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Market Research For FHWA Innovations

Kathleen Bergeron
Marketing Specialist
Highways for LIFE Program

July 22, 2010

PowerPoint Version (447 kb)

Welcome to the webinar sponsored by Highways for LIFE on Market Research for FHWA Innovations. For the next hour and a half we'll be discussing the role FHWA has in the technology and innovation deployment effort. We'll talk about some basic concepts of market research, different sorts of data analysis, some of the new techniques in market research and hear about how one transportation agency has used market research as a tool in decision making.

Slide 1

Market Research for FHWA Innovations

Mia Zmud, NuStats
Overview : Market Research for Hwy Technologies

John Cashmore, VP,Ascendancy Research
What's New in Market Research Techniques

Chris McMahon, Director of Market Research, Mn/DOT
One Agency's Use of Market Research in Transportation Decision-Making

First, let me introduce our speakers. After they've concluded, we will have some time for Q&A, so hold your comments until then. Our first speaker is Mia Zmud. Mia is a director of NuStats, a market research firm headquartered in Austin, Texas. NuStats specializes in market research for the transportation industry, and they have several decades of experience in the field. Most recently, the firm completed work – with Mia as Project Director - on an NCHRP Project entitled, "Putting Customer Research into Practice." The subheading is "Guidelines for Conducting, Reporting, and Using Customer Surveys Related to Highway Maintenance Operations." You may also be familiar with the recently completed NCHRP report Entitled, "Communication Matters – Communicating the Value of Transportation Research." NuStats led the development of that document, as well as the workshop that accompanied it. John Cashmore is vice president of Ascendancy Research, a firm located in Minnesota. His background is primarily in the building materials industry, and he'll give us insight on those new developments we spoke of. Finally, Chris McMahon with the Minnesota DOT will tell us about that agency's market research program and how their commissioner, Tom Sorel – whom many of you know from his days as an FHWA leader –has used market research to ensure that what Mn/DOT delivers is meeting the needs of their citizens.

Slide 2

Typical Use of Market Research
in Highway Agencies

  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys
  • Public Meetings as part of federally-mandated outreach
  • Research Studies to support requested increase in fuel taxes Surveys to help drive decision-making

First, though, let's take a brief overview of how market research, or marketing research as it is sometimes called, is typically used in transportation agencies. One chief use is customer satisfaction surveys. Our agency has, over the past several years, done periodic nationwide traveler opinion and perception surveys to assess customers' hot buttons. Next: Of course, whenever there are federal funds spent on highway projects, public meetings are required. This is a form of market research, although typically not scientific, in that whoever is most vocal often gets the most response. True market research tries to get a true gauge for the feelings of all the targeted audience. And, then, of course, state agencies often use state-wide surveys to show the public's support for voter initiatives and other decision-making elements.

Slide 3

Value of Market Research for Technology Deployment

  • Discovery of previously unknown facts
  • Validation of intuited information
  • Help form methodologies for deployment
  • Aids in decision-making for determining strategies Helps in convincing others of the need for the technology

But what we're looking at today, especially, is the value of market research in the area of getting new technologies and innovations into use. This is an application of market research that many state DOTs would not use as much as we do, because we have a unique role in the highway community. In fact our official mission is to "Improve Mobility of our Nation's Highways Through National Leadership, Innovation and Program Delivery." So what can such market research offer? Well, if you're trying to prepare a marketing or implementation plan for how you will go about pushing an innovation, good market research can provide you with some or all of these: discovery of previously unknown information or validation of things you assumed (or elimination of any false assumptions), it can help you decide how best to go about deploying the technology such as determining what sort of promotional efforts to use. If, for instance, you find that a key decision-maker audience is not very technically focused, such as perhaps CEOs, you may want to develop a short video or one-page flyer that describes the technology in the simplest terms. On the other hand, if you give such a marketing communication piece to someone who IS very technically savvy, you may insult them, or they may laugh at your simplistic approach . And, finally, your market research IN AND OF ITSELF may actually help convince people to use the technology.

Slide 4

Pavement Smoothness Incentives Initiative

"It is clear that the top priority for improving the nation's highways is to focus on the quality of the roadway surface. This is the factor that will most significantly increase public satisfaction with the highway system"

– National Highway User Survey (May, 1996)

Here's an example of how we used the actual market research to convince people of the need for a technology: In 1997, we wanted to get state DOTs to use pavement smoothness incentives similar to what Arizona DOT was using. That is, if contractors on a particular paving project would get the smoothness level of their project to a certain level, the state would pay them an incentive bonus. It worked for Arizona, and we felt it would work for others. But how could we convince the other state DOTs that the public would really care about such things? Well, as it happened, in FHWA's National Highway User Survey completed a year before, one of the findings was that the public is very concerned about rough roads, potholes and the like. And this statement was included in the report summary. Notice: the top item of concern for the public was not safety or the environment…it was pavement conditions. By pointing this quote out to agency leaders and pavement staffs, we made them aware of the seriousness of the situation nationally.

Slide 5
Program # Of Innovations
Highways for LIFE 5
Every Day Counts 14
SHRP2 100

More specifically, our reasons for holding this webinar are understandable when we look at what the future holds. Six years ago, SAFE-TEA-LU legislation set up the Highways for LIFE program to encourage the use of innovations. And we've been specifically pushing five innovations as what we've called Vanguard Technologies. The Every Day Counts program, begun last fall, is currently looking at about 14 different initiatives, and more may be coming in the years to come. And with the next funding authorization, we can anticipate another program, the Second Strategic Highway Research Program, or SHRP2, coming with 100 innovations. Now, I don't mean to panic anyone. This is not to say that each of these 100 SHRP2 innovations are all going to receive the same level of pushing. But it does indicate the trend toward MORE deployment, not less.

Slide 6

The Objective of Market Research

  • "to reduce decision risk by providing management with relevant, timely, and accurate information"

- Marketing: A Managerial Approach

by Cunningham and Cunningham

And one of the key benefits of market research is this: It can reduce decision risk by providing management with relevant, timely, and accurate information. If we realize that each innovative practice or technology we put forward is a commitment of hundreds of hours of staff time and thousands or even millions of dollars, we want our decisions to be based on accurate information, not just what we think may be the case. Too many times, organizations have pressed forward with expensive campaigns based on wrong or not thoroughly researched information, and the results have been disastrous. Examples are easy to find, both in the private and public sectors. Look at the Edsel automobile or New Coke. We really don't want to look back a year from now and say, "Oh, if only such and such hadn't happened, but we just assumed…" We all know the type of risk we take with assumptions. Good, scientifically-based market research can minimize that risk.

Slide 7

"Marketing Research"

"The systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about problems related to the marketing of goods and services."

–American Marketing Association 1960

So, exactly what is market research, or marketing research? Here's the definition from the American Marketing Association in 1960…

Slide 8

"Marketing Research"

"Marketing Research is the use of scientific data methods to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve our understanding of marketing as a process."

–American Marketing Association, 1991

…And here's the definition as of 30 years later, and pretty much where we are today. Basically it's a matter of trying to understand as much as possible about all the aspects that may impact how we can get our targeted audiences to use specific innovations. You might say marketing research is intelligence gathering. And just as reliable intelligence information is critical to a military campaign or to National Defense, reliable market research is critical to an implementation campaign for a technology.

Slide 9

Director, NuStats

But now let's go into more detail on this. Our first speaker is Mia Zmud with NuStats, and she will provide us with an overview of marketing research for highway technologies. Mia…  

Slide 10



Slide 11

More Information



Scott Wolf
Center for Accelerating Innovation

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Updated: 04/04/2011

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration