As discussed recently in the blog Forging a Clear Path to Corporate Innovation, involving consumers in the innovation process leads to a richer pipeline of new product ideas. Even in the absence of this approach, companies are constantly generating ideas for new products. With all these ideas coming in—from consumers, employees, management, consultants—on which should management develop into full concepts for testing?
Given the relatively low rate of success for new product launches (less than 3% of new consumer packaged goods exceed first-year sales of $50 million—considered the benchmark of a highly successful launch; HBR, April 2011), and the cost and time in developing and testing concepts, selecting the right ideas for deeper concept testing is critical.
In July 2006, I boarded a plane to Portland, Oregon. It was the beginning of my service at Market Strategies International. A decade is not a long time but long enough to witness some changes. Let me share with you a quick inventory of what has changed from 2006 to 2016 in the market research industry:
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series on Little Data techniques that turn a good market research recipe into a taste sensation.
Market research is like cooking with quality ingredients. Big Data is good because it answers the fundamental what, who and how much of a customer. Little Data is good because it answers why customers make certain choices and how they arrive at their decisions. But blend Big Data and Little Data together in a thoughtful, clever way? Bam! You’ve just discovered the secret sauce in the customer behavior recipe.
I run competitively, mostly in races around my home state of Arkansas, and I’m currently training for the Hogeye Marathon, which is known for its hilly, difficult course.
Training for a marathon involves many aspects from experimenting with different fuel/gels to finding the best pair of shoes to take you the distance. But the most important is probably the long run. You have to start out with a short distance/time and then gradually build up—maybe a mile or so every week—until you’re at least somewhat close to the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. This requires planning—working backwards from race day to establish a training plan to ensure there is sufficient time to gradually build up the distance. Without a proper plan and follow-through, race day will surely be a disaster.
The same can be said of business decision-making. A snap decision on an important issue without proper forethought and planning could be an embarrassment at best and career ending at worst. So what does it take to get to “decision day” for your desired outcome? Here are a few considerations:
To all our market research friends–and new friends we hope to meet–Market Strategies is heading to Boca Raton to participate in the largest market research event of the year: TMRE! This year, I’m excited to be sharing a very cool case study about customer experience research with Mary Lee, director of member experience for AAA. If you’re attending, please join us for, “Revolutionizing CX: How AAA Turned Satisfied Customers into Loyal Advocates” at 2:30 on Tuesday, October 21 in Estate 1 at the Boca Raton Resort.
Pop quiz! You know school is back in session when…
A) You must zig-zag through pencils, pens and protractors before navigating to the aisle you need at most convenience stores
B) You no longer get a seat on your morning bus commute
C) There’s a panic-inducing number of head lice prevention ads hanging in your child’s pediatrician’s office
D) All of the above
Answer: D, All of the above.
School is in Session
Jokes aside, I look forward to school season every fall. It brings me back to several of my own memories: getting selected to write “words of the day” on the blackboard, mastering the multiplication flashcards and bringing home that first aced test of the year to stick on the fridge.
It’s strange to think that while current students may one day share my sentiments, their memories will differ dramatically from mine. Their “words of the day” don’t require chalk and erasers because they’re most likely written on a Smartboard. Flashcards have probably been replaced with mathematically-focused computer games. And most parents can now celebrate their child’s tests scores before ever seeing the evidence through online grade books via learning management systems. As a market research analyst, I especially appreciate one educational technology advancement in particular: Adaptive Learning Systems (ALSs).
I hate to admit it, but with all the web-based services and on-demand viewing, I have become enamored with binge-watching. I recently binged on an HBO series called True Detective (I highly recommend it–it’s some groundbreaking stuff). One of the primary characters, Rust, seems to have a form of ESP when it comes to things he sees and how he interprets them within the context of each other. His dedication to looking deeper with a true sense of conviction works for a greater good in resolving issues and questions. As I watched for the entertainment of it all, it made me think about how we often gloss over the deeper meaning of issues we encounter on a daily basis.
From a market research and business perspective, some see a line of numbers tracking customer satisfaction with a company, recall of an advertising campaign, transcripts from an online focus group or an impact on a key driver model. But a researcher needs to embrace Rust’s mindset, combining information we gather with knowledge of our client’s industry and the world we live in to develop a “case file” that informs a confident business decision or pushes back on a commonly-held belief. While I doubt we will ever gain ESP per se, we can tune in more closely to understand what we encounter and what it means from a bigger, more global view.
This is not a plug for Emily Oster’s book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong, though anyone who talked to me late in my pregnancy–we’ll call that “AE” for after Emily–knows that I reveled in the clarity it brought to health decisions that were, until that point, seemingly backed up by very little. Finally, research-driven decisions!
It will surprise no one that I’ve always been research-driven, and I expected this business of raising a baby to be no different. Given the massive amount of information and “information” (otherwise known as strongly-stated opinions), child rearing continues to feel like one of the largest synthesis activities ever known. Lately I’ve started weighing when to make a research-driven decision versus when to factor in other inputs, just like the business leaders who consume our research. Research is a very strong input and often provides parameters for my decision, but the decision itself can rest elsewhere.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I have been giving a lot of thought to what I am thankful for. Obviously, I am thankful for my family, my friends and my health. These are things I am thankful for every year. But, this year, I have a lot to be thankful for in my professional life, too.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the qualities of good primary market researchers. I’ve hired many throughout my career and managed even more. I suppose the fact that I personally discovered the profession in mid-life (after nearly two decades of job hopping) has made me think about the question more than most people.
We researchers are a funny lot, especially those of us who flourish on the supplier side of the business. I have long observed that many of the best, most successful primary market researchers also excelled at dreaded academic rituals: term papers and finals. Ad hoc primary research projects require that handy ability honed in college—to quickly absorb and integrate entirely new knowledge and apply it in a paper or test by term’s end.