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8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Research Company

As I read today’s story about Harris Interactive‘s continued operating losses, I asked myself “what would I do if I were in their shoes.” Or any research vendor’s shoes, for that matter. I don’t envy them, nor would I look forward to the many changes in strategy inevitably required to return Harris to profitability. But change they must…change, we all must. Here’s where to start:

 

By Jason Anderson

As I read today’s story about Harris Interactive‘s continued operating losses, I asked myself “what would I do if I were in their shoes.” Or any research vendor’s shoes, for that matter. I don’t envy them, nor would I look forward to the many changes in strategy inevitably required to return Harris to profitability.

But change they must…change, we all must.

Here’s where to start:

  1. Get out of the survey business. Your clients have less expensive options at their disposal (Zoomerang, SurveyGizmo, SurveyMonkey anyone?). You have been disintermediated. Get over it, move on.
  2. Find a differentbetter way besides surveys to collect data. if I want to survey the market, I will contact my customers and do it myself. Or I will buy panelists from somewhere and do it myself. The only value you add as an outside vendor in this process is project management, which is not worth the profit margin you need to stay afloat.
  3. Get out of the syndicated report business. I love reading a report as much as the next person, but I can’t remember the last time that I (or any of my internal clients) actually used something from a syndicated report in a decision. it’s like trying to make a meal out of cotton candy…tastes good, looks pretty, but doesn’t offer any nutrition.
    1. Exception #1: proprietary syndicated data. If you happen to be the owner of a highly valued stream of data that already supports decision-making (e.g., point-of-sale data), well, cookies for you. But keep this in mind: every year, your clients look for a less expensive way to obtain the same information, or better information. So keep your foot on the innovation pedal.
    2. Exception #2: industry analysts. There are certainly niches where a name-brand analyst’s opinion carries weight, and their prognosticating has perceived value. No reason to walk away from this, but keep in mind that it’s a relationship- and reputation-driven business model.
  4. Become a data integration super-ninja. Everyone has lots of customer data now. Not everyone is adept with that data, however, and we all believe there to be value hiding at the intersection of customer data and research data. If you’re talking to customers and not connecting their words to their behaviors you are missing something critical.
  5. Sell impact, not methodology. Your business clients don’t care which methodology is more statistically relevant or has less bias. Only trained researchers care. Businesses care about maximum impact.
  6. Build or buy technology-based scalability. The SurveyMonkeys of the world succeeded because their businesses scale an order of magnitude larger than the workforce constraints of a consultancy. You need at least one tech tool in your toolbox.
  7. Recruit technologists. Change the composition of your workforce. You need more than just data analysts, statisticians, and account managers to be successful. You need a cohesive engineering team that knows how to build things.
  8. Embrace multimodal interaction. If you’re not from the boomer generation, you are a multimodal consumer. You tweet, text, update, talk, play. You do all of these things on your phone, desktop PC, laptop, tablet, game console. You can’t tell the whole story without listening across multiple channels.

This advice is worth what you just paid for it, of course, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic. As your customer, I would like very much for you to stay in business and to offer the value proposition described above.

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34 Responses to “8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Research Company”

  1. Paul Shortley says:

    October 2nd, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Excellent insights Jason. Enjoyed reading your post!

  2. Paul Shortley says:

    October 2nd, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Great insights Jason. Enjoyed reading your post.

  3. Mike Thompson says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 6:09 am

    This really is nonsense.
    While I would not begin to be fully conversant with Mr Andersons industry, a quick look at the Blizzard website and the news headline of ‘Foo Fighters to Rock the BlizzCon’ convinced me that he was talking about a very specific industry whilst most of the trained MR researchers that he wants to get rid of have a broader business perspective.
    Your statement ‘Your business clients don’t care which methodology is more statistically relevant or has less bias. Only trained researchers care. Businesses care about maximum impact’. implies that you would take any data of any kind and from any source and provided it had the same impact as a Foo Fighter you would take it onboard.
    Your suggestion that anyone can do research by using software such a SurveyMonkey is also nonsense. I understand that there is software around that allows gamers to create their own games – would Mr Anderson suggest that a do it yourself Foo Fighter would be as good as one developed by his companies obviously talented game developers.

  4. Lorin says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Hi Jason:

    You make a few excellent points. However, how do you address analysis?
    Many of our clients rely on us to conduct complex analyses based on survey research and other forms of data collection.

