Last week I was at Forrester's Consumer Forum in Chicago, where I gave a presentation with the title “If The Company Only Knew What The Company Knows: Introduction Of A Knowledge Center Can Empower Market Research Professionals.” For this presentation I did quite a lot of research and talked to many market researchers who have implemented some kind of knowledge management system. Knowledge management systems come in all kinds of flavors and with varying degrees of success, but the market researchers who managed to build a successful, engaging, and widely used system all agreed that it had changed their role.
In fact, the companies we spoke to all saw their knowledge management as a competitive advantage. Although we found a number of market researchers willing to participate in our research, none of them wanted to share all the ins and outs. In keeping with the theme, they said, "We don’t want others to know what we know."
But how can market researchers introduce knowledge management to their organizations? Based on our research, we see three different levels:
Build a research center of excellence within the department.
Implement a system for sharing and distributing (research) information with the organization.
Develop a companywide knowledge management system.
You might be wondering why this post has nothing to do with Latin American consumers. Well, in addition to my Latin American research, enterprise feedback management (EFM) is a new and exciting coverage area that I will be addressing to help market research (MR) professionals. My goal is to assist you in finding the right tools and processes that will aid you in making sense of all the copious amounts of information that is collected from all parts of your company regarding consumers and synthesize them into coherent, actionable solutions.
What is EFM? Right now it means several things. From the viewpoint of a customer experience (CXP) professional, it is a tool that can be used to assist in developing a systematic approach for incorporating the needs of one’s customers into the design of better customer experiences, or what we call at Forrester voice of the customer (VoC) programs. My colleague Andrew McInnes will be covering EFM, as well, but from the perspective of how CXP professionals can utilize these tools.
For a market research professional, it is also used as a tool, but is not specific to solely collecting customer experience feedback. I see it as an advantage in two main ways.
As you probably know by now, I really enjoy engaging with all of you through social media like this blog or via Twitter. Of course, I like doing research and writing reports, but that's very much an academic exercise. The blog and Twitter are about direct communication and instant feedback (and, in a way, instant gratification). However, these are still all virtual contacts. So, I thought I would share with you where you can find me, and my team, in the next couple of months so that you can meet us in person.
I will be speaking at Forrester’s upcoming Consumer Forum in Chicago, October 28-29, and our Marketing & Strategy Forum EMEA in London, November 18-19. The theme of Forrester’s Consumer Forum 2010 is “Unleash Your Organization To Serve Empowered Customers.” Lots of the content will be related to the new book Empowered, by Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler.
The market research track will show why the ability to understand customers’ needs and wants from several data sources is the key to supporting the organization with actionable insights. It will include the following presentations:
“If The Company Only Knew What The Company Knows: How The Introduction Of A Knowledge Center Can Empower Market Research Professionals,” Reineke Reitsma.
“Trends And Best Practices In Social Market Research,” Tamara Barber.
“Understand Influential Young Online Consumers: A Global Perspective,” Jacqueline Anderson.
As mentioned in some earlier posts, in the past quarters, I have been looking into the role that Market Research professionals play (and can play) with regard to information management. I’ve had many enlightening conversations about this topic with both vendors and client-side market researchers.
Technology developments result in more and more information becoming available internally, and at different parts of the organization. Just think about all the data an average company collects or buys — media measurement data, advertising awareness, advertising spend, retail data, sales data, competitive intelligence, Web-tracking data (from listening tools), Web site tracking, marketing data (e.g., Nielsen Claritas), customer satisfaction surveys, brand trackers, and other primary research data, to name just a few. One vendor estimated that the average research department handles around 50 different research sources!
When I spoke with vendors about their relationship with clients, each and every one of them was looking for ways to increase the level of engagement. For one thing, they are working on best-in-class reporting tools to make it easier for clients to process their data and make it visually more interesting — and hopefully easier to use. However, not many vendors think further than their own set of data. When questioned, they mention that their systems don’t allow for third-party data. Yes, it’s possible to link to internal CRM systems, but that’s about as far as things go.
On two occasions in the past few months, I’ve given a speech to members of Forrester’s Market Research Forrester Leadership Board about vendor management best practices, a topic I’m writing a report on.[i] With market research budgets increasingly shrinking and research expectations growing, we see that market researchers need to select, manage, and measure their vendors more efficiently.
