Thursday, November 15, 2012

TMRE Day 3: Storytelling, Creating a Research Brand, and Beer

TMRE graciously allowed me to be one of the "official" bloggers/tweeters from TMRE 2012 in Boca Raton this week! The daily recaps posted here are also over at the TMRE blog

Well folks, we've made it to the end of another TMRE! I hope you all had a great time and took away some great learnings from the conference, I know I did. Two key themes I noticed today in the keynotes and breakout sessions: storytelling and actionable take-aways.

Without further ado, here’s the recap from the third and final day of TMRE:

One of the key themes of the conference, storytelling, was showcased to full effect by the first keynote speaker, Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars and Co-Founder and Creative Director at Free Range Studios. Sachs feels we’re headed into a “digitoral” era - oral tradition by way of digital communication and connection. In this new era of storytelling, it will be important for brands to be able to easily and clearly describe what values the brand is aligned with…not just the features your product has...and market research can clearly help in that discovery process.

Keeping with the theme of storytelling, the first session I attended was PepsiCo’s Sara Bergson presenting “The Art of Storytelling: Getting Traction and Action.” Bergson highlighted the issue that pretty much every TMRE attendee has: how do you get your ideas across in the current business climate of short attention spans, constant interruptions, and increased complexity?

Bergson shared some great, actionable ideas about reporting the data by way of storytelling; stories can simplify complexity. Utilizing the traditional story structure (set the scene ->begin the journey->encounter obstacle->deliver resolution) Bergson creates a 1-page storyline and ghost decks (5 minute presentation, 10 minute, 30 minute and so on) at the beginning of a project which helps to create structure for the research delivery. She also brought up a theme I heard throughout the day – branding your research projects with a name, a logo, a template. This is inspiring to the research team and helps brand the department internally.

Key takeaway: “You can make ‘big thump decks’ and ‘little thump decks,’ but can you get your ideas across in one page?”

Next up was a session co-presented by Katy Mogul of Logitech and Jason Kramer of VitalFindings: “Bringing Research to Life Through Collaborative, Engaging, And Inspiring Work Sessions.” As you can tell from the title, this session focused on utilizing workshops to really bring the research to life for your internal clients: marketing, engineering/R&D, senior executives, and so on.  Kramer highlighted that workshops can unlock that highest level of learning: read, analyze, SYNTHESIZE. The session focused on using workshops during different phases of the project lifecycle: before research begins, between research phases, and after research is complete. Mogul then shared several case studies of how Logitech used workshops for product ideation and engaging R&D.

Key takeaway: Workshops can be utilized throughout the research process to engage your internal clients and go ‘beyond the PowerPoint.’

Genius moves by the presenters? Bringing the persona boards and staging them throughout the room, and providing a laminated deck of workshop cards with instructions as to how to run each type of workshop they discussed.

Finally, it was time to listen in on Florence Guesnet of Heineken’s presentation on “The Toughness of Soft Skills.” If the title is a bit vague, here’s the gist – the presentation was about building and branding the market research department within a large organization (240 total brands!).  Guesnet’s challenge was “applying marketing to the market research function, something we [researchers] are amazingly lousy at.”

She created a research brand within the company by clearly defining their key foci (foresight, intelligence, excellence, impactful talent), their selling line: “We Know, We Share, We Inspire,” and by building awareness throughout the company with impactful imagery, creative reporting, and relevant take-aways. Throughout the presentation, Guesnet brought the focus back to the internal customer, and highlighting that it’s “not good enough to be right,” you also have to address System 1 and System 2, and be able to deliver “what’s in it for them [senior management].”

Key takeaway: Treat the market research function as a brand and don’t be modest about it. Keep the relevance of research at the forefront, and pay major attention to execution (video, print, etc.).

Best quote of the day: "A consumer insight is to marketing what yeast is to beer!"

Day 3 finished up with a great keynote by Robert Kozinets, Professor of Marketing at York University and author of Netnography. For more information on the day’s final keynote ,other sessions that I didn't cover, and overall event chatter, don’t forget to follow the hashtag #TMRE on Twitter.

It’s been my pleasure to provide blog updates and tweets throughout the conference – thanks to TMRE for the opportunity. Please don’t hesitate to connect up on Twitter and LinkedIn. Safe travels everyone!

TMRE Day 2: Superextenders+CrossFit+System 1 Thinking=Full Brain

TMRE graciously allowed me to be one of the "official" bloggers/tweeters from TMRE 2012 in Boca Raton this week! The daily recaps posted here are also over at the TMRE blog

Based on the positive feedback regarding the rundown-of-sessions blog format, I kept the same format for today-enjoy the recap:

Nothing like starting off Day 2 of TMRE with a Nobel Prize winner!

The first keynote of the day was Daniel Kahneman, Professor Emeritus at Princeton, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Kahneman outlined System 1 and System 2 thinking, why confidence in our intuition may not be accurate, and why we shouldn't take others’ confidence at face value, but rather examine whether they have the experience and skill to back up that confidence.  The #TMRE Twitter stream came alive with applications Kahneman’s observations have to market research – including questions as to how can we tailor research to invoke System 1 or 2 responses?

The second keynote of the morning was Ron Williams, co-author of The Value Path. Williams focused on embedding innovation in everyday business, rather than focusing on changing the business model. Williams asked a key question: “How can you and your clients continue to innovate (sustain value creation over time) if you can't predict what the customer of tomorrow will value, in an ever expanding choice space?”

