Small Biz Spotlight

Hootology founder Stefanie Francis blazes a new trail with market research

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By Jessie Wagoner

Stefanie Francis prides herself on her ability to ask, ‘How can this be done better?’ As an answer to the question, Francis founded Hootology, an innovative market research firm.

Reimagining Market Research

Hootology is a merger of all of the passions which have motivated Francis throughout her career—quantitative analytics, creativity, fan/consumer experience and innovation. As founder and lead innovator for Hootology, she is blazing a trail with a new approach to market research. Gone are the days of secretive product research and lengthy phone interviews. This new approach entails a marrying of sound research principles and technology and is more holistic than ever before.

“When market research first began to take shape it was during the Mad Men era,” Francis said. “That was the time focus groups and phone research came to life. As society as a whole has evolved, research still remained entrenched in those standard practices and details that were important in that day and age.”

Traditionally, focus groups were shrouded in secrecy. Hootology focuses on removing the veil and analyzing the consumer experience. Rather than placing consumers in a private, sterile room and peppering them with questions, the Hootology team uses leading-edge technology and experiences to gauge perception and connection. For example, rather than asking people what they remember seeing at an event, Francis and her team use eye-tracking software which allows them to know exactly when people are motivated to do something on their mobile phones or when individuals look at certain elements.

“We create an experience around the information being gathered,” Francis said. “We bring in elements which make it an experience for the people who participate in our research, or it might be using AI in conjunction with a qualitative virtual discussion in a way that can get to the depth of loyalty quicker and in a more engaging way than an online survey. We are maximizing technology which exists to be able to gather better information.”

Understanding the Consumer Mind

Hootology differs from other market research firms in that it brings in deep psychological knowledge as well. The research is designed to assess the loyalty drivers of consumers—developing an understanding of what makes people loyal to certain products or services in ways that create lasting, long-term relationships. Once all the quantitative data is gathered and analyzed, Hootology’s work has just begun.

“We aren’t just dropping off a report,” Francis said. “We stay involved to facilitate the creation of strategic decisions that come out of the information gathered. We are here to bring their stakeholders together to brainstorm, to creatively come up with ideas and strategies they can use and execute based on the information.”

Innovation Through Teamwork

Francis says developing and maintaining a successful business isn’t something she does alone. The six-person team making up Hootology motivates Francis each day to strive harder and continuously ask, “how can this be done better?”.

“I believe so wholeheartedly in what we are doing but also at the top of the list is our team,” Francis said. “My two business partners and beyond are wholeheartedly invested, too, and I care so much about them. I want to succeed not just for myself but for all of us.”

Partnering with organizations like NGLCC has also proved beneficial for Hootology. The company is a certified LGBT Business Enterprise through NGLCC. She has found the networking opportunities and support offered through the organization especially helpful.

In one short year, Hootology accelerated the pace on their journey to realizing their goals with the help of NGLCC. “We are very grateful for NGLCC,” Francis said.

With their first year in business wrapped, the team at Hootology is looking towards the future. The company is in the process of applying for WBENC certification to further expand their available network and resources. Francis plans to continue building a steady and consistent client base and innovating the industry. She will continue asking the question, ‘how can this be done better,’ and working to find the answers.

For more information about Hootology, visit hootology.com.

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