    While anyone can write and publish a survey online, we see a lot of terribly sloppy work by DIYers. And I cannot begin to tell you how many clients tell us they did a survey with Survey Monkey but they haven’t a clue what to do with the data. This is where the process breaks down.

    Research is like plumbing. You can go to Home Depot and buy some supplies but sometimes you need a professional to plug a big leak.

    Those of us who have dedicated our careers to conducting professional research still offer value to clients every day. More importantly, many of our paying clients (health care) still prefer the traditional methods of data collection and insist on it. We’ve tried pushing newer methods and they are resistant.

    Signed,
    A Gen-X researcher who loves multimodal interaction.

  5. Mark Lenel says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Super stuff. As owner-director of Arkenford Ltd., a market research company that is probably the most active in the European videogames industry, I couldn’t let this one pass by without a comment or two!
    1. “Get out of the survey business.” Zoomerang, Survey Gizmo, SurveyMonkey, etc. certainly do have their place at the cheap end of the market. If you have a comprehensive customer list (or are willing to buy research panel), and if you have the in-house expertise and resource to design, programme and manage your own sampling, surveys, data collection and analysis then this may well be the solution for you. Unfortunately for everyone involved – clientside or agency – these DIY survey solutions have devalued the market and imbued everyone with a sense that good market research is really easy. Simply jamming out a quick survey is easy, but good agency experience brings with it excellent & representative sample management, an understanding of how to ask questions without leading the consumer response, the ability to create interesting and engaging research & feedback, integration of customer panels with surveys, shall I go on…?
    2. “Find a better way besides surveys to collect data.” Saying you want “to survey the market…, by contacting your customers” betrays a simple misunderstanding of market vs. customers. Existing customers are great (aka cheap) to speak to if you want some depth and insight from your (highly biased) fanbase, and traditional surveys may well not be the right methodology. But not all businesses have sufficient customer contact to make this possible. Or – more importantly – many types of research, particularly those focussed on the broader market, require a broad brush-stroke of large-scale quant research to get it right. Blizzard occupy a very unique position in the MMO market which probably allows them to make this call. That said, this it hasn’t stopped them commissioning market research from Arkenford in the past…!
    3. “Get out of the syndicated report business.” We are the primary suppliers of quant research and analysis to the GameVision syndicate. This is a group of videogames publishers that have come together with a common need for high quality, insightful research and analysis, and funded a syndicated report that is published twice a year for the past 9 years in Europe and 3 years in the US. Whilst there are compromises to be had with syndication, pooling their resources and budget has allowed them to create a large-scale research programme that simply wouldn’t be achievable in any other circumstances.
    4. “Become a data integration super-ninja.” Wholeheartedly agree, and absolutely love this approach. We have built comprehensive research & forecasting models built entirely on secondary / customer datasets. The problem is that many, many clients simply don’t realise the wealth of data they are sitting on, and if they do realise it they are scared into inaction because they don’t know how to use it, they don’t feel they can’t release it, they just don’t know what to do. I wish more clients would just chuck us their datasets and say ‘can you take a look at this, please?’
    5. “Sell impact, not methodology.” I agree that many research agencies – ourselves included from time to time – do not communicate as well or as clearly as we should. However I disagree that ‘business clients don’t care which methodology is more statistically relevant or has less bias’. It’s just that business clients seem to take it for granted that by commissioning a ‘professional’ agency that all this will be taken care of. That in itself is a fundamental mistake. I’ve seen first-hand the horrendous methodologies undertaken by big-brand name MR companies; it’s scandalous. DON’T dismiss the importance of understanding of the methodology and its effects. DO call the MR agency to account and question them on their decisions. DO take the time to ask them why they’ve chosen X, Y and Z, and what are the impacts of those choices. My best clients are those that want to understand the research so they can feel confident in the analysis, they are those without preconceptions about what the results are going to say, and they are those that have confidence in us as an agency.
    6. “Build or buy technology-based scalability.” I’m not sure a view on the scalability of a particular type of research software is necessarily relevant to a discussion of how research vendors should stay in business.
    7. “Recruit technologists.” Sure, that is if clients demanded all-singing-all-dancing-pretty-pretty interactive insight solutions… 9 out of 10 of them are still happy with a Powerpoint deck that they can deliver to their board…
    8. “Embrance multimodel interaction.” Agree to an extent, although just because today’s consumer uses multiple platforms doesn’t necessarily mean we need to have the research conversation on all of these platforms as well. I refer the honourable gentleman to comment #6 above, with respect to understanding the impact of methodology.

