Kristin Luck

What if we shook up the market research industry? Really shook it up? What would happen to our “norms”? Our research methods? What we’ve come to expect around every corner? Over the last several years we’ve seen our business transformed. Sample and data collection quality has suffered from disengaged respondents. Marketers are bringing research in-house to combat reduced budgets and are relying increasingly on DIY solutions. Insights revenues are dropping. Technology adoption is accelerating at a faster pace than ever, particularly in emerging markets. It’s time to take charge and change the course of our industry’s future (before we become extinct!). This requires taking a hard look at the traps and pitfalls we’ve fallen into – the complacency that’s become commonplace.

As researchers we’re constantly looking for ways to garner more actionable data, engage respondents and deliver quality recommendations that can be used by marketers in the real world. Keeping AHEAD of the changing landscape and letting go of a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality may just be the ticket to staying in touch with a swiftly shifting marketplace.

Cindy Gallop, who, for all intents and purposes, is the Michael Bay of the business world (she likes to “blow s**t up”, as evidenced by her new business venture, gave the advertising industry a “wake up call” last year at the Digital Matters Conference. I walked away from Cindy’s keynote realising that her take on the ad industry’s issue are the same issues we’re facing within market research. Her keynote focused on the phenomenon of “collaborative competition”. Collaborative competition occurs when everyone in the industry competes with everyone else in the industry, by doing exactly the same thing everyone else in the industry is doing. This unhealthy pattern is parasitic and fear-based, and worse, it allows innovation and disruption to come in from the outside (case in point, the runaway success of Survey Monkey and Google Consumer Surveys). We need to break free of this mindset and explore ways to truly advance the market research industry and make a better future for all of us. We need to take the reins and effect change on every level: both professionally and personally. But how?

We need to:

  • Redesign our business & business model
  • Redesign research
  • Rethink creativity and innovation

Redesigning the business of research
Still wondering why getting respondents to participate in your surveys can be so challenging? Start by taking the time to dig in to exactly how you communicate with them. For instance:

“We’ll enter you in for a 1 in a million chance to win $1,000 if you just take this short survey” (Actual survey length – 45 minutes)

“Complete this online diary every day for a week for cash” (Incentive – $5 for hours of participation)

Still confused? All of our communication with respondents tell them that research is a very bad thing and that they need to be tricked, persuaded and bribed to participate.

If you ask people what they think about research, they hate it … even when they use it in daily life. In fact, what I’ve seen is that people “hate” research in general, but tend to love research in particular. How often have you seen a catchy vertical infographic float across your personal Facebook page? Or a clever meme with a nice, pithy statistic imposed over a photo of an ugly cat? People like research that reinforces their belief systems. What we need to do in the market research industry is make people love research in general. We have to move from making good research to making research good again. Our relationship with our respondents (who are vital!) depends on it.

Redesigning Research
As much as we try to hold on to the past, we need to come to terms with the fact that you can’t do new world research from an old world research place. The research process used to be linear and, sadly, even today the systems, structures and processes are the same that they were over 15 years ago. New technologies are using the same tired old methods. I invite you to plug into inspiration, disruption and innovation by looking beyond our industry. Read a tech blog. Listen to a TED talk on new communication patterns. Buy Fast Company and learn about the latest media start up. Take brilliant ideas and new thinking to task and stay out of the old world order. Because if you plug new world thinking into an old world system, what do you think you’ll get out of the other end?

We live in a world that is, more than ever before, focused on true “connection”. From mobile to social media to brand personalisation and one to one marketing, this cultural shift is not going away – not only do respondents want to KNOW us, but they want us to KNOW them.  As researchers this means we need to do a better job of humanising data and humanising research.

Rethinking Creativity and Innovation
How best to redesign our business? To redesign research? We need to rediscover our passion. Do you lack the excitement you once had for your job? For the industry? If so, driving creativity and innovation is nearly impossible.

When I first started working with my partners at Decipher, we took a week (per Marcus Buckingham’s book “The Truth About You”) to write down every task that we did that we LOVED doing and every task that we did that we LOATHED doing. Try it. It’s illuminating. Buckingham’s premise is that we should, as much as possible, spend our time doing things we enjoy – which generally means they’re things at which we’re inherently skilled. In essence, don’t spend time doing things you don’t like and aren’t good at –  it’s soul sucking and pointless. Now we all have components of our jobs, our lives, that we don’t like (for instance…reviewing licensing contracts….not something that really gets me jazzed) but the goal is to position ourselves in a way that allows us to do more of what we love (meaning, what we’re good at) and less of what drains us.

Have you…

  1.  1. Identified what it is that you absolutely love doing?
  2.  2. Identified the conditions under which you most love doing it?

Then design a job, an opportunity, a venture around these things. You really can do the things you most love in the environment you most love doing it in (I’m proof of it).

Likewise, this also applies to a business. What differentiates you (TRULY) from your competitors? How would you ultimately like to be able to make money? In other words…

  1.  1. Identify what you love doing as a business or in your business
  2.  2. Identify the reason you started doing it in the first place
  3.  3. Don’t do anything that doesn’t fit into 1 or 2 (this is the first step in combating collaborative competition)

Passion begets creativity which begets innovation. Start with clearly identifying your passion, and the jolt of creativity that is required to change the status quo will come as a matter of course.

Kristin Luck is President at Decipher.