Vanguard was founded in 1975 by John Bogle as a client-owned mutual fund firm with no outside owners. This revolutionary business model has allowed Vanguard to put their clients first while keeping investment costs down. To this day, Vanguard is a top leader in low-cost investing with over 25 million account holders.
Recently, Fuel Cycle was honored to speak directly with Nicole Granville from Vanguard as she led us through their latest initiative: Market research online communities, or MROCs. An MROC combines qualitative market research with other forms of online data gathering to quickly and easily collect insights from a particular group of customers. MROCs are often comprised of a brand’s top customers who take part in focus groups, surveys, in-depth interviews, and more on a short-term or continual basis. Launching an MROC is no simple task, but it can be done with the proper protocols, as Nicole Granville explains in this customer story spotlight.
Market Research Online Communities at Vanguard | A Customer Story
With a growing need for DIY agile research and quick insights, Vanguard launched its own market research online community, Vanguard Steering Community, with a group of 3,800 retail investors. Participants were incentivized with gift cards, and thus they had 80-90% active participation rates.
In addition to the Steering Community, the investment firm also launched its Advisor Steering Community just last year with 55 investment advisors. Utilizing non-financial incentives, Vanguard could tap into this hard-to-reach audience with personalized e-mail invitations to gather robust insights.
Vanguard let us in on several tips for winning stakeholder support for MROCs:
Offer Non-Financial Incentives
Vanguard quickly discovered that the investors in their Advisor Steering Community were not motivated by financial incentives like gift cards, so they focused instead on non-financial incentives. Non-financial incentives included quarterly charitable donations, ‘first look’ white papers, building an open forum for them and their peers, Q&A’s with thought leaders at Vanguard, and virtual social business events.
Respecting The Processes
The Vanguard team focused on respecting the internal “red tape” to launch its MROC’s successfully. Nicole found that respecting company compliance guidelines, legal guidelines, thinking of all possible risks and challengers helped her and her team gain support from others in the company. The health and reputation of Vanguard are of the utmost importance in their activities.
Build Internal Relationships
Nicole recommended that firms hoping to launch their MROC find advocates or allies along the way to guide them. Keep legal, compliance, and company leaders in the loop as you build your community. Remember that everyone in the company has the same goal, so focus on finding common ground with outside departments instead of fighting against them.
In addition to finding allies, it’s crucial to keep communication lines open at all times with internal departments, sales teams in particular. Sales teams depend on their relationship with advisors, so Nicole and her crew maintained communication with the sales department to ensure that their MROC was positive for all involved. Understanding and respecting the concerns of those who will utilize the insights you capture is vital.
Know Your Non-Negotiables
Lastly, Nicole emphasizes that those running MROCs need to draw a proverbial line in the sand to research goals. Vanguard chose to reserve the investors’ anonymity while sharing as much information as possible with sales and stakeholders. They wanted participants to feel safe to provide feedback. High-level demographic information was provided to teams.
Launching MROCs for Your Brand
This customer story from Vanguard is beneficial for other brands looking to launch their own MROC. You can hear more from Nicole at Vanguard by watching our webinar.
If you’re ready to launch your own MROC, check out Fuel Cycle’s FCX Marketplace. With community functions that allow you to continuously conduct customer research, FCX Marketplace is your one-stop shop for a complete research toolkit.