Williams shared highlights of companies who do well in ever-changing marketplaces (“Superextenders”) and those who struggle (“Ultrafades”) with case studies that included GAP, Blockbuster, Amazon and Nokia. What do Superextenders do well? Among other things, look for new dimensions of value rather than focusing on new product features, and they don’t fall into the “commodity trap” where everyone has the same value narrative. This leads to companies aggressively inventing around incremental features and functions.

Heading into sessions this morning, one that caught my eye was “Shattering the Proverbial Glass Ceiling,” a panel discussion led by Kristin Luck of Decipher, with panelists Karen Morgan of Morgan Search, Kelley Peters of Post Foods, and Melva Benoit of Fox Broadcasting.  Luck introduced the session by quoting some statistics from a recent study from Women in Research, such as the fact that only 16% of firms on the Honomichl list are led by women. A heartening finding from the study? Neither females nor males feel they are being discriminated against in the industry. What advice did the panel have for women looking to get ahead in the industry? Identify a mentor who can be a champion for you, find a niche within the industry (i.e. kids + television for Benoit), and hone your negotiation skills whether you’re asking for a better title or an increase in salary.  

Data visualization continues to be a hot topic, and it was standing room only in the “Data Visualization and Deployment Techniques that Bring Research to Life” session co-presented by Rajit Chakravarty of BP and Lisa Gudding of GfK.  Gudding spoke about data visualization living at the intersection of art, science, and communication, and provided some salient examples of easy, inexpensive ways to work more data visualization into your reports and deliverables. The session wrapped up with an eye-catching segmentation case study by Chakravarty of BP that included logos, customized visualization templates, a branded web portal, and workshops with their marketing executives to immerse them in the segments.  BP employed creative visualizations from comic book style storyboards to dashboard-like overviews of the segments.

Stepping way outside my comfort zone, I decided to head to the “Lessons Learned from Reebok/CrossFit Facebook Fans” session.  I don’t do CrossFit (but aspire to!) and we don’t do Facebook research, but I certainly took away some interesting nuggets of insight.  The premise:  Reebok was interested in researching fans of their Reebok CrossFit Facebook page and their overall Reebok Facebook Page. Why? Reebok strives to be the brand for fitness and wants to be authentic and supporting of the CrossFit community, without crossing the line into over-commercialization. Working with iModerate (COO Jen Drolet co-presented), fans of both pages were interviewed and the findings are helping Reebok to enhance their relationship with CrossFit, drive cross-over traffic to the corporate page, and strengthen their engagement with their fans.

Two fantastic keynotes rounded out the day – Robert J. Atencio of Pfizer and Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future  - and kept everyone’s rapt attention until the cocktail hour began.  For more information on the day’s final keynotes ,other sessions that I didn’t cover, and overall event chatter, don’t forget to follow the hashtag #TMRE on Twitter.

Stay tuned for news and notes from the final day of TMRE tomorrow!

TMRE Day 1: Hurdles, Accomplishments, and a Great First Day

TMRE graciously allowed me to be one of the "official" bloggers/tweeters from TMRE 2012 in Boca Raton this week! The daily recaps posted here are also over at the TMRE blog

Hello from Boca! TMRE started off bright and early this morning with a day of Summit sessions across such tracks as Business to Business, Ad & Media Research, Global Research and Insights, and more.

Because of my role at Diversified Business Communications (as a B2B research manager) it made natural sense that I attend all of the sessions in the Business to Business track today. I certainly learned some new things, validated some assumptions and also commiserated with other B2B researchers as we have some special and unique issues and hurdles to deal with.

In our first session of the day, John Dahl, Global Customer Insights Department Manager for 3M highlighted those hurdles in a case study specific to B2B value proposition research: "Fewer, bigger customers, smaller sample sizes, hard to find respondents." Yep, definitely some hurdles we contend with.  IN addition, B2B researchers may be struggling to contend with and move beyond "a poor market research tradition [in B2B] (smaller budgets, greater skepticism)."

How to overcome some of these hurdles? Find a champion - this was a theme that ran throughout the B2B sessions.  Eddie Accomando of Anthroconsulting, and the Global Semiconductor Research Program Manager for Texas Instruments highlighted: "You need a champion. Your [researcher's] courage to fight for quality must be paired with someone who has influence in the organization." In addition to finding an executive champion for research, it's also important to BE the internal champion for the research.  As Courtney Hallendy, Strategic Research Manager for Toyota Financial Services said: "Being an internal champion for the research is critical, to create a research brand both internally and externally."

It was refreshing today to hear that more B2B researchers are utilizing "newer" methodologies such as online communities and message boards.  Yes, B2C-ers, you've been using these for years, but B2B can sometimes lag behind in adoption.  Presentations in the B2B track today included online communities, message boards, customer panels, and more...and the case studies certainly highlighted some great successes:
  • -Using customer panels to conduct research, Texas Instruments is "saving 75% and producing better data."
  • -Based on a real need for the Voice of the Customer (in their case, dealership management and employees), Toyota created an online community that is providing great data and feedback already (it launched recently) and is providing much-needed nationwide data.
And what holds true for B2C holds true for B2B - if you have any sort of community or panel platform, remember to be transparent to the community as to who you are, and feed back to your community how the data is being used.  Those are key drivers for participation.

