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Participate In The Q1-Q2 2015 GRIT Survey!

We'd like to invite you to share your experiences and perspective with us in the Q1-Q2 2015 GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Survey.

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Yep, it’s that time of year again folks: time to participate in the newest wave of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) survey.

We’d like to invite you to share your experiences and perspective with us in the Q1-Q2 2015 GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Survey.

As our industry changes rapidly, it’s more important than ever to truly understand what is happening and what the implications are for the business and profession of market research.

Only with the support of marketing and insights professionals like you can GRIT continue to yield insights into how research buyers and providers are adapting to the rapidly evolving research landscape.

Join thousands of global researchers and help our community better understand where we are and where we are headed.

Participate in the Survey

We’ve redesigned the survey to make it more engaging, more device agnostic, and most importantly, SHORTER! The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete.

What’s new:

  • GRIT 50 Most Innovative Suppliers: The survey features a familiar, but updated, approach to determining the 50 most innovative companies in market research.
  • GRIT 50 Most Innovative Client-Side Companies: Why should Suppliers get all the credit? Clients drive innovation with their budgets, and it’s time to understand who they are and why they should get kudos.
  • Research Time and Tools: A new set of questions has been added to better understand your time dedication to different research tasks, and the software you utilize.
  • Interactive probing of many verbatim questions and enhanced usage of text analytics in the analysis.
  • A redesigned report format and structure with more data visualizations, more expert commentaries, and more strategic insight.

Tracking questions:

  • Biggest Threats and Opportunities in the industry
  • Adoption of new methods and technology
  • Profiling the researcher of the future: what skills and qualities are necessary for success
  • Budget/revenue projections for 2015
  • Emerging titles and the way researchers describe themselves

Don’t  miss this chance to give back and support your profession. All who complete the survey will receive:

  • Full version of the GRIT report detailing the results of this survey
  • Exclusive access to an interactive online dashboard with the complete dataset for your own analysis
  • Priority registration to webinars featuring industry experts and thought leaders who will discuss GRIT results and implications

Who Should Participate

  • Market research suppliers, technology providers, and consultants
  • Client-side marketing and insights professionals
  • Academics

Special Thanks to All GRIT Partners:

RESEARCH PARTNERS: Dapresy, Decooda, Gen2 Advisors, GMI, Keen as Mustard, NewMR, Q Research Software, Quester, Researchscape, Vision Critical

SAMPLE PARTNERS: ACEI, AIM, AIP, AMAI, AMSRS, APRC, ARIA, AVIA, BAQMAR, Blauw, BVA, CASRO, CEIM, Datos Claros, ESTIME, FeedBACK, Gen2 Advisors, GMI, Insight Innovation, LYNX Research, Michigan State University, MRIA, MRII, MROC Japan, MRS, New MR, Next Gen MR, NMSBA, NYAMA, OdinText, PROVOKERS, QRCA, Researchscape, SAIMO, Sands Research, The Research Club, University of Georgia, University of Texas, University of Wisconsin, Vision Critical

Thank you in advance for sharing your time and experience!

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Doing Your Homework: Some Tips on Telecommuting From A MR Pro

Innovation can come in an assortment of shapes and sizes, including new forms of working arrangements. 

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Editor’s Note: I often take telecommuting for granted. I started occasionally telecommuting in 1997 when I was a Regional Manager for a financial services company, but since 2002 I have worked exclusively from a home office.  During that time I have built 6 companies (all virtual), hired over 50 employees, worked with literally hundreds of clients, and amassed a global network of many thousands of  colleagues. All from my home, and only rarely actually meeting people face-to-face. I have been blessed to convert some of those colleagues to dear friends, and in some cases we have never physically met. It’s pretty amazing, and I forget that for many people this style of work is a foreign concept.

That is why I was thrilled when Kevin Gray sent me this post. I believe that technology will only continue to make telecommuting easier and more effective and will eventually become the norm for just about anyone who works in a professional service industry. That being the case, some basic tips, tricks, and wisdom are in order and this is a fantastic primer for anyone, but especially for those who work in the insights field.

So kick back in your bathrobe and enjoy!

 

By Kevin Gray 

When I established my consultancy in 2008, I chose to keep my operation to minimal size – hopefully, too small to fail – and to work from my home office.  Besides keeping overhead down, my main motivations for flying completely solo were to maximize efficiency and minimize hassle so I’d be able to concentrate on the things I like to do most and think I do best.  I am my company’s sole employee and my business partners include a few end clients but are mostly marketing research agencies scattered throughout the world.  Only part of my business is local and face-to-face.

People were working from home long before “telecommuting” was coined by Jack Nilles in 1973, so I cannot call myself a pioneer.  However, most of us physically commute to offices, as I did for the bulk of my career, and some may find the very idea working remote from home hard to grasp.  There are plusses and minuses to anything, to be sure, and before I made the leap I sought the advice of contacts who had worked this way at some point in their careers, some in marketing research and others in unrelated fields.  Self-discipline and the need to structure one’s workday were mentioned by several as crucial, as was being able to work autonomously without becoming a hermit.  It’s not for everyone.

I should stress that this would not have been a realistic option if I hadn’t already been an experienced marketing researcher when I set up my company.  Before I set out on my own I’d worked for Nielsen’s Customized division, Kantar (Research International) and McCann’s Marplan division for more than 15 years, in addition to having been on the client side early in my career.  At Nielsen and Kantar, in particular, a significant component of my responsibilities was international and I’d worked with colleagues and clients located in dozens of countries for many years.  When one is establishing a consultancy I think it’s quite normal to work through existing contacts, at least initially, and therefore not working remote was not really an option for me at the time.

How can you work as a consultant without regularly meeting with your clients face-to-face?  With the right experience and know-how, it is actually more efficient that way.  Though there are times when face-to-face meetings are truly essential, over the years in my role as a marketing science consultant and statistician, I have found that these are rare exceptions.  In fact, taking part in meetings too early in the process in some instances can cause the conversation to stray towards technical details before the basic issues have been sorted out.

