Article Synopsis: Still Full of Beanz (Effective Data Management)

How does a 150-year-old company stay relevant?

Originally published in Research Magazine July 9, 2014

By Lucy Fisher

Writer Lucy Fisher asks Colin Haddley, director of strategy, insight and capability at Heinz, “How does Heinz, a 150 year old company, stay relevant with consumers in a competitive market?”, the answer is research.  Innovation doesn’t just happen, “Generating great ideas is essential in marketing, but to generate these ideas you need to be disciplined in your approach,” Haddley points out. Managing market research data efficiently is the key.

Using a philosophy of test and learn, Heinz looks to multiple information sources for research, including electronic-point-of-sale, Nielsen data, panel data, and social media and brand monitoring.  One such panel, Heinz 57, is an online community of 300 consumers that the company uses as a source of customer feedback.

How then does Heinz manage all this data and turn it into successful marketing strategies? With customer insight teams of marketers trained in innovative thinking.  However, a big challenge is integrating the sources of data, and not focusing on any one source of insight. “Penetrating, meaningful insights are derived, felt and observed through a variety of sources of information. It is like building a jigsaw… it all starts with effective data management,” Haddley says.

By piecing all the research together, from the different sources, relevant pieces of customer insight emerge: what consumers like, do not like, want more of, or think is a flaw. “But it all starts with effective data management,” Haddley cautions. While the article didn’t specifically address how different types of market research data are integrated (perhaps that’s a recipe too dear to share), it’s still a great real-world glimpse into the value of leveraging multiple information sources.

This synopsis was written by Lynn Croft, independent marketing and market research consultant. With 15 years of experience at companies such as Genzyme, Bayer Corporation, Shire, and Eli Lilly, Lynn has expertise in market research, market analysis regarding product launches, pricing and lifecycle management. 


[Is your quantitative market research data collected & ready for analysis? Now what? Check out Research Rockstar’s real-time, online training program “Introduction to Quantitative Data Analysis” for help getting started. MRA PRC approved for 6 hours.]



Kathryn’s rant on too many market research conferences

Ever feel overwhelmed by how many solicitations you get to attend market research conferences? You are not alone! Kathryn recorded a video rant on this topic while driving to work.  It includes her decision on how she is going to handle the inundation of conference advertising.

You can also click here to view the video on YouTube.



Market Research & Lost Mojo: Article Synopsis

Andrew Reid, son of Market Research luminary Angus Reid, says Market Research has “lost its mojo.”

In a new article published in Entrepreneur Magazine, Reid states, “In the early 2000s, with the increased use of email, the internet, mobile phones and social media, many companies transformed their way of doing business, but market research companies did not.”  Reid himself is the President of Vision Critical, a well-known provider of market research software and services.

Reid makes some excellent points in a brutally honest way. He asks, “Why do some market researchers still use 15-minute surveys and deliver 60-page reports that companies, their clients, have trouble digesting?” Hard to hear, but so-so-true.  He advocates for short reports, infographics and the Pecha Kucha-style presentation.  I could not agree more: indeed, I think it would be amazing have a panel at one of the market research conferences where, say, 3 market researchers do Pecha Kucha presentations of research results—just so the audience can see that it can be done (warning: it takes more time to prepare this style presentation than to prepare a standard 45 minute one. Really).

So while I applaud his boldness, one of his points about the lost mojo is only partially correct. He says we missed the technology boat in the early 2000′s, stating, “(market researchers) should have worked with early tech adopters to gain insight. And market research companies could have launched products in beta and made some risky decisions. Yet, all they did was undertake the same paper-and-pen surveys.” Intentional hyperbole? Probably. But still factually incorrect. SurveyMonkey was founded in 1999, and they report completing 2 million survey responses a day. And even if SurveyMonkey is the 800 pound gorilla in online survey research, it is still one of more than 50 such companies. Online surveys took off years ago. That is not the issue.

The issue wasn’t technology, it’s what we as researchers did with it. We took the fabulous new technology and applied it to tired old methodologies.

Market researchers remained overly-focused on surveys and focus groups—no matter if done online, or other modes. In fact, as an industry, to this day we allow our profession to be defined by these two methods. Markets research should be defined by our deliverables, not our methods. Our deliverables are discovering and measuring customer attitudes and behaviors. Our methods are surveys (whether paper, online, phone, etc.), focus groups (in-person or online), and these days at least ten other options.  Yet we continue to be perceived as “surveys and focus groups.” Ask even a group of market researchers what comes to mind first when they think of the phrase “market research”, and most will say “surveys” or “focus groups.” I know, I have asked this question at public speaking venues.