As we prepare for day two, I'll leave you with two final items:
  • -Kudos to Andrew Vranesic, Global Product Marketing Manager for GE Healthcare, who managed to work the word heteroskedasticity into his presentation. That is something you don't hear every day, or at just any conference!
  • -Some words of wisdom from Eddie Accomando, which are applicable to researchers in all industries: "Be responsible, but flexible. Do what you can, suffer what you must. Your provider is always going to want to stick to the rules, and your client is always going to want to bend the rules."
That's it for Day 1! Stay tuned for tomorrow's updates from TMRE in Boca Raton.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Your Life, By The Numbers

As we get closer to TMRE I've been thinking more and more about data.

-The data that we are gathering and analyzing during our research projects

-The data that flows through the estimated 75 million servers worldwide each day

-And what's most interesting to me lately - the data that we are all capturing every day about our daily lives. What we eat, how fast we run, what medicines we take, how many times we post to Twitter, and so on.

Life tracking, as it's now called, was called out in 2010 by Gary Wolf of WIRED in an article for the New York Times entitled The Data-Driven life. In his article, Wolf highlighted that what was once the playground of the "ultrageek" was becoming increasingly mainstream as social and mobile grew:

“People got used to sharing,” says David Lammers-Meis, who leads the design work on the fitness-tracking products at Garmin. “The more they want to share, the more they want to have something to share.” Personal data are ideally suited to a social life of sharing. You might not always have something to say, but you always have a number to report.

This is how the odd habits of the ultrageek who tracks everything have come to seem almost normal.

So yeah, there are "ultrageeks" like Tim Ferriss and Nicholas Felton who track their lives on a very deep, granular level. But us 'regular folks' are starting to pursue life tracking, whether we're aware of it or not. 

-Perhaps you're trying to lose weight so you're logging your meals with WeightWatchers or SparkPeople apps. 

-Perhaps you're trying to PR your next half marathon, so you're using your Garmin Forerunner to  calculate your time, distance and pace, and wirelessly send your data to your computer.

-You might even be using RescueTime to track how productive (or not) you're being at work so you can modify your habits appropriately. 

-If you're heavily into social media, you may even be using apps like Memento to take your social updates and put them into daily diary format. 

If you're doing any of the above, you're well on your way to life tracking.  There are an abundance of apps for your i-devices that allow you to track pretty much everything about your life. 

So, why do I find this so fascinating? Two reasons:

1) The more mainstream life tracking becomes, potentially the more willing research participants might be to share life tracking information.

2) Big data. The more folks get into life tracking, the more data is available about the research participants we may want to study.

I look forward to discussing market research, big ideas, big data, and even life tracking at TMRE - I'll see you there!

Monday, November 5, 2012

You're Hired!

So, we're hiring. I don't tell you that because I'm sharing a job posting here (that's here), I tell you that because building a strong market research department that is

focused on doing solid research 
an innovation leader

has been top of mind recently.

To that end, I'm quite excited to attend the "The Next Generation Researcher: Skillsets, Interests & Backgrounds To Look For and Nurture" interactive discussion hosted by Intel at TMRE...which is just three weeks away!

What goes through my mind when hiring is likely similar to what goes through yours. Questions like:
  • What's the makeup of a department that will drive the business forward? 
  • What skills must a candidate come to the table with, and for what skills are we willing to offer training?
  • What industry experience do the candidates have that is transferable to the industries in which we work?
  • Are we going to ask this resource to hit the ground running, or are we going to give them a longer lead time to get up to speed?

I'm on the client/corporate side, so do you think my criteria for hiring are different from hiring managers on the supplier side?  John Hilland of Mindwave Research has a great interview with Cameron Cramer, owner of Marketing Intelligence Professionals that addresses that question.

It's worth a read as he posits that supplier-side research hiring managers are more risk averse and want more immediate contributions from new hires, versus client-side hiring managers who are more inclined to hire someone who can "grow into" the position. Do I agree with Cramer? No, I don't. In these times where we're all doing more with less, being able to hit the ground running is imperative.

That said, we all should be considering what training programs are in place when considering what skills can be trained versus what skills a candidate needs to bring to the table.

A recent study by Best Practices, LLC highlighted that "70% of surveyed market research executives acknowledge that "soft" intrapersonal skills such as negotiation  and "listening" are critical competencies for market research professionals - yet most organizations do not have training programs nor systems to monitor and develop these skills in their market research staff."

While I (think I) have all the answers for hiring for my department, I'm excited to learn from my peers at TMRE regarding what skill sets, interests and backgrounds they are looking for in their new hires. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fright Night, Market Research Style

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays!

I could go on and on about the trending costumes for the year, and data crunching about candy brands. But instead, in the "spirit" of Halloween...I'd like to draw your attention to the scary side of market research.

1) Check out Annie Pettit's "The 6 Worst Market Research Mistakes for some ghoulish examples. Annie is always excellent at pointing best practices, as well as the bad and ugly of research, such as the terrifyingly mis-representative 3D pie chart she shares - yikes.  

2) I think Christian and I were having some similar thoughts this week, as we both were thinking about the fabulous (and mysterious) MR Heretic whose blog has been quiet for a while, but who has kept the industry on our toes with such pointed blogs as "You killed market research when you defended the status quo" as Christian mentioned as well as "Participant is Not Engagement" and "Submariners in Space." Along those same lines, we do have the emergence of Angry MR Client on Twitter.