  6. Tiffany McNeil says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Can’t say I agree across the board, but I’m fascinated by your opinions. It’s intriguing that different clients have such different needs, and I believe THAT is the tricky bit for suppliers. I ‘m particularly intrigued by your methodology/stat relevance comment and the disagreement by Mike above. I actually agree in spirit with your comments, but there’s a nuance missing which I believe puts you and Mike on the same page.

    When I’m evaluating suppliers, the accuracy and statistical soundness of the data, panel, etc. is the price of entry. I admit I don’t dig into those aspects as much as I should, so the temptation is there to say I don’t care about it. Truth is I do care about it – very much – but it can’t be your selling point, as my assumption (perhaps falsly?) is that of course the data is sound – my question is what can we learn from it?

  7. Leonard Murphy says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Fair points everyone and thanks for such a spirited debate! I posted this because I do think it is indicative of the way many (not all) clients are thinking today and is a great example of the type of new expectations that are being placed on the market research industry. The focus is shifting to listening & understanding from asking and analyzing. That doesn’t mean we don’t still need to ask, but it’s not the only tool in our tool box now.

    We’re releasing the newest wave of GRIT data this week and it backs this up, with clients leading suppliers in adopting new approaches across the board. Also recent results from a study by Cambiar Consulting that has been making the rounds lately verify the same thing, especially the shift to data convergence and consulting from data collection and analysis. It’s hard to argue against the combination of anecdotal and quantifiable data that tells us that views like Jason espouses are quickly becoming the norm, not the exception.

    I don’t believe that research is obsolete, but then again I also have an extensive collection of vinyl, cassettes, and VHS tapes. I sure hope my record player and VCR don’t break down anytime soon; finding someone who can work on those for me will be very hard. That doesn’t mean those technologies don’t have value for me and others, but market forces have made them niche, not mainstream. That is the choice market research likely is facing as well. Data collection techniques are not a point of differentiation anymore; in an age when virtually anyone can access data in various ways (DIY qual, quant, secondary, social, purchasing, etc…) MR cannot base our business model on data collection & reporting alone (as the majority of the industry does), but instead needs to focus on what we do with that data. DIY and social media analysis is NOT going away, so I think as Jason says, we do need to get over it and move on.

    I think the message is consistent for any industry in disruption; find ways to adapt to new demands or face increasing marginalization. We’re bright folks in MR and astute at helping others find opportunity in a changing marketplace; it’s time to take a bit of our own medicine.

  8. Jason Anderson says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    My, what a flurry of activity this morning!

    There’s no denying that the entertainment industry has some unique ways of looking at the world, but most of what I do has nothing to do with Foo Fighters. I care about subscriber churn, subscriber acquisition, brand and franchise health, pricing optimization, usability, new product development. I am more like AT&T Wireless than Hollywood (at least in research needs), and I fear it’s too easy to write off gaming as a “niche” market.

    I think data analysis and visualization is actually an area where there is significant value, and it’s something worth paying for. It’s also why we have so many data analysts and so few CI folk: analytics is hard, especially when you’re talking about large datasets.

    As for the DIY survey market, the reality is that the worms have escaped the can. There’s no going back to a world without poorly designed DIY surveys, which means that the people you want to survey have probably had some bad survey experiences in the past. This is why I said that surveys as a method of data collection need to change — either the user experience needs to be superior, or there needs to be enough of a relationship between interviewer and respondent to make the burden of completing a survey worthwhile.

  9. Chris Forbes says:

    October 3rd, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    While we can debate the merits of the tactical options Jason raises, I think it is important for both client, and agency-side researchers to understand how technology is changing the economics of the research supply chain, then figure out the best tactical responses for their businesses.

    One example that underpins Jason’s call to “get out of the survey business” is the impact of software as a service (exemplified by Survey Monkey et al) on the economics of data collection and analysis:

    In the past, survey software was too expensive to buy, too difficult to install within a client organisation, and had too steep a learning curve. As a result, it made more sense for this technology to bundled with a service and provided by a third party (research agencies). As more software applications are accessed on an as needed basis rather than purchased outright, they become cheaper and more easily accessed by clients (not needing any internal IT involvement removes a big roadblock). These new appplications are also a lot simpler to understand and use than the arcane PC-based packages of the past.