At this phase in my career if I must be physically present explaining methodological details to a client, it usually means I haven’t done my job well enough, to be honest.  Of course, I do join meetings or presentations remotely – sometimes at odd hours and sometimes with the assistance of an interpreter – and now and then meet with clients face-to-face as well.  However, considering the cost and downtime that comes with travel, hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice for a two-hour meeting is usually not sensible, at least for what I do.  Phone, Skype and email are all I need, even when involved from the early stages, as I typically am.

Do your homework.  Whatever your specialization within marketing research and regardless of your own working arrangement, if you will not be the user of the research I would urge you to do your homework in another sense.  Marketing researchers are researchers and part of our job is to unearth important business questions and help clarify the objectives of the research.  I do a lot of on-the-job coaching about how to tackle this with business associates who are new to our profession and, even when working with veterans, I often ask lots and lots of questions.  Put simply, we need to find out what the end client really needs, which may be very different from what they say they want.  As a former client, I know this all too well!

When designing research, it’s important to consider who will be using the results, how the results will be used and when they will be used, and then work backward into the methodology.  Though I have read more than one-hundred textbooks on research methods and statistics, I am not preoccupied with methodology (though I will admit to a strong interest in it).  Marketing researchers need to be prepared to respond to diverse requests very quickly and to be able to do this requires a large multipurpose toolkit.  On the other hand, we shouldn’t let the tools be our boss or sell statistical techniques, in my opinion.  Instead, it’s better to concentrate on what you need to do to help your client make decisions more effectively.  Though complex solutions sometimes work better, aim for simplicity whenever possible.  Avoid jargon but also be wary of oversimplifying…this is like a tightrope walk at times!

Be especially cautious about making assumptions when dealing with a client for the first time.  Try to learn about their corporate culture.  The client’s website and web searches will tell you a lot about the company and their industry, and also give you hints about what goes on within their walls.  That is often the best place to begin and takes little time.  Having some sense of corporate culture and marketing research expertise comes in handy because these things can have a big impact on how your proposal is received.  Suggesting an innovative solution to a conservative organization in which marketing research isn’t well-established or is viewed skeptically can backfire; to paraphrase Voltaire, the “best” may be the enemy of the good enough.  In some situations it may be appropriate to propose more than one option, for example, a basic option and an advanced option with different costs.

Learn about market trends in the client’s category and, more fundamentally, how the client defines the market and competition in the first place and why.  Within any organization there can be strong tendencies towards groupthink and on some brand teams almost a religious fervor that can blind them to facts and issues that are truly important.  Habits are hard to break…but that doesn’t make them good habits!  Develop hypotheses, even rough ones, to help clarify your thinking when designing research.  These can be formally tested against the evidence when data become available.

Long before the recent clamor about “big data” clients have been incorporating internal company data, such as customer transactions, and external data, such as economic trends, into their decision making.  It is very helpful to learn what data your client is using now to make decisions.  Also consider what other information they might have on hand or would be able to acquire that would enhance the research.  When appropriate, ask them directly.  And, even if you’re a hard core quant, don’t write off qualitative approaches.  Qual can help bring numbers to life and your client may have past reports they’d be happy to share.

Think ahead.  Multivariate analysis is generally more useful when planned in advance and designed into the research and, with methods such as conjoint, this is imperative.  Once again, though, for most projects it’s best to avoid selling statistical methods and a good idea to keep several options in mind when designing research since the data you obtain may not behave as you’d expected.

It’s important that marketing researchers do their homework, and even more so when they are working from home because communication can break down more easily under that arrangement.  In my experience, you have to be more proactive and more cautious about making assumptions if you’re telecommuting.  Either way, though, given today’s understandable fascination with information technology, we all must sometimes remind ourselves that marketing research is more than math and programming.  The human side is a great deal bigger and we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the decision-makers who will be using our research and in their customers’ shoes.  This means doing a lot of homework, wherever you’re doing it from.

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CASRO Transformation Series: 20/20 Is Writing the Lyrics of Qualitative Transformation

This month’s Transform Blog takes us to Nashville, Tennessee – home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. It is also the home of 20|20 Research and its CEO, Jim Bryson.

 

 

By Jeff Resnick of Stakeholder Advisory Services

 

JB Headshot_2015This month’s Transform Blog takes us to Nashville, Tennessee – home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It is also the home of 20|20 Research and its CEO, Jim Bryson.  By many accounts, qualitative research will continue to flourish as an integral element of a researcher’s tool kit.  However, like so many aspects of our industry, the discipline of qualitative research has undergone significant change with more dramatic change to come in the future.  Jim and his team have been at the forefront of this evolution, having grown from a 1986 start-up in a 10 x 10 room with two filing cabinets to a company that now services clients from over 100 countries.  Jim shared his thoughts about transformation based on more than 25 years of learning to perfect it.

Transform ahead of the crowd.  Jim’s view is that innovation today has a lot has to do with structural trends.  The ability to transform ahead of the crowd is dependent on being able to see a vision for the application of technology before it becomes obvious to everyone else. This doesn’t diminish the value of client input but reflects the reality that clients do not always know what they need until they see it.   For example, 20|20 invested heavily in online bulletin board technology back in the early 2000’s – far ahead of when the technology became used in mainstream research.  Recently, 20|20 began to discuss its upcoming virtual reality.  Jim firmly believes virtual reality will be the next “big thing” in qualitative research.

Pivot without losing control.  Pivoting is all about moving to where your skills meet market needs. As Jim said “You have to pivot in a way that doesn’t put your company into a spin or create a lot of disruption”.  Often this results from taking a realistic look at your company strengths and realigning them with existing or emerging market needs. Radical departures from the historic core of a business are rarely a good idea.

Stay true to who you are.  One of the most important decisions made by Jim Bryson was NOT to become a software company.  20|20’s roots and strengths are in the area of qualitative research, not software development.  This led to a strategy of providing innovation coupled with a very strong service offering rather than a company focusing on selling software.

Know the strengths and weaknesses of your target audience.  Transformation needs to recognize potential limitations of your clients.  20|20’s focus is the development of technology-based services to support qualitative research.  However, many qualitative researchers are not technologists.   20|20’s staff provides training for researchers in new methodologies plus a full complement of project support services to ensure a positive experience.   While the development and introduction of technology-based qualitative research products is the transformation, service and support are critical enablers to the adoption of the technology.

