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Market like a fintech: Customer research and reports: How to do them properly with Gunny Scarfo

Hosted by Araminta Robertson, 'Market like a fintech' is the new podcast for fintech marketing professionals and enthusiasts who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry, and level up their marketing knowledge. Subscribe here to never miss an episode.

Market Like a Fintech with Gunny Scarfo

When’s the last time you read a report?

We don’t mean skim. We mean seriously sat down, and truly thought through the report you were reading.

It’s probably been a while. Very often, we download the white papers, reports and put them in a folder, often never to be opened again.

Why is that?

We all know the answer: because they’re boring. The font is small, the paragraphs are thick and the words are often confusing. Even when you do force yourself to read it, you’re often left more confused than before.

Is this how you want your prospects and customers to feel when they read a report you’ve commissioned? Probably not. But how can we make research interesting? How can we make it engaging, and most importantly, useful?

I’m delighted to talk to Gunny Scarfo from Nonfiction Research today. Nonfiction is a research company that “gleefully violates the norms of traditional research, in a crusade to understand the informal, unfiltered lives of customers”. Their research includes everyone from prisoners, to sex workers, to bankers and the average person, and they’ve worked with brands like Disney and They also recently published a fascinating report on the secret financial lives of Americans.

Araminta's aim with this episode was to explore how Gunny and his team do their research, and most importantly, how they make their reports interesting. Because they are really interesting, and as she mentions in the episode, one of her favourite types of reports to read. Not only that, but their research techniques mean they truly understand customers.

Listen to the show below to learn how to truly understand your customer (hint: not with focus groups), what immersive research really means, and how to make research useful and publish your findings in an interesting way.

It’s scary when you talk to a Bank CEO and a Bank Robber and you walk away from the set of conversations thinking, 'Wow, that Bank Robber, he really understands this stuff.'


Podcast summary:

The problem with modern market research - There are so many things that we feel like research does wrong, and we are constantly struggling not to fall into those potholes. One is, they often are commissioned by companies or industries. And the real problem with that is not so much the bias that you might think of dollars influencing research, it's more that they typically start with pre-existing concepts that make sense in an industry or make sense in a company. But when you go to talk to everyday people about it, they don't even have a reference for that word.

The best format for releasing a research report - I think the game with research nowadays, as with many types of content, is to produce it in ways that people can take it how they want it, but it'll still hit them hard enough so that you're not sacrificing the insights or the emotion that you're looking to produce.

"If something's good, people will take on inconvenient things to do it."


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Market research best practices - Our fundamental belief is the people don't usually open up their souls to market researchers. So our main approach to doing research is to go wherever we need to go in order to find that truth, to find those answers. We do a lot of one on one conversations with people. And we do plenty of quantitative studies at any given book part of what we do. But we do those things alongside more immersive activities where we've been unchaperoned inside of a prison. We built a software programme from scratch to collect public Spotify playlists, to try to understand what insights are in people's Spotify


We've done large studies on intimacy and sexuality. We've talked to everyone from doulas to Special Forces operators to male and female escorts for one of our reports. And the reason we do that stuff, to us, it's not sensational. It's just what you would do if you actually wanted to understand people. And so, at the end of the day, people tell us things that they've never told other people, even our closest friends sometimes. When you're dealing with topics, like money, topics at the heart of FinTech, we need to do that.

"You need to be interested in what makes people buy something, because if not, you're never going to be able to adapt the messaging appropriately."

Oftentimes, when you are looking to understand why people might buy, or why people might not buy for what people might buy, that doesn't yet exist, which is a fair amount of the research we do.

Asking people for stories can be far more powerful than asking for your opinion. So if you want to understand what services or what features of a banking app people might want, you could ask "What features of a banking app do you wish you had", and you will usually get pretty bad responses that you'll get a couple of obvious ones, and then just a bunch of like, people don't know. But what you can ask instead is something along the lines of like, "Tell us a story of when you do know something about your finances, and it caused you embarrassment, or caused you inconvenience". Now, that's a lot less direct. And from those stories, you will be able to figure out what are these features, and they will be things that you never would have imagined.

How to make a report interesting - The first thing that we try to do is we just try to discover something that is emotional and not already talked about, if you just do those two things with your research, you will be in great shape.

For more interesting insights, listen to Gunny's complete interview below.


If you like the show, make sure you subscribe on the platform of your choice and share it with your fellow marketers.

And if you can let us know what you think about it in a review, that would also be awesome and highly appreciated!


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