    So the ability for agencies to generate economies of scale (and therefore profit) from a bundled technology/service offering is therefore being eroded at a rapid rate.

    So should Agencies get out of the survey business altogether? This might be the rational decision for some firms, however there are other options- if we look to our colleagues in the accounting profession, we can see plenty of examples of firms who have thrived after separating their systems from their service expertise.

    While the broad tasks carried out in the research supply chain are still the same (define requirements, collect information, collate, analyse, present results, make recommendations), technology is changing how these tasks can be bundled up to create scalable, profitable businesses.

    One of the interesting expressions Jason uses is “disintermediation”. The link Jason provides to Wikipedia explains what disintermediation means, and also (further down the page) gives a couple of great examples of companies (Amazon, Ebay) who have understood the changed economics of their supply chains, and thrived through “Re-intermediating” tasks to create profitable, high growth businesses.

    So the first thing I would do if I were a research company is make sure I really understood my supply chain, then figure out my survival/growth strategy, and after that, check back with Jason’s list.

    Shameless self promotion: If you’ve managed to get to here without getting bored, you might be interested in this article I wrote for Esomar’s Research World in September last year-

    http://researchreporter.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/control-shift-how-cloud-computing-and-saas-technology-is-changing-the-client-agency-relationship-and-what-to-do-about-it-esomar-published-paper/

  10. Leonard Murphy says:

    October 4th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Fantastic points Chris and I agree completely. MR is essentially a service industry although traditional business models have been based on production or manufacturing models to a large degree. The inflection point has now been reached when the majority of firms have to make a decision on whether they fit within the value chain. It will be a painful transition for many, but clearly the impetus for that change is occurring rapidly now.

    Thanks for the great comments Chris and for the post to your previous article (which I loved when it was first posted on the ESOMAR blog!); really good stuff!

  11. Bill Pascarella says:

    October 5th, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Utter rubbish. Anderson’s insights on syndicated research and benefit of “do-it-yourself” research are simply wrong or not well throught through. Maybe the gaming industry requires less sophistication in research but that is not in other industries. The value of syndicated research is the positive result of a cost vs. benefit analysis. Anderson may have an unlimited research budget, in which syndicated research does not make sense, but in the real world most market research departments do not. Therefore, through syndicated research, companies can get data and analysis for a fraction of the cost of hiring full time analysts and paying for data collection themselves. The syndicated model is working well in most industries and will continue to do well. And I know hundreds of examples in my industry where syndicated research is actively used and valued. Maybe the syndicated research Anderson has been exposed to is poor quality.

    I guess Anderson may have the budget to buy his own plane and hire full time pilots for his business travel, but for most companies, a cost-benefit analysis results in a much better decision of buying a ticket on an airline and let someone else buy and fly the plane.

  12. SM Reilly says:

    October 5th, 2011 at 11:33 am

    This is a most disheartening opinion piece, and I hope people will see it for what it is, one person’s opinion.

    I have the perspective of a long career in market research. I have seen these new technologies come along, quite fast in the past few years, and I have listened carefully and with as open a mind as possible about what they have to offer buyers and practitioners of market research.

    I find that the purveyors of these new technologies do not mention the following downsides:

    1. When you are doing the research yourself, and analyzing the results, you may lack the skills of a career research professional to interpret the results. I don’t mean to set myself up as the Oracle at Delphi, but there is a lot to be said for a person who knows how to sort the wheat from the chaff.
    2. Speaking of wheat and chaff, I have heard many purveyors of these new data collection tools talk about the incredible “richness of information.” Over and over again. Baloney. There is richness of bits and bytes, of data, and it is more imperative than ever that you have someone who knows what their doing to spin all that straw into gold.
    3. I have seen my clients asked by their employers to become the market researcher, regardless of whether they have the time or the skills … even if they do, who knows if they have the intellectual “distance” from the data to come up with realistic findings.
    4. We are drowning in oceans of data, and more and more, there is an expectation that meaningful results and implications and business direction can be derived from it all by outsourced professionals from India, or even more extreme, algorithms. Yes, and even qualitative research is not immune from this. I know artificial intelligence has come a long way, but it is still no match forr a skilled and observant human brain when it comes to making sense of raw data and deriving insights. Yet, buyers of market research are being persuaded that it is all that and cheaper! Buyer beware!
    5. Use of the internet and now mobile devices for collecting consumer feedback. are settling for respondent self-selection, taking the risk that a person will show that side of them they want the world to see, and because they are typing responses, and sometimes limited to number of characters, can’t convey the nuance of a thought or idea. Andforget the non-verbals, which are part of the overall feedback one gets from real, and real-time, interaction.

