Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

You know what it’s like: sitting at the computer and staring at the “Social Media Slot Machine” with continuous updates from Facebook friends and the stream of tweets trickling down your screen… Not knowing what to post or even just lurking on different sites trying to learn how to get your customers involved with what your company is doing online… There’s a better way to interact online than silently stalking competitors to understand their strategy!

Here’s where we suggest you start.

First, think about your company (you may need to get out a sheet of paper to track this conversation in your head), and REALLY think about it. Lay out all your marketing messages, brand promises and mission statements and get down to the core of what your brand represents. Conjure up what it means to be a part of the company – to be involved in the everyday excitement of working with colleagues and having the opportunity to build relationships with new clients. It may help to think about the concept behind:

  • Brand Vision- What do you want to accomplish through social media? Do you want to teach your customers about your company? Or, do you want to educate other professionals about your industry? Picking the core vision will help when discerning what content to post online.
  • Brand Audience- What audience do you want to listen to you? Identify the key customers your company should broadcast its messages to.
  • Brand Personality- It’s more than just your company’s voice, it’s what that voice represents. Think of that ultimate employee who exemplifies the company’s values in everything he or she does on a daily basis. Whether it is in their communication mannerisms or the activities they participate in after work… Speak from this voice!

The next important step is to become an active and consistent presence online. By making daily updates on social media channels, customers following your company will begin to develop an understanding of your brand. You may be asking yourself, “I don’t even know what to post! How can I find something that will engage my followers?” Well, the good news is you don’t necessarily need to be the opinion leader yet, but you do need to have an opinion with what you choose to post. Find articles and online sites that correlate with the vision of your company and make sure they are fitted to enlighten your specific audience. As mentioned earlier – “customers following your company will begin to develop an understanding of you brand”… Therefore, make sure posts are ON BRAND!

Consistence and stability are both key to maintaining an authoritative position online. When sharing information, keep an even flow of communication from your company to your users. Sporadic postings may conflict with your company vision and users may lose interest in keeping up with your news feed.

Social media sites have provided companies of every size the ability to target and communicate with their customers much easier than ever before… Remaining consistent across all channels is a fundamental principle to actively connect and provide value to others. While these are only the first steps on the path to utilizing social media to its fullest potential, they are core concepts to understand and implement into your online branding strategy!

So, what do you think? What are issues you’re facing? What are some tips YOU can share with others?

- Grace

So, you just unwrapped that shiny new iPad here at the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference in Chicago eh? Now, you’re looking for reasons to cover it with fingerprints, but you just don’t know where to start? Here are a few of my favorites and why I like them. Start here and let me know what you think. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments!

  • Tweetdeck – Free – the main Twitter utility I use. You can keep multiple search columns going, send tweets, follow trends, shorten links, all in one! Use it! Start a search column for #MRX and #CRC2011 and you’re off to the races!
  • Facebook – It’s really not just for college and high-school friends anymore. Download, play with it and understand what it is really about. It is changing the communications industries and is changing the world of Marketing Research….forever!
  • CRC Conference App – It’s really good! (Plus you can see my goofy face on the cover)
  • Flipboard – Really great app for consuming content
  • Mashable – the number one news source for social media and new tech news, I start every day reading the top stories from Mashable
  • Evernote – The way I keep track of all of those in-the-moment insights and thoughts I would usually end up forgetting. Great clipping feature and really useful for things that you need to follow-up with later
  • Dropbox – The software I use for large file size transfer. Since you have a limited amount of space on your ipad, use Dropbox to store your files in the cloud until you need them.
  • GoodReader – My favorite app for reading PDFs….I think it is the best!
  • Outlook Web Access – Great way to keep up with your email on the go!
  • CNN – Obvious
  • Sportscenter – I am a sports addict
  • Huffington Post – great news source
  • New York Times – I don’t need to explain anything here
  • Yelp – great for reviewing and looking at consumer insights about places!

What are your other favorites? Leave a comment with your favorites that I may have missed in the list! Enjoy the conference and don’t forget to say hello!!

Ben Smithee – (@SpychResearch on Twitter) or Find me on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/BenjaminSmithee


Here is something to chew on as you start to wrap up 2010 and hopefully have already begun thinking about 2011.  I want to know your thoughts as well, so please share!

The walls fall down:

Researchers are finally going to get sick of talking about this qual/quant divide.  So many blended advancements will also help to break bricks and create a universal language which we will call understanding.  That is, understanding the consumer first as a person (More on that in a bit).

Another barrier that will continue to deteriorate in the 2011 is this MR silo.  It’s inefficient and quickly becoming a barrier to the almighty Understanding…at least in achieving it in an effective and efficient means.  MR is going to be a facet of the entire communications/customer relationship mix.  Those walls between marketing/advertising/PR/etc. are coming down too.  MR will follow.  Communications, driven by the consumer, are too fast to have completely segregated teams trying to keep up.  That gap between the marketing and MR teams will diminish rapidly, and it’s okay…I promise!

Consumer is King:

We’ve gone through content, the message, the medium, and a bunch of other manifestations of king, but the true focus will be on the consumer, and not as a customer….as a person.  Panel/sample providers will focus on better knowledge of them.  Researcher/moderators will focus on better relating to them.  Companies/brands will focus on treating them and communicating with them in better formats.  B2C, B2C, C2C, it’s all the same when you drill down to the basics of humanity….unless you sell to robots.  People have wants and needs, they are rational and irrational, and people work with and buy from people they like.  Are you likeable?

V=[(R+T)/A]-P:

It looks confusing, but it isn’t.  It’s about value.  It always has been, and always will be!  Value equals Relevance and Timeliness over accountability, minus price.

Expectations of relevance are extremely high, and will continue to grow even higher.  The digital persona provides a high-level of detail about our lives, wants and needs.  As people, we expect communications to be tailored and relevant, it will be researchers’ jobs to translate and interpret into digestible and executable bites.

Timeliness is redefined.  People expect faster results from Companies, Companies want faster results from MR and MR wants faster support from its suppliers.  Nothing will change that.  It’s do or die.  Embrace the tools that serve as a life vest because the storm is coming.

People want that same level of highly tailored relevance every time they interact and engage a brand.  They expect the brand to be accountable, and they will find someone else if the brand falls short.

Price is not irrelevant; it’s just not the most important piece of the pie.  Sometimes the reduction in price/monetary value is not a cheapening of status, but more-so a re-balancing and association with relevance and overall worth.  Consumers will pay more for greater value in return.  With the advancement of transparency through social media there are just less places to hide.

Under the Influence:

This whole rise of interest in the influencer model is not a fad.  Influence matters and the way in which people obtain, sustain and utilize influence will be highly studied by companies and researchers.  Do you have influence?  What is influence?  How do I get it?  What do I do with it?  How do I measure it?  Figure out the answers to those questions, because your clients are going to ask you for them.  Researchers will need to know how to identify, relate to, understand and utilize influence in the world of communication.

Hybrids:

I’m not talking about cars.  I am talking about the blend between what we call traditional and new, in-person and online, and quant and qual.  After the walls come down, we build new ponds where ecosystems consisting of appropriate blends and mixes of these variables exist in not only harmony, but synergy.  Many researchers talk about the ideal projects where clients approach them with a problem in need of a solution, rather than a request in need of a bid.  Well, I fell like you will have your chance 2011, are you ready?  We will need to know the full plethora of research solutions and how they best apply to providing specific solutions to client problems.

Mobility:

The smallest of the “three screens” is going to be the most important in 2011.  If you look at the formula for value I portrayed above, then it’s no surprise that mobile devices have a huge play in 2011.  We have only scratched the surface of what we can do with mobile.  Get ready for amazing advancements in 2011!

Leadership and Collaboration:

We’ve talked about influence, now let’s talk leadership and collaboration.  We have driven to such specialization in today’s world that in order to keep up, things are going to have to do a bit more consolidating in order to be most effective.  I see smaller companies being incorporated into bigger ones and several companies who are smaller and more specialize teaming up to go after bigger wins and offer more complete solutions.  It’s not really a surprise; it’s history.  If you are seen as a leader in the space your role with clients will evolve in 2011, from leading individual projects, to more of a consultative partnership with clients (this is a good thing!).

Collaboration on the consumer side of things is not too much different.  We’ve made enough mistakes in collaborative design and crowd sourcing that in 2011 we will maximize its efficiency and effectiveness.  It’s really not that different of a total concept from what he have always done in MR.  As researchers, our job has revolved around crowd sourcing ideas, concepts, feedback etc.

This list does not serve as an exhaustive list of changes to expect in 2011, and I may even post some additional thoughts at a later date.  But, I think it gives us something to think about, and discuss as a starting point.  What do you think?  What is missing?  What points do you argue?

Thanks for stopping by!