3) While we're on the "scary theme, don't forget scream-inducying pink glittery infographics and SMQs (Scary Matrix Questions - I love that these actually have an acronym).

In the spirit of the season, I can't end this post without sharing some data.  For your ghoulish viewing pleasure, I give you a Halloween by-the-numbers infographic!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Activate Innovation

Why a penguin? It will make sense in a minute

I have to confess, one of the sessions I am most looking forward to at TMRE is “Creating a culture for Successful Innovation” given by the Campbell Soup Company.


Because innovation is so very important to drive a business forward.

But far too often I observe companies requesting (or demanding!) their employees…and specifically their research teams…be innovative, without creating a culture in which innovation is part of the life breath of the organization.

It’s not enough to wish it and it will be so.  Consider some of the below steps to take towards becoming an innovative organization…and then join me for the Campbell Soup Company session at TMRE!

Hire Hungry
When adding to your team, seek out characteristics in potential new hires that lead the way to innovative thinking such as: a propensity for proactivity, openness to new ideas and feedback, and a past track record of measured risk-taking in their former role.  Hire staff that is hungry for new challenges and who are open to learning along the way. For more on characteristics to look for, this is an excellent article.

Reward Risk Taking (and Sometimes Failure)
One of my favorite moments every year at our company is when awards are announced, and my favorite award is the “First Penguin” award.  You may think that’s an odd name, but hear me out.

When a group of penguins approaches an ice shelf, one penguin must be the first to “take the plunge” – aka First Penguin.  There may be sea lions waiting in the water for that first penguin to take the dive, so it’s a risky move that can lead to great success…or great failure.

At our company, the reward goes to a staff member who takes a big risk and innovates with one of our products.  The risk may not lead to great success, but that staff member took the plunge off the ice shelf.

Shake Complacency
It’s easy to get too comfortable and complacent with your job…and if you do it’s likely your staff will follow suit. I spoke to this a bit earlier in my Outside your Comfort Zone blog post but I feel it bears repeating.

Shake off your complacency and that of your staff.  Network with other peers in the industry online or in person to see how others are approaching similar challenges.  Get out of the office for a group training day, exploring a type of research you don’t typically do…that will help to energize you and your team and shake the cobwebs out of your brains. 

For more on building an innovative culture, take a look at this recent article in Inc. Magazine – it’s a short read and a good one!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back to Basics

As we prepare to head off to TMRE in a few short weeks, I know we're all thinking about the latest in research strategy and innovation that we'll learn about while on site in Boca Raton, as well as taking advantage of the myriad of networking opportunities!

But let me take this moment to bring us back down to earth for a moment and share a cautionary tale about remembering the research basics.

I spoke with an industry peer recently who is graciously allowing me to share his story. For the sake of this blog, let's call him Todd (not his real name!).

Over the past year, Todd and his team have been following the mobile research trend and were excited to get approval to pilot a mobile research strategy at one of their one-day events. They had done extensive research to understand how active their audience was on mobile, especially tablets.

Todd and his team were very thorough in setting up tablet optimized session surveys to be available for launch at the end of each session time, as well as some other short surveys and activities meant for tablet use.

Sounds great, right?

However, from the keynote kickoff in the morning to the lunchtime round table discussions, Todd's team saw lots of note taking...on paper! Pens and pads of paper were the rule of the day. After observing this in multiple sessions, Todd did some intercepts to find out where they went wrong with their tablet research.

Come to find out their tablet research was spot-on: pretty much everyone Todd stopped brought an iPad or other tablet device, but had left them in the hotel rooms due to sky-high WiFi rates that by that point were non-negotiable with the conference center/hotel.

The lesson we can all learn from Todd's story? Be sure you cover the basics, especially around logistics, when launching a new research venture. The epilogue? Todd and his team did some quick thinking and were able to field some paper surveys for the afternoon sessions.

For more learning from your peers, be sure to catch some of the interactive discussion sessions at TMRE with Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Bloomberg News, and more.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nice to Meet You!

It’s time for an update on my How to win my business (a memo from your client) blog post from a while back.

What’s prompting the update? A recent interview of the mysterious @Angry_MR_Client over at Green Book Blog and subsequent discussion in the comments section.  If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend it!  The interview and discussion highlighted for me yet again the need for continued healthy dialogue between research suppliers and clients.

My previous blog post focused on online or telephone interaction with potential suppliers or clients, but I feel it’s important to update that here to highlight the importance of face-to-face interactions.

Let me say right off the bat that yes I’m definitely biased towards face-to-face interaction as I work for a company that among other things produces events. So, don't take this as the voice for the whole client side of the industry, but the opinion of one client-side researcher.

As is the case with most client-side researchers, we have our roster of go-to vendors for different types of projects. However, it’s often the case that we need to deviate from our standard roster when a unique project comes up that our current suppliers may not have expertise in.

And that’s when the options can become overwhelming! From printed and online directories to many many sales emails…  In that moment of decision, what do I wish for? A personal connection and face-to-face discussion.

That's why it's important to me to attend at least one market research live event a year, preferably an event with a good number of suppliers exhibiting.  Why? So I can relate a face to the company, so I can see a demo of your software in person, so I can see how you and your staff interact with other client-side researchers, so I can see how passionate (if at all) you are about your company’s service or product.

