In 2008, Carolyn Kopf had been around the world—NYC, Boston, Madrid and Tokyo—working at top global agencies like Young & Rubicam, Arnold Communications, and Euro RSCG.
After moving to Atlanta while interviewing during the great recession of 2008, she started consulting. Upon the successful completion of several contracts, she saw the opportunity to establish a company to help businesses extend their expertise and capacity and thus C.E.K. & Partners was established.
C.E.K. & Partners, based in Atlanta is a woman-owned market research, branding and marketing agency that offers the following core services: market research, brand strategy, brand purpose, content marketing, creative design & web development. Today she manages a team of 14 across these core areas.
Today, the company continues to provide expertise and capacity to our clients.
They bring their clients big agency expertise with the heart and soul of a small marketing agency. Their clients are their top priority staffed with senior experts
Connect with Carolyn on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Benefits of conducting market research
- Planning for market research
- When to consider a rebrand for company/product/solution
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this show is going to be a good one. Today on the show, we have Carolyn Kopf with C.E.K and Partners. Welcome, Carolyn.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:00:30] Thank you, Lee. I’m so excited to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:33] Well, I’m excited that you’re here and I’m excited to learn what do folks at C.E.K. and Partners are doing. Share with us a little bit about how you’re serving folks.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:00:42] Yeah. Absolutely. Well, we’re here based in Atlanta as a woman-owned market research, branding, and marketing agency. So, what that means is, we help clients gather data to understand their customers and their marketplace develop brand strategy, and we do content marketing. So, we’ve got a team that supports clients as far as Australia to as close as down the street here in Midtown.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:12] Now, what’s kind of the genesis of the idea? How did you get involved in market research and the work that you’re doing?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:01:19] Sure. Absolutely. I started out on Madison Avenue. So, really, that’s my professional background, is, helping brands better communicate with their customers. And in order to do that, you have to understand them, so market research is a natural fit.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:38] Do you find that organizations are leveraging market research as much as they should?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:01:44] You know, that’s interesting because it’s really a mixed situation. Some companies just can’t get enough of the data and insights about their customers. And others want to skip that step and don’t realize how expensive it is to fail and not have the right information.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:06] So, if you’re an organization that maybe hasn’t leaned into market research enough, can you kind of share the pros and cons of kind of leaning into market research?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:02:15] Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, really, it informs business strategy, so it can really help a company get the right data and information to change their strategic direction and actually put them on the right course versus basing decisions on their gut or opinions. So, again, that leads into avoiding mistakes. Ninety-five percent of new product launches fail, that’s a stat from Harvard Business School. That’s expensive. I mean, product launches are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. And that could be avoided through making a comparatively small investment in market research.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:03:03] And then, I think the third piece is, it really offers credibility. So, if a board asks a marketing team why they made a decision, they can point to data and a real credible rationale versus, “Oh. It felt good” or “We wanted to go this direction.” So, it really offers credibility.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:26] So, now, on that stat of 90 percent of the launches failing, and everybody’s heard about, you know, 80, 90 percent of businesses failing, are those businesses that hadn’t done any market research or are those just businesses in general? So, even if they had done market research, there’s still a high probability of failing. But with market research, you’re kind of increasing your odds of success.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:03:50] With market research, absolutely, you are increasing your odds of success. It’s already challenging enough, to your point, to launch a new product or service. And if you have the right information, you’re going to increase the odds of success.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:09] Now, for some folks, though, they are afraid to take action. And this sounds like something that might make them feel more comfortable taking action because they have more research and statistics that kind of back an action to take. But how do you kind of work with your clients to not use research or kind of doing this research to kind of stall instead of taking an action?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:04:38] That’s a great question, Lee. I think part of it is, you know, research doesn’t have to be time consuming. I mean, we’re talking about a 12 week investment. Whereas, a product launch or repositioning project, that could be 18 months that a company is investing. And if they don’t take that initial 12 weeks to get smart, then they’re wasting 12 months of their time basing it on hunches and opinions, and that’s where the risk is.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:14] Now, is there kind of a right and a wrong way to do research? Like, I could see people feeling confident, like, “Oh, we’re doing research, so then this is going to glean that insight that we need.” But sometimes isn’t it difficult to really ask the right questions so you’re getting the right information so you can make these informed decisions? So, you need to partner with somebody who has kind of been there and done that when it comes to research, not just kind of getting in a room and saying, “Hey, let’s ask these six questions and see what people say.”