I sit here in the CLT airport on a short layover before my flight home to Dallas and my mind is still on info overload from the past few days.  This was my third time to attend the QRCA Annual Conference, and it will definitely not be the last!  In my opinion, attending the annual conference is one of the biggest member benefits for QRCA members.  The amount of education, networking and fun that occurs over three days is amazing.

QRCA has played a tremendous role in my market research career.  In 2007 when I joined D. Gustafson & Associates, Dave asked me to start early (Friday instead of Monday) so that I could attend the Philadelphia Chapter’s QRCA meeting.  That meeting was my first day on the job as a qualitative researcher, and the beginning of several close friendships.  The way in which QRCA’ers come together and share in mentoring and collaborating is something of a rarity in the world of professional organizations.  I know many preach of collaborative spirit, but with QRCA, I can honestly say I look forward to connecting with friends every conference…..it just happens they are also qualitative researchers!  Some of my first projects, upon starting Spych, have come from QRCA friends and I know this is true of many other members as well.

This spirit of collaboration was very strong at this year’s conference, and the topic of many sessions, like the one by Carla Essen and Amy Winstel.  The positive outlook for qualitative research relies heavily on the notion of collaboration and community.  The only way we can evolve the industry in a timely fashion and keep it on the forefront of the innovation spectrum is to collaborate and work together to educate and help mentor our quali peers.  I had great conversations with Renee Murphy, Kendall Nash and Lynn Greenberg about the need to educate our QRCA peers and industry colleagues on the world of Social Media Research, and to help position QRCA as a leader in the scene.  A few folks even brought up the topic at the Town Hall meeting yesterday afternoon, and expressed interest in helping out.

One of my favorite aspects of this year’s conference was seeing the continual growth of “young” researchers!  I say “young” because as I explained at the conference, “young” to me is young in age, young at heart, young to the industry, or young in the organization.  If you’re interested in joining the newly-formed QRCA Young Professionals Shared Interest Group let me know!  We are looking for mentors and those with experience and knowledge to share with our youngsters as well.  Kendall and I were VERY excited to have over 20 people attend the YP SIG dine-around on Wednesday night!  It was a huge success, and I hope it is a true indication of what is to come from the group!  There is a huge need to help educate others about qualitative research, and perhaps the YP SIG is a great way to do so.  Also, a huge shoutout to our International Scholarship Winner, Sophie Van Neck, from Belgium.  She was also in attendance at the YP SIG dinner, and has done some extremely interesting research work.  Get to know her and thank her for adding to the talented young researcher pool!

Going forward, I hope that after next year’s conference I can report about having the biggest conference in the history of QRCA.  I really believe this is possible, and hope that everyone will spread the word.  QRCA is a MUST for researchers that live in the qualitative space.  You will not find a source of information, education, friendship, and partnership related to the industry of qualitative research, as compelling as QRCA.  It has made me a better researcher, a better mentor, a better educator, and a better business owner.  I have made friendships with other QRC’s that I know will be ever-lasting, and I know that the organization will continue to provide these values to its members.

See you in Vegas for the 2011 QRCA Annual Conference!

BACKGROUND
The evolution of Social Media is perhaps the most perplexing and comprehensive enhancement of the Internet we have seen this past decade. By reshaping the way people communicate on both a personal and professional level, the social web has taken Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, Customer Service, Communications and Marketing Research to the next level, through a variety of new channels and tools.

As with any dramatic change within the marketing research landscape, it comes with expected hesitance and thorough inspection. However, as a crucial piece of the evolving business environment, the social web and social media tools have quickly become a key focus in the marketing research community. While various levels of surrounding scrutiny remain present, to this date, emphasis and direction has been placed greatly on the appeal of utilizing tools and social networks, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs, for quantitative research and syndicated data analysis. However, taking a holistic look at social media and its core, shows a tremendous amount of value in leveraging its conversations for engaging consumers and cultivating rich insights in the qualitative setting.

As businesses continue to more effectively harness the power of social media and online communities for branding, marketing and various other communications and customer-relations functions, the importance for marketing research professionals to utilize the same social tools for research grows concurrently. The trending growth and transfer of advertising and marketing dollars from “traditional” media channels such as TV, radio, outdoor and print to newer more engaging channels such as user-generated video, online communities and social tools, shows a paradigm shift in today’s business culture.

