Taking your business to the next course of action does not just happen on a whim. You first need to research, gather data, and find support whether or not what you’re planning is the right step to take. Paul Higgins’ guest for this episode is all about doing market research. He has over Lisa Genovese, the President of BottomLine—a marketing research company helping clients move their business forward. Here, Lisa shares how marketing research made her company what it is now, taking us inside what they are doing, the processes they follow, and the working environment. Plus, she then talks about the importance of marketing research, why being told your baby’s ugly is a good thing, how you can conduct it without the complexity and high costs, and who best to talk to among your clients to validate the hypothesis, the bottom line.
Validating Your BottomLine: Growing Through Market Research With Lisa Genovese
Build Live Give. Mentoring with Paul Higgins
Our guest is someone who started working for herself and then did some marketing for Mathletics, which is a great Australian company. Why I mentioned it is she loved the market research part of it so much, she decided to double-down on that. Now, she runs her own award-winning agency. It is based in Canada but it does service throughout the world. Why being told your baby is ugly is a good thing? How you can do market research without all the complexity and high costs? Who is best to talk to your current and past clients to validate the hypothesis? Over to Lisa Genovese from BottomLine.
Welcome, Lisa Genovese from BottomLine to the show. It’s great to have you here.
I’m excited to be here, Paul. Thank you.
There’s a fantastic coffee brand here in Australia called Genovese. I didn’t drink coffee. My wife loves that coffee and I love pronouncing that. It’s great to have you here. I’m excited. We’ve had wonderful conversations in the past and it’ll be no different for everyone. Why don’t we kick off with something that your family or friends know about you that we may not?
This is a funny one but most people in my business life describe me as extroverted. My friends and my family know that I am an introverted person. I’m a bit of an ambivert. I can be extroverted when I need to be. In my natural state, I like my alone time.
I hear that from a lot of people, and it’s great that you can describe that. It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t describe it that way. For you, being an introvert that acts like an extrovert at work, does that mean that when you get home you collapse like you’re tired? Is it something that you got used to doing?
I have my days where I come home and I collapse, but I have done quite a bit of work with my coach around how to preserve my energy in the day and also setting myself some breaks to recharge so I’m not getting to the end of my day and coming home being fried. I’d love to pretend that I have that right down to a science, I don’t. I have a couple of tools in my toolbelt to help me deal with it anyway.
For me, I have a nap every day. I’m a lot older than you. I do seven minutes of meditation and a 30-minute nap every day. It completely regenerates me and rejuvenates me. It is magical. If you watch that famous George Costanza who sleeps under the desk or a bed if you’re working from home is better, but I highly recommend it. You’ve started your business, gone and worked for another business, and then effectively you’ve continued to grow this great agency BottomLine. Tell us a little bit about that journey.
I often get asked, “How the heck did you get into doing what you do now?” It’s funny because I didn’t start there. At the beginning of my career, I worked with children with learning disabilities. I had a business that helped write the right PTs for school. We did tutoring programs, summer camp programs, etc. What I learned about myself through that is although I loved working with the kids, I always gravitated back towards the business marketing research components of it. Eventually, I sold that company to one of my employees. I went back to school and I took more Business in Marketing. Fresh out of school, I took a job with an agency that did marketing for IT and MSP firms.
It was there that I got the opportunity to learn why the research was important. It was interesting. As a company, they didn’t have that philosophy. They take what the client has to say verbatim and launch their campaigns from that. I was always like, “Why don’t we dig into that a little bit more and make sure that’s the right thing for their business?” By the time we left there, they had changed their approach to be much more research first, which was a big win for me. I left and I started BottomLine. I did some work with Mathletics out of Australia. When they were first launching their brand in Canada to the external world, I was their marketing director but it was BottomLine gig.
It was a variety of different activities. Funny enough, not a ton on the research side. As we grew as a firm, it became evident that the research first approach was what made us very different. We were not afraid to challenge a client on the way they wanted to approach things and say the way that things have always been done. That’s why your business isn’t growing or things aren’t happening the way you want them to and change needed. We need data to support that recommendation as to what it is you should do next. That’s the short version of how I got to where I am now.