Find ways to ensure the old co-exists with the new.  Melding the new and the old is a difficult task but it has to be done effectively.  It is often the traditional business that is funding the development of the new business.  It is an imperative to find ways to bridge the skills of employees working on the new side of the business with those from the traditional side of the business.  For example, proactively finding ways to bring new technology into the management of the traditional side of the business can be an effective way of introducing new skill sets across the organization and making certain everyone feels part of the transformation.

Expect surprises.  Every day.  It is simply part of the business of transformation.

Do good.  Social responsibility is a core value of 20|20.   They refer to it as simply “doing good.”  While not part of transformation per se, it is a strong statement about the core culture and value of the company – an important stabilizing element during transformation.  It is something that everyone can be proud of and reminds all that they are not only part of the business success but can also bring change to areas that are, perhaps, even more important.

20|20 has been transforming since the 1990’s.  While Jim Bryson and his team do not claim perfection in this area, they do understand the “art” of business transformation.  It has clearly driven 20|20 to be one of the leaders in the evolution of qualitative research.  It has been a true team effort that could not have been accomplished without the dedication and commitment of 20|20 employees.  I have no doubt the spirit and action of business transformation will continue to be a trademark of 20|20.

 

20|20 is a global leader in online qualitative research software and services aiding research firms worldwide with over 30 languages.  Leading innovation, easy-to-use software and unmatched service is how 20|20 is committed to helping you do better research.

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Is Online Sample Quality A Pure Oxymoron?

Why is nobody here addressing the elephant in the room? It’s not just sample quality. It’s survey quality.
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Editor’s Note: It must be something in the air, because the topics of panels, online sample, and the interface of technology and quality has been a hot topic lately. So far this year alone I have engaged in four different advisory conversations with investors on the this topic, which has never happened before.  It’s no surprise though: online sampling is now the backbone of market research globally. Whether we are engaging respondents on mobile devices or PC’s, the same principles apply: personal online access is ubiquitous globally, and programmatic buying for ad delivery, predictive analytics, and online panels/sampling are BIG business. REALLY BIG business, and it’s only going to get bigger.

 

That being the case, issues around quality and how we ensure it is the primary factor while the industry continues to maximize the mix of speed, cost, and value will only grow in importance over the next few years. And that brings us to Scott Weinberg’s call to action post today. Scott doesn’t pull any punches and his concerns harken back to Ron Seller’s post a few years ago on the “Dirty Little Secrets” of online panels.  I believe we have made progress in this area and that some suppliers remain clear leaders in the quality arena, but this is an issue we shouldn’t take our eyes off of and Scott reminds us of why.
By Scott Weinberg 

 

I attended a CASRO conference in New Orleans back in late ’08 or early ’09. The topic was ‘Online Panel Quality.’ I’ve often thought about that conference: the speakers, the various sessions I attended. I recall attending the session about ‘satisficing’ which at the time was being newly introduced into the MR space (the word itself goes back decades); I thought that was an interesting expression for a routine occurrence. Mostly however I remember the hand wringing over recruitment techniques, removing duplicates, digital fingerprinting measures and related topics du jour. And I remember thinking to myself, for 2 days non-stop: ‘are you kidding me?’ Why is nobody here addressing the elephant in the room? It’s not just sample quality. It’s survey quality.

Allow me to explain where I’m coming from. My academic training is in I/O Psychology. Part of that training involves deep dives into survey design. Taking a 700-level testing & measurements course for a semester is a soupcon more rigorous than hearing ‘write good questions.’ For example, we spent weeks examining predictive validity, both as a measurement construct, and also how it has held up in courtrooms. More to the point, when you’re administering written IQ tests, or psych evals, or (in particular) any written test used for employment selection, you are skating on thin ice, legally speaking. You open yourself up to all kinds of discrimination claims. Compare writing a selection instrument that will withhold a courtroom challenge with writing a csat or ‘loyalty’ survey. Different animals, perhaps, but both are Q & A formats. A question is presented, and a reply is requested. However, the gulf in education in constructing MR type surveys is visible to anyone viewing the forest in addition to the trees.

An MR leader in a huge tech company said something interesting on a call I remember vividly. He asked: ‘when is the last time you washed your rental car?’ The context here pertained to online sample. And he was one of the few, very few really, that I’ve encountered in the last 12 years I’ve been in that space, who openly expressed the problem. The problem is this: why would you ever wash your rental car? Why change the oil? Why care for it at all? You use it for a day, or a week, and you return it. Online respondents are no different. You use them for 5 minutes, or 20, and return them. If we actually cared about them, the surveys we offer them wouldn’t be so stupefyingly, poorly written. I’ve seen literally hundreds of surveys that have been presented to online panelists. I’ve been a member of numerous panels as well. Half of these surveys are flat out laughable. Filled with errors. Missing a ‘none of the above’ option. Requiring one to evaluate a hotel or a restaurant they’ve never been to. Around a quarter consist of nothing but pages of matrices. Matrices are the laziest type of survey writing. Sure, we can run data reductions on them and get our eigenvalues to the decimal point. Good for us. And the remaining quarter? If you’re an online panelist, they’re simple boring. Do I really want to answer 30 questions about my laundry detergent? For a dollar? Ever think about who is really taking these surveys? Sidebar: do you know who writes good surveys? Marketing people using DIY survey software. Short & to the point surveys. 3 minutes. MR practitioners hate to hear it, or even think about it, but that’s reality. I’ve seen plenty of these surveys by ‘non-experts.’ They’re not only fine, but they get good & useful data from their quick hit surveys.

Since you’ve made it this far, time to bring up the bad news. I’ve been accumulating a lot of stories the last 12 years. I’ll share a few. These all happened, and I’m not identifying any person or firm so please don’t ask.

