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SurveyMonkey Presentation: DIY Tools and the Changing World of Marketing Research

“You shouldn’t be afraid of what we’re doing: we can help you, I hope. We can take away some of the parts that aren’t as value added and leave you with the parts that are value added. We want to help you create new knowledge.”

Editor’s Note: It must be “Disruptive Technology” week! This morning on Radio NewMR Ray Poynter and I interviewed Paul McDonald and Brett Slatkin of Google Consumer Surveys (look for more interviews plus a few more opportunities to get to talk to them yourself soon), and now Jeffrey Henning, who is at the MRA Annual Conference, has this wonderful synopsis of the session by Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey. There are no better examples of the migration of data collection & analysis to the realm of technologists than these two firms; they are the very definition of successful disruption of an industry that is ripe for it.

I commend the MRA for inviting Dave to the conference; both SurveyMonkey and Google have been consistent in saying they want to partner with MR, although in all fairness what seems to be being tip-toed around is that for most suppliers, data collection + margin is a major (if not THE major) portion of their revenue. Setting aside all questions regarding quality, the democratization of research, the extension of the value of research to new populations, etc… the bottom line is that technology solutions that increase efficiency, decrease costs, and cause disintermediation through self-service options are bad for most (but not all) traditional supplier revenue streams. These disruptive companies are forcing researchers to change their value proposition and business models in order to compete effectively, and that is not easy or comfortable. Personally I think it is much needed and we’ll be better off for it, but in the short run this shift will be painful for many.

I talked a lot about these themes during my keynote  and panel discussion at the MRIA annual conference last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland. If you’re interested, you can find more on that here via Annie Pettit or you can see the actual presentation here.

Join me in thanking Jeffrey for sending this; I think you’ll enjoy this one very much!


By Jeffrey Henning

Dave Goldberg of SurveyMonkey discussed “DIY 2.0” at the MRA’s Annual Conference in San Diego yesterday. “This is the first time I have ever spoken to a market research conference. Please aim tomatoes and eggs at my head so I can keep my jacket clean!” He was candid, humble and disarming.

“I know more about music than market research. Change happened to that industry and they fought it every step of the way but people still make and buy music. That’s not the analogy for this business. In this business, people are more progressive and thoughtful than in the music industry, which is an oligopoly of one-song monopolies.” [All quotes are paraphrases.] He said that if you’ve seen Mad Men, you know that market research was disruptive in its day.

“You call us DIY, but we call ourselves ‘self-service’,” Dave said. “And we’re a little perplexed by the headlines.” He shared headlines from around the blogosphere:

“You shouldn’t be afraid of what we’re doing: we can help you, I hope. We can take away some of the parts that aren’t as value added and leave you with the parts that are value added. Neil Armstrong said ‘Research is creating new knowledge’; we want to help you create new knowledge.”

Dave contrasted SurveyMonkey to market research agencies, pointing out the company has no analysts, no project managers and—for SurveyMonkey software itself—no sales people. Everything is automated. “Our value is data; market research’s value is people.”

He pointed out that very little of what SurveyMonkey users do today is “what you would call market research” [I think by market research Dave meant researching consumers in general rather than customer lists]. In the broadest sense, SurveyMonkey provides a tool to collect information from individuals and to structure it to make decisions – though not necessarily business decisions.

In fact, 20% of usage is for planning events – weddings, reunions, vacations. Another 5% of usage (25 million responses a year) is for parent surveys; teachers even use SurveyMonkey for quizzes and tests. Employee satisfaction is a bigger application than customer research – for instance, every manager at uses a free SurveyMonkey survey to conduct 360 degree feedback.

In contrast to the user base, however, individuals do not make up much of the customer base: only 1% of SurveyMonkey’s paid accounts are held by individuals. About 42% of its customers work in for-profits, 25% in non-profits, 21% in education and 9% in government. The company has 12 million registered users, including 99% of the Fortune 500.  “We don’t do corporate contracts; we don’t talk to people on the phone.” About 75% of customers are on annual plans rather than paying monthly.

SurveyMonkey is the world’s largest survey tool, with 51M unique visitors every month, most of whom are taking surveys. About 15,000 new users sign up daily to create surveys, and 1.5M survey responses are generated daily. “When we ask our users how many of you have purchased market research in the past – almost none have. We are creating a whole new market of people who didn’t know they could create a survey and create knowledge. We are educating the market:  some of those people will need market research in the future.”

What does the future look like for SurveyMonkey? The company is run by technologists, with only a small methodology team having any market research background.  The current plan is to build a technology platform to create, distribute and analyze data on a global basis. “The long-term goal is to build a platform where other people can use our tools to run their surveys or to hire experts in market research.” Dave envisions eventually creating a directory of experts available from within the tool, with listings open to anyone and with ratings by the community. He envisions creating an open-ended analytics platform that other vendors can add functionality to.

Wrapping up, Dave said, “We want to be your partner, not your competitor.” In fact, he said, describing his recent acquisition of Zoomerang and ZoomPanel, “We went to a lot of effort to not buy the research arm of Market Tools. Because we did not want to own it. It would have been a much easier transaction had we purchased it, but we went out of our way with a lot of effort to not be in the market research business.”

“Again, we want to be your partner, not your competitor. We’d like to replace some of the boring stuff that you do. We want to be the underlying layer of technology that people like you use. I’m happy no tomatoes were thrown at me!”

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2 responses to “SurveyMonkey Presentation: DIY Tools and the Changing World of Marketing Research

  1. All joking aside about DIY and MR I do appreciate the drive for innovation the Survey Monkey has. It’s present text analysis tool is one of the easiest to use and its design simplicity makes it accessible to all. I am a user of multiple platforms, including Cvent and Zoomerang, in addition to Survey Monkey. There seems to be a niche that each product fills for me, and I am sure that I am not alone in this thinking.

  2. Great to see this. We just released an “agency” level product on top of our DIY survey product that marries big data from social networks with small data from surveys the same reason… we want to be a partner, not a competitor. We’d love feedback on what we’re offering and how we can be more helpful in providing useful features to those in the industry.

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