    Bottom line is, this wonderful profession of mine is becoming an industry, and is losing much in the translation.

    SM Reilly
    5.

  13. Zeine R.Saidi says:

    October 5th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Amusing….

  14. Jim Weaver says:

    October 5th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Obviously, Jason has neither appreciation nor understanding of the true value of market research. Maybe HE’s the one who needs to get out of the industry.

  15. Leonard Murphy says:

    October 5th, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Wow, why all the vitriol folks? I am astounded by the amount of controversy this post has generated, and how many people seem to be utterly missing the point. It boils down to this. MR is about more than data collection. Data collection is now a commodity, end of story. We cannot survive as an industry with this fixation that we are the only keepers of data. Those days are gone; as Jason says, we have been disintermediated. Market research is about (or should be about) strategic insight delivery. We do that with keen understanding of client business issues, best in class analysis, and recommendations that help our clients succeed. that is our true value proposition and that is our only path for long term viability.

    I think anyone in our industry should be applauded for pointing out these basic facts, especially someone on the client side. And let’s not forget; they are the folks that pay the bills; perhaps we need to listen to them?

  16. Dan Kvistbo says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 6:58 am

    I think it’s fair to say that Jason’s recommendations add up to a death sentence on – at least – the entire field and tab business model. As someone currently working in exactly that space I nonetheless utterly enjoyed reading his post. Market research clearly needs to evolve and if somewhat (positively) provocative visions as represented by Jason are what it takes to wake up the traditionalists in our business, so be it. Most of these points have been voiced already by several thought leaders in our industry for the past couple of years and denying that there is a technology (and by extent, data-) driven trend that is bound to have further and stronger impact on our industry (than it already has had) is ignorant at best.

    Rather than arguing over whether surveys will be dead and gone by 2020 (as we have done for some time) – we’d be better off as an industry if we started focusing a bit more on the “stupidity gap”; i.e. that the amount of data is increasing a lot faster than our ability to make sense of it. There’s a growing gold mine of behavioural data under our feet and whoever figures out how to best dig it up and wash off the dust and dirt has a winning proposition. Traditional market research needs new MR like the car industry needs formula 1 – but the latter wouldn’t exist without the former and the former wouldn’t evolve fast enough without the latter. The only way our industry will continue to thrive and prosper, is if we begin to understand this and start working together – exchanging ideas, testing out new methodologies and failing miserably, but still moving forward.

    Eyes on the ball! 😉

  17. Leonard Murphy says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Bravo Dan; I couldn’t agree more! My Dad used to say “No use arguing how the donkey got in the ditch, just get him out!” and I think that is absolutely what is needed here. Thanks for the reminder!

  18. Jenny Moore says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Stunning article! And I think most of the negative comments relate to a misunderstanding of the main message in Jason’s article. The MR business model has become so focused on keeping the massive field & DP engines going, that many practioners have lost sight of what the real purpose of research is – providing meaningful and useful insight to help make business decisions. If we keep that in mind, winning in the future will require the ability to navigate the complexities of information overload, knowing what the trade-offs associated different data sources are and being best positioned to advise clients on what each data source can/cannot answer. “Doing surveys’ should be the last thing on our minds – it should be an aside, a service we can provide if client doesn’t have the right data etc. – and not the focal point of our solutions.
    Smart analytical capabilities, the freedom of being data source agnostic yet accutely aware of the implications of the source – these are the skills that will enable MR professionals to contine to have a reason to exist. These are highly specialised, expert skills that don’t exist within the average marketing department. It clearly defines our role as consultant/expert/guide/navigator that can make sense of it all and gives us a powerful reason to exist. But only if we can move away from our dependence on questionnaires and data collection, and rather focus on the value that we can add.

    (And for my field & tab colleagues, it certainly doesn’t mean the death of this business model – in fact, positioned correctly, it could present endless opportunities as an “expert data source”.)

  19. Mike Thompson says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Spot on Dan, both old and new need each other but before the new age insighters get too excited they should remember that over 60% of the value of research is carried our using CATI,CAPI, and postal. If you include CAWI where the sample is properly recruited it is nearer 75%. Most research cannot be carried out on access panels or social media because of the sampling problems. There are also increasing issues over the changing profile access panel respondents and the constantly shifting social media universe.