  • Having admin rights to a live commercial panel, I found a person with 37 accounts (there was a $1 ‘tell a friend’ recruitment carrot). Also found people with with multiple accounts and a staggering number of points, to the point of impossibility.
  • The sales rep who claimed to be able to offer a ‘bi-polar panel’ and sold a project requiring thousands of completes of respondents with a bi-polar or schizophrenic diagnosis.
  • The other sales reps I know personally (at least 5) who make $20,000-$30,000 per month selling sample projects. Hey, Godspeed, right? Thing is, not a one could tell you what a standard deviation is, let alone the rudimentary aspects of sampling theory. Don’t believe me? Ask them. Clearly, knowing these items are not a barrier to success in this space. Just a pet peeve of mine.
  • Basically, this entire system works via highly paid deli counter employees. ‘We can offer you 2 lbs of sliced turkey, a pound and a half of potato salad, and an augment of coleslaw, for this CPI.’ Slinging sample by the pound, and let the overworked and underappreciated sample managers handle the cleanup and backroom topoffs.
  • The top 10 global MR firm who finally realized their years-long giant tracker was being filled largely with river sample, which was strictly prohibited.
  • Chinese hacker farms have infiltrated several major panels. I know this for a fact (as do many others). You can digital fingerprint and whatnot all day long, they get around it. They get around encrypted URLs. Identity corroboration. You name it, they get around it.
  • The needle in a haystack b2b project that was magically filled overnight, the day before it was due.
  • Biting my tongue when senior MR execs explained to me their research team insists on 60 minute online surveys, and they’re powerless to flush out their headgear.
  • Biting my tongue when receiving 64-cell sampling plans. The myopic obsession with filling demographic cells at the exclusion of any other attributes, such as: who are these respondents? You’re projecting them out to non-panelists as if they’re one and the same?
  • A team of interns inside every major panel, taking the surveys, guessing the end client, and sharing that with the sales team in a weekly update.
  • Watching two big global panels merge and scrutinize for overlap/duplicates, stretching across 12 countries. USA had 18% overlap, the rest (mostly Europe) had 10%. Is this bad? No idea. Maybe it’s normal.
  • Most online studies are being at least partially filled with river sample (is anyone surprised by this?).
  • Infiltration of physician panels by non-physicians.
  • The origin of the original ‘Survey Police’ service
  • Visiting the big end client for the annual supplier review and watching them (literally) high-five each other as to who wrote the longest online survey. The ‘winner’s’ was 84 questions. We had performed a drop-off analyses, which fell on deaf ears.

Lastly, and for me the saddest of my observations, are the new mechanics of sample purchasing. The heat & light on sample quality that peaked about 4 years ago has been in steady decline. In the last couple years, sample quality is simply assumed. End client project sponsors assume their suppliers have it covered. The MR firms assume their suppliers have it covered. And the sad part? The sample buyers at MR firms, and I’ve seen this countless times, do not receive trickle-down executive support for paying a bit more for the sample supplier who actually is making an effort and investment to boost their sample quality, via validation measures for example. There are exceptions to this, or were, in the form of CPI premiums, but no widespread market acceptance to pay a buck or three more. In fact, the buying mechanics are simple, get 3-4 bids, line them up, and go with the cheapest CPI, assuming the feasibility is there. This happens daily, and has for years. And by cheaper, I’m talking 25 cents cheaper. Or 3 cents. That’s what this comes down to. So chew on this: why would a sample supplier pour money down the quality rabbit hole? Quality is not winning them orders. Margin is. Anyone working behind the scenes has also seen this movie, many times. Incidentally, there’s nothing wrong with buying on price, we all do this in our daily lives. The point is this: if you’re going to enforce or even expect rigorous sample quality protocols from your suppliers, then give your in-house sample buyers the latitude to reduce your project margins. I won’t hold my breath on this, but that’s what it takes.

I could go on but more is not necessarily better. This is the monster we’ve created: $2 and $3 CPIs has a ripple effect. How can a firm possibly invest in decent security architecture, with prices like this? How can we expect them to? If you’re buying $2 sample, why not go to the source and spend 50 cents?

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, one may wonder, is there any good news? I remember telling my colleague 5 years ago ‘if a firm with a bunch of legitimate web traffic, like Google, ever got in this racket, they would upend this space.’  I didn’t think that would actually happen, but there you go (that one may still be depressing to some). I also believe that ‘invite-only’ panels give the best shot at good, clean sample. When you open your front door to anyone with a web connection, and tell them there’s money to be made, well, see above. More recently I’ve become a convert to smartphone-powered research. Many problems are removed. It has its own peculiarities, but from a data integrity perspective, it’s hard to beat. Lastly, and I could do a whole other riff on this: when we design surveys with no open end comment capture, you’re hoisting an ‘open for business’ sign to fraudulent activity. Yes you can add the ‘please indicate the 4th option in this question’ but both bots and human pros spot red herrings like that. It’s much more difficult to fake good, in-context open ended verbiage. Yes it takes a bit more work on the back end, and there are many solutions that can assist with this, one in particular. And the insights you can now share via this qual(ish) add-on is a nice change of pace relative to the presentation of trendlines and decimal points.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading.

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Learning From IBM’s Mistakes: How To Win in Fast Changing Markets

What can the market research industry learn from IBM's poor performance in adapting to a changing marketplace? Quite a bit it seems.

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Editor’s Note: IT is a great barometer for MR; both are data-centric offerings that are vital to business success on a foundational level. They are also increasingly deeply interconnected on both an infrastructure and offerings perspective. And finally, both are facing massive disruption from new solutions that deliver cost, speed, and scale efficiencies while establishing frameworks for new value creation via integration.

With that in mind, Larry Gorkin’s deconstruction of the ills IBM is experiencing are instructive for MR companies, and his prescription for success is a great primer for industry leaders to align to.

 

By Larry Gorkin

IBM’s earnings announcement was full of bad news. Profits were far below expectations, revenues continued an ongoing decline, and the company said it would not meet its widely promoted profit target for 2015. Wall Street sent IBM shares down -10%.

These results reflect IBM’s below par response to major shifts impacting the overall IT market. The story highlights the challenges of sustaining growth in the face of rapid market change. There are important lessons for everyone, making it the subject of this Winning Ways.

Leaders facing rapidly changing markets must aggressively manage their business from both defensive and offensive perspectives to ensure on-going progress. Included are to set internal milestones for action, decisively invest in new opportunities, and develop back-up strategies. That’s the lesson from IBM’s recent business set-backs in the fast changing IT market.

As context, the IT market is undergoing big shifts based on fast customer adoption of cloud technology. This change has hurt IBM and other established players whose profits have been driven by sales of on-site hardware, software, and services. Cloud prices and margins are much lower than old IT products, and IBM’s new initiatives aren’t growing enough to off-set legacy declines.

