Getting Down To Business: Lessons Learned At #IIeX & What Happens Now
Much has been written about IIeX already and I won’t rehash the kudos, summaries, and exposition that has flooded not just the GreenBook Blog but much of the industry socialsphere over the past two weeks. If you haven’t read, watched, or listened to it here are some links:
There is some great stuff here, especially on the Pinterest and Slideshare pages, and I strongly recommend you check out the presentations there. The videos of the sessions will be up shortly and will be added to Pinterest once we have them.
So what does the success of the event mean for the industry as a whole and what will come next? In this post I’m going to give my take on that.
I’ll do my best to be objective, but let’s just be clear that of course I am biased; The GreenBook team and I, in cooperation with many others, have been working on this idea for a long time and we’re invested in it’s success. That said, we have thousands of data points to reference here and the feedback of almost 500 colleagues to draw from, so we have gone through the hypothesis testing stage into market testing, and the early results are interesting.
Here are four key lessons that stand out for me.
1. Getting Down To Business
First and foremost, the attendees at IIeX seemed very focused on doing business. Certainly folks were interested in learning, networking, and exploring ideas but the most common comment I’ve gotten from both buyers and suppliers alike is how many new opportunities have come out of the event. I am aware of some pilots already in the field, and many folks were flooded with RFPs during the conference itself! And that isn’t true just from client-side folks; there were many technology suppliers connecting with MR firms and with other tech companies; I know of at least one case where 3 tech firms met and decided to build a product that combined elements from all their solutions to address a huge gap in the Shopper Insights space.
Yes, that is good news in terms of impact from the event and demonstrating ROI, but there is more to it than that. The second most common feedback we heard was “It’s not the usual suspects here! Most of these people I’ve never met or heard of!”. That was by design; we tried to attract and showcase a wide swath of companies, but with a specific focus on non-traditional suppliers. That wasn’t because we thought they were better than traditional suppliers; far from it. Instead we wanted to create an environment supportive of opportunities for collaboration while also delivering on unmet needs of clients.
We were also very transparent in letting attendees know that this was a commercial event. We had whole tracks that were designed to be pitch sessions, and according to most they were actually highlights of the entire event! Of course there was knowledge sharing via case studies, best practices, provocative panels, etc… which formed the bulk of the agenda, but we unabashedly embraced business and the market responded enthusiastically. We had almost 100 client-side attendees and rather than hiding out, they were deeply engaged and actively meeting with current and prospective partners in a quest to find breakthrough solutions to their insights needs.
What was unequivocally clear was that a significant number and variety of business deals were begun at IIeX, most involving new entrants into the market, and that certainly supports my next point.
2. Clients Are Embracing The Change
There has been much news lately about slowed or declining growth in MR. The MRA Research Industry Index (RII), The 2013 Honomichl Top 50 Report, The MRS, and many individual firms have reported the trend. Simultaneously we have seen continual news of new investment capital as well as new business deals into disruptive or emerging insights solutions that are generally not included in most industry tracking initiatives (Simon Chadwick of Cambiar Consulting gave a fantastic presentation at IIeX on these trends). I have long maintained that the decline in traditional MR is not due (at least not entirely) to declining budgets, but rather to budgetary shifts AWAY from traditional MR and TO new approaches. To complicate matters, often these expenditures are coming from IT or Marketing organizations rather than the MR groups, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of the shift.
At IIeX we were able to get some clarity through the almost 100 private meetings we established for our Corporate Partners to meet with suppliers of interest to them, and based on that evidence alone my belief was corroborated. The vast majority of those meetings were with new entrants offering new solutions, with most being technology providers. Micro-surveys, unconscious measurement, mobile media measurement, Big Data, text analytics, video analytics, DIY solutions, gamification and co-creation platforms were of most interest and gained new clients.
What was even more interesting was the leadership shown by TNS, Ipsos & GfK who demonstrated their efforts to augment and synthesize new approaches with traditional methods to create new value for clients, and the comments from many client-side attendees on the need for full-service agencies to work with thew technology solutions to deliver maximum value. Obviously the larger firms have gotten the message and are working to meet the demands of the marketplace, and judging from the interest from other traditional firms in attendance this much needed convergence is picking up speed. That is good news for an industry in clear trouble and hopefully the downward trend can be reversed. If not, clients will continue to go where they can most effectively get their needs met, as they should.
3. It Takes a Village
Rather than the usual competitiveness that permeates many events like this, there was a palpable spirit of collaboration running through the event, and that was evident in three topics that were much discussed:
- Data Philanthropy
- Adjacent Partnerships
- Non-traditional Collaboration
The idea of data being used for both private sector growth and social good is an idea that is gaining ground quickly, and we invited leaders in the field to come and discuss how the insights space could participate. Representatives from The World Bank, the EU, The US Dept of State, The Centre of Social Innovation and major brands posited that insights organizations were in a unique position to help leverage data assets in a much more impactful and wider ranging way that many tend to consider.