IMRO, the Interactive Marketing Research Organization, is a division of the Marketing Research Association (MRA) and is dedicated to providing an open forum for the discussion of best practices and ethical approaches to research being conducted via the Internet.  IMRO’s Technology Sub-committee team of Tamara Kenworthy, Jim Longo, Susan Saurage-Altenloh and Jewel Seperson set out to explore the utilization of these new social media tools for qualitative research. Rather than focusing another study on the theory of using these new tools, they sought out Benjamin Smithee, Co-Founder of Spych Market Analytics, LLC, who has been recognized as one of the leaders in the integration of social media and other online and traditional methods into holistic solutions for qualitative research. Together, under Ben’s leadership, the project team developed and effectively executed a three-phase comprehensive examination of how social media can effectively be used for qualitative research and how the blend of social, online and traditional qualitative methods can provide truly holistic insights for researchers and their clients.

PURPOSE OF STUDY
The purpose of the study described in this document was to explore the optimal utilization of social media in qualitative research and serve as a case study for all researchers looking to incorporate it into their methodologies and research toolbox. It provides actionable recommendations and exemplifies the nuances of how the social web can best apply to market research in the qualitative setting.  Additionally, it showcases the value of utilizing a holistic approach for obtaining consumer insights via blended methodologies.

Marketing research professionals are increasingly tasked to stay on the leading edge of technology and marketing channels in order to provide innovative and effective solutions for their clients. This case study provides a valuable set of findings to professionals across the gamut of research. It is meant to serve as a landmark while helping to educate research professionals.

STUDY DESIGN
For our case study, the following topics were selected due to their general interest and popularity with a wide range of the B2C market.

As a caveat, please understand that the main focus of this study was not the particular insights derived from the research, but the comparison and utilization of methodologies.  Though the insights were used as measurement tools to compare and contrast methods and channels, the content was not of particular interest to the team.  For example, the fact that coffee grounds were difficult to remove from the packaging was not of interest.  However, the fact that it was derived unprompted via social media monitoring and then was a discussion point later in the online and in-person work was of interest.

  • Saturday Night Live premiere, September 24, 2009
    - Hosted by Megan Fox
    - Musical Guest U2
  • Starbucks’ Via, new product advertising, shown on SNL premiere as part of ad launch
    - Buzz about product and commercials pre and post-commercial launch

Goal:

  • To examine the impact and value of utilizing social media and mixed methods for qualitative research

Objectives for Topic:

  • To understand the impact of SNL season opener on the SNL brand
  • To understand how the SNL premiere’s host is received, based on recent controversy surrounding the director of her recent film
  • To identify awareness of and interest in Starbucks’ new product, Via

A three-phase comprehensive mixed-methodological approach was designed and implemented over the course of two months, with 2 weeks of fielding, exploring the use of social media tools in various methods of qualitative research both online and in-person.


RESEARCH PHASE I
Digital Ethnography via Social Media Aggregation and Analytics

Rich and candid insights provided in real-time via digital ethnography and social media engagement; Recruitment of respondents for Phase II and Phase III

  • Real-time monitoring before, during and after premiere via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and existing online communities
  • Monitored sentiment trends
  • Obtained viewer reactions and insights to a variety of different “peaks” and “valleys” throughout the course of the research
  • Monitored trending topics before, during and after the premiere
  • Identified key discussion leaders and influencers via reach, engagement and impact

Tools:

  • Facebook:  Search, Community Pages, Fan Pages, Facebook-based apps
  • Twitter:  Location-based application, Real-time search, TweetDeck, HootSuite, Advanced Search (search.twitter.com)
  • Google Reader – RSS Feeds
  • LinkedIn
  • TV Network Communities
  • SNL Blogs

RESEARCH PHASE II
Online Bulletin Board/Fire-walled Social Communities and Video Journaling

Compare and contrast insights derived from Phase I with data and insights derived from Phase I1; Further focus placed specifically on Starbucks Via (commercial campaign launched during premiere), which evoked high levels of online interaction; Video journaling via Flip video cameras; Respondents added Ben as friends and followers on various social media tools, allowing the team to observe various interactions and conversations on Facebook, blogs and Twitter

  • Online Bulletin Board (software provided by Itracks) with viewers of the premiere: half of the participants comprised of those recruited via traditional recruitment means and half of the participants recruited solely via social media engagement
  • Discussion revolving around feedback on the premiere, its content and Via advertising
  • Video Self-Ethnos utilizing Flip video cameras
  • Monitored daily objectives surrounding Starbucks Via
  • Monitored respondents’ spontaneous utilization of SM
  • Compare and contrast sentiment and viewpoints from both respondent groups with data captured in Phase 1

Tools:

  • Itracks:  Online Bulletin Board Focus Group platform
  • Recruitment from Itracks panels
  • Spych recruited individuals via social media from Phase 1 social media monitoring and engagement

RESEARCH PHASE III
In-person Focus Groups

Comparison of opinions and insights obtained via Phases I and II with traditional in-person methods.