You talked about a coach that’s helping you at the moment. Other than the coach now, who also supported you through this trajectory?
Many people. I’ve worked with several coaches in my past. I also worked with many consultants. I’m very blessed to have such a great support network at home. I have a wonderful husband who is also an entrepreneur but is incredibly supportive. I’m blessed to have great people, both in my personal and work life that’s a call away. I joined WPO, Women Presidents’ Organization, and that has been a great support network of other women who get it. They’re at a similar level of business with the same challenges. That has been a great place for me to go when I need some extra help. Bouncing new ideas and seeing other ways of doing things has helped me.
Do you think there’s a correlation between your love of research and your love of doing the same of you which is open to getting support? If you’ve had several coaches as you’ve got one now, you’ve got a great support group now with WPO. Is that something that is in your DNA to seek that support?
That’s an interesting correlation that I truly never thought of. I’ve always correlated it back to one of my core personal values which also happens to be the BottomLine company value but such a point is leadership. I have always found that by nature, I will go to seek out another leader who may have forged that path before to learn from them. I never did make that to connect those dots between that and research. You’re right that makes a ton of sense.
Tell us a little bit about how WPO operates.
They are a global organization and it’s obviously females only. There’s a revenue requirement, an application, and an interview process to be able to join. Every month, we have a chapter meeting. Everybody gives a brief update on the state of affairs in our personal and business life. We have to update on our commitment from the month prior. The latter half of the meeting, which is my most favorite is where we experience sharing learning where a couple of topics are pulled out of the challenges. The group asks clarifying questions about the issue, and then everybody shares an experience around the issue if they can for that person to learn from. I can’t say enough good things. I have walked into that room with a major challenge in my business and often, walk out with here’s what I’m going to do next. Knowing that I have a great group of people behind me to cheer me on and catch me if it doesn’t work out or catch me if I fall.
It sounds similar to EO, Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I suppose the obvious question is why was it important to do female-only versus mixed-gender?
I did look at EO, the requirements are the same, and the format is similar. The key distinction between the two is WPO has paid facilitators, whereas EO forums are self-facilitated by group, which is fine. I certainly found more value in having that paid facilitator come, be prepared, and well facilitate the meeting. The other reason for me wasn’t necessarily the choice around gender. It was more around the values fit. I have many friends who are members of EO and they love it. I visited a couple of times and, for lack of better words, I didn’t feel like I belonged. It wasn’t that the people were bad or the format was wrong. It wasn’t quite right for me.
I was a member of a private peer group that was self-facilitated years ago. That was mixed gender. I got a ton out of it. There is so much value in hearing male and female views. For me, it wasn’t necessarily the gender piece. It was more of the fit. I will say after being part of WPO, I share things in my chapter meetings that I may not if it was mixed gender, if I’m being honest. It’s very much a cone of silence in a safe place. If I need to cry in my meeting, I cry. That’s the way it goes. Whereas if it was mixed-gender, I may hold back a little bit if I’m being honest about it.
The next section is the Build section, and we all want to hear more about the BottomLine. When someone says to you, “Lisa, what do you do and how do you add value?” how do you answer that?
In terms of what do I do, I make jokes about this but there is some truth to it. I get to go in and tell companies that their baby is ugly all day long. The good part about that is people are like, “Why do you enjoy that?” The reality is that we can identify what isn’t working. We can then also use that information to identify what will work. That is where the excitement for me comes in. I’m telling you your baby is ugly, we’ve identified that, and now we can figure out how to fix the problem. If I can help you get from A to B and reach that goal, that’s where the exciting stuff comes in.
We talked about market research. What do you know about market research that many others miss?
It’s not what others miss more than it is my philosophy on research and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Many firms make market research out to be this big, scary thing. You need to have procedures and protocols for running focus groups, and interviews have to be done in a certain way. At the end of the day, they’re a conversation. They’re a conversation to gather information to get to some hypothesis or an outcome.
