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Revisting 8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Research Company

I won't be shy about this: I left MRMW feeling rather vindicated. Two days of excellent speakers, one by one, reinforced each of the points I made previously in my 8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Research Company post. Here is what I heard and what I think it means today.


By Jason Anderson

After two nonstop days of discussion and knowledge sharing at MRMW, at first I wasn’t really sure how to summarize the meaning of it all. I felt energized, but was also feeling an intense sense of déjà vu. After all, many of the top memes of the conference have been circulating in industry chatter for quite some time:

  • Mobile technology has changed everything.
  • Big data is important.
  • The biggest threats to the industry are other more technology-savvy industries.

This didn’t really explain the déjà vu, though. It then occurred to me: I already wrote about this 10 months ago. I made eight specific observations about the challenges facing research vendors, and what I would be doing if I were on the vendor side of the relationship:

  • Get out of the survey business.
  • Find a better way besides surveys to collect data.
  • Get out of the syndicated report business.
  • Become a data integration super-ninja.
  • Sell impact, not methodology.
  • Build or buy technology-based scalability.
  • Recruit technologists.
  • Embrace multi-modal interaction.

Quite unexpectedly, this became one of the more controversial blog posts picked up and cross-posted on Greenbook. My intention had never been to be controversial or stir up trouble; I was only projecting forward what I thought were some of the most probable implications of technology’s current trajectory.

I won’t be shy about this: I left MRMW feeling rather vindicated. Two days of excellent speakers, one by one, reinforced each of the points above:

  • “If you’re in the data collection business, find another business.”
  • “The leaders of market in research in 2020 could be companies like Google, Apple, or IBM.”
  • “Being the gatekeeper for client research is not a smart idea.”
  • It’s not about surveys, it’s about inferences from measured behavior and a different way of doing research.”
  • “500 million Google survey impressions in the first two months of operation.”

There are plenty of other one-liners sprinkled throughout the event, but the message was consistent: things aren’t going to change, they have changed, and now because of complacency and skepticism many companies are trying to catch up. Even more concerning to me: there are many more vendors not in attendance at this forward-thinking event, blind to the changes or staring at the headlights. None of my current vendors were in attendance, for example, which is somewhat disconcerting.

The message I would share with my vendors (and I know from my weblogs that you all track what I say here) isn’t one of criticism. We are all in a highly competitive environment and there are many conferences to choose from. We often have project and travel conflicts. I don’t need you to go to a bunch of conferences; what I do need, however, is for other smart people to get proactive about the foundational changes happening in data collection. I don’t mind being a scout, but I’m not going to be the canary in the coal mine.

Do not underestimate how quickly a software startup can go from zero to hero. My current fear, and the thing I am thinking about most obsessively at the moment, is identifying the problem spaces where it isn’t already too late to get into the research technology game. Competing with Google, IBM, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook is not something for the cautious or weak-willed. I already see very practical uses for Google’s polling tool, and so do other teams in my business. The client-side research team disintermediation process has already started, albeit in small ways, and we all need to work together to redefine our roles.

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9 responses to “Revisting 8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Research Company

  1. Jason, I wasn’t there so I can’t judge. But your piece really did make me wonder about the word “confirmation” (you refer to vindication) – I find it startling that your piece of 10 months previous was, in your view, vindicated by the consolidated content take out of the Event. It pretty quickly made me wonder – what was said at the Event (which requires travel/time commitment) that wasn’t already covered 10 months (to take your example) prior to the Event? And: isn’t there a sense of the Herd all feelling good about running in one direction? And – dare I say it – confirmation bias? As I say, just questions, as I wasn’t there.

  2. Am I only hearing the echoes of my own voice after it bounced around in a Twitter box for 10 months? I suppose that’s always a possibility. certainly the “usual suspects” of the MR social media circle were present. And I would agree that the subject matter of the event itself self-selected a group of professionals that were already interested in trendspotting.

    But many of the voices during the event were new ones to me, or even ones who were originally critical of the 8 things. The herd may all be running in the same direction, but perhaps the confirmation I felt was a recognition that the herd has grown substantially in size.

    1. I’d have to echo Jason’s comment. Based on my own take on the event, what I heard from 300+ folks and was echoed by the results of a survey by Cambiar Consulting among another 200 or so client-side researchers, and coupled with the ongoing dialogue across social media and in other events, was simple recognition that the trends that many have identified over the past year or so are now plainly visible and growing in importance and impact on our industry. Of course, the real proof lies in watching the leading indicators of client spend, investment dollars allocations, and news from multiple sources; they all back up this interpretation as well.

      The quote of “get out of the data collection business” came from Reg Baker, and Lord knows he isn’t a bandwagon jumper, and like you Edward (and Jason too) many of the other quotes came from client-side participants whom I tend to listen to since they don’t have a horse in the methodology race.

      If this was a research study report based on waves of qual and quant with some social media monitoring thrown in (which it really kind of was, although certainly informally) I would think most clients would be betting the farm on the results. Is there some bias inherent here? Of course there is, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

  3. I was delighted to speak at this event, and gratified at the audience response to my Vision 2020 speech, including the good/bad/ugly of what the future holds if the entire industry does not jump on crowd, cloud, big data and micro-payments. It was also a pleasure to see how many speakers get it and that the audience too is aware of the perils and the opportunities. Thank you for having me speak at your events.


  4. All:
    Thanks for the shout out on Cambiar Consulting’s 2012 Study. We’ll have more to share in 2-3 weeks time, as we will be on the speaking circuit throughout Sept-October. The Revolution is occurring that is for sure! How fast we will see change – across all verticals – is the question. Naturally a tech-driven, digitally-oriented company would be able to seize the opportunities sooner than many traditional industries where legacy research processes need to be transformed. MROC’s are standard – they are not new. Mobile is key and certainly big data…but we are in the early stages of figuring out the applications – in a big way. That said, it was great to see so many people at the event sharing the good, bad and ugly of this new frontier. I say yeehaw!

    1. Well, the comment was actually from Reg Baker @Ron and I don’t think it was the result of the findings of a survey, although it was prompted by a new survey player: Google Consumer Surveys. 🙂

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