So kudos to Reid for A) getting an article about market research in a business magazine and for B) being bold in his assessments. But if we really want to get market research’s mojo back, we have to make sure we are offering more than surveys and focus groups.

Read Reid’s article here.

Written by Kathryn Korostoff



Yes, Market Research is Work

I’ll be blunt: market research takes real work. Sometimes hard work. And sometimes tedious work.

We used to live in a simpler world. Everything was surveys and focus groups. Not that those are easy, but at least their risk factors and best practices are known.

Now we have over a dozen methodologies, constant new software options, and the uncertain threat that substitutes from outside of our realm may be about to storm the castle.

So on top of our normal work, excellence requires that we are constantly expanding our knowledge set, learning new tools, and responding to what can often be uncomfortable questions about market research validity and relevance.

So if you long for the simpler days, you are out of luck. And if you are thinking about getting into the field, and have some misguided idea that the work is easy, forget it.

To be a good market researcher, you will need to work hard. You will need to do real work. You will need to develop the ability to judge and critique—even your own work. You will have times when you will “do it over,” need help, and possibly even under-deliver. You will have late nights or early mornings in order to meet the unintended but inescapable confluence of project deadlines.

But you will also find the clients appreciative (usually), the data fascinating (often), and the thrill of discovering new insights about customer attitudes and behaviors empowering (always).

Market research isn’t for wimps. But it’s definitely for me.


[Please share your thoughts on this topic using the comments tool here! I’d really like to hear what others think about the work of market research.]


3 Tips to Avoid Bad Market Research Software Purchases

You don't need to get “married”Market research software comes in many forms these days: survey programming, data analysis, text analytics, and social media analysis are among the most common.

The good news for buyers is that many firms offer monthly options—helping you, the buyer, mitigate risks. There is no need to get “married”; you can just live together and part ways amicably when the mood strikes.

Still “moving in” is a big step, as it requires both training and business process adaptation. Training can be informal or formal, but always involves some time investment. And process adaptation often includes creating and implementing procedures that optimize how new software is actually used during the market research process.

Too often, companies rush to implement new software, and then realize they are not satisfied with its features or functionality.  But they are loathe to abandon it because of the training and process investments they have made to get it in place! They stay married to the “devil they know” rather than risk the aggravations of going out into the software dating pool again.

So before you take the next step with new market research software—whether it is marriage or cohabitation—consider these three steps to minimize the risk of an ugly break up.

1. Create & prioritize your feature requirements. It sounds obvious, but it is a step often skipped. Sometimes the feature requirements just seem so apparent. If I am evaluating survey software, the features are kind of a “duh”, right? Same for text analytics software features, right? Wrong. If you don’t document your feature requirements and prioritize them into categories (must have, nice to have, optional), you risk selecting a product that has “sold” you, versus you “selecting” it.

2. Start with a trial phase. A trial phase allows you to try market research software before you buy it. In some cases, it even makes sense to start with a trial and then do a “pilot.” If you want to get super precise, you can distinguish between a trial and a pilot as follows:

  • A trial is when you are testing the software, most likely in a “mock” situation (not to support a client project). A trial is usually fairly short, seven to fourteen days in most cases.
  • A pilot is when you have actually deployed the software on a limited basis, in real research, to “stress test” its viability. A pilot will typically occur after a successful trial phase, and is organized around a specified set of success criteria. For example, “We will consider the pilot a success if it meets criteria A, B and C.” Pilots are often a little longer, typically ranging from fourteen days to a month or more (or longer for more complex products).

3. Trial at least 2 products. Yes, this means more time (and aggravation) but you will find that evaluating one product at a time leads to some bias. You trial one product, get to know it, and it is easy to just accept its warts and go ahead—even if you didn’t really love it.

  • Tip: if possible, divide and conquer. Have one team member evaluate one product while another is trying a competitive option. Not only does this make trialing two products easier, it reduces the risk of bias. We tend to like that with which we become familiar, so having two “equal” software trials help ensure an objective comparison of two products.

About Free Market Research Software Trials

Many companies offer free trials. Take advantage of them. Not only is it good for your budget, it says something about the company. I am always more inclined to trust software companies that have enough confidence in their software features and ease of use to offer trials. In contrast, I am wary of companies that say it isn’t an option. Software is scalable; the incremental cost of supporting free software trials is low for market research software providers. The exception being products that can’t be used without extensive one-on-one training, and in market research, that is fairly rare these days.

If you are interested in a software product that does not promote a free trial on its website, call and ask. You may be surprised how many companies are willing to offer a seven-day trial once they know you are a legitimate researcher.  And this way you can date before marriage.


[SPSS is another popular type of market research software. Want to know more about using SPSS? Consider our LIVE 4-session Introduction to SPSS course. Now PRC approved!!]