  • In-person Focus Groups following the Video Self-Ethnos obtaining feedback on Starbucks Via and

Tools:

  • Facility donated by Fieldwork Dallas


SUMMARY AND FINDINGS
Commentary and Thoughts by Ben Smithee

Having had experience utilizing the power of social media for qualitative research, I was not surprised to see compelling results when used in combination with other well-trusted methodologies and tools. Its ability to often assist the researcher in every phase of the research process, from study design, recruiting and discussion guide development, to communication with respondents and reporting is a tremendous asset to any qualitative project.

Though the use of social media may not officially make it into every project’s methodology, I rarely start a project without doing background research and monitoring via social media about the subject, brand or other related online communication. Once you become familiar with the tools and technology, you often find tremendous value in the nuggets of insights that are cast out into the social media realm.

For this case, in particular, information about the difficulty of removing all of the grounds from the package was derived from observing social media streams and then later were brought up again in both the bulletin boards and focus groups and observed in the video journals. Additionally, insights on the frequent use of Via for cooking and baking provided additional information that was later utilized in discussion guide development. The use of social media to enhance pre-research knowledge may be the most valuable addition to the researcher’s toolbox. As a caveat, these findings are extremely qualitative in nature and should be utilized as idea generators and possible discussion topics to further more in-depth research, rather than stand-alone “truths” and assumptions.

Another very valuable and growing capability for social media is identification of digital influence and recruiting potential. By thorough observation of conversations, commenting, responses, retweets, “likes” and other engagement metrics, researchers can begin to identify individuals or groups, portraying influence in the social media channels. Though there is not always a direct correlation between messages and communications from influencers and purchase behavior, there is definite usefulness in having brands appear in these conversations and engagements. There is, however, a key to successful recruiting and engaging influencers via social media and that lies in the researcher/company possessing and maintaining an active presence in the social space. Within the social media realm, trust is a valuable currency and without it, the ability to effectively recruit and engage is severely limited. Researchers and research companies must begin to build an active presence to fully-utilize the value of social media tools.

The nimble aspect of social media lends itself to the ability to monitor marketing and advertising campaigns in real-time and react to and monitor both positive and negative effects and responses within the natural digital environments. Think of this as being able to engage viewers of a television advertisement directly through the television, as they view and react to the ad in real-time. This real-time reaction and engagement allows researchers to obtain candid insights and probe further among “in the moment” thoughts and reactions to various stimuli. Additionally, you are able to view and engage in the setting in which the initial observation was made. This is something that is unique to the social media realm.

Overall, perhaps the most compelling outcome of this study came from looking at the utilization of social media within the holistic mix of online and traditional in-person research. The findings in each phase were very cumulative in nature. Rather than one particular method serving as most/least useful, it was very apparent that there is a particular role for each method within the qualitative spectrum. Social media monitoring and engagement offered new ways to mine insights that have never been available and provided valuable material to help build and design additional methods to obtain more in-depth insights. The rapport built and managed from utilizing online research before in-person provided the respondents with a familiarity and comfort, allowing us to dig into rich and comfortable conversation very quickly in the in-person setting, even with multiple “typically-shy” respondents in the groups. The respondents were even vocal about their comfort level in the in-person setting due to the previous video, online and social phases.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Thoughts for the Future by Ben Smithee

So what does this mean for the future of qualitative research? How do all of these tools and methods work together to provide solutions for companies and brands? What should the interested researcher focus on in regard to the future of the industry? Though there is no crystal ball for this rapidly changing industry, I am willing to put it out there and offer what I make of all of this.

The future of qualitative research is bright and the myriad of available tools and methodologies will continue to grow and multiply. Savvy researchers will embrace these changes and utilize them to their full advantage. Start on the very high-level and look at industry and overall trends. Then begin to look at the leading tools/platforms within those trends, as that is the only way to keep up. For example, do not go straight to Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging communities. Instead look at the bigger picture of online communities and what they mean to the qualitative space. Then identify the major or most important players within that space. After all, it is not really about Twitter, it is truly about the fact it has brought about the face of real-time communication and two-way brand engagement. If you always try to keep up with the next available platform or technology, rather than the trend of technologies, you will always be behind.