The key to success here is to develop partnerships with your key vendors. Why? Because conversations with Market Research professionals at a variety of organizations show that partnering with research vendors leads to better projects, deeper insights, and lower costs. As one of my interviewees said: “It’s about intellectual ROI: You need to invest less time for each project. You build a lot of equity. You also get more of a team thing going — to me, this is very important. You work with these people on a daily basis, so finding the right vendor and contact is critical, as we see them as colleagues.”
To understand how Market Research professionals currently collaborate with their research vendors, we surveyed our Market Research Panel earlier this year. The majority of our panelists feel that they already have established partnerships with most vendors, and two-thirds state that price is less important than quality.
When I came back from holiday last week and looked at my mail, I was delighted to see that the most recent issue of Research World (the ESOMAR magazine) had a number of articles on mobile research. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, mobile research has really won me over (see also my report, The Challenges And Opportunities Of Mobile Research for full details). The “anytime, anywhere” aspect of the mobile phone, combined with people's emotional attachment to it, makes it an ideal device for people to share their thoughts and opinions in a research context.
When reading the articles in Research World, however, I feel that the industry is missing out on a great opportunity. The emphasis of the conversation here is on mobile research's methodological challenges, such as sampling, guidelines, and research bias. I agree that there are still some hurdles to overcome with regards to representation, costs, technology, and privacy, but I believe market researchers shouldn't get too caught up in these but should instead embrace mobile phones as a new research channel and look for innovative research approaches.
Last week, I was in LA, hosting a session on online panel quality at Forrester’s Marketing Forum. I discussed the past, present, and future of online panel quality with Steve Schwartz from Microsoft, Maria Cristina Gomez from Procter & Gamble, and Frank Findley from ARS Group.
Online panel quality is still a major issue in the industry. The whole discussion started in 2006 with a speech by Kim Dedeker -- at that time, the VP of global consumer and market knowledge at Procter & Gamble. In it, she publicly expressed her concerns about online panel quality, how it affected their research results, and, as a result, the credibility of market research. In her speech, she stressed that, in her opinion, the industry – both research suppliers and clients – needed to focus on how to improve the overall quality of research. Her appeal to the industry was very successful. Many other research buyers weighed in with their stories, and the research providers took up the challenge. Since then, many initiatives have started, such as the ARF’s Foundation of Quality and ESOMAR’s 26 questions, as well as more technology-driven approaches like Peanut Labs’ Optimus and MarketTools’ TrueSample.
A few years ago, Procter & Gamble publicly stated that it had experienced inconsistent research results from successive online research projects. Other organizations shared similar experiences, and questions were raised about “professional respondents.” The trustworthiness of online research was in question, and multiple initiatives arose. In the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of debate around this topic, and associations such as ESOMAR and ARF have come up with protocols that all good panels should follow — and many have. But what does this mean from a client perspective? How have initiatives like ARF's Quality Enhancement Process, MarketTools' TrueSample, or processes like machine fingerprinting changed the industry?
Last week, I attended Research 2010, the research conference organized by the UK's Research Organization. One session was on innovative research methodologies, and although it's not completely new to the industry, I was surprised to see two of the presentations covering research methodologies that capture people's unconscious behavior through technology.
The first was a presentation about lifelogging, or “glogging” for those in the know. Simply put, lifelogging documents somebody's life through technology worn by the “respondent.”
Bob Cook from Firefish presented how this technology helps researchers better understand the tradeoffs that people constantly make. Lifelogging has a long history, and it was started by Steve Mann. In the early 1980s, he walked around with recording gear that looked more like a suit of armor.
Last Saturday, at the Silicon Valley Product Camp, I was part of a panel on PM metrics. Any topic that's at the same time important and unsettled keeps you thinking long after the panel, so not surprisingly, almost a week later, I'm still chewing on it. Here's an observation I'll make today, after further pondering:
You know when you're doing well as a PM when someone yells at you for getting a persona, user story, use case, or task analysis wrong.
Understanding the world from the standpoint of the individual buyer or user is one of the primary responsibility of PM. According to some schools of thought, it's the core responsibility, especially since no one else in a technology company is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and distributing these deep customer insights. (There are other core responsibilities, too, related to the company's business and the technology itself.)
That information may look academic, but it should be immediately pertinent in very important ways. Understanding the way in which people in a variety of roles assess, purchase, and adopt technology is critical for making smart decisions about everything from product design to the product roadmap, from crafting messaging to choosing marketing channels. Unless you live in a Soviet-style command economy, in which manufacturing 3,000 left shoes is a problem for the consumer, not the producer, customer insights need to inform both strategic and tactical decisions.