A Client’s Perspective on Market Research Hiring

A recent article by Dana Stanley looked at an excerpt from an interview with Tiffany McNeil of Del Monte Foods regarding her process for selecting the right MR firm for a given job. Stanley’s article – How Not To Get Market Research Clients – basically presents that excerpt. After reading it, I think there’s something more to be said, not only what not to do, but what firms should do.

Let’s start with Stanley’s article on what you shouldn’t do. McNeil’s advice is this—don’t leave a message, don’t cold email. Not only are people in her position flooded with them, but on a personal level they make McNeil feel guilty for not replying, which isn’t the way any business relationship should start (if one starts at all). She goes on to say that when she’s looking for a new firm, the first thing she does is ask around. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in the industry, and once she has a few companies on her radar, they’ll reach out to whomever they think can do the job.

But what if you don’t have that word of mouth? How do you go about getting people like McNeil to notice you in the first place? Knowing what the client doesn’t want you to do, what, then, do you do?

Here’s where we can add to Stanley’s article. Earlier in the interview, McNeil talks about some of the things she likes about the firms she’s worked with. What she really likes—and what she says are in short supply—are firms that go the extra mile in follow-up collaboration on a project, not those who pour their energies into getting a contract and peter out after they do. Having someone ‘smart and engaged on the other end of the phone’ make for the best partnerships.

So when McNeil goes on to talk about word of mouth, this is something like what she means. Further, she gives the example of a project where she needed a really smart analytics team. One company she named she’d heard about at a conference, as well as seen on a list published by Greenbook blog. McNeil said her company reached out to them, and here’s why—she knew what they could do.

Here’s the takeaway—companies will hear about who they need to hear about. Keep your firm’s defining specializations in focus. Go to conferences, contests, and client meetings with these things in mind, and deliver, and word will get around.

The Lingering Question of the Survey Revolution

The world of market research is in something of a revolution. Firms new and old are revisiting long held beliefs about the effectiveness of their most fundamental tools. Since our industry’s infancy, the survey and the focus group have been our bread and butter, but more and more these tools are becoming outdated, and for several overlapping reasons. On one hand firms are seeing that surveys are often too broad or too biased to be completely relevant, which results in providing clients with unactionable and therefore unvalued data. At the same time the ease and accessibility of free online surveys allows those clients to circumvent firms altogether and collect/interpret that simple data streams themselves. And if a client can lower their overhead while maintaining results, who can blame them? Nowadays the most successful firms are those that can provide something else, tools to analyze and distill multiple data streams to return the results our clients expect. Firms who have embraced text analytics, MROC and chat responses, crowdsourcing, anthropological approaches, or gamification models are some of the most innovative and exciting around. However, amid all this excitement are some lingering questions, fundamental difficulties these new techniques have to consider, problems as old as our industry itself.

In a recent article, D. Daniel Ziv looked at ways in which the traditional customer survey is problematic. Many of the issues he identifies are the ones these new collection strategies are seeking to (or have) solved. For example, what he calls the ‘one size fits all’ survey questions are exactly what online forum collection is addressing. Open-ended collection allows less organizational bias (a sentence about why a customer likes a business instead of a simple yes or no). Further, the problems of gathering responses too far after the fact, or worse, not acting on those responses, are directly addressed by instantaneous, highly specific interactive techniques.

Ziv does, however, mention a few other problems. His critique of incentivizing surveys – the ‘skewing the type of people that respond’ by attracting those with less money and therefore of less interest to a client – while not a criticism I personally agree with, does raise the interesting question of how to get customers to respond in the first place, without which the most sophisticated, dynamic analytic program in the world isn’t worth squat.

It’s interesting to note that some firms (and their big clients) are sticking to the traditional data collection methods. In another article, Kevin Lonnie notes that often interest in social media research comes from management and clients and not research groups themselves. While Lonnie does think the time of surveys and groups has passed, and that text analytics or neuromonitoring are their replacements, he says that new kinds of surveys are still needed to ‘cross-validate’ the white noise of social media findings, which (contrary to Ziv) need to be engage customers by gamification. So again, under a slightly different guise, we see the problem of getting customers into the process in order to make new collection methods as powerful as possible rearing its understudied head.