  20. Cameron Cramer says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I’m compelled to offer a different perspective. The MR industry is no Titanic and there is no iceberg straight ahead. Do suppliers need to change and adapt…yes, just as they have in the past. Is the playing field changing around them and beneath them…yes, of course. But MR is not the Yellow Pages with endless decreases of revenue in sight. According to Mr. Honomichl, the MR industry has grown predictably year after year for the past several decades, and that’s real growth adjusted for inflation. US MR revenues have grown to over $9B annually and WW are more than twice that. There was a slight decrease due to the impacts of the economy, but things look to be back on track for a continued and predictable growth curve. Many companies will implement none of these changes or minimal changes and do absolutely fine.

    To your point, there is definitely more opportunity than ever for smaller, nimble, non-traditional market research supplier and ancillary services firms to carve out a niche for themselves. Many of these folks are coming from way outside the MR industry too. It’s making things very interesting.

    But I think you missed the #1 most important thing you should do, and that is buying other research companies. The top few largest MR companies are goliaths with lots of profits and revenue for buying other companies, and every year a few of the largest MR and MR related firms are merged and acquired. The ACNielsen acquisition of Neurofocus is an excellent example of the acquisition approach a large company can take to remain cutting edge. As more and more MR specialty companies pop up and grow, some or most will eventually be acquired, addressing many of the 8 things listed at once.

  21. Mike Thompson says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 11:11 am

    And another thing, well done Leonard this is a really good discussion and I was relieved to see that the sample you drew for GRIT was drawn at random. However, I would like to understand how representative the univers was that you drew it from

  22. Jason Anderson says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Jim – you’re missing my point. I’m not “in” the industry. I purchase services from your industry. Clearly I am not your target customer so let’s just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

    Bill – I’m not sure why you’re basing your comments on the assumption of a bottomless bucket of research money, but I can assure you that this is not the case. I also purchase syndicated reports and syndicated data, but allocate less and less of my budget to this category each year.

    I have a deep, hands-on respect for what’s involved in swimming in “oceans of data.” Drowning in Oceans of Data is the title of my TMRE presentation next month. It’s not a question of whether analytics and data mining can replace what was previously done through traditional primary research; it’s a question of whether it can be done faster, more accurately, more cost-effectively, or in a manner that is easier to act upon.

    Today, my executive sponsors all believe in the value of research. But they believe in the value of analytics more. We generate tens of gigabytes per day of data about our customers, but we only analyze about 1% of it. Why? Because skilled, professional humans who understand the data are involved in the development of scoring algorithms and other ad hoc research to filter out the noise. It’s fair to say that today, not all companies have this sort of rich data at their disposal. But that will not be true forever.

    It is absolutely true that when you do it yourself, the quality of the data collected and the analysis provided is on the client’s shoulders…not the vendor. Not all client organizations have the skills necessary to do this well, or they may lack the political courage to report the pure voice of the market/customer. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t, and it definitely doesn’t mean we can’t recruit frustrated young technology-savvy research professionals who want to take greater advantage of new tech.

    All industries have lived through transformation. In each case, there were some market participants who did not believe the change was permanent. It doesn’t really matter to me whether or not all research vendors believe that what I said is true, because in my particular case it is 100% accurate.

  23. Richard Vanderveer says:

    October 10th, 2011 at 10:06 am

    As the former CEO of a healthcare marketing research company, I agree wholeheartedly with the guidance offered. Different industry, same recommendations!

    RBV, Ph.D.

  24. Step 1: Get Out of the Survey Business | GreenBook says:

    October 12th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    […] couple of weeks ago, I wrote what turned out to be a somewhat controversial opinion piece about things I would do if I were a market research company. The writing process was not a “fair […]

  25. Bruce Olson, Atlanta, GA says:

    October 13th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    A good discussion… and the overall conclusion that is intended, that the industry is changing and needs to change is right on… but what change is needed?

    As someone who has seen all sides of our industry, Client/Supplier, Syndicated/Custom, US/Global, Business/Govt, the fundamental change that is occuring is a slow recognition that not only is DATA Not sufficient, but INSIGHTS are not enough either.

