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Posts from December 2010

Excel Tip: A Well-Formed Dataset builds a stronger Pivot Table

Wouldn’t you love to learn a way to have a pivot table always default to sum the amounts rather than count them?  Interestingly enough, when your pivot table counts instead of sums, it’s caused by on of three reasons.

Looking Back and Moving Forward: Happy New Year!

What’s your New Year’s resolution?  More staff?  A larger budget?  Restructuring to better support business partners?

Despite early reports that the struggling global economy would pick up steam in 2010, it was a pretty challenging year for business.  Unemployment remained high, previously larger teams continued to do more with less, and consumer confidence remained “so-so.”

As our members close the books on 2010 and start thinking about 2011, we hear a lot of “What will 2011 look like?”  And as Research Heads start to think about what the coming year holds for their teams, we receive lots of questions around budget, spend, team size, and team structure.

One of the best ways that we can support all those questions is through our annual benchmarking survey.  Keep an eye on our site.  Each year, we upload member responses into an interactive tool that allows members to slice and dice the data to compare their own responses to peers across several different dimensions.  Business model, industry, team size, and revenue are all popular cuts.  And once you’ve cut the data—you can download it into PowerPoint to enhance presentations and business cases!

So what did we learn coming out of 2010?  Here are just a few insights from this year’s survey: Read More »

Excel Tip: PDF to Excel…As Simple As???

Don’t you hate when a data dump of information comes in a PDF or Adobe format? Here’s a simple best practice to convert that cumbersome information into an easy to analyze format.

Making the Case for Radical Innovation

Originally posted by our sister program, the Marketing Leadership Council just introduced “Making the Case for Radical Innovation: Shifting to Fewer, Bigger, More Protected Innovations”.

Take a peek at what challenges your marketing peers as they take on innovation. Here are some of the key takeaways from the meeting:

Quantity is a bad goal when it comes to new ideas: While many organizations try to create large numbers of ideas and lots of product launches, innovation leaders actually require half as many ideas for each successful new product launch. Also, leaders realize too much emphasis on launch volume leads to incremental innovation and lowers chances of big wins.

Focus on producing bigger ideas that meet bigger customer needs: Winning companies generate bigger ideas by surfacing and solving higher-order emotional needs or business outcomes. They use the following techniques:

  • Knowing what they’re looking for: Leading companies establish guardrails to define acceptable types of innovation to guide their employees. Even a simple vision statement can help explain what’s in and what’s out.
  • Solving higher order needs: Leading companies use techniques like high-level need dissection, lead user analysis, and jobs-and-outcomes approaches to identify and address higher-order, emotional needs.

Protect innovations by systematically applying switching costs: The most admired innovations (think IPod, Netflix, Swiffer) sustain large profits because they protect themselves against copycats. While many companies believe they consider switching costs when designing new products, few do so systematically. As you consider switching costs, remember the following:

  • Technology is making switching costs easier to create than ever before. Consider the ease of building virtual communities and capitalizing on network effects, personalizing offerings with customer data capture, and turning products into services through mobile tracking technology.
  • The trick is to build creative “lobster traps” – creating barriers to customer switching (leaving) without erecting barriers to customer adoption (entry). Leaders apply the following approaches:
  1. Use interconnectivity as a launching point. Here you want to exploit data and online networks to provide unique offerings. Examples include online communities that meet a customer need (Texas Instruments’ E2E community), information capture for personalization (Netflix recommendations), and product-service transformation that makes your product indispensible (GE aircraft engines).
  2. Create switching costs that add value to the customer. The trick is to increase your ties to customers without frustrating them. Examples include designing unique replacement parts for products (Nespresso coffee pods) and making customer re-ordering easier (Amazon subscribe and save).

Use crowd-sourcing to build credibility and demonstrate quick wins: While internal crowd-sourcing is not effective at generating radical innovation, companies can use it to build acceptance of incremental change as a pathway towards more radical innovation. Meeting attendees expressed great interest in crowd-sourcing but few utilize it systematically. Many expressed concern that a lack of employee involvement would doom crowd-sourcing efforts. Research shows the keys to effective crowd-sourcing and employee engagement in the efforts include: 1) collaboration-focused technology, 2) incentives for collaboration, and 3) collaboration metrics and thresholds.

Innovation will continue to be a hot topic in the marketing world. Our focus as researchers is how we support this new lust for innovation aka, this interest in insight. MREB members, Check out our Innovation Topic Center for more information.

Are You Connected to the Right People?

By Anthony Bell

Where do you turn when you’ve diagnosed the right business problem and made your actionable recommendation, but Market Research Impact is still minimal in the company?

