November 1, 2006

Cross-Pollination: The Market Research Event 2006

Posted in Market Research & Intelligence, Marketing at 2:27 pm by knowinform

The subtle theme of this year’s Market Research Event was cross-pollination or how market research influences and is influenced by other disciplines.  Daniel Yankelovich explicitly made this point during his keynote address about the interplay between social scientists and market researchers.  Yankelovich argued that the real breakthroughs in behavioral research over the past 40 years have originated from market researchers.  Since social scientists are academics, they are not enthusiastic about recognizing work from for-profit researchers whose primary objective is to figure out how to sell more of a product/service.

Steven Leavitt continued the cross-pollination theme more subtly during his discussion of his work on Freakonomics.  His research partner was an anthropologist/sociologist.  Both disciplines informed the research methodology and results analysis — creating a stronger work.  Organizationally, companies are using cross-functional teams to develop and launch products, believing that the soup to nuts approach is more productive and efficient than silos. 

Hopefully, next year’s Event will continue this intriguing theme and offer more examples of how market researchers can learn from other disciplines.

Posted by Samantha

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October 23, 2006

Focus & Execute

Posted in Operations Management/Logistics, Strategy at 9:34 am by knowinform

I generally don’t read business books when they are first published.  I had a boss who would change strategies & objectives based on whichever book he had just completed.  So I became bitter and cynical about the genre.  I wait a few years to see which books stand the test of time.

Recently, I finished Lou Gerstner’s Why Can’t Elephants Dance? — his rendition of the IBM turnaround.  Gerstner provided an overview of the process.  Folks looking for gory details will be disappointed.  Two themes emerged:  1) hire the right people for the job & get rid of the wrong people immediately and 2) focus & execute. 

Focus & execute requires you to develop your strategy & objectives and then put forth maximum effort into enacting said strategy & objectives.  F&E also says if that strategy or those objectives aren’t working, even after a good faith effort in execution, then change your strategy & objectives.  No sense going down with the ship. 

Next up on the reading list is Larry Bossidy’s Execution.  We’ll see how he and Lou converge and diverge.  On the main point, I suspect they converge:  business is all about execution.  You can have a great product or service, but if you can’t deliver it to the customer, what’s the point?

Posted by Samantha.

October 14, 2006

Analyzing Affect & Language in Focus Groups

Posted in Market Research & Intelligence, Marketing at 10:28 am by knowinform

I recently attended a webinar presented by Itracks (www.itracks.com) about their Qualmetrix service, which analyzes focus groups transcripts for emotional dimensions.  Essentially assessing the strength/weakness of participants’ feelings as expressed through language.  Cool, yes.  Useful, absolutely. 

Itracks uses the Affect Circumplex Model from Dcypher (http://dcyphergroup.com/).  Using the Dictionary of Affect in Language, Dcypher created the Affect Circumplex Model “to measure and differentiate discrete emotional states.”  The model appears below:

 

The pleasant/unpleasant axis represents evaluative thoughts; excited/passive stands for action; imagery reflects how well the memory retains the thought.  The Dcypher website explains the science much more clearly.

How the product works via Itracks is that you can upload your focus group transcripts into the Itracks interface and then run reports against those transcripts.  Results are downloadable into Excel and appear numerically and graphically. 

The real value of the product is that it attempts to provide a neutral analytical tool to help researchers assess customers’ true interest level in a product/service.  A person may say he/she is interested in a new feature for a cell phone.  By analyzing the language used, a market researcher can determine if the person is passionate enough to buy a new phone based on that new feature or simply thinks the new feature would be nice to have.

Posted by Samantha

October 7, 2006

Itracks: The Next Gen Focus Group

Posted in Market Research & Intelligence, Marketing at 9:24 pm by knowinform

The Internet has been a boon for market researchers, enabling them to instantly and easily interact with customers.  The key to successful interactions is the tool being used to collect the data.  The more intuitive the better.  Itracks Bulletin Board Focus Groups are an elegant, simple solution for online focus groups.

Itracks (www.itracks.com) offers a web interface that allows your moderator to post a series of questions and to monitor responses.  Respondents can log on according to their schedules and post comments of all lengths.  The top half of the screen may display product information, a website, or any type of graphic that you want respondents to review.  Questions appear on the bottom left of the screen,  and responses are entered on the bottom middle of the screen.

Moderators can adjust questions as they review responses in real time.  Results can be downloaded at any time.  Responses can also be analyzed for an emotional quotient.