    If you want to be viewed as “adding value” on the client side, you have to recognize that your job is to be a consultant, not an answer/insights provider. Your job is to identify the SPECIFIC decisions that your clients are trying to make, the SPECIFIC business context and constraints that are in place, and the SPECIFIC information that will enable you to provide a POV on that topic. By proactively linking insights to decisions, you add value. You don’t want to be, “the guy who writes questions for me for Survey Monkey”.

    Unfortunately, MANY/MOST client researchers still do not recognize this and do this. While they ask their clients about “what” they want to know, they refrain from probing about “why” and “what choices/context and options exist”. As a result, the majority struggle to understand why they are undervalued and why they are not invited to the table. And, when asked such questions by a supplier, they are reluctant to “bother” their client with such specific questions… settling for “understanding their objectives”… which isn’t the same thing.

    And of course, MOST suppliers do not even try to ask such questions; and the larger the supplier, the less likely they are to ask. Syndicated data providers, who originally designed their systems to provide key insights needed across multiple suppliers, quickly (within a couple of years) lose a sense of responsibility for making these connections. The broad failures and frustrations (on both sides of the industry, client and supplier) with syndicated data and data mining reflect this exact lack of connection to specific decisions.

    Net, net, whether client or supplier, effective Researchers need to start viewing their job as consultants… and for every analysis or study, their role is “to provide a POV”. (And if you try to do it EVERY time, you’ll achieve 80-90%, which is probably sufficient and much better than the 10-20% average today)

  26. Nicholas Tortorello says:

    October 14th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Jason has written a thought-provoking article and the attacks he has received I would put in the category of there is a “tendency to kill the messenger of bad news”, and the ‘only thing worse than being wrong is being prematurely right”.

    As someone who worked in MR for over 40 years, I would have to agree that MR as I have known it is dead, or, at least, in a severe deep coma. However, besides all the things that Jason mentions is one other extremely important problem, which is that many or most people no longer believe in objective truth. Truth has become the inteterest of the stronger, the big mouth, the most famous, the most political, the richest, the most beautiful etc., As a result, many corporate managements only want to hear what they want to hear, they don’t want to change their thinking, modify their products/services, their world-view, or to know the truth and make the necessary changes etc.

    As a result, anyone can play in the Marketing Research game today. Write you own questions (DIY), interview only the groups/panels which will provide the answers you want, express your own biases, tell management what they want to hear,etc. Truth and objectivity be damned – that is too expensive and complex to pursue: They probably don’t exist anyway. Sophisticated BS will suffice. This is in keeping and step with the rest of today’s world. Yeats said it right a long time ago, “Things fall apart,; the center calnnot hold,; Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world…….The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.

    There are no absolute rights or wrongs, no justice, but only the interest of the powerful and political correctness, and God is long dead and buried, or so they believe.

  27. navin williams says:

    October 19th, 2011 at 1:37 am

    Thx for a very thought provoking article. It made a definite impact from the responses :). There’s no smoke without a fire. MR may not be heading the titanic way but there are some new icebergs/volcanoes out there worthy of note. Some will continue to be old wine in new bottles and some will be totally new brews. Keep em coming.

  28. Why I’m Excited to Join the DIY Market Research Revolution says:

    October 28th, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    […] you have any doubt about this, check out the strongly-worded comments section for the post “8 Things I Would Do If I Were a Market Research Company” by Jason Anderson on GreenBook Blog.  Jason’s post indicates there are functions […]

  29. Marcelo says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    So true, market research is a declining industry, expensive and with just a few interesting things to offer over time. The ones that are succeeding are these ones which are offering now “marketing services” or serving “outsourced” marketing teams from client side.

  30. “DIY” Gets Empowered: A Quick Analysis Of The SurveyMonkey/MarketTools Deal | GreenBook says:

    December 14th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    […] blog) . The reality is that one of the major outcomes of most any disruptive technology is disintermediation, and the sector that is on the receiving end of that is never happy about it. That is what MR is […]

  31. 8 Things, Revisited | GameHex says:

    July 30th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    […] unexpectedly, this became one of the more controversial blog posts picked up and cross-posted on Greenbook. My intention had never been to be controversial or stir up […]

  32. Revisting 8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Research Company | UpSearchMR says:

    July 31st, 2012 at 1:55 am

    […] unexpectedly, this became one of the more controversial blog posts picked up and cross-posted on Greenbook. My intention had never been to be controversial or stir up […]

  33. alimmustaq says:

    March 31st, 2015 at 5:49 am

    I love it i have a dream to become a researcher love it

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