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Market Leaders Deep Dive: Interview with Dynata’s Gary Laben

An insider's look into the latest GreenBook Market Leaders Report, with an interview from Dynata's Gary Laben. Read on for an in-depth look at what the market research industry can expect in the future.

Editor’s Note: This subsection is featured in the GreenBook Market Leaders Report. The GreenBook Market Leaders Report is your #1 guide to brand success in the insights industry, featuring the U.S. Top 50, and in-depth analysis from leading CEOs. In its inaugural edition, you’ll learn who is in the lead, who is rising towards the top, and where your company fits into it all.

Q: The industry is changing fast; between emerging technologies and start-ups and consolidation among the top companies there is a lot of disruption occurring to the whole category. How is Dynata reacting to that, and what does it mean for the future?

A: Dynata has a rich history of innovation as a pioneer in online data collection, recipient of multiple industry patents, and more recently in setting the pace for industry consolidation through our mergers and acquisitions. We continue to push ourselves to invent new and better products and services to match changing customer and market needs, deploying technologies or methodologies that attract more consumers to provide their permissioned data, accelerate insights generation, or lead to faster decision-making from the data.

For example, artificial intelligence engines, programmatic platforms, and blockchain technology all have a role to play, and we’re deploying or investing in each. One way we challenge ourselves to anticipate and respond to industry change is our innovation project initiative. Each quarter, we identify 2-4 projects to address current industry shortfalls or future needs. Each project is sponsored by a member of my leadership team, and the project teams vie to get project funding by the company through a “Shark Tank”-style process. In 2020, we’ll move this activity to a dedicated unit, Dynata Labs.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting trend happening in the industry right now?

A: Today, virtually every strategic business decision is driven by data. The triangulation of increasing demands from empowered consumers heightened privacy and security issues, and corporations’ insatiable appetite for data-driven insights, present an incredible opportunity for analyzing, extending and activating trustworthy, fully-permissioned, first-party data at scale. We’re focused precisely on that trend, delivering solutions and services for brands to realize that opportunity.

Q: What is scariest, or what trend do you think we as an industry need to be very cautious about?

A: The belief that the data that drives insights generation is a commodity – and therefore replaceable by any facsimile – is dangerous and irresponsible. Trading quality for lower cost puts the benefits of that data – the insights and business advantages it can bring – at risk. Low-quality data means poor business outcomes, calling the overall value of that data into question. It’s a vicious cycle. Automation and innovation make our solutions more affordable, but data accuracy and quality remain paramount and vital for strategic business decisions.

Q: What are you investing in to future-proof the business and maintain the leadership position of the company?

A: Our most important investment to future-proof the business is in our people and our commitment to educating, developing, growing, and inspiring our talent. I’m most optimistic about Dynata’s future because of our incredible people. We work with thousands of customers across every industry, building relationships that enable our success, driven by our people – individuals our clients know, like, and trust. It’s important that we do everything we can to support and position our employees for success.

Dynata is a family that works hard and plays hard together while creating and building healthy, enduring customer relationships. Additionally, though seemingly paradoxically, we support that initiative by automating as much of our business as possible. Automated processes and procedures reduce the time our employees spend on any task, allowing more time for higher-value activities such as partnering with our clients to solve their toughest business problems.

Q: Thinking five years ahead, what do you envision Dynata looking like as a company?

A: I see us realizing the extension of our strategic focus to deliver the voice of the customer to the entire marketing continuum. We will be the single source of truth for every first-party data-driven decision our clients make, whether it addresses market research or advertising.

Q: You have a long and distinguished career growing and leading companies. Any advice you can offer to the next generation of business leaders?

A: We spend so much time looking forward and thinking about the future that we sometimes forget that the past can be a great teacher. In the race to innovate and disrupt, we often overlook engaging mentors with valuable past experiences and perspectives. Early in my career, I was fortunate to have identified two mentors who not only saw more talent in me that I thought I had but also helped guide and advise me throughout my career. Both individuals have long since retired from “traditional” corporate roles, but even now, I still rely on them to provide valuable insights about ideas and issues, some of which didn’t even exist when they were in the traditional workforce. So, my advice to future leaders is to find inspiring individuals who have gone before you, connect with them, and soak up all that you can from their experiences. I guarantee it will improve your success and your career.

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