IBM’s challenge has been compounded by its own widely promoted goal to achieve $20 EPS by 2015. The company has aggressively cut costs and spent billions on share buy-backs to meet that target.

Challenges aside, even IBM’s CEO described the company’s most recent performance as disappointing. Revenue declined for the tenth consecutive period, earnings missed Wall Street expectations by -15%, and growth in emerging markets was lackluster. Moreover, IBM conceded it wouldn’t make the $20 EPS target for 2015, a conclusion many outsiders had reached long ago.

IBM’s results reflect several key missteps. To begin, the company seriously misjudged how quickly customers would move to the cloud. IBM’s own cloud initiative was late and under-resourced, as was its effort behind other growth initiatives like big data and Watson.

Moreover, IBM invested billions of dollars in share buy backs to meet its 2015 EPS goal that could have been invested in growth initiatives. At the same time, the company ignored on-going revenue declines and other signals that the target was unachievable. Most importantly here, IBM has yet to find a way to off-set legacy business declines with equal revenue/profits from new offerings.

Fortunate for IBM, it is a big company with lots of talent and deep financial resources. IBM is far better positioned than many companies would be to recover from these kinds of mistakes. For many companies and in many markets, missing important industry shifts would leave permanent damage.

So, IBM’s story is a good reminder that “stay the course” doesn’t work in periods of rapid market change. More than other times, leaders must stay ever close to customers and be prepared for the unexpected. Plans need to be regularly updated to reflect changing business results and market conditions. Objectivity and milestone metrics are fundamental requirements.

Lest you be unprepared yourself, here are five steps leaders can take to ensure their own success when faced with a rapidly changing market.

1. Monitor Customers Closely–Establish on-going tracking research and regular live dialogues to know what customers are thinking and buying. Look for trends/changes and conduct sensitivity analysis; determine the possible business and strategy implications.

2. Establish Milestone Metrics–Define threshold measurements that will trigger you to re-evaluate or change plans. Examples are changes in market size, revenue, and pricing. Decide what actions you will take for each trigger. Put a supporting management system in place.

3. Respond Decisively–Develop strategies that aggressively defend the threat and/or exploit the opportunity presented. Be sure the budget, people, and skills are in place to successfully execute the plan. This is not a time for indecision or saving money.

4. Prepare a Back-up Plan–Have “Plan B” ready in case the original response doesn’t work; you probably won’t have tested it in advance. Per the above, decide in advance what milestone metrics will trigger a shift to the alternate plan.

5. Establish Objective Oversight–Create a team of senior leaders to regularly monitor progress. Have the team constructively engage with the business owners on performance and strategies to ensure overall success.

Rapid market change can challenge any business. Decisive action by strong leaders will win.

Is your business facing a potential market shift? What changes could impact your business? Are you prepared?

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Lessons from Automating Social Media Monitoring

The myth of social media is that the data is free and therefore the analysis is as well. The data is free, but the analysis can be time-consuming and tricky. If social media is fragile, your monitoring must be robust.

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By Jeffrey Henning

Social media monitoring can be fragile.

I’ve been recapping the top 5 research links of the week since I coined the #MRX hashtag back in July of 2010. Originally I did it by hand, and then I had one of my sons automate the process for me in June of 2011. He had to make some minor tweaks to it whenever there were changes to the Twitter API (its Application Programming Interface, which is the way other programs are instructed to interact with Twitter as opposed to fetching and parsing its web pages).

As people use social media differently, as programs interact with it differently, as APIs change, social media monitoring programs can behave strangely. For instance:

  • At some point along the way, we stopped giving stories from The New York Times the clout they deserved, as their paywall interfered with how we looked up the URL. (Sadly, this is still a problem.)
  • When we wrote the system, Twitter didn’t have embedded images. People used third-party tools for that. Now that Twitter supports embedded images (e.g., https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B1SpTxTCYAAHKin.png:large from this tweet), sometimes the URL of an image would confuse our system.
  • When the system was originally written, emoji was not as prevalent. The initial implementation could not handle emoji and a variety of other obscure characters, so it ignored tweets with these symbols. Once emoji was added to the default keyboards of both iPhone and Android in 2011 and 2013 respectively, these symbols got used more often and our system would ignore more and more tweets.
  • The worst news at some point is that our system started producing bad data, and I didn’t notice, as it occasionally highlighted a top story that wasn’t a top story at all. This wasn’t because of an explicit change to the Twitter API, but a change to how data was returned. Sometimes, for no reason that we can tell, the URL would be returned as “t.co/…” and would inflate the count of another story. (Twitter uses its own URL shortener, t.co, even if you’ve already used a third-party URL shortener to get around the 140-character limit.)

Because of the shift to tweets with rare Unicode characters such as emoji, my son ended up rewriting our system from scratch. And the system now outputs additional diagnostics so I can verify its accuracy.

The algorithm seems to be working well now. Now, algorithm is just a formal word for automating a sometimes arbitrary process. We’ve implemented certain heuristics – another formal word, for rules of thumb! Really, a program is just an embodiment of judgment calls. Some of ours:

  • Tracking influence – We give everyone who tweets an influence score, based on some factors. There’s been a lot of research into measuring influence, and we have our own method for estimating it. If @lennyism retweets a link, it counts for more than if a new Twitter user retweets that same link.
  • Handling spam – If you retweet the same link three times to #MRX over a week, we’ve always counted it only once. We’ve implemented some new rules to better handle bots and other spammy activity that we’ve seen, including closely-related accounts retweeting a link. Beating spam is a constant battle.
  • Determining which link is canonical – We resolve shortened URLs so that we are counting the underlying link, not the different representations of it. For instance, we treat it/1D5E09h, bit.ly/1vpik1H, and lnkd.in/d8EVzD3 all as http://www.greenbookblog.org/2014/12/30/embracing-change-in-mr-a-year-end-perspective/. And we’ve added a few special rules to account for some different versions of hyperlinks to the same pages. Rediscovering how hard it is simply to track URLs makes me realize how error prone tracking brand names must be!

Fortunately, in our case, our program produces a report for a human to read and analyze, rather than simply spits out its results to Twitter. So a human can catch the things that the automation didn’t. For instance, I manually exclude references not related to market research (I am so not looking forward to the February release of the Bollywood film Mr. X!). I skip over any expired links – invitations to webinars now passed, for instance. And I curse any spammers who get by the system.