Consider a third article by industry giant Leonard Murphy. He went about interviewing and investigating three of the most innovative firms in the field – Join the Dots, Motista, and Decooda. For Join the Dots, Murphy has nothing but praise for their integration of multiple data streams – online communities, mobile surveys, website usability – as a way of staying relevant in this changing MR paradigm. Indeed, Join the Dots was recently rebranded for connecting these streams, preferring to call themselves an ‘insight consultancy’ instead of a ‘research supplier’. Similarly, Motista has embraced a powerful combination of cultural anthropology and mathematical modeling to determine what motivates customers, allowing clients to build effective campaigns and achieve competitive differentiation in an era where clients (understandably) demand these results. Or the text analytics pioneer Decooda, who use advanced semantic tools to structure terabytes of mined data from tens of thousands of verbatim surveys within minutes. Three revolutionary companies building strategies from the ground up, embracing quick-paced technologies from multiple external fields to provide never-before-seen value to a whole new playing field of potential clientele. But in these interviews, including these companies’ press releases, answers to the question posed by Ziv and Lonnie are nowhere to be seen.

This is not to say that new technologies aren’t attracting more responses than ever. Indeed, social media collection will get more feedback than a $100 lottery ever could. The point here is that while addressing a huge, huge number of problems in the MR field – bias, relevancy, stream integration, customer community – these new technologies are not specifically focused on the problem of initial engagement. They are immense tools for understanding and presenting what customers are saying, no question, but in the future, as the MR revolution continues, firms need to focus that same level energy and brilliant innovation on ways to mobilize and incentivize those customer responses in the first place. A lot of work has been done so far, but as is always the case in business, there’s still a whole lot more to do.

Black Friday Smartphone Showdown: Brick and Mortar vs. Online Retailers

This “Black Friday” is shaping up to be the most contentious yet.  Some 152 million shoppers say they will hit stores on November 25, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, up 10.1 percent from 138 million people last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

Online retailers have traditionally had the advantage when it comes to tracking consumer behavior and using new media to build customer loyalty.  But this year traditional retailers have a few new tricks up their sleeves.

Several large American retailers already embed market research software into their smartphone apps, and other have formed research panels that gather consumer data at the point of purchase.

Survey Swipe works with retailers to create a white-label market research solution that allows retailers to have their own research app or build research functionalities right into the retailer’s existing app.

According to recent Nielsen report smartphone usage is projected to hit a critical inflection point by the end of 2011.  Forward-thinking retailers see app-based solutions as an important part of their customer strategy.

“It is simply a fact that an app-based solution can gather data more efficiently, accurately, economically than any other technology”, said Survey Swipe founder Chandika Bhandari.  According to a recent study from comScore app usage by consumers outpaced browser usage for the first time in June of this year.

“With volume like this hitting stores, retailers who have a mobile customer feedback program in place will gain insights that will pay dividends for the upcoming holiday season and beyond.  Point of sales insights are a game changer.”  said John Nelson, Business Development Director for SurveySwipe.  “The ability of brick and mortar retailers to gain deep consumer insights will be a wake-up call to online retailers.”

Stay tuned, the stage is set for the most competitive Black Friday to date…

Happy Thanksgiving from Fremont USA!

6 Save-Your-Marketing Butt Strategies

The best laid plans often end up failing.  But failing is a great thing.  When something isn’t working, you jump into action and often come up with terrific ways to improve the process or the system.

Rather than pout or rage about what isn’t working, take a look at this menu of six marketing strategies and see which ones will save your butt. 

  1. Drop Unprofitable products.  Profitability is more important than sales.  Evaluate your product lines and drop products that aren’t passing profit muster.  Another option is to raise prices on products that are unprofitable.
  2. Try new sales incentives and commission structures.  Sales people spend effort where they will make the most money.  Take a close look at your commission structure and make sure that you are rewarding sales people for profitable sales.
  3. Change how you sell.  Don’t just assume your current sales strategy is optimal. Consider using affiliates, partners, home parties, catalogs, internet, etc.
  4. Change or adjust your sales process or system.  Your sales process might be out-dated.  Take the time to explore new strategies such as Craig Elias’, Trigger Events or Jill Konrath’s  SNAP Selling.
  5. Develop or focus on lead generation program.  Where are your leads coming from and are they good leads.  Take a good hard look at your conversions from trade shows, web sites, etc and start optimizing all of them to attract your ideal customer.  For help, check out HubSpot – they are masters of inbound marketing.
  6. Develop a personal follow-up program.  Most sales are lost because our follow-up systems stink.  Map out your sales process and develop a follow-up system that touches your customer at least 7 – 10 times.  For help, visit Constant Contact, aWeber and InfusionSoft  and the new Nimble.