I often will talk to small businesses about research and they give me this deer in the headlights look of, “You want us to do research?” It’s going to cost bajillion dollars and it’s going to be complex and take forever. My simple answer is either you’re going to do the research yourself, go, and have some conversations with your customers. It doesn’t have to be hard and complicated. Instead of doing all the talking, do more of the listening and that’s where you’re going to get something valuable out of it.
I spent eighteen years at Coca-Cola, and I spent most of that on the bottler side. It was the franchisee side versus the franchisor. They were brilliant at research and market research. Most of that was external firms like you providing services into the business. Anything we’re going to do with the brain had to start with a consumer in mind first. It was often identifying a hypothesis that this is an opportunity and then validating it with the research.
I must admit, as a small business owner myself, I’ve left that. That was one of the great learnings I got from the Coca-Cola company, but I haven’t applied it. What’s your advice for someone like me and everyone else that may have had a good corporate background and understand market research but having pride in their own business? You hinted a little bit at it but take us a little bit further into someone like myself running a service-based business. How can we better do some market research?
The simple answer is to pick a couple of key areas that you think are not working well in your business or where you’d like to improve. Get to that hypothesis of why you think that may be happening and then go, “Is this that I need to do some further competitive analysis? Is this that I need to understand my customer needs better?” Narrow it down to what’s the answer that I need in order to answer this question or this problem that I have. Back to keep it simple. If it is understanding what’s going on for your customer, book a couple of phone calls and Zoom meetings with your best customers and ask them what they love about working with you? What do they hate about working with you? Take the feedback on the chin, if it’s the feedback that you don’t necessarily want to hear.Instead of doing all the talking, do more of the listening. That's where you're going to get something valuable. Click To Tweet
This is the most important thing. Once you’ve come to that answer of, “This was very evident that this is how my customers feel or this is what the issue is,” make sure you do something about it. Nothing is going to upset your audience more than asking for their feedback and then never doing anything with that feedback. That’s where I see many businesses get stuck in the research conundrum is that they’ll go out and do research. They either don’t know what to do with it or they might know what to do with it but they don’t do anything with it. It’s such a missed opportunity.
Let’s dive a little bit into some of those because the framework is great. Often people say, “Will a customer say what they think to me?” You say, “Go to your best customers, love their hype.” We’ve got good relationships with these people. They don’t want to offend us. They don’t want to tell me that my baby is ugly. What’s your view on that? Is it best that the owner asks the questions or someone independent to ask the questions?
It’s always better if it’s a third-party. They’re going to tell more to a third party than they are to you because you’re right there, they aren’t going to want to hurt your feelings. If you’re finding that you’re getting up against this place where I can see they’re sugarcoating it, then be bold and go talk to some past customers, the ones that have fired you, that have already expressed their displeasure with working with you. I don’t care who it is. In business, we all have somebody that’s moved on for whatever reason. That is where you can get a ton of information from. You’re not going to have that filter of sugarcoating that happens from your best customers.
A customer popped into my mind. I had a customer on my mentoring program and he said, “It’s confusing for me. You’re getting me to do all this extra work I don’t want to do.” I took it personally. It was like he told me my baby is ugly. I take pride in what I do, but every time that I make the improvements that he told me about, I send him a note and say, “I appreciate your feedback and this is what I’m doing about it.”
I never tried to win him back as a client but that feedback loop to tell, I found it hard to take, but because it’s your business, your heart and soul are in it but you’ve got to where you can be as objective. I love the thing that you’ve got to do something about it. Does the third-party have to be someone like yourself, Lisa, within your team with incredible experience? Can you get someone else in your team to do it as long as it’s not the owner? What’s your view on that?