The science and art of location-based applications and marketing will continue to change the face of marketing and advertising as we know it. The ability to reach consumers in a relevant and timely manner, with offers and content that is desirable to the individual, offers a new and potentially highly-effective way of impacting behavior. After all, we are not averse to marketing and advertising. We just expect it to be relevant and have perceived value to us personally.

The sense of online communities is here to stay and will continue to evolve over the next couple of years. Brands will further engage in branded communities and begin to further focus on the influencers and brand champions. As researchers, we must approach online communities as a completely different entity from a longitudinal bulletin board or consumer panel. While traditional research methods, both online and in-person, have specific objectives and goals, the online community environment may have several different goals and objectives throughout. The linchpin is engagement. The most desirable aspect of a truly engaged online community is the ability to obtain new insights that you were unaware to even ask about previously. It is through these communities that marketing research and marketing will further begin to blend, and marketing research will begin to produce tangible ROI via community member loyalty and varied shopping habits. These online communities will often become the hub for a brand’s marketing research mix and enhanced micro-communities will begin to evolve, furthering the closing gap between brands and their customers.

Though processes and tools are becoming more and more automated, there will be an increased need for research experts to interpret the data and provide true insights and recommendations. The market researcher of tomorrow will not only need to be aware of the myriad of tools and methods but understand and direct proper use of each.

This is truly an exciting time to be involved in marketing research and it will be an exciting journey observing the changes that take place over the next few years.

PROJECT TEAM
Benjamin Smithee
Managing Partner
Spych Market Analytics, Texas

Tamara Kenworthy, PRC, PCM
President
On Point Strategies, Iowa

Jim Longo
VP/Client Development
Itracks, New York

Susan Saurage-Altenloh, PRC
President
Saurage Research, Inc., Texas

Jewel Seperson
Research Manager
Ipsos ASI, California

It’s not a secret that in the craziness of the current economy many companies are going “broke”.  But, there is a currency in which our beloved industry operates upon that truly comes before money.  That currency is called trust, and recent articles and statistics that have surfaced make me worry about the overall health and liquidity of our nation of researchers.

Jeffrey Henning recently wrote a great and enlightening post titled “Consumers Don’t Want to Hear from Social Media Researchers, Unless…”, where he shared some interesting findings from a recent surveying of people about their desire/lack of desire for researchers to utilize their social media-based opinions for market research.  The results were basically on the side of …no…but the more interesting and disturbing part was the “why” (I know, my quali is showing ..via Jim Longo) behind those findings.  In all seriousness, the most interesting part, or shall I say most disturbing part, was why they were against market researchers utilizing those opinions and comments.

The majority of responses fell into two categories of “Market Researchers will willfully misinterpret their responses” and “Fear of researchers getting it wrong through incompetence”.  Take a deep breath, pull your tongue from the bottom of your throat and bite it for just a minute while you ask yourself….do they have a point?

Say it ain’t so, or question the credibility of the findings, but the fact is that those feelings are present in the population, and there is something that makes people feel that way.  Is it really the representative majority of folks, who knows, but there is a population that exists.  The more important question is are they validated in their concern?  Are they over-reacting?  Why do they feel that way?

If people cannot trust us then what do we have to offer, other than an incentive, to trade them for their time and opinions?  There are implied “conditions of satisfaction” that exist between us, and the folks we speak to in front of the one-way mirror.  Somewhere along the way, our beloved industry has lost some credibility, at least in a small population of people.  Hard to swallow that medicine?  Yeah, it was for me too!  Instead of questioning the credibility of the statements and the size of that population, let’s do the more important thing…figure out how to gain that trust back from everyone!  Because, from other recent things I have seen, it is not just respondents that have voiced these concerns.  I also saw an interesting video of the head of insights for VW, Steve Gatt, speaking on video about our industry not being “up to scratch”.  Do you believe this is true?  If you know me personally, you know that I am a huge advocate for the future of our industry and want nothing but the best for all of our fellow colleagues and clients.  So, I ask you, what do we do to grow and encourage trust with everyone regarding the quality of work our industry represents?  What do we do to position ourselves as the keystone to successful marketing and advertising, the building blocks for new product development and the key player in providing value to our clients?

I’ll start:

1)   Think of the customer/consumer/respondent as your client – go where they are, listen and respond to their needs and then communicate those needs and wants to the companies and brands that are interested in them.