One of the best impact tools isn’t a “tool” at all but Organizational Design. Researchers who are closely aligned to specific business units really get their heads into the business – becoming highly valued members of that team.

But there’s no free lunch. It is a tricky location challenge; you ask yourself, “Should Research be sitting in a central location or with different business partners? Too much of one will ensure you’ve focused on the corporate-level priorities, but disconnect with the company’s daily decisions makers. On the other hand, lean too hard on the other side and you’ve have integration across business units but poor impact at the highest levels.

So you’re done after you’ve set up your Research function’s location right? Wrong…the next hurdle is determining your function’s reporting Structure. Answer the question, Should Research report to a central head of Research or to individual business partners?  Again, too much to one, closes the door to individual units, while too much to the other challenges alignment with the right people in the company.

There isn’t a right or wrong organizational structure, but rather an optimal fit for your company and your function. The two questions shape your decision and help determine which option works best for you.

MREB Members, take advantage of our Organizational Design Center, learn about each structure and evaluate the benefits and challenges associated with each.

Know Your Customers Better than They Do Themselves

By Anthony Bell

A recent article from Technology Review examined how some companies are using predictive analytics to help forecast and influence purchasing behavior. These sophisticated computer algorithms link consumer patterns and identify potentially predictive relationships, but companies are still practicing restraint.

MREB View: This technology is certainly useful but (obviously) only as good as the data you select to input and your response to the outputs. Our members have found simpler prediction technology useful (Best Buy is one example) that relies on smaller but more pertinent data sets. Members also use numerous techniques to help them better understand key customers before turning to masses of data.

MREB Members, See How Lego brings in customers to inform the new product development process without jeopardizing process efficiency.  Access our Predictive Modeling and Analytics event replay to learn how Jay Dittmann, Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Hallmark, leverages marketing analytics to gain insight into customer purchasing behavior. 

Excel Tip: How to Rearrange Column Entries

Ever wonder how to convert a list of names from last name, first name to show first name, last name? A cool article helps you rearrange column entries so an employee’s last name comes first and the first name follows.

A Market Research Executive’s Skills Wish List for 2010

Throughout the 2010 year, the MREB polled market researcher managers asking the question, “What are the most important skills to your function?” According to the results of the 2010 MREB Research Skills Diagnostic, the top five skills on market research executives’ wish lists this season are:

  1. Cross-Project Analysis and Insight Generation
  2. Ability to Influence Business Partners’ Decisions
  3. Translation Between Business Objectives and Research Results
  4. Storytelling
  5. Nonlinear Thinking

The results suggest that while the core of Research’s value still rests on a solid foundation of research and insight, those skills are insufficient alone. Generating actionable recommendations based on synthesized insight has become more important (and realistic) as suppliers take on more research execution activities and Research accumulates a wealth of knowledge and data from existing studies. As corporations continue to acknowledge the potential impact of Research insights on the business, the function continues to shift to a trusted advisor stance – as this “wish list” clearly reflects.

MREB members: benchmark your team talent for 2011, incorporating 360° feedback from Research’s key stakeholders – business partners. For more information on in-demand skills and environmental changes, read the Board’s latest coverage of in-demand market research skills.

Measuring the Value of the Research Function

By Kirsten Robinson

As your research team shifts beyond the traditional client-services model to strategic thought partner, you must also measure departmental contributions beyond conventional efficiency metrics, which fail to capture a complete picture of Research’s impact on the business. We have found that effectiveness metrics, e.g., department satisfaction, ability to drive adoption, quality of insights, and alignment with corporate objectives, are more accurate.

But the challenge is figuring out what tools to use and which areas to target in an assessment. An executive in our Primary Research Forum recently asked how to measure the value that Research functions provide to internal clients and the corporation overall. Through interviews with researchers at member companies, we’ve identified a number of recurring performance areas and measurement tools for evaluating effectiveness.  Here are a few of the takeaways: Read More »

Why You Need a New Media “Ringmaster”

By Aaron Field

90% of organizations are not currently set up to capitalize on the Social Media world. In the December edition of the Harvard Business Review, our sister program, the Marketing Leadership Council, discusses the New-Media “Ringmaster,” capable of engaging audiences in a seamless, interactive experience. Ringmasters have three capabilities that distinguish them from classic brand managers.

  • A strong understanding of social technologies, brand mechanics, and communications.
  • An emotional intelligence to build a collaborative network across the company.
  • An ability to use social technologies to detect emerging trends or threats and respond quickly.

Most brand managers lack the three critical elements and, handed the daunting task of coordinating a social media strategy, face a long road. In contrast Ringmasters can lead their organization in re-engineering the consumer-to-brand relationship. Read More »