You can see why meeting suppliers at an event is important to me.  Now for some compelling stats on why it should also be important to suppliers as well, thanks to the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR):

-According to research by CEIR and Exhibit Surveys, Inc. closing a lead generated at an event costs almost 40 percent less than a lead generated from the field.

-76% of attendees pre-plan the exhibits they want to visit.  So, suppliers, you DO need to do some legwork pre-event to reach out to your key audience letting them know you’ll be there.

-This one’s the kicker for me. A CEIR study found that 79% (!!) of leads are not followed up on. So have a follow-up system in place and a plan of action after the event.

I do realize that funding for exhibiting or even travel to some of the major events is sometimes not possible.  But another way to establish face-to-face contact is letting us know when you’ll be in the area visiting clients and have a few extra hours. More often than not, we're willing to do lunch. (Shout out for lunch the Portland, Maine area – we have lobster mac and cheese…with truffles!)

Is a face-to-face connection going to guarantee you win my business? No, but establishing that face-to-face connection does help move your company up on my “to contact” list and separates you from random, faceless directory listings when projects come up!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Taking a Break for Humor

For many of us in market research, September is one of the most stressful and crazy months of the year.

On the client side, we're rushing to get 2013 projects defined and structured,  preparing our budgets, requesting headcount, etc.

On the supplier side, you're ultra-busy taking our calls and providing quick turn-arounds on pricing requests...and budgeting for what your work will look like for 2013.

So in honor of "Budget Season" and the need for a bit of levity - it's time for a little market research/statistics humor!

Brought to my attention by the fabulous (and funny!) Annie Pettit of Conversition - have you ever felt like one of the characters in this video when dealing with a client?

For some great math, research, and infographics humor I need to give a shout-out to the team at I Love Charts for bringing us links to everything from “Gangnam Style for Math Nerds” videos to “What Sports 
are they Arguing About” charts.

Finally, it's never too early to start shopping for the holidays!

Have little ones at home? Who wouldn't want a plush Chi-Square Distribution

...or maybe an I Heart Statistics bib

Perhaps you'd like something to put in your holiday gift list? How about decorating your home office with these faux-vintage WWII era data analysis posters?

I hope you've enjoyed this break for some market research humor - now back to budgets and data analysis!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Behind the Scenes




Industry Leader


I was talking to a junior colleague recently, who noted that folks with titles such as the above (bestowed on them by industry peers) are the ones who "get all the visibility" and typically get the funds to travel to conferences, speak at industry events, etc. 

We praise the innovators, the disruptors, the folks who raise the thought level of the industry, and we absolutely should - precisely because they bring the game to the next level. 

But in this post, I want to ensure we're also praising the project managers, the data analysts, and the strategists who often provide real structure for the business and projects and their work often allows the industry leaders to shine, and the visionaries to have enough time to create their visions. We can have all the disruptive thinking 
and lofty goals in the world, but without the project planning, the task management, etc., it doesn't get done.

Many of you reading this are leaders in your organizations: C-level executives, VPs, Directors and Managers. We all think heavily, deeply, and loftily about how to move our companies and our business forward. Please take a moment today to thank the project managers, strategists, programmers, PowerPoint designers, traffic managers, and others in your organization for keeping things running smoothly. And if you feel an imbalance on your team (perhaps too heavy in the visionary department and not enough execution?) consider adding those skill sets to your team, or add training for your existing staff. 

Consider also bringing some of these folks to TMRE with you, to hone their skill sets in tracks such as "Consultative Skill Development" and "The New MR Toolkit."  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Outside Your Comfort Zone

I was watching a profile on Sal Khan (of Khan Academy) the other day and one of the interviewees said something that always resonates with me - the most impactful disruptors and innovators that change your industry often come from outside your industry.

Now, we can take this on a macro level and ask who and what "from outside" will be the big disruptor in the market research industry?

But we can also take this on a more micro level and note that disruptors for CPG research may come from B2B research, disruptors for quant research may come from qual research, and so on.

And the disruptor could be you!

As we've talked about on this blog leading up to TMRE this fall, one of the big benefits of attending events is that you get to mix and mingle with folks outside of your particular industry and that's a good thing! What better way to get some fresh thinking and learn new ideas?

Once folks get onsite at a conference, many tend to confer with their specific industry peers and share "war stories" - that's great but get out of your comfort zone! Don't just confer with someone who does, pretty much, exactly what you do - chat with folks who do something vastly'll likely learn something!

That goes for sessions too. Of course you want to attend sessions that have a direct bearing on your job, but pick at least one session that may be a little "out there" for what you do - you could pick up a nugget of insight that does have relevance to your job.

If you're looking for an interesting take on innovation and breakthrough ideas happening when you bring concepts from one field into another, check out The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation.

And for a pretty comprehensive list of excellent reads about innovation, check out this list (airplane reading for your TMRE trip?).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Infographics or Info-annoying?

Ok folks, let’s talk infographics. They are a hot topic in business information circles (including research), and love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay.

Let’s break this down. Common complaints about infographics that I’ve heard include:

  • They’re busy – there’s so much information in one visual that they eye is not sure where to look…and how the heck do you print them out?
  • Everyone thinks they are an infographics designer, even if they’re just essentially creating a colorful PowerPoint slide. Take this HOT PINK infographic about the Kardashian wedding for example.
  • They’re too simplistic and incomplete – they’re not communicating the full scope of research findings to the customer or end-user.
  • Unless you have in-house graphic design, good infographics can be very expensive to produce.
  • Data used in infographics is dated, incorrect, or very biased.

