: we as a group, would like to license your play, we promise that we’ll follow certain rules like we won’t produce it at the same time maybe or whatever it was, and so altogether we are now the north Texas high school theater, oh wherever it was, and now we’d like to license your play. And, oh, by the way, this means that, like more thousands of kids are going to grow up with that influence in their lives, and it’s gonna be…it’s, you know, it’s good for you, so they got the license. So, Godin’s deal was, that was customers doing for themselves what the vendor, the company, in this case the license holder, wouldn’t do for them. And so, we started chasing this whole rabbit of, isn’t marketing really, like, organizing customers? When you are giving something away on your Facebook page, aren’t you really just getting all those customers’ attention? Getting them in a box, letting them identify with your company or with their common desire to own an iPad, so that you can communicate more effectively with them? It’s all about organizing customers, so that’s been the thing for us lately, and I wonder if that’s, especially since marketing is more and more like two way, I wonder if that’s more how marketing’s going. It’s about organization. So, I had another idea, I’m just rambling…Down that same line, think of all the places that you give away your identity. I mean, I will give away my email address for, you know, I don’t do it as much as I used to. Anyway, they give away your identity so easily, and what if we were a lot more picky about where we give our identity away, and what if we were better organized in terms of, so yeah, I’m sitting in your coffee shop and I wanna get on WiFi, so I’m gonna give you my email address, but what if I went, “No, darnit! I’m gonna go to these other six tables in this coffee shop and we’re gonna ban together and we’re gonna refuse to give you our email addresses until you give us a free latte. On a microscale, what if consumers were more organized like that, and I think that might be a big new theme in marketing.
D: Fascinating, because that creates power.
D: A unique thing about our group, because there are three of us, and sadly one of the other student’s couldn’t be here. She’s an anthropologist, and what we’ve done is half the class is anthropologists and half are designers. Iman is unique that he is a marketing student, the only marketing person in there, and so in our group we have all three: an anthropologist, a designer and a marketer. But it’s also been really fun for me to interact with that and part of what we do and part of what we’re hoping for in an interview and in an interaction like this is also learning how we can give back, and so that…it’s cool to hear these ideas, and so, Iman your background is branding, I mean, a lot of your research is in branding, is that right?
I: Consumer relationship, of consumer feel engaged and attracted to brand and that loyalty, commitment, engagement, everything like satisfaction affect the relationship, the level of investment affects, it’s kind of different models of consumer relationships so that’s my area of interest, no? When you said, “Customers or a group of consumers against the brand, that could be tricky idea of all.
R: Yeah, but what if the, so I’ll give you an example. Yeah, agreed, so it could be contentious, right? It could be the customers against the brand, but what if the brand got ahead of that story and organized for the customers, sort of like on their behalf, so I’ll give you an example that we tried and it didn’t work, so maybe this isn’t a ground breaking idea. So, my mentor guy used to own carwashes. He owned four carwashes, and he sold them all since then. But, most carwashes in your area, the way they market is by coupons. So you get a coupon in the mail, and it says, “Come wash for half off” and the carwash is already only like five bucks, so now they’re selling you a wash for two-fifty, so it’s terrible and it’s not good for them. It devalues their service, and they don’t have a good way to market themselves. So, what he stumbled on, and what he did for most of his carwashes, he started selling unlimited passes. Pay us twenty bucks a month and you can wash your car as much as you want. You can come every day if you want. So, his customers loved it, and they started selling them to their friends. And so that gave him this idea, and that’s energizing the tribe—building evangelists to sell your stuff so you don’t have to sell it.
D: Sure, yeah.
R: So, it was awesome. So he was like, how do we replicate this? What if we just serviced the passes? What if there was a company that just sold the carwash passes? What if we didn’t own a carwash, but we recruit carwashes to participate, to honor this pass, and we also recruit the community to come take part, and the way we do that is, we want to encourage our customers to sell other customers, so you will get a percentage of every pass you sell. If you sell a twenty dollar monthly pass, you get, I forget the way we structured it, but it was like the person who sold it got eighty percent the first month and then like a penny every month after that.
R: And so you can use it for a fundraiser. So instead of washing cars with your scout troop, just go sell carwash passes to your, give you scouts these passes to go sell. Anyway, I thought it was a genius idea, and so that was an example of, if someone was super passionate about getting value for the their carwash, they might organize a community group and go petition their carwash, we want an unlimited pass for twenty bucks, but nobody’s that passionate. Nobody cares that much, but if the company could sort of do that for them and on terms that are still profitable for the company but are you know, sort of win-win, if there is such a thing. So that’s an example that I have of how organizing customers might work. Unfortunately, we did it for a few months with a carwash in Grapevine, and we got up to about a hundred subscribers or something, and things kinda fell apart. We couldn’t get other carwashes to honor it, because they didn’t want to honor a pass that was good elsewhere, no matter how much we promised them we’d make it…anyway. We had a problem with tracking, because…anyway. The devil was in the details. But I still think that whole idea of organizing customers is gonna, now you guys can go write a book about it, and I’ll take all the money.
D: Well, all this stays inside. Any other questions, cause I know it’s a novel thing to use anthropology in business, but it’s far more common that even I had expected. But you can ask about whatever you’d like. We’re here to help, too.
R: So, at the end of this what it’s a semester long?
R: And, what, you go and present you ideas to (company), or you just mail them a paper, or what do you do?
D: Um, their representative, their anthropologist comes down here and we present in person and also present a report.
R: Very cool
D: We’ll hand over the report so they’ll gather that data in understanding small business communications more successfully, and it’s practice for us to do some of the interview, but also to use some of our design, some of our marketing knowledge is and combining what it means.
I: What will happen is we will transcribe interviews, all of them, and then we’ll start coding based on some pattern and some common ideas found in the interviews. So after the coding, we can analyze the data based on some general levels of, okay, what is typical customer? What is like the challenges?
R: Looking for themes?
I: Yeah, and then we categorize them and then we write the report, and if we have some recommendations.
D: One group’s doing a bank, one group’s doing an automotive shop that’s from…
R: And are all of them working with someone from company, like you are from (company)?
D: We’re all working with the same representatives, so she was teleconferenced, “hey, y’all. Go and gather data, this is what we’re trying to learn.”
R: So she doesn’t work with (company), she’s like a consultant.
D: Nope. She works for them. She’s on staff as an anthropologist. The other groups in our class have been finding other businesses, they’re quite diverse. Which actually will be fun to see the cross-section of that data. To see that auto repair shop that started in sixty-eight, and they guy’s founded and still working there, and a bank, and marketing…If there are themes that are consistent across them. That will be a unique thing to discover as we put that data together.
R: Alright, cool.
D: I know there are always students that are doing studies and doing research and ways we can learn, and always looking for companies to partner with if that’s ever something that you’d ever be interested in, there’s always free work that you can have people do for research.
R: Uh, yeah!
D: For whatever it’s worth. It takes effort to do that kind of stuff, I understand, at the same time if there’s a creative endeavor that you would ever think of, I’m sure there are resources that may help.
End of transcript
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Notice the level of detail that was recorded? Don’t skip a single detail when transcribing an interview or focus group. You’ll be happy you have all the words in front of you when you move on to coding and analysis.