The lesson? Social media monitoring automation requires vigilance and updates, even for a hobbyist project like tracking the top 5 research stories of the week. Implementing custom brand trackers requires even more diligence – you should schedule regular audits to double-check the results. The myth of social media is that the data is free and therefore the analysis is as well. The data is free, but the analysis can be time-consuming and tricky. If social media is fragile, your monitoring must be robust.

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Celebrating 15 Years Of Innovation With BrainJuicer: Looking Back & Looking Ahead With John Kearon

In honor of BrainJuicer's 15th Birthday, here is an interview with John Kearon on his entrepreneurial journey so far, what BrainJuicer has accomplished, and what the next stage of their journey might hold.

milestones

 

I love John Kearon.

There; I said it.

I have a big ol’ man crush on him (and by extension his company BrainJuicer), comprised of respect for his business success, inspiration from his iconoclastic approach to the traditional market research industry, delight of his charisma and quick wit, and (like most Americans) a bit of jealousy because of his British accent. He is a like a mix of Richard Branson and Colin Firth, with a healthy dose of Monty Python mixed in.

It’s the same type of love I have for folks like Diane Hessan, Elon Musk, Lisa Gerrard, George R.R. Martin, Kristin Luck, Robin Williams, Peggy Noonan, Stan Lee, Ayn Rand, Kevin Smith and a host of others. Regardless of their specific area of focus, what they do and who they are resonates with me.

They push buttons in my head and my heart, and I respond on an intrinsic level.

In short, John and BrainJuicer as a brand (and make no mistake, John IS a brand too) have elicited an emotional response from me. They have engineered their communications across all channels to provoke those responses in their target audience. Far from being calculating or disingenuous, it’s the height of integrity (another important value to me). What they say, what they think, and what they do are all in alignment. They are consistent in applying their core values to their business and communications, and it shows.

And all of that is a lead in to my post today, since it is, indeed, about John and BrainJuicer.

You see, because they engage me, I want to share that positive experience with others. I genuinely look forward to my interactions with them, and think others in my network might as well. It’s proof positive of their theory of brand engagement, in action right here.

I knew they had some cool stuff cooking due to their 15th birthday this month, so I thought it would be a good time to do one of my annual interviews with John. Be warned: they’ve earned the right to brag a bit, so there is some of that here. They went through a rough spot a while back and came back better than ever and the message they have been spreading for years about the importance of understanding nonconscious drivers of behavior is generally universally accepted today. They were the Champion of the battle between measuring the impact of the rational vs. emotional in modern commercial market research, and they have pretty much won the war (although I am not sure the Rational folks have gotten the message yet).

So, John and I exchanged a few emails to put this interview together. It’s about his entrepreneurial journey so far, what BrainJuicer has accomplished, and what the next stage of their journey might hold. It’s hard to argue with their success, so hopefully you’ll be inspired too.

And if you don’t develop a crush on him too, then at the very least I hope you’ll find something of value in our little back and forth.

Here is the interview:

LFM: Hey John! So I understand you have a big day coming up: BrainJuicer’ s 15th Birthday! Congratulations! In honor of such a milestone, what are you most proud of having accomplished in the past 15 years?

john kearonJK: You mean apart from still having my own hair after 15 years of entrepreneurial angst?  We’re hugely proud of helping  our terrific clients do famous marketing, like the 3 Mobile Moonwalking Pony, Guinness Wheelchair Basketball and the John Lewis’ Christmas ads. It’s also incredibly rewarding to have started a company that’s now global, doing research in over 70 countries and staffed by some of the most incredibly talented people I’ve worked with, who seem to thoroughly enjoy what they’re doing – joyous. I should also mention we’re incredibly flattered to been voted by clients and competitors in your GRIT report as, Most Innovative research agency for the last 3 years in a row.  

LFM: What has surprised you the most in your journey?

JK: How often the safety net appeared when we took a leap into the unknown.

LFM: When we last spoke you talked about the need for research companies to focus on behavior change, not just understanding and were exploring how to move the research process “up market” on a par with business consultancies. Is that part of the path to change for the industry as a whole? And how is BrainJuicer embracing those ideas?

JK: If we can genuinely help clients do famous marketing and accelerate brand growth, we’ll quickly find ourselves in demand as a key contributor, with a voice at Board level and accepted as charging management consultant level fees.  To achieve that, researchers need to get out of the prevention business, peddling outdated, over-rational measures that add little value and get into the promotion business, offering modern, more emotional measures that directly contribute to famous brand building.

LFM: The industry has changed a lot in 15 years, and of course BrainJuicer has been on the forefront of many of those changes. From your perspective though what’s different today vs. when you started the company?

JK: Ok, time to be controversial – you’d expect nothing less. While it’s gratifying we’re associated with change in the industry, I can’t help feeling too little has really changed. The industry is still predominantly in the prevention rather promotion business; stopping marketing doing stupid things rather than helping marketing doing famous things. The vast majority of the $35 billion spent annually on MR, is still spent on flawed models of tracking and over-rational research that’s a poor predictor of fame-and-fortune marketing. Habits, however bad are difficult to break and making a broad scale change from over-rational research to System 1 emotional, intuitive research takes a great deal of vision, skill, patience and creativity on behalf of senior clients. But it’s possible and its happening at some of the world’s largest companies. Where they lead, others will follow and I believe when we look back in another 10 years, Behavioral Science and System 1 research tools will have changed research more fundamentally than online, mobile and Big data put together.  We’re doing everything we can to help clients make those changes, through Behavioral Science training and inspiration sessions, together with pioneering System 1 research and tracking tools that better help with famous brand building.     

LFM: It seems were entering another consolidation phase in MR, with significant deals happening in the last few months from not just Nielsen and Kantar, but also firms that I would consider to be closer in size to BrainJuicer. You’ve never shown any interest in joining the M&A game though; what’s that about and do you see it changing?

JK: That’s a really simple one. When you’re challenging the status quo, there’s really no point buying market share in companies doing research in ways we don’t believe in, only to stop them doing it. By contrast, we’re always on the lookout for innovative businesses that can genuinely help marketing do famous things.