Ok, let’s face it, there are some pretty awful infographics out there, and the tide of folks complaining about infographics is growing. Witness sites such as a Tumblr for terrible infographics, articles such as “Ending the Infographic Plague ,” and, well, this one from Gizmodo. There are also folks out there simply not using the correct information (i.e. old data when new data is available) to create their infographics.

All of these complaints aside, it’s hard to ignore the fact that sometimes one infographic piece can cut through the clutter of overwhelming data and give the client or end-user an ‘ah hah’ moment. That’s when an infographic is done well, delivering data in an unexpected way that resonates. In addition to using infographics for client presentations and deliverables, infographics are typically excellent traffic drivers on your website, so it’s understandable why they’re particularly popular right now.

So, if you’re working on a project that involves infographics, remember they have a short shelf life (data gets old fast!), they can be expensive to produce, and it’s on YOU to ensure they’re done accurately.

For inspiration (and guidance) be sure to check out the fabulous Edward Tufte, “The Leonardo da Vinci of data,” and you can start with some good examples curated by Kissmetrics.

Also remember that if you’re joining us at TMRE in November there are some related to data visualization, such as “Making an Impact – Data Visualization and Deployment Techniques that Bring Research to Life.”

Finally, are you curious about research-specific infographics? Look no further than The Nitty GRITty of the Research Industry!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Go Global!


“Cultural bias”

“Global brand relevance”

If you work in market research in a multi-national corporation, you may use the above terms almost every day.

If you work in market research in a small US-based company serving only local markets, they may not be as relevant to you.

And then there are many of us who are somewhere in the middle, working in companies who are either considering overseas expansion or who have recently taken the plunge into foreign markets.

Chances are if you fall into any of the three buckets above, you could use some brushing up on global research and insights, because those insights may be directly relevant to you regarding the countries in which you work or will be working soon, or the insights may be more tangential but still relevant to keeping your research brain “fresh.”

If you’re the global research lead learner in your corporation (like me), it’s absolutely imperative to build those global research skills and keep them fresh. Especially if you’re not the feet-on-the-ground in those overseas markets, but still need to manage the research…which I know is the case for many of you.

That’s why I’m over-the-moon excited that there is such an international presence at TMRE this year with speakers from India, Russia, the Netherlands, Canada, Singapore, the UK, Mexico, Brazil, and more. I plan to listen, learn, and “be a sponge” of information in their sessions.

That’s also why I’m going early to TMRE to take part in the Pre-Conference Summits on Monday (11/12), particularly the Global Research and Insights track. Sessions such as “Understanding Local Culture to Build Effective Research Strategies in International Markets” given by PepsiCo Russia will hopefully give me some new insights into different overseas markets that my company works in. And that will make me a better researcher.

I hope you’ll join me at the Pre-Conference Summits on Monday, November 12th – I’d love to learn from YOU, especially if you’re doing some fascinating international research that you’d like to share!

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Overwhelming!

The concept of content curation has been on my mind a lot this week.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it is the process of identifying, organizing and sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific topic or issue online. Content curation can be a very valuable activity in your business, as it can make you a recognized and trusted resource for pertinent news and important information…and it can keep you continually visible to your audience.

The trending of content curation as a “hot topic” has really taken off in the last few years, which is not a surprise as the pace of data and content creation is expanding exponentially each year. In fact, back in 2010 Nielsen and AOL estimated that 27,000,000 pieces of content are shared each day.  You can bet that number has gone up since then. Talk about drinking from a fire hose of information!

In fact, many marketers are using content curation as a key component of their content marketing strategy, according to Curata’s 2012 Content Curation Adoption Survey, with 95 percent of respondents indicating they have curated content in the past six months. In my company, content curation comes up a lot, because we strive to be a recognized and trusted resource for news and information in the various industries we serve and curation is certainly part of our strategy.

With many of us in a state of overwhelm with the amount of market research knowledge that’s out there, it’s no surprise that many of us have turned to content curators (our trusted friends, industry leaders, and great research thinkers) as we’re all in need of someone to curate the wealth of content that’s out there for us. As Kelley mentioned in her recent blog post here,” Developments in our industry and technology are moving so fast, it's hard to keep up.“ That’s why we select who we follow on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with care, subscribe to specific industry journals and Paper.Lis, add specific blogs to our reader, etc. Those sources are curating content for us.

But we also need to cultivate the skill of being curators ourselves.


Because essentially we are research content (and data) curators for our customers, and we need to be good ones. If you think about it, presenting our clients with ALL of the data from a study in raw format would be like asking them to drink from that fire hose previously mentioned! Even a 25-question survey with 500 respondents is a lot of raw data for them to look at.

We need to be good curators, identifying, organizing and sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific topic or issue, by teasing out insights, knowing how to find the story in the data, removing our bias and personal filters, and by knowing who you’re curating the data for (your audience) and what data and delivery method will resonate most.

The pace of online content sharing and data creation is only going to increase over time, so curation (both employing it and learning it) is an important skill to master!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I am by no means a Big Data expert.

That’s why I’m excited to learn more about Big Data at TMRE via the “Data Analytics and BIG Data” sessions.  Depending on who you speak with, the definition for Big Data differs. From petabytes and exabytes of data to simply more data than an organization can currently handle with the tools commonly used to capture and process it.  As a “numbers geek” the topic of Big Data fascinates me!