Self-serving is for me to say, “It’s got to be an expert.” For sure, you’re going to get an added level of value with an expert simply because they’ve been there. They’ve done that, got that T-shirt, and they know the steps to be taken. However, it doesn’t have to be an expert. It could be an unbiased third-party. Even if it’s somebody within your company that isn’t that client’s account manager or doesn’t have direct day-to-day interaction with that client, that would be better than the person who talks to them day-in and day-out to ask for that feedback. The other way to look at it is to do an anonymous survey. Those are tough. The data that you get out of them is mediocre but it will at least tell you something. That would be my advice. At the very least, find somebody that doesn’t have that day-to-day interaction to have the conversation.
What about a mix of quantitative and qualitative? There’s a lot of desktop research that you can do on new competitors. This is qualitative. Is there a mix? Give us your thoughts on that.
My particular approach with research and everybody has their own way of thinking about it, I personally prefer to start with secondary analysis. Come to a hypothesis and then validate with primary. I have lots of colleagues in the industry who do the flip of that. That’s my way of approaching it. When looking at how much quant versus qual, it depends on the answer you’re going after. It depends on the challenge because, in some respects, the secondary is all you need to answer the question sometimes. There are a lot of research firms that are going to sell you a big fancy but primary research project that might not be needed to answer the question that you have.
We’ve talked about what a service-based business owner, seven-figure, that’s effectively who’s reading. What about your ideal client? That’s not necessarily your ideal client. Who are the people you love to work with?
The answer is a mid-sized, some smallest in revenues, a couple of million in revenue, large physical $300 million in revenue but they’re fast-growing. It’s that growth mindset piece. That’s the clear differentiator for us. It’s clients that are willing to hear that the way that they’re doing things needed to change and if they’re open to change. It’s usually the growth mindset that makes them open to hearing reason on why things may need to change. We’re industry agnostic. We have worked with, you name it, we’ve done a project in that particular market vertical. It’s the size of the client mindset that is a differentiator for us.
You don’t have to mention the name of the company, but if you want, you can bet like a $2 million company. If you take a quick example of what research you did and what was the result that came out of it.
I can think of many. One that’s coming to my mind is an interesting project. We have a natural energy drink company that we do work with. They originated in Europe. They wanted to launch first in the Canadian market and then into the US market. They did an impact assessment with us which is our first initial market research and strap planning that we do with our clients. One of the biggest things that came out of the research was two things. One, the pricing was completely off for the Canadian market, and two, the drink itself was never going to sell here because it wasn’t sweet enough. It was too bitter. Sometimes, research doesn’t necessarily have to mean do we run Facebook Ads?
That could be part of it. People forget that does the product meet up with who is going to buy that end product and are they even going to like it? One of my most favorite examples of that is when Harley Davidson built the $30,000 or $20,000 Harley. It was because it was identified that if they want to go after that younger demographic, they need to build a cheaper bike. Simple as that. That’s one of my most favorite examples. That fast forward a few years and they’ve now launched right across Canada and the US. It’s been a tremendous success but they had to change the whole formulation before we could go to market with them.
Having worked at Coke, I’ve got many examples that I’d give you. One was we had a subsidiary that I was head of marketing. I was in ice cream that was fruit only. The proposition sounded fantastic. The product tasted great. The whole business was behind the launch. This thing is going to turn the business around. I said, “We need to get some consumer research. Let’s practice what the Coke Company.” This is a subsidiary not under the Coke brand. Sure enough, consumers came back and said, “We don’t understand this proposition. It’s not going to work.” I had to front the board and say, “Here’s the independent research.” They’re saying no. They said, “We don’t care about the research.” That led me to realize that wasn’t the company for me to be. Market research changed my career and I wouldn’t be talking to you without it. That’s the parallel. A couple of quick questions before we move into the Live section. Who does all the sales within your business?
Funny enough, we don’t do a lot of cold outreach. We have grown primarily by referral and the limited business development efforts that we do our me. That’s the one role I still have and the day-to-day in the business. We do have one gentleman who helps me with basic. I hate the word prospecting but we’ll call it identifying companies that we don’t work with and would like to and help them facilitate a conversation. Those are far and few between. For the most part, I’m busy talking to clients that say, “We saw you did this for X, Y, Z company. Could you do that for us?”