Following that idea, there was significant discussion on the benefit of forming unorthodox partnerships, often in adjacent categories but sometimes within the same sector, in order to maximize opportunity. In many cases data assets are the most easily used connection points in order to start the process, and there was significant buzz on how to establish a framework for making these connections.
Finally, Gayle Fuguitt of the ARF closed the event with a call for deeper levels of collaboration between key stakeholders in the industry, and since she was speaking at a GreenBook event rather than an ARF function, it resonated well. I’ve long been an advocate of shared interests being more important than competitive issues and we’ve worked hard to reach out and develop relationships with organizations that might be considered competitors. That certainly hasn’t always worked, but overall I agree with Gayle that developing unorthodox partnerships tends to yield more benefits than not.
These three ideas share a common theme of collective good that is certainly appealing to many, and I expect these ideas will gain real traction going forward.
4. To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before
IIeX has been an ongoing experiment in many ways as well as a bit of a research exercise in itself; we’ve been looking for unmet needs in the industry that we can help to meet. Driven by the principle that it’s OK to make money and do good at the same time, we came away from the event with a passion to build on the success of the event series and do even more to activate some of the key learnings from our experience in new initiatives.
One important point before we dive into the future: although GreenBook is (and always will be) a deeply integrated part of everything we do as a foundational platform, some of our new initiatives will be part of new companies we are launching. In most cases these companies will fall under the banner of Insight Innovation Inc., which will be partnering with GreenBook as part of a wide ranging strategic alliance. We’re still in the process of figuring out what goes where and who is doing it, but the bottom line for the industry is that we’re creating multiple entities that are part of the same ecosystem and will be working collaboratively to bring new opportunities for the industry to fruition.
With that said, here is what we’re working on now. I think you’re going to be excited by the possibilities!
One of the things that set our event apart was our Corporate Partner program with P&G, Coke, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Ericsson, Merck, Post Foods & ESPN as “Charter members”. We worked with them to understand their needs and incorporated their feedback into the development of the agenda and in inviting many of the folks in attendance. We’ll be building on these relationships and adding in many more as we plan for each new event, so you can be assured that client organizations will have a deep connection to future IIeX events. .
Private IIeX Events:
As a follow-up, one of the things we are going to do now is set-up a program with our client-side partners to do “Private IIeX” events, where we work with them to understand their unmet needs and challenges and organize private 1 day events with a combination of thought leaders and suppliers that are bringing new solutions to the market. The idea is to take the macro model of the IIeX events and take it to the next level with a highly customized focus on their specific needs.
This is being done as part of a new firm we are in the process of launching called Insight Innovation Ventures.
Both our larger scale and customized events are also part of the GreenBook Sync platform, the first Market Research Vendor Management System: http://greenbooksync.com/pressrelease-june2013/. GreenBook Sync aims to help client-side organizations find “best-in-class and innovative” vendors globally, streamline the proposal workflow, and manage insights departments. As we identify and engage with suppliers globally they will be funneled into Sync so client organizations can easily manage the relationships and access content and tools to help streamline the research process.
Please sign up for a free Beta account of GreenBook Sync and check it out; I think you’re going to REALLY like it. Sign up here: http://greenbooksync.com/home/index.html
We have a lot in the works to keep the momentum up and work with even more key stakeholders in the space. As a sneak peek they are:
- IIeX Local, small scale local events organized by local partners in many cities around the world that will combine the best of though leadership and business matchmaking on a highly localized level
- IIeX Ventures, our consulting and support arm that will work with client-side organizations and entrepreneurs to shorten the time to market for new solutions, align business supply & demand, and support both stakeholders in the transformation of the insights category
- A new IIeX web platform that will be set-up similar to “TED”, with a highly searchable and socialized experience with all content from all IIeX events
- IIeX Focus, more IIeX webinars, social content, and specialized events produced in cooperation with partners globally
- The expansion of our investment ecosystem to help companies fund their growth
- Inside Vision Panel, a panel of client side professionals that we’ll be tapping into regularly to understand their changing needs
- A Data Philanthropy Network to enable more open data sharing for private and public sector good
- An Adjacent Partnership Clearinghouse to help connect organizations in developing new partnerships to deliver business impact
And of course, last but not least our 4 Flagship Events:
IIeX Europe in Amsterdam, Netherlands: February of 2014
IIeX LatAm in Santiago, Chile: April of 2014
IIeX North America in Atlanta, Georgia: June of 2014
IIeX Asia Pac in Singapore, September of 2014
The call for speakers, sponsors, and pre-registrants is open now for all four events. Email me if you have questions or want to get involved now.
Stay tuned for more information about all of these initiatives and more; we’re just getting started!