You know what else fascinates me? The Olympics.  I sit mesmerized for 16 days watching stories of triumph, defeat, and overcoming adversity to achieve Olympic glory.  Yep, I was one of those kids who climbed up on couch pillows, envisioning they were an Olympic podium to receive my gold medal. When I got older I competed (not on THAT level!) in synchronized swimming...and if you don’t believe that’s a sport, try holding your breath for up to three minutes while underwater, upside down and treading water with your hands for a start.

As a research and analytics-focused person, what I think is especially notable about this Olympics is the data. Now, there are some big numbers, such as 10,500 Olympic athletes and 4200 Paralympic athletes, 302 medal events, some 60,000 meals a day cooked for athletes, and so on. And then there are some BIG numbers:

  • -For the first time ever in the United States, NBC is offering every moment of competition live via, which equates to around 3,500 hours of coverage.  Many of you reading this work in media research and know that’s a lot of video storage bytes!
  • -There were an estimated 1billion people tuning in to watch the opening ceremonies worldwide, and a documented 40.7 million people tuning in on NBC, making it the most-watched opening ceremony for a summer or winter Olympics ever.
  • -To keep London secure, there are close to 2,000 security cameras and 37,000 civilian and military personnel working on security,-Mobile carriers such as Vodafone were expecting a “significant increase” to the 45 terabytes of data, 90 million calls and 155 million texts they handle daily.
  • -Let’s not forget social media – we've already seen television analysis of what is trending on Twitter regarding the Games (the Queen skydiving!).  There were a documented 9.66 million mentions of the opening ceremony last Friday.
…and those are just a few!

Data from the Games will be analyzed not only by NBC and the IOC, but also governing bodies of the various sports such as FIFA, US Swimming, etc. The data analyzed will not only update the record books, show us how folks are ingesting the coverage (mobile? TV? Live? DVR-ed?), show us what sports are trending, but will also inform the organizing committees and media planning for Sochi and Rio.

If this whets your appetite for more Big Data discussions, I look forward to seeing you at some of the TMRE Big Data sessions.  To hold you over until then, someone is looking out for us numbers-junkies of the Olympics at this Olympics data blog!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Small Team, Big Results

I’m proud of the fact that our research department completes about 40 research projects a year.  However, the more significant number is two. That’s how many staff members we have at present working on market research (and I’m one of them).  I know several client-side researchers for whom this is also a reality, and I know more are out there!  Based on the results of Quirk’s 2012 salary survey of corporate researchers, it doesn’t sound like departments will be growing by leaps and bounds anytime soon: 52% feel it’s unlikely their companies will bring on additional researchers in 2012. 

So, how can you manage a large workload with a small department of two, three, or even five staff members? Here are a few tips and tricks that we use:

Create a Standard Research Brief 
The argument that all research projects are “vastly different and completely unique” doesn’t hold water with me. For each research project, there are a set of common key questions that are important to capture at the outset, such as: Who is the project stakeholder? Will you be offering an incentive? What’s the budget? Who’s the audience? Etc. Etc. Etc.  You get the idea.  For your company's projects, the questions may be different, but sit down and figure out what the common threads are for your projects and document those key questions. Create a simple document that you fill out for each and every project (be consistent!), and store that document in a place that your team can access it easily.  Not only can this brief serve as a helpful discussion guide for your kickoff meetings, but also it will provide a record of the project information that your staff can access if you’re away.

Systematize your workflow
Just as there are a set of standard questions to kick off each project, there are a common set of tasks for your research projects. You have a kickoff meeting for each project, right? If you’re running surveys, each survey needs to be tested, launched, terminated and analyzed, right?

If you're not using project management software of some sort, run don’t walk to one of the free or paid project management software solutions such as BasecampdotProject, or MS SharePoint. They will help keep you on task (literally). The point here is NOT to get you mired in the details, but to eliminate those late night “Did you do this? Where is that?” emails. With a system in place for your project workflow, there is one place for you and your team to check to see what’s next for each project.

But don’t ‘set it and forget it’ – do an audit of your standard tasks every six months or so, as your workflow and tasks will change over time as the business needs change and as you continue to streamline your processes.

Map out as much of the year as possible
On a more macro level, map out all the projects for the next 12 months that you know of.  I know some subscribe to just doing this by quarter, but I advocate a 12 month view, especially if you have a small staff.

Even if you have just a vague idea that so-and-so wants a quant project sometime in November, pencil it in as you’re going to need to work around Thanksgiving, staff vacations, etc.  Having this at the ready is incredibly important in those project kick-off meetings so you’re aware of what you can handle and when given your small department size.

If you’re looking for a super-fast way to visualize your projects in a Gantt chart, take a look at
Tom’s Planner – you can upload project info from spreadsheets (or SharePoint, etc.) and with 2 clicks have a dynamic view of your week, month, quarter or year. I use this all the time for quick visuals.

Remember, putting these systems and structure in place will NOT make you a slave to the details, but rather create a well-oiled machine which will help things to run smoothly when the requests are coming in thick and fast, and will leave you with some brain space for strategic thinking!

After all, your company is looking to YOU to be the strategic thinker around customer insights, and you need to be able to deliver.  After attending sessions such as Kraft Canada’s “Giving the Gift of Insight to your Company” session at TMRE in November (part of the Strategy and Futuring track) you can hit the ground running with what you’ve learned when you get back to the home office, rather than getting back and spinning your wheels trying to figure out “Oops, did we remember to ask that at the kickoff meeting? Where did I save my project notes?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Excuses!