Ipsos Loyalty Engagement Panel Mobile Network and Survey Swipe!

Today is a big week for Survey Swipe!

We are buzzing about the announcement of our partnership with leading market research firm Ipsos.

The Ipsos Loyalty Engagement Panel Mobile Network has been fun to create. It’s a very exciting new opportunity for both companies. This major project with Ipsos has been building up for a while, and now we can finally share the good news of our groundbreaking mobile research project.


The coolest thing about what Ipsos has done with our platform is to allow traditional intercept interviewing to be conducted using our app. When a customer walks out of a retail store they are sent a push notification (cell phone alert) and asked for on-the-spot feedback about their shopping experience.

This data is instantly uploaded to our servers and into our powerful pro-level analytics program, where it can be turned into valuable visual charts as well as exported to Excel.

Imagine what impact this will have on the market research industry in the long run.

The age old question of what the heck consumers are really thinking when they buy things will finally be answered.

Furthermore, imagine how much more research will be conducted when costs are lowered so dramatically?

The accuracy of this new data will also be unparalleled; it will clarify previously foggy assumptions about consumer behavior.

Ipsos has been great to work with, and we already have a couple of apps on iTunes.

The Survey Swipe team looks forward to building this relationship in the coming months.


John Nelson

Consumer downloads app —→ Become Panelist —→ Location Trigger sends alert sends survey on the spot

10 Creative Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

There are so many product and service choices out there that your customers really are looking for a great reason to be loyal to you.  Here are 10 creative ways that you can build loyalty and profitability for your business.

  1. Use QR codes to drive customers to coupons.  Research shows that customers love grabbing coupons from their mobile devices.  Use QR codes to reward them for buying.
  2.  Create a video couponing page. Groupon has gotten mixed reviews for small business – but Video Coupons are a whole new ball game.  Customers love video and remember twice as much as ads they see on TV and Video coupons are inexpensive and easy to do.
  3. Offer financing or multiple payment plan.   QVC already knows that customers will buy more and spend more if you offer a payment plan.  Remember customers love to buy in increments of $20. So make your monthly prices $19.99, $39.99, etc.
  4. Volume discounts or bundle discounts.  Reward your customers for buying more items more frequently.
  5. Establish a customer club.  Even restaurants can have a customer club.  Charge a monthly fee to receive coupons, free gifts and invites to special events.
  6. Develop a contest to build leads, communities and excitement.  Contests build community and customers.  Use powerful social media tools to manage yours.  There’s even an online app to help you create and manage contests – Wildfire.
  7. Build a customer/user community.  Don’t forget the power of social media.  Create a customer community using a Facebook page or Twitter, these tools aren’t just for big companies or consumer groups.  If social media isn’t your thing – create a customer community using the SurveySwipe mobile survey platform and ask your community questions.
  8. Institute a referral program. Word of mouth is powerful, so create a referral system that rewards fans of your company or product.
  9. Provide home delivery or offer monthly delivery.  Combine a distribution strategy with a subscription model to create repeat sales.
  10. Provide free troubleshooting. Don’t sell and run, help your customers over buyer’s remorse by providing them help in using and loving your product or service.

Voter Panels – A real world application in predicting outcomes of voter initiatives.

Before Election Day this month, if you wanted to know how voters would weigh in on privatizing liquor sales, all you had to do was ask.

Ask us, that is.

You see in WA state, we can only buy booze from state controlled liquor shops. There was a voter ballot initiative to overturn this.

Turns out, our pre-election survey read voters’ mood pretty darn well.

And that’s not all. We’re really fired up because this was a totally new way of polling voters. And it worked so well, public opinion research will never be the same.

Here’s what happened. Back in late October thru early November, we asked likely voters in Seattle/King County how they’d vote on various things. The liquor initiative, I-1183, was one of the most hotly contested issues. It called for privatizing Washington State’s government-run liquor sales.

Not surprisingly, voters in the nation’s latte-guzzling capital said they’d overwhelmingly back the measure. After all, when you need Irish Coffee fixings, you need them now – not just when state liquor stores are open.

2,001 voters responded. When asked how they would vote “if the election were held today,” 61% said yes and 33% said no, with 6% undecided. In the Nov. 8 General Election, 60% voted for the initiative and 40% against. Not too shabby.