LFM: Obviously you’re inspired by your team and clients, and you certainly inspire many folks outside of BrainJuicer as well. What other sources of inspiration do you have?

JK: I’ve always liked creative contrarians who challenge the status quo, so I get enormous inspiration from the likes of Brian Eno in music, the Chapman Brothers in art, James Dyson in product design and the likes of my friend, Mark Earls and Rory Sutherland in marketing.

LFM: As evidenced by all the awards and the GRIT 50 ranking, you’ve done an amazing job of really “owning” the innovation in MR brand. How are you going to maintain that status? What’s the next “wow!” product you’re working on?

JK: On January 15th, BrainJuicer will be 15 year’s old and to celebrate we’re launching a number of new things. The first is a short book; ‘The 15 Things Every Modern Marketer Should Know About Famous Brand Building’, in which we’ve produced  15 rhyming couplets + illustrations to capture the implications of Behavioral Science on marketing. Here’s a taster:

If brands come readily to mind

Then profit won’t be far behind

All round the world, the rule’s the same

Your only objective – AIM FOR FAME

 

When your brand needs that fame ignition

You can’t rely upon cognition

Replace your message with pure emotion

And really KICK up a Commotion!

A longer book of the same name, ‘ComMotion®’ will follow later in the year. In a related innovation, we’ve tested over 400 of the world’s most awarded or popular adverts in 2014 and will be revealing the Global FeelMore50™ on January 12th. Then, on the 15th January we’re hosting Movie-Morning, a red-carpet event for clients, agencies, staff and friends at a Leicester Square cinema to reveal the very best adverts of 2014 and what it takes to make famous 5-Star ads.  We’re aiming to repeat the event in New York in February after this year’s Super Bowl and then in China, Singapore, Brazil, India and Europe where we have offices.  As 2015 kicks off, we’ve reached some major milestones, with our award winning, FaceTrace® which is now the world’s most deployed measure of emotion, having been used over 5 million times with over 3 million respondents. Also our wisdom of crowds based, Predictive Markets methodology, has now been used with nearly 2 million respondents, who’ve made over 15 million trades, testing over 35,000 concepts globally.

LFM: Wow, that is a lot of cool stuff; congratulations! All of your success is well deserved a real testament to the hard work, vision, and spirit you and your team have put into everything you’ve done over the past few years. It’s well deserved success and I hope this year sets the stage for another phase of massive growth for you and the company!

JK: Thanks Lenny; your kind words and support are greatly appreciated! It’s always a pleasure to catch up and I hope your 2015 is even more exciting as ours is going to be! 

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The CEO Series: Predictions for 2015 by Dave Sackman of LRW

Since it’s already the midpoint of this decade, it’s a good time to look backward and forward to 2020. I see an exciting time for our industry.

 Businessman staring into a crystal ballcrystal

 

Editor’s Note: I am a big fan of Dave Sackman, CEO of LRW. I won’t gush here on all the reasons why, instead, he recently posted his predictions for 2015 and I’m going to share them with you as part of our ongoing CEO series. I expect you’ll understand where my esteem for him comes from after reading it, and share it. It’s good stuff.

 

By Dave Sackman

I’m not a fan of nostalgia, after all, it isn’t what it used to be. But since it’s already the midpoint of this decade, it’s a good time to look backward and forward to 2020. I see an exciting time for our industry.

In the 80s, through the 90s, researchers often focused more on the science and craft of market research, than on the way it could actually impact business results. Through most of the 2000s, the rising influence of procurement departments and the pressure to lower the cost of research caused everyone to chase less representative internet samples at the expense of more rigorous sampling.

The first half of this decade has been focused on a swirl of tech driven innovations, including the rise of communities, social media listening and mobile data collection. I believe the next period in our industry will be characterized by increased bifurcation of data collection and consultative market research, with consultative researchers delving into the whys behind consumer behavior. They will also apply new, more sophisticated analytic capabilities to integrated data sets to help client companies turn research insight into business impact.

My prediction that there will be an increasing bifurcation between data collection and truly consultative market research is nothing new, I’ve been saying this since the early days of the internet. We’re seeing this trend play out, and I expect it will continue. Internet sample companies continue to grow rapidly and attract capital at nice multiples, despite a flat industry. The DIY sector of the industry is now entering “its time,” though I don’t believe that it will greatly cannibalize the full-service market research industry because the SurveyMonkeys of the world cannot consistently provide client companies the type of insight that can drive strategy and improve financial performance. Accordingly, highly consultative “boutique” firms will likely continue to be the best solution for companies seeking to answer complex business issues in an increasingly complex marketplace.

I believe that the industry’s interest in what I call “applied neuroscience” or the “intersection of neuroscience and behavioral economics” is appropriate, and that there are real opportunities in this space to help marketers better understand their consumers. As with any new innovation though, the key will be separating those who really understand the science and can develop tools that effectively help us understand consumers more holistically. I believe that there will first be a pruning of those who currently offer tools in this area to those who really understand the science.  Over the next 5-10 years, there will be a proliferation of companies who both offer the tools and truly understand how to use them.

I also believe that the industry’s new orientation toward being “data agnostic” will grow. Just like the industry took nearly a decade to embrace data collection via the internet, I believe the industry will figure out that it must rely on more than survey data to answer business questions. There is, as everyone recognizes, a plethora of data — social media, customer geo-demographic, digital exhaust, etc — available that can help answer client questions. While right now, specialty companies have sprouted up to offer some of these data analytic capabilities, within the next 5 years, all good consultative research companies will be integrating a wide variety of data sources into their engagements.  These analyses won’t be the simplistic ones that many employ today, but will instead be smart, “so what?” analyses, just like the ones built around survey data.

The pace of innovation in our industry will continue to ramp up, and I will continue to warn my colleagues to avoid the fascination with “shiny new objects.” Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m anti-innovation. In fact, I’m quite oriented toward innovation, but I don’t support innovation for the sake of innovation. I think that Lenny Murphy has done a great job getting the industry to care about innovation, and hope he and others like him continue this work. But people must employ new approaches because they produce better, more actionable results — not because they are new or are what people are talking about.

In assessing our industry, we must do for ourselves what we do for others: take a holistic look, incorporating rational, emotional and less-conscious drivers. We must see the new types of data influencing our methodologies and choices, and be sophisticated in our approach to this changing world, so that we can deliver on our promise, which is always to provide truly consultative, business recommendations that create meaningful impact.

