Who We Are
We provide research on your customers, visitors, or constituents— the people important to your place or place of business. Our roots are in anthropology, the study of people and human behavior. Because of that, our perspective translates your consumers into living, breathing people who make decisions based on complex sets of reasoning resulting in complex sets of behavior. We simplify all this behavior and motivation down to the insights that matter most, so that you can create the marketing strategies that will bring you from good to great.
We offer a spectrum of research solutions depending on your budget, from mining existing data and databases for insights to more in-depth studies including surveys, intercepts, focus groups and forums, online exercises, and more.
We believe in:
Understanding what is fundamentally human and how “human-ness” affects behavior.
The power of research to point direction and transform marketing strategies.
“Structured Curiosity” via the scientific method.
The power of travel and connection with others as healing agents for the social ills of our time.
The power of travel as an economic engine for communities.
Shannon Gray, MA/MBA/TMP
Contact Shannon (615) 925-1304
Shannon was born with a deep curiosity about people and what drives them to do what they do. She fell in love with cultural anthropology, the study of human behavior, after her first college class. Shannon went on to receive her BA in Cultural Anthropology from Eckerd College as well as a dual degree of an MA in Anthropology and an MBA with emphasis on marketing and market research from the University of Colorado at Boulder-Leeds School of Business. These days Shannon is a consumer anthropologist and ethnographer, which means she studies the humans in our current consumer society: their choices and decisions, traits, motivations, relationships, needs, joys, experiences and day to day lives. These insights come in very handy for marketers of all industries, but Shannon has a particular passion for the travel industry and its marketers: destinations, lodging/resorts, visitor services, and attractions.
In 2013 Shannon formed Gray Research Solutions, Inc. With a background in both consumer product/service marketing research and tourism/community research, Shannon has studied thousands of consumers and their patterns. Using this experience, she digs deep into the data to translate research findings into useful and relevant marketing insights for her clients.
Prior to forming Gray Research Solutions, Shannon served as an ethnographic analyst for Context-based Research Group in Baltimore, MD from 2005-2009 where she designed research studies and conducted ethnographic field research for corporate clients in industries including healthcare, consumer packaged goods, retail, transportation, and telecommunications. At Context, she used methodologies such as in-depth interviewing, observation or shadowing, behavior and relationship mapping, and self-expression exercises. Her corporate clients included Kraft, General Mills, T-Mobile, Family Dollar, Merck, Verizon, UPS, and the Associated Press.
From 2009-2013 she served as Director of Research for North Star Destination Strategies in Nashville, TN; a firm specializing in community branding and strategy for places (cities, destinations, regions). There she designed, conducted, and analyzed research to develop marketable and brand-related insights for community and tourism leaders. During her time at North Star, she conducted research on visitors, residents and economic development for over 100 community, county, regional, and state agencies throughout the United States.
Heather Blanchard, TMP/LEC
Contact Heather (678) 665-9812
Heather Blanchard’s early fascination with the who, what, when, where and why of how all things are made and done, were deeply embedded by the time she chose her collegiate pursuits. This curiosity found her selecting Johnson & Wales University, over the University of Florida, where she pursued the then uncommon degree in Culinary Arts. After graduating Magna Cum Laude, her adventurous side was tempted when she was selected by the U.S. Navy’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department to participate in a civilian program that was designed to help better manage military hospitality operations. During her time working with the military, she would apply and strengthen her leadership, marketing and program skills working in Florida, London and Hawaii.
From 1995 to 2005, Heather excelled as a Sr. Director of Client Services at Innotrac Corp where she held full budget and P&L responsibility for 14 clients, representing a growth of 30% to 85% of the company’s revenue. The diversity of her clients included telecommunication giants like BellSouth, to the quickly emerging retail pioneer, Spanx. During her time there she prepared and presented quarterly business reviews that used order processing and fulfillment data to expose unrealized statistical information and introduced process improvements that generated double and triple digit growth of key business objectives.
These opportunities helped direct Heather’s insatiable curiosity into a career path that would lead her to join Shannon and Gray Research Solutions. Having met at the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College, they were teased by some associates for getting caught up in that boring research, “geek speak.” Their mutual passion for the travel industry and its marketers made this a natural fit.
Prior to Gray Research Solutions, Heather served as founder of HeBlanc, LLC a contract services marketing firm. Leading a multi-year development project where she served as the Executive Director for the Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau, she was entrusted to develop, bring to market, aggressively establish and promote the mission of the CVB. During her time there, she was also influential in the city wide branding initiative and a key committee member. Throughout this time and today, she also works as an Internet Assessor for Lionbridge, a best-in-class global marketing and crowd-source solutions company.
Most recently, Heather was awarded her Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification from Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College, a Leadership Excellence Certification (LEC) from Columbus State University’s Leadership Institute and has completed the Georgia Academy for Economic Development.