In other words, we knew I-1183 would pass hands-down. And by how much. And we knew the outcome of other issues, with impressive accuracy.

Skeptics have raised legitimate questions.

Could the results have been a coincidence? Anyone can make predictions, but how do you know if your method is sound?

One way to test the method is to see how closely survey respondents represent likely voters as a group. In our case, the answer is: awfully close. If you look at party affiliation, age and gender, participants in our poll are a near-perfect match for the likely voter base.

So, what’s the upshot of all this? It’s more than about calling the outcome of the liquor initiative. And it’s more than being able to predict other results this year.

It’s about speed and cost.

That’s where we’re really excited. You see, our approach is actually an innovative, new way of doing surveys. This wasn’t a telephone poll, which normally costs upwards of $20K for a sample of 2,000+ voters. And unlike phone surveys, ours can be done in just hours, rather than weeks.

We did it online. We tracked down email addresses for about 10% of King County likely voters. We invited them to share their opinions. And within just 48 hours, we had answers from voters random enough to represent the electorate.

It’s not just about responding online, either. We’ve got apps. So, through our SurveySwipe platform, voters can complete a survey wherever they are. At their computer. On the bus on their smartphone. Or at a cafe on their tablet device. That’s why we can get results back fast. You don’t have to spend 10-20 minutes on the phone with some low-paid survey taker. Or, worse, a robot.

In other words, we can survey voters for a fraction of the cost of a full-blown phone survey, in a fraction of the time. With meaningful results.

Next Post : We’ll be sharing a detailed SPSS data file of this groundbreaking project and its implications.

The revolution in public opinion surveys has begun…

PS: Shameless plug – If you are a Seattle/King County pollster – now that we have our Voter Panel – please contact us if you want to run your own message testing and polling for your candidate for 2012! Please contact surveys@cityfeedback.com if you would like to use our King County and Seattle Voter panels.

SurveySwipe Offers KILLER Price for White Label Mobile Research App

Attention Market Researchers and Survey Analytics Users: Our excess capacity is your opportunity

We have some excess capacity in our development team and would like to offer you a very discounted offer for our Survey Swipe Mobile Survey App — a white labeled version customized to your brand.

Normally our standard pricing is $30K for this white labeled version, but then we thought that this price might be holding you back from seeing what an incredibly powerful tool this was.  And so we decided to do something ridiculous just so you can see it for yourself.  So we’re offering this for $10K per instance for any orders received by December 15th.

How to use the SurveySwipe Custom-Branded Solution

If you have an existing panel: Invite them to download the branded App and take part in in mobile surveys from time to time.   This is really an opportunity to have a conversation and to build relationships with that panel.  The surveys often take less than 60 seconds (most take 10 seconds to 30 seconds).  Because they are so short, the panel will respond quickly and your response rates will go WAY UP.

With this custom-branded app, your panelists would now be able to engage in surveys while out and about in the World interacting with brands and as normal in front of the computer.
What you’ll be able to do:

  • Push invitations to panelists any time based on their screening criteria, typical response is VERY high and VERY fast.
  • Offer always on surveys so panelists can go in and take them whenever they want
    Trigger survey invitations via GPS, Hyper Local  ™
  • Use built in bar code scanner to scan product bar codes to trigger drill down questions regarding those products.
  • Push picture and video out as part of the survey experience

This is an ideal use for retail and in-store shopper projects and consumption panels
What you’d get:

  1. Branded online recruitment website where you would send panelists to, to answer a couple questions and be sent to appropriate smartphone marketplace, support and FAQs included.
  2. An app branded to your organization.
  3. Panel management functionality in your Survey Analytics account, see who’s downloaded and create subpanels, script surveys and issue new screening questions.
  4. Data collection and reporting as part of your already existing Survey Analytics account.Contact John Nelson at SurveySwipe to set up your white-labeled SurveySwipe mobile app and launch a survey today.

Romi Mahajan joins Metavana as Chief Marketing Officer

Over the next few months we’re going to be introducing you to the latest trends and tools that will be hitting the market research scene.

As you get to know these new trends and the people behind them, you’ll notice that they view the world not as a set of independent cogs and wheels forced into the interaction, but as a biological eco system that naturally delivers valuable information that we need to pay attention to.