2)   Add your value on top – less journalistic and more strategic consultation is the way of the future.  Do not lose the neutral unbiased edge, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and showcase your expertise.

3)   Embrace change – Be smart and approach the future with open arms and open minds.  Remember every angry person is a frightened person who is afraid of some loss.

4)   Embrace technology – Whether you are a research noobie or a veteran of our industry, good research is good research, and technology does not change that.  You are relevant and provide value, just learn the new buttons to push in the new environment and execute the same core principles that market research is founded upon.  (this statement does not suggest online will fully-replace in-person, Twitter is the new focus group,  Facebook is the new market research, or any other outlandish statement of the kind)

5)   Embrace collaboration and possess humility – Collaboration is the key to the future, both for us and the companies and brands that we assist.  Know your strengths, focus on them, and partner up to shore up your weaknesses.  Not EVERYTHING we do is extremely proprietary and secretive.  Remember, as the tide rises, so do all of the boats.

I love the market research industry, and I know many of you who do as well.  It’s a compelling time for change and growth, so who will lead the way?  What would you add to the list?  What would you remove?  How do we fill the reserves of trust equity and build an industry that is greater than ever?  Do I sound like a cheerleader?  That’s ok, because I know I stand in a crowd of others equally as loud.  Insert thoughts below.

Thanks for reading :)

Ben

Astronomical ClockConference season is in full swing, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to speak at this year’s AQR/QRCA joint conference in Prague, as well as the MRA Annual Conference in Boston this week! Both conferences were phenomenal, and the atmosphere and energy at both were uplifting and inspiring.

There is definitely a theme of evolution, growth and new outlook in the industry. For some, maybe it is getting involved in more online research. For others, social media is entering their toolbox. Some look toward experiential and scientific methods. Whatever the vehicle ends up being, the fact is simple. The industry is quickly growing and evolving, and the professionals I have spoken with over the past month are eager to learn and grow.

The buzz of expanded online, social media and MROCs is here to stay, and the reception to learning about these new platforms is increasing steadily. I want to thank everyone who has attended the presentations I have given over the past several weeks, as I truly value your support and guidance! We are all in a learning mode and I am happy to help our industry grow and thrive.

I am definitely looking forward to QRCA in October, and seeing many friends in Philadelphia! I am excited to have the opportunity to present and look forward to hearing and learning from the plethora of experts!

Thanks again for all of your continued support!

-Ben

Let’s face it, when everything is said and done it all boils down to people.  We put labels on it like B2C, B2B, C2C, Social Media, Web 2.0, and many more. However, when you really look at it all and drill down to the core, it is all P2P – Person-to-Person.

Brands are starting to understand, Marketers are learning quickly, Researchers are catching on and the game has changed.  Whether your business is selling to consumers, other businesses, cats or dogs, the bottom line is people.  A great item that I saw Gary Vee touch on today was simple, obvious, but compelling – it’s people that make decisions.  I told you it is nothing glamorous at first, but think about it.  There is a person(s) behind every brand, business, blog and pet.  If you truly start to understand and obtain people-based insights you are close to seeing how the game is changing.  Consumers and business professionals alike are moving toward this new personal model.  Gen X and the Boomers can remember when you used to make a “flyby” to the client, drop in and say hi and walk next door and talk to the neighbors.  These same conversations and interactions are occurring now, just in a different arena.

The ones who will truly advance are the ones who can engage in these new digital realms and then transfer that connection into real life – an in-person client meeting, dinning at your restaurant or flying on your airline.  That is the new direction and every day companies are beginning to get better at engaging the digital consumer.  What does this mean for us as researcher?

First – We must understand the game.  How does it work? Who are the players? What are the rules? How do I win? In other words, you need to get past the information search and understanding phase into the application and utilization phases. (This is where you should have an advantage as a researcher)  Even if you are not using the social web for research, your clients are beginning to use it in their business and will certainly require you to understand it as a research consultant.  Think of it as a new therapeutic category for all of you that are in the Pharma/Healthcare space. We are past “Social Media is Cool,” now we need to look at how and when to leverage its offerings.

Second – Avoid criticizing the unknown!  It wasn’t too long ago our industry and clients were skeptical of web-based surveys.  One of our Senior Advisors, Dave Gustafson, sold some of the first online work to big pharma companies, their questions – “How do I know the Dr. is really the one taking the survey” and so on and so forth.  Now, it is a given and common methodology.  The new game is not as simple and trivial as it seems, you need to spend more time online than e-mail, Google maps and airlines to figure it out

Third – Start to understand the younger demographics.  Whether you are in B2C or B2B, it is important to understand Gen Y and how they work and interact.  These are not just your customers but your colleagues, clients etc.  Do your research and do not overlook this group.