Complacency. Inertia. Same-old, same-old. 

These are perils that we all face, whether we are client-side researchers or research suppliers. 

Unless you work with a wide variety of clients on a regular basis, there's a danger of becoming stale...and if you let that happen, you're  doing a disservice to yourself (and your career!), your company, and your clients.  

I think I've heard every excuse in the book for why someone may not want to pursue training or continuous learning:  

"I can't travel"
"Our training budget was just slashed" 
"I don't like face-to-face events because I'm an introvert and don't know anyone"
"I do very specialized research, outside training just doesn't apply"
"There's nothing out there for me"
"I'm too junior-level..." 

Come on folks! No more excuses - it's time for some tough love. No matter your budget, age, type of research, there ARE training opportunities out there. Let's review some of the wealth of resources that are out there:


There are a number of fantastic market research blogs. Add them to your reader and peruse on your own time. If you don't already have this blog in your reader, I suggest you add it. Then, take a look at Next Gen Market Research blogroll for more.  

How about some lunchtime learning? You can often catch a market research webinar over your lunch hour. Because you're not working over your lunch hour...right? If you're interested in specific technology, suppliers often have webinars that provide an overview. Or, if you're more interested in market research practices and theory, there are options for you too. And they always have the attendees on mute, so don't will hear you munching on the potato chips. I'm a fan of the webinars that Revelation and Communispace produce. 

Have nothing to do on your commute, other than listen to NPR? Consider downloading market research podcasts to your MP3 player and listen to them while driving, riding the train, etc. Research Access has some great ones to start with, then search iTunes and Google for more.

Training via social media? Yes! Follow the #mrx hashtag on Twitter and the members of the market research community will link to articles of interest that will keep you reading for days! 

Face-to-Face Events
I have a particular love for face-to-face events. Partially because my company produces face-to-face events, so much of my research focuses on how successful that medium is.  But also becasue I feel I get the most out of my training budget when I attend conferences.

When thinking about events to attend, consider what will give you the most bang for the buck.  For my company, TMRE is the best bang for the market research buck as it provides us the widest variety of session options (138 of them!), the most people for networking (1,200+) and topics that are relevant to me and my work (mobile, generational research, big data, and more).  

I know that face-to-face events are tough for some of the more introverted among us. The prospect of networking can be daunting, especially if it's your first time at a particular. Here's my suggestion - avail yourself of the mentor program so you can receive some guidance as to how to navigate the event, and with your mentor you've made your first networking contact! 

There are also some great print resources - what books and magazines would you recommend? Add your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Immerse Yourself

We’ve all been through the drill:
  • Draft the survey
  • Field the study
  • Gather data
  • Write the report
  • Present the data

The client leaves the meeting with the report/data sheets/PowerPoint slides…and we hope the findings inspire them to take action.

More than anything, as researchers we want the work we’re doing to be actionable! But it’s up to us to help tell the story, to help our clients interpret the data, and really make our end customers come alive through the data. To that end, an alternative to the scenario I outlined above has been on my mind recently: immersion experiences.

I’m not speaking of immersion in terms of doing the doing the (ethnographic, qualitative) research but about presenting the research to clients.

So, how to use an immersion experience to present data in such a way that really engages the client, helps them digest the data well, and inspire them to want to take action on it?

One example that has influenced me was a session I attended last year at TMRE by Heiko Schäfer, Vice President of Consumer & Market Insights at Henkel Consumer Goods (now Senior Director, Global Customer Insights & Analytics at Walmart).

In his presentation, Bringing the Consumer, Shopper and Customer to Life, Schäfer provided a fascinating case study of an immersion session he produced. The immersion experience was set in the company cafeteria (a place that his internal clients couldn’t avoid!), and contained a set of interactive (and insightful) games. From the feedback he received and documented, the immersion session looked like it was a great success in getting his clients to really react to customer data, feedback, and experiences.

During that TMRE last year session, Schäfer shared something that really resonated with me as it pertains to creating immersion experiences: “We’ve become journalists, storytellers, videographers, entertainers…it’s important to bring in the voice of the customer every day.”

Some other immersion experience ideas I’ve been hearing about and kicking around include:
  • An ‘immersion room’ at corporate headquarters with the walls lined with customer data, stories, and feedback presented in a visually impactful way. After an initial introduction and mini-presentation, clients can walk through at their leisure…especially when they need inspiration!
  • An engaging video presentation that brings customer data to life via visuals and storytelling.
  • An experience designed in a virtual reality space that allows clients to “walk through” a customer daily routine, pain points about a product, or experience at an event, for example.

What else, what am I missing? What other creative and interesting ways of immersing clients in the data can you think of? I’d love to hear your stories.

Inspired to learn more? (I am!) Here are a few of the sessions I’m considering attending at TMRE this year that focus on immersing clients in the research findings:
  1. The Art of Storytelling: Getting Traction and Action, given by Sara Bergson of PepsiCo
  2. Bringing Research to Life through Collaborative, Engaging and Inspiring Work Sessions, given by Maisha Cobb of Logitech and Jason Kramer of Vital Findings
  3. Using Data and Insights for Storytelling by Jeremy Murrell of Brown-Forman
For more on these sessions, download the TMRE brochure.