Itracks will recruit respondents for either the online bulletin board or phone surveys, if needed.  The company has a list of partner moderators if you don’t have your own moderator. 

The pricing is quite moderate, and the set up time is minimal.  For small and medium-sized businesses, the Itracks Bulletin Board Focus Group provides you with the tools and service that large companies regard as de rigeur. 

Posted by Samantha.  

October 3, 2006

What Do You Think About Content Management Vendors & Their Products?

Posted in Content Managment Systems, Enterprise Content Management, Polls, Surveys, Web Content Management at 4:24 pm by knowinform

We would like to invite you to participate in our Enterprise Content Management survey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=850352514114), which focuses on the drivers for both 1) the initial decision to purchase an ECM system(s) and 2) the selection of a particular vendor(s).  You do not need to currently be using an enterprise content management/email management/document management/web content management/information management system to take the survey. 

Tell us what you think about vendors and content management technology.  What you like or don’t like?  The results will be released as a white paper in October, in conjunction with our appearance at The Market Research Event (www.themarketresearchevent.com).  At the end of the survey, you can sign up to receive an advance copy of the white paper. 

 

Thanks in advance for participating!

 

Posted by Samantha

September 26, 2006

Information: The Oxymoron Industry

Posted in Competitive Intelligence, Market Research & Intelligence, Strategy at 5:21 pm by knowinform

Over the past two weeks, Business Week (www.businessweek.com) and Outsell (www.outsellinc.com) published studies about the information industry.  Business Week reported on the job creation aspect of the information industry.  Over the past 5 years, the industry lost 1.1 million jobs and currently employs fewer Americans than in 1998.  Outsell’s report concentrates on industry revenues, which have grown 6.3% over the past year to a total of $358 billion.  Outsell projects that information industry revenues will grow to $458 billion by 2009.

One would like to think that rising revenues would lead to job creation.  Apparently not for the information industry.  Why this discrepency?  The obvious explanations are technology and syndication/multi-purposing of content.  In a larger sense, information has become a commodity product —  created & distributed by anyone and everyone.  Editors, a.k.a. middlemen, are unnecessary.

Using Knowledge inForm as an example, we write and publish our electronic books.  Then we sell those books via our website (www.knowledgeinform.com/knowbooks)  and through third parties, e.g. the Gale Virtual Reference Library (www.gale.com/gvrl).  We don’t have to hire additional personnel to handle the distribution; neither do our partners.  Yet we all have the potential to realize greater revenues. 

If you are a recent college grad, the information industry probably won’t be your future employer.  (Think healthcare.)  If you are a publisher or syndicator, you have access to a wider range of content to sell.  If you are a writer, you are more easily able to self-publish but probably won’t earn more than you would in years past (information/content is a commodity now).  If you are a reader, your cup runneth over.

 Posted by Samantha.

September 17, 2006

Graveyard of the Dodos

Posted in Market Research & Intelligence, Marketing, Strategy at 2:26 pm by knowinform

A recent issue of National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com) related the discovery of a graveyard of 20 dodos.  Along with the dodos, scientists discovered fossils of plants, birds, and tortoises.  As I attended the AMA Marketing Research Conference (www.marketingpower.com) in early September, I was reminded of the dodos as speakers and attendees discussed the idea that market research is dead.  Hal King of King Brown Partners (www.kingbrown.com) even showed a gravestone with Market Research 1775 – 2006.  Malcolm Gladwell’s name was tossed about, as well. 

 

The fundamental goal of market research:  collecting information about customers’ to understand their needs and buying habits, will always exist.  With data collection and statistical analysis easier and cheaper to implement, the focus of the market research project can shift from research to strategic analysis.  King advocates continuous data collection, with projects being commissioned to analyze the data.  He also pushes for market research departments to become more involved with defining project scopes.

 

Scoping projects is useful.  First, market research departments have to think strategically.  Market research projects are commissioned to support the achievement of corporate strategies and goals.  If the market research department 1) doesn’t understand those strategies and goals or 2) participate in the creation of those strategies and goals, scoping projects or analyzing data won’t move market research departments further up the corporate food chain.

 

The goal of every market research department should be to provide market intelligence: 

 

Research and analysis of the market environment in which an organization operates. Market intelligence supports strategic or tactical decisions that an organization makes regarding its customers. 

Market intelligence uses corporate strategies and goals as the touchstones for market research projects:  informing and forming tactics and strategies.  The ubiquity of data means that other corporate managers can purchase/access market research data without a trained MR professional.  If a market research department cannot link its projects to corporate goals, its personnel may find themselves extinct as dodos. 