Happy 2015.

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Jeffrey Henning’s #MRX Top 10: Mining the Hive Mind & Cultivating the Beginner’s Mind

Posted by Jeffrey Henning Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 17:59 pm
Posted in category General Information
Here are 10 of the most retweeted stories shared on #MRX in the past two weeks.

Twitter

 

By Jeffrey Henning

Here are 10 of the most retweeted stories shared on #MRX in the past two weeks: 

  1. The Enormous Implications of Facebook Indexing 1 Trillion of Our Posts – Writing for TechCrunch, Josh Constine looks at the future possibilities enabled by Facebook’s new status-update search engine.
  2. Embracing Change in MR – A Year-End Perspective – Edward Appleton shares three key lessons from his own year of change.
  3. Revealing the True Unfiltered Voice of the Customer with One Question – Amber Strain of Decooda shares five principles that have informed their research philosophy, sharing some lessons from a study of the Top 20 Inspiring Companies.
  4. The ARF David Ogilvy Award Submissions – Share a case study of using research insights to inform creative advertising.
  5. The Genius of Pooh: A Beginner’s Mind – Frank Zinni of Lieberman Research Worldwide traces the common thread between Winnie the Pooh, Sherlock Holmes and Zen Buddhism to the danger of knowing too much about what you’re researching.
  6. The Role of Empathy in Research – Sandra Mathison takes shelter from some F-bombs to uncover what empathy really means.
  7. This Is What Consumers Want from New Tech: And 4 Startups Trying to Take Those Desires to the BankAd Week showcases an infographic mapping four trends identified by Future Foundation to startups trying to leverage those trends.
  8. Implicit vs. Explicit Techniques in Market Research – The number-one article for the year over at Research Access was this post by Aaron Reid of Sentient Decision Science assessing whether 8 different research techniques provide implicit measurement.
  9. To Nail Your New Year’s Resolutions, Quantify Your Self – Writing for Fast Company, Luke Dormehl argues the best way to honor your personal resolutions is to start by knowing yourself a little better… then acting on it.
  10. 7 Ways to Lie with Focus Groups – Mike Brown of Brainzooming puts tongue firmly in cheek in telling us how to lie with focus groups.

Note: This list is ordered by the relative measure of each link’s influence in the first week it debuted in the weekly Top 5. A link’s influence is a tally of the influence of each Twitter user who shared the link and tagged it #MRX, ignoring retweets from closely related accounts. Only links with a research angle are considered.

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Thinking Outside The “Project”

Don’t let the words “market research” deter you from getting the information you need in order to make the best possible business decisions. Access to that information is available faster than you can imagine, is easier than you think to acquire and is more affordable than ever before!

thinking-outside-the-box

 

Editor’s Note: 2014 may very well have been the “Year of Agile”. Companies like Gutcheck, ZappiStore, USamp, Mizzouri, Toluna, Google, and many more all brought solutions to market that allow research to be conducted cheaper, faster, and more iteratively than ever before. Leveraging technology (especially automation) and with a healthy dose of inspiration from new thinking in business process improvement gurus these new solutions are part of a fundamental change in market research that is just beginning to be really felt. One of those fundamentals is the shift away from “the project” to a broader utilization of various research tools to help guide the answer to “the business question” in a much more flexible way.

Today’s post by Janet Kosloff of InCrowd brings that point home very well. InCrowd was “agile” before being agile was cool and for the past four years have pioneered many of the trends that hit the mainstream market research industry last year within their focus area of healthcare. The post uses the context of their offering and experience in that arena to help make the point that research can now truly deliver on it’s efficacy as a strategic tool in ways it was difficult (if not impossible) to do just a few years ago. The sky’s the limit on where this new role can take us, but InCrowd and the other companies leading the charge will surely help us get there.

 

By Janet Kosloff 

Most people know InCrowd as the folks who do Market Research very quickly.  It’s true, what we do is fast, and, it is market research, but if that’s all you think it is, you are missing the boat.

Here’s the point…. In a more perfect world, market research should not be an isolated event; it should be an ongoing process of obtaining information from the market so one can make better-informed business decisions hence running more successful businesses.

Decisions requiring market input can often be inconveniently timed and are rarely contingent on ones ability to execute a “market research project”. Yet the fact remains that a decision is required and having good data on which to base that decision can be the difference between making a gut decision or bringing to light a more informed efficient solution.

I know what you are thinking (because we did pretty extensive market research on this topic).  You are thinking (I’m paraphrasing here), “I DON’T want to do market research every time I have a question for the market, how exhausting and expensive”.

I don’t blame you for thinking this, especially given the existing internal and external complexities of obtaining reliable data from your target market.  This is the exact problem InCrowd has been designed to solve. Taking the obstacles out of the process of getting answers to business questions requiring market input, such that answers are fast, easy and inexpensive to obtain.

To this end, we’ve created an integrated research system that allows our clients to independently ask structured or unstructured questions of pre-vetted, pre-screened and very targeted respondents (currently MD’s, RN’s Pharmacists, MCO’s, Patients etc.) and obtain aggregated and user ready data back beginning virtually immediately.

  • 24/7 access to thousands of responders in the US and Ex-US
  • Survey engine that was built by and for researchers (which means it has the rigor required, but is easy enough to use independently)
  • Client service team with deep MR experience available to brainstorm and problem solve when needed.

So what’s the game changer here for our clients?

  1. They can integrate actual market data into their everyday workflow with ease allowing them to be closer to the customer.
  1. They can move at a faster pace in meeting the customer and competitive challenges we all face.

In the vertical we currently serve – Life Sciences – the impact can be dramatic.  The drug development and commercialization process is long and arduous.  Every day that a drug is not on the market there are real human consequences, in many cases suffering or even death.   The business impact is also real as many thousands and sometimes millions of dollars are forgone for each week a drug is not on the market, and that’s not even mentioning the impact of the ever ticking patent expiration clock.

So the challenge is this – don’t let the words “market research” deter you from getting the information you need in order to make the best possible business decisions.

Access to that information is available faster than you can imagine, is easier than you think to acquire and is more affordable than ever before!

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