Has that changed at all during COVID? The people I’m working with have dried up their referral sources with COVID and they’re looking at making sure that they’ve got other avenues for leads. What about you? Have you seen a change in it?
I have, to be honest, but in the opposite direction. We have many companies banging on our door right now saying, “Everything has changed with COVID and we don’t even know what way is up. Can you help us figure out what to do next?” I’m getting a phone call from somebody saying, “I sit on this board. This company is struggling. We do not know what to do. Can you come in?” They often jokingly say work your magic. I don’t think it’s magic, it’s science. It’s been the opposite for us. We have been so busy this 2020. We’ve truthfully had trouble staffing up fast enough more than the opposite.
What I have found that’s been nice to see is back to that support network. People that knew that we existed but hadn’t worked with us in the past, hadn’t checked this out or had a conversation are now starting to do that. I’m seeing businesses that weren’t referring to us before are now. I don’t have a good answer as to the why yet, I haven’t had time to dig into the why. We’ve seen the opposite. It’s been a great year for us.
The classic case is that the cream rises to the top and that’s happening for you. Before we go into the Live section, I’d like to talk about our assessment to help you work out if you’re going to have a high or low seven-figure business in 2021. Go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/assessment and answer the fifteen questions in less than three minutes. Based on your results, you either get a free 45-minute strategy where I’ll walk through a clear plan and it is a strategy call. It’s not a sales call, it’s a strategy call. For those that are at the top of their results, you’ve got a great result, I’d love for you to come on and share your success and your story like Lisa is. The next section is Live, Lisa. I’m reminding everyone that we are here with Lisa Genovese. You can find out more about her at WeAreBottomLine.com. For you, what are some daily habits to make you successful?
It’s small things but I couldn’t live without them. Number one thing a few years ago, I stopped sleeping with my phone in my bedroom. When I’m done of the day, it now lives in my home office. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. The other big one is when I wake up in the morning, making sure that the first thing I am not doing is running and checking my phone. It was a bit of a morning routine that I get up. I have to do my hygiene, have my shower, have breakfast with my husband, then I’m going and checking my phone before and starting work. I made that shift several years ago and one of the best things that I’ve ever done because I would sleep with my phone beside my head.
It was the last thing I look at the end of my day and the first thing I look at in the morning, which is unhealthy. The other big thing that I try to do is before you go to bed every night, write down or think of a shortlist of what was I grateful for from the day. It sounds cheesy and it’s woo-woo but that positive focus exercise for me. I sleep better, wake up more refreshed, and it also helps me celebrate. I’m great at celebrating wins. I’m this methodical person where it’s like, “That was the target we were supposed to hit. That’s great. Onto the next thing.” I’ve tried to work on when we do hit a milestone like, “That’s awesome. Let’s celebrate why that’s great,” instead of, “What’s the next thing?” Those are three small things that I try to do on a regular basis.
You spoke about Corey before in the support. What would you like to say to him about the support he’s given you?
I’m grateful for all the times that you’ve listened to me and told me that it’s going to work out after I’ve had a bad day or something crappy happening. Reminding me that, “You can do this, don’t give up.” There were many times I wanted to give up. At the end of the day, knowing that whatever happens, he’s always going to be there for me and there’s no judgment passed. That’s the other big thing. I have that safe space at home with that extrovert-introvert piece. I don’t feel like I have to make any excuses at the end of my day if I’ve had a tough one and I need to be by myself. We have that unwritten rule that if I need to recharge, I do it. There are no questions asked then. I’m grateful to have that in our relationship. I don’t have to put on a brave face at home. I thank him for that.Entrepreneurship and small businesses, especially in Canada, are the backbone of our economy. Click To Tweet
The next is the Give section. What charity or community are you passionate about and why?