Carolyn Kopf: [00:05:46] You know, that’s a really great reminder for our listeners, is that, certainly, asking the right questions matters. The questions you ask are the answers you’re going to get. So, if you’re not asking the right questions, you’re not getting the right answers. So, certainly, we always counsel our clients to definitely identify what do you want to accomplish with your business objectives? And what do you need to learn from research to close your knowledge gap?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:06:19] And then, from there, there’s other areas and pitfalls that those who don’t have research expertise need to avoid. Everything from who participates in the research, do you have the right people involved to answer those questions? Do those people know who’s sponsoring the research? Does that matter? Because if they are a customer, they know that you’re sponsoring the research. They may just agree with everything you’re saying because they want to be polite or respectful.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:07:00] But when you bring in a third party, you can have the research be blind or you provide an objective conversation because the participants aren’t trying to please the moderator or who the survey is sponsored by. So, there’s all sorts of areas to fall down outside of asking the right questions.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:22] Now, even using the phrase market research, is that something that has changed over time? Like, I remember there was a period of time, like, when focus groups and people would come in person in a room, and there would be a moderator, and they’d ask questions in the group. Dynamic would come into play, and that would be a way to glean research. And then, now, you hear so much stuff about polling where people are calling, nobody’s on the phone anymore. So, that’s not really getting the right people to ask any of the questions. And to your point, they could be just saying yes just to get me off the phone so it can be done. How has kind of, you know, research changed over the years? And where are we at today in this regard?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:08:04] Well, certainly, I’ll tell you where we are today, because those are the techniques that are going to matter to our listeners. Really, what we’re seeing, we’re still, unfortunately, navigating wearing masks depending on the market you’re in and these different situations.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:08:25] So, the role of digital and virtual techniques has really advanced in the past five years. We have techniques where, of course, online surveys. You can be anywhere any time of day and complete an online survey, whether you’re on your computer or you’re on your mobile phone. So, those are fantastic and a tried and true technique.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:08:49] Of course, focus groups, that you mentioned, are still a fantastic way to gather information and to complement an online survey. And we’ve got great ways to do that virtually. The platforms that are available, whether it’s Zoom or Proprietary One to bring people together online for focus groups has really taken off in the past two years, as you can imagine.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:09:14] But, of course, there’s other techniques. When you think about social media and how we all may use these different platforms, market research has started to come up with some proprietary tools that look and feel similar to social media, and they’re called bulletin boards, they’re virtual bulletin boards. So, again, people can go in, they can interact with one of our moderators, they can interact with other like-minded participants invited into the research study. So, there are some really great tools out there now that are heavily digital and virtual.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:57] Now, you mentioned that some of the services you provide include rebranding. Are there kind of some signals for a company to pay attention to when it comes to rebranding? Like, just because I’m bored of my brand doesn’t mean my customer is bored of my brand. Can you kind of inform our listeners about that, like when is kind of the time to rebrand or consider rebranding?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:10:23] You know, I’m glad you brought that up because, obviously, research is a critical component to a rebrand. But like you said, how do you know if you need to rebrand? If you answer no to some of these following questions, you probably need to rebrand. Do you know your customer’s current attitudes and behaviors towards your brand and the category of solutions you offer? Another question would be, can you clearly articulate how your brand is special, better, and different from your competitors? If you answer no, you probably need to rebrand to work on that.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:11:03] And then, a third question I’ll share is, do you have a brand story and messaging that effectively connects and engages with your buyers and your prospective buyers? If not, you probably need to rebrand so that you can create that.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:21] So, if I answered in a way that it said, “You know what? Maybe I should be considering rebranding,” is this something that is super hard or is it something that takes, like, a year? What is kind of the steps to a rebrand?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:11:41] Yeah. I think that’s a really important question. And there’s often so many interpretations of a rebrand. So, when we think about a rebrand, we think of it as a complete overhaul. Think about gutting your house and working with an architect on designing new plans and room layouts, that would be a rebrand. Whereas, a brand refresh, you’ll leverage existing brand assets, you know, the colors, the logo. And that would be more similar to updating your kitchen. You’re replacing some countertop tile, backsplash, changing the cabinet colors. So, that would be a brand refresh.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:12:21] If our listeners really need to undertake a true rebrand, they would start with discovery. Getting smart, getting the information they need about understanding the perceptions of their brand, understanding their competitors, and understanding their customers. And then, from there, once they have that intelligence, it’s possible to articulate a brand strategy. Those key components of how are you going to compete? What is your story? What is the messaging that you want to consistently put out into the public realm?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:13:04] Once you have those pieces, you can then work on the step that everyone wants to get to, bringing the brand to life visually with those creative concepts of what will it look like. So, those are really the three core steps to summarize at a very high level.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:22] Because a rebrand isn’t just changing the name, right?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:13:26] That would be a renaming. And, certainly, that can prompt a rebrand, but you can rebrand your company and not change the name. Maybe the rebrand, you change the logo, the look, the feel, the positioning, and the messaging.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:45] So, like Netflix, Netflix was sending you DVDs in the mail and now Netflix is a streaming service. It’s still Netflix, but it’s really a different brand.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:13:56] Yeah. It’s repositioned itself as it now has different offerings that are broader than when we used to get those in our mailbox. Absolutely. That’s a great example.