The good news is the information is abundant.  It is easy to ask questions and as researchers we see exactly what is headed our way and to the market.  It is really an exciting time for the research industry as we have many new tools, methods and skills at our fingertips.  As our clients start to engage in this new way, it is opportunity for us as researchers to help them along to success.

Stop by and say hi! www.SpychResearch.com

Hey Everyone!!

It’s been a while and so much has been happening!  First let’s start with a few special thanks.  This past month I had the pleasure of presenting to two different wonderful groups in TX.  First was the Dallas Executive Women’s Networking Group.  Talk about an amazing group of DFW women!  Thanks so much to Therese Tetzel from Business Modern for setting that up.  Additionally, we are looking forward to working with the Business Modern team in the near future!

The second presentation was for the Preston Trail Job Network.  Blane Cox asked if I would present to his group on the value of Twitter for the job search process.  We had a great turnout and the audience was definitely engaged and ready to learn.  I have received so many great e-mails from audience members since the presentation and I look forward to the chance to help them out in the future!  If you are looking for a pool of talent in the DFW area, definitely check them out.

I am also extremely proud to announce a few more dates to put on the calendar for 2009!  On August 27th I will be presenting at the AMA Fort Worth Executive Luncheon.  I’m definitely looking forward to meeting the Fort Worth crowd.  October brings the 2009 Annual QRCA Conference and I’ll have the opportunity to help share with my colleagues on how SM is influencing the market research industry.  Last year was my first time to attend the conference and I had an amazing time!!  The QRCA group is such a great group of peeps and one that knows how to have a great time as well.  November is going to be an exciting time as well.  I will be making the trip with my friend and fellow QRCA member Abby Leafe to present in Marrakech Morocco at the 2009 ESOMAR Summit.  ESOMAR is a great organization that really helps to set a standard in market research and having the opportunity to visit Morocco is ridiculously exciting.

Changes and Updates

Coming up in days is something we are VERY excited about – the launch of our new website!  We have been reviewing and testing the pre-launch site has been work, but it was definitely worth the wait as Singularity Design has done such an amazing job.  I know you will enjoy it and we are looking forward to your feedback.

Having a career that puts me on the road and in the air quite often gives me the opportunity to meet wonderful people all over the world.  Recently, I have tried to meet with our online friends and followers in every city I visit.  In the spirit of creating “real life” connections with those who I communicate with online, look for new updates titled “Spych In Real Life.”  These updated will feature the great friends and people I get the chance to meet “In Real Life” on my travels.  If we haven’t had the chance to connect online I look forward to it in the future.  I love meeting our Facebook friends and Twitter followers!

More big changes for Spych in store for the future, and look for the launch announcement about the new website!

This past Friday was the DFW AMA Market Research SIG meeting and I was asked by Paul Maynard of Zachry Associates to present.  The meeting was absolutely great!  To start with, the attendance was phenomenal we had over 40 people in attendance and everyone was engaging and excited to learn and share!

The presentation Keynote is has been uploaded to slideshare.net and can be found here.  Please let me know if you have any questions, thoughts, suggestions or comments!  In fact, @me on twitter, or even give me a call on my cell – 215-501-2341.  I would love to hear from you and know what I can help you do with your business!

So, what’s coming up?  I am in talks with the Dallas Executive Women’s Group for a future presentation, and this Friday and Saturday is the much anticipated DFW Big (D)esign Conference!!!  I am so excited to meet everyone coming to the conference and the pre-conference mixer at Cohabitat in Dallas.  Elysa Rice and I have been working hard and will be prepared to meet the challenges and questions our audience has for the 10AM session.

All of you qualitative researchers out there: If you are not a member of QRCA – You SHOULD be!! Go check it out www.qrca.org.  I am very active and would love to speak with you about it if you have any questions!

Last but definitely not least, I will be in the Bay Area in SF on June 3-5 and am planning to meet for an awesome event with Jenny Blake @jenny_blake, Jun Loayza @junloayza, Jamie Varon @jamievaron and a ton more!  The tweetup is going to be amazing and if you live in or plan on being in SF area, you have to come to the tweetup on June 4th!

Until next time!

-Ben