I certainly do a lot of volunteer work on the personal side but I will say that one of the things I’m most passionate about is helping other entrepreneurs. I’m part of many different startup incubators. I am a mentor in the Alberta IoT Center of Excellence Fast Track Program. I love being able to share my journey and what I’ve learned along the way. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m not perfect but at least I’ll be able to save someone else from making the same mistake that I did years ago that I’m passionate about. I believe that entrepreneurship and small businesses, especially in Canada, are the backbone of our economy. Being able to give that support back as I got it through my career, that’s huge.
That’s why we’ve got you here on the show called Build, Live, Give. It’s a beautiful example of that. I give all the proceeds of my book called Build, Live, Give and a portion of my revenue to The Purple House. You can go to PurpleHouse.org.au to find out more. The last section is the Rapid Response section. I’ll ask you a couple of questions and get some rapid-fire responses. The first one is what are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
Everyone that’s busy needs an admin. I would die without my EA. The other one is time management and making sure that you are scheduling everything out. It doesn’t get done if it doesn’t go into your calendar and focus on one thing at a time. If there is something in your calendar that you were supposed to be doing at that time, but the phone and the emails away, and focus on that one thing. Get it off your plate then move on to the next thing. I used to be the queen of trying to multitask and no one can multitask. I don’t care what they say.
Not for something, that’s complicated anyway. What tech is essential for running your business?
We use Wrike for our project management software. I couldn’t live without that program. Slack for communication is big. There’s a whole slew of another tech we use depending on the project. Fun fact and I can’t talk too much about it, but we’re in the process of building out some AI that would help us with a secondary analysis side. There should be some new things and tools to add to our tool belt here coming in 2021.
Someone that runs a market research agency might be hard for you to answer this. What’s your best source of new ideas?
Honestly, that comes from many different places but I personally get my inspiration from a group discussion and group collaboration. We do what we call internal brainstorming every two weeks. It is like an open forum where everybody is expected to bring a project that they’re working on to the table. We brainstorm ideas on challenges, creative, you name it. That’s where not only do I feel like my best ideas come from but where I get energy from as well.
The last question is the big question. I’ll leave it to the end for that reason. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
Back to the small businesses, the backbone of our economy, and that is in most countries, I want to be able to leave a legacy of better businesses. People that have been able to reach their goals, achieve what their wildest dreams are, and be able to look back one day at the end of my career and say, “I helped them do that.” Not to take the credit for it, but more so the pride in helping them reach something special or important to them. That is what is important to me in my career.
It’s been great having you on the show, Lisa. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and knowledge. For everyone, Lisa is a great person to talk to. I’ve been lucky to have a couple of conversations and her knowledge in this space is second to none. That’s why she’s getting many referrals even in the time of COVID. You can find out more about Lisa on her LinkedIn profile. You can find out more about her at BottomLine.com. It’s wonderful having you on, Lisa. Thanks for putting a smile on my face and for everyone too.
Thank you, Paul, for having me. This was wonderful.
Thank you. Bye.
I love talking to Lisa. It’s such great wisdom but she’s a lovely person as well. Market research is not for the big guys. That’s the biggest thing I took out of it. What is your biggest takeaway from Lisa and her interview? Please share on your socials mentioning Lisa and BottomLine. She will love you for it. To find out more about BottomLine, go to WeAreBottomLine.com. If you believe someone would also benefit from the show, please share it with them. They will love you for it. Fill out the assessment to know if you will have a high or low seven-figure business in 2021. Go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/assessment. Please take action to build, live, and give.
- Women Presidents’ Organization
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- Alberta IoT Center of Excellence Fast Track Program
- Build, Live, Give
- LinkedIn – Lisa Genovese
About Lisa Genovese
As President of BottomLine, Lisa Genovese supports Challenger Brands to evolve their business, creating more impact on the world around them. For Lisa, advancing a business requires more than a surface-level strategy. This is why Lisa and her team hyper-focus on their unique Impact Assessment process to uncover key insights, and help clients see what others may not. BottomLine’s global team helps clients implement kick-ass strategies centered on strong market research insights that consistently improve conversion rates, increase sales, and profit margins.
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