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:09] Now, another service you mentioned was content, and for a lot of folks they think they’re creating content, and they might be, but they may not be creating thought leadership. Can you kind of explain the difference between the two and how you help folks kind of elevate their content into the positioning of thought leadership?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:14:30] Absolutely. I mean, I think what’s important about creating content is, we are in a digital first era. You need to be creating content. And you need to be creating different types of content. Really, you’re developing content and blog posts that are going to support search engine optimization. Ensuring that your brand shows up when someone searches in Google for the types of services or products that you offer. Lead generation content to support moving prospects through that journey. Or, just educating existing customers and the industry through virtual or in-person trade shows.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:15:13] But the difference with content that promotes a product or a solution, it’s very focused on the company. Whereas, when you develop content to establish thought leadership, you may not be referencing directly your own solutions or products. But you’re purely forward thinking and thought provoking to show that you’re looking ahead, whether it’s a couple of years out, you’re focusing on trends and the future landscape. But why should you do this? It’s important to really reinforce that your company is a leader and not just pushing products and solutions. But they’re really looking ahead and understand the industry and category.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:05] Now, when you’re working with your clients in this regard, are the people that are doing this kind of thought leadership, content creation, are they only the leaders or is this something that can permeate the entire organization?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:16:17] Oh, absolutely. This is something that should be for the organization, the leaders. It’s really about positioning the organization. Some organizations may have leadership attribute their name to the content, but it’s not necessary in order to reinforce a company’s position of leadership in their industry.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:42] I would think this is an interesting way for organizations to really keep their employees by positioning them as thought leaders. They’re establishing them as kind of the go-to folks for that area of expertise, which could help keep that employee around the organization longer because they’re helping them become kind of the best them they can be.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:17:05] Absolutely. I think that’s a great reminder that it really positions different individuals as experts while still positioning the company in that role. The other piece is, it’s not just for supporting – certainly, it supports lead generation and business development – but it also validates existing customers and why they’re working with a company of, “Oh, I’m working with them. They know what they’re talking about. They’re the experts.” So, like you said, there’s quite a few ways to leverage this to improve the company.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:41] So, now, in your work, is there a story you can share of maybe doing in the framework of kind of a before and after company that you were working with? They had a challenge. You were able to come in and help them overcome that challenge and then take them to a new level. Obviously, don’t name the name of the organization but explain the problem they had and how you helped them solve it.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:18:04] Yeah. Absolutely. Gosh, I mean, there’s so many examples that it’s hard to choose. But I’ll pick one that is probably a simple and relevant example for today. In supply chain today, there’s really this need to move towards networks that are digitized. So, if a beverage company is moving soda, the supply chain company can say, “Hey, you know what? That truck load is in Atlanta, Georgia. The delivery is happening in a few hours or days, or whatever it might be.”
Carolyn Kopf: [00:18:46] So, when we work with companies that provide that type of technology, it’s often easy to get lost in the text and specs of the type of network, the capabilities, and features for containers, devices, and people to connect and talk to each other, if you will. Instead of elevating to a higher level – which is where we come in – we tell a bigger story. Really positioning for leadership around optimization and sustainability, and helping the company get out of the weeds with the text and specs. So, that’s been a real, wonderful example where we can just elevate a company to reposition them. You know, getting them away from making the containers, making the devices, but that end benefit of optimization and visibility.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:44] And then, working with an agency like yours to take kind of the mundane to them, the day-to-day stuff that they might be taking for granted that they do, and they have a storyteller like you and your team to come behind it and make it real and tangible and visceral, that can make all the difference in an organization.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:20:04] Absolutely. And I think that we talk about – I mean, just how you mentioned earlier – connecting and engaging the employees. I mean, when they have a bigger story of why they’re at the company and what the company is accomplishing, it increases productivity engagement satisfaction as well as clarifies for customers and prospective customers the offering and why organizations should be working with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:34] And it goes full circle back to the research where, when you have clarity of information and knowledge, then you’re able to make better decisions.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:20:45] I think that’s a great way to bring it back to the research. Absolutely. It all starts with getting the information, getting that intelligence to provide the clarity.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:56] Now, what was kind of the impetus for you and your team to get involved with GWBC? Why was it important for you to join their community?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:21:06] Absolutely. Well, you know, we are a woman-owned business, and we have been for – gosh – 12 or 13 years. We just recently completed the exhaustive audit to be properly certified, because we’re seeing more and more Fortune 1000 companies want to work with diverse suppliers. And so, really being part of this community has helped us navigate those conversations and how we can support companies with meeting their objectives while also growing our business and getting our team projects that they’re excited to work on.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:47] Well, Carolyn, congratulations on all the success. If there is a prospect out there or somebody who wants to learn more about your agency or your team or you, is there a website they can go to?
Carolyn Kopf: [00:22:02] Yes. Our website is C as in Cat-E as in Edward-K as in Kite, and that’s partners.com. So, it’s cekpartners.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:14] Well, Carolyn, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Carolyn Kopf: [00:22:20] Thank you so much, Lee. I’ve enjoyed this.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:22] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GWBC Radio.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
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