The first in our series is Romi Mahajan, a leading expert in the world of market research and technology. Romi hosts the Marketing Access Blog, which is part of the Survey Analytics family of brands and he has just recently accepted a position as the Chief Marketing Officer at Metavana. Metavana tunes into the voice of the consumer from diverse web sources to help companies discover and classify expressions of opinion and emotion.

I chatted with Romi about this new company and the opportunity it presents for business and for market research.

Romi, what are some of the trends that have been most apparent to you in the world of market research and social media and sentiment analysis?

When we examine the world today, we see 3 interesting trends that we hope to help corral and tame for the benefit of organizations of any size and consumers eventually.

  1. The Social Web is a HUGE source of proliferating data. 250M tweets a day, 800K facebook posts an hour, and so on. Amazing amount of data, growing geometrically.
  2. The data/content on the Social Web is largely unstructured, asyntatic, ungrammatical, and emotional versus binary fact-based. The content is full of “affect” and “emotion” which need to be parsed and understood.
  3. The Social Web is always on. It’s 24/7/365 and it’s world wide.

And given all of this, what is expressed on The Social Web affects all Brands, all companies, all organizations……making for an interesting challenge and opportunity!

You’ve recently taken a position with Metavana, a new company that’s taken on the challenge of making sense if this kind of data. How can businesses benefit from Metavana?

Metavana offers businesses the ability to track consumer opinions about their brands, products, and services; benchmark themselves against competitors; and selectively participate in the dialogs. As a result, they will gain a faster and deeper understanding of innovation and positioning opportunities as well as of whether changing market perceptions are likely to influence buying decisions and other consumers. All businesses need to understand the marketplace, the community, and what their current and prospective customers are saying. It’s really that simple. My job is to make it cost effective and value added for them!!

Metavana provides sentiment analysis – what is that?

Sentiment Analysis is a way of understanding and making meaning out of this efflorescence of unstructured and emotional content on the web. And it’s important to do because The Social Web is the “new authorative,” it’s the new driver of trends; we are moving closer to the source of what REALLY drives people to act.

We believe that solving this problem is not just about smart Engineering. We believe it’s a fundamental Physics and Non-Linear Mathematics problem. Furthermore, it’s all about quick-turn categorization and helping organizations act on real insights/meaning. Furthermore, it requires considerable business model innovation in which Voice of the Customer becomes everyone’s job and is not a sequestered, episodic, and one-off project. So we believe we have the one-two punch.

What are the risks of not paying attention to sentiment analysis?

Let me ask a slightly different question. What are the risks of not having finance or not having telephones? The fact is that companies can choose to know what their current or prospective customers are saying and feeling or not… but my admonition would be if you decide not to, do so with the clear awareness that you’ll be left behind by others who are employing smart sentiment.

Sentiment Analysis is the Next Big Thing – Are You Ready?

Text analysis isn’t new anymore and making sense of the social media chatter was last year’s trend. If you haven’t been paying attention to that – you are already behind. Take note of the term “Sentiment Analysis” and start thinking about how not knowing what’s being said about your business and your brand and the emotions behind it can effect profitability.

What to Do When Your Crystal Ball is on the Fritz

Yes – your colleagues probably think you have ESP when it comes to coming up with new products and services.  You know that it’s hard work that usually includes hard work on the back end.

Here are a few strategies you can use to expand your product offering in ways that appeal to both your customers and your bottom line.

  1. Data Mining and Customer Analysis.  Although it’s tempting to jump in and try to do anything, take the time to ask your customers what’s important to them and what other alternatives they are considering to solve their problems.  Check out online survey tools like QuestionPro , Survey Analytics, Survey Swipe or IdeaScale.
  2. Add new products.  Consider the possibility your customers want something else. Do your research and check your profit margins before you expand your product lines.
  3. Find new markets.  This is a favorite strategy.  Look for emerging markets that have a need for your product or capability.  Open your mind and ask “what if” or “in what ways” questions to see how to penetrate more profitable markets.
  4. Try different distribution channels.  Distribution means being within arm’s reach of your customer and their wallet.  Think of the different ways you can do that; email, direct marketing, catalog, direct sales, kiosk, manufacturers rep.  The possibilities are endless.
  5. Direct marketing to target customers.  Three-dimensional, snail mail marketing is still extremely effective.  Select a target group of customers and send them special offers.  Use email marketing tools like Constant Contact to develop segmented mailing lists.