Posted by Samantha

September 5, 2006

The Brand Called You

Posted in Market Research & Intelligence, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Strategy at 2:35 pm by knowinform

Such a classic Fast Company cover.  It managed to lead so many people astray.  Thinking of oneself as a brand imposes an artificiality — creating a persona that one is expected to maintain.  That persona can also inhibit the financial growth of you/your company, as Martha Stewart found out.  That entanglement of the personal and the professional has recently led to another business divorce:  Danny Sullivan and Search Engine Watch.

A legend in the world of search, Danny Sullivan became more than an expert; he was search in many people’s minds.  While he did create products, e.g. Search Engine Watch, he didn’t create a company or brand that was larger than he.  Accordingly, when he was purchased by Jupitermedia and then Incisive Media, he became a tiny cog in their larger corporate wheels.  Ultimately expendable because when he would eventually retire or decide to pursue another interest, his brand would end because Danny Sullivan = the brand.  

Arguably, Sullivan was not treated with the respect he had earned and deserved.  (For further details, read:  http://www.marketingvox.com/archives/2006/08/29/danny_sullivan_leaves_sew_ses/ or his blog at: http://daggle.com/060829-112950.html )  But Sullivan made a fundamental marketing error, he never built the company brand – a unique, corporate, impersonal identity.  The “Brand Called You”, best case scenario, means you are a recognized expert on a particular topic.  That doesn’t equal a business or even an income.  When the winds of change blow, your brand could be obsolete.  A company can relaunch itself much more easily than a person.

Danny Sullivan has been a tremendous asset to those of us in the search industry.  His contributions should not be underestimated or diminished.  Some other company will certainly snap him up.  He does serve as a cautionary tale.  Reminding all entrepreneurs or experts to create a corporate    

August 29, 2006

Under the Bonnet = Un-Fun

Posted in Operations Management/Logistics at 10:03 am by knowinform

An Australian partner recently introduced me to the term “under the bonnet”, the Australian/British version of “under the hood.”  I prefer the Australian version because it more accurately represents the dichotomy of the fun working on the exterior/looks and the drudgery of working on the interior/logistics of a system.

Building infrastructure isn’t fun; it’s a necessary evil.  If you don’t build infrastructure properly, people can actually die — as seen in Boston’s Big Dig Tunnel earlier this summer.  Corruption and incompetence in large scale public or even private (hello, British Petroleum) works projects is not a surprise.  Public school systems across the US have also suffered from poor maintenance and renovation. 

As I read about the Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, a noted public school, I was shocked at the abysmal state of its building:  mold, falling ceiling tiles, falling ducts.  What shocked me even more was that the parents’ group raised over $15,000 and spent that money on a spectrophotometer.  Cray donated a supercomputer when the previous supercomputer was destroyed by a leaky roof.  While, legally, money raised by a parents’ group may not be able to be spent on building infrastructure, the parents’ group could refuse to spend the money until the building is repaired properly.  Shouldn’t the physical safety of the students trump the desire for the latest & greatest equipment?

Mucking around under the bonnet is not a lot of fun or as noticeable as decorating the bonnet itself.  Pretty ribbons or a supercomputer won’t help when the bonnet collapses on itself.

Posted by Samantha

August 26, 2006

LibraryThing: You Make My Heart Sing

Posted in Enterprise Content Management, Operations Management/Logistics, Readings at 11:09 am by knowinform

In a past life, I was a librarian.  Best part of the job:  shushing people.  What a power rush!  So when a tool crosses my path that combines my love of organization with my love of books, it re-awakens those old librarian urges.  LibraryThing (www.librarything.com) is just that tool.

LibraryThing allows you to catalog your books using records from Amazon (www.amazon.com) and the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov).  You merely search by author, title, or ISBN; a results list pops up, and you click on the individual title to add it to your personal catalog.  For those of us who are fans of particular authors, a checkbox feature where we could check off multiple titles when searching by author would be very useful.  Overall, the tool is easy to understand and easy to use. 

Designed and recommended for individuals, a version is available for non-profits or small organizations.  You are also able to export your lists, access them via your cell phone, and join the various reader communities at the site.  You can also make your lists private (so no one else can see them) or leave them as public. 

Either way, the old cataloger in me is thrilled to finally have an easy way to track which books I own. 

Posted by Samantha.

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