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Posts from February 2011

American Express: Vendor Engagement Strategy

This week’s guest blog entry comes from Christopher Frank, Vice President, and Jessica Bernow, Senior Research Manager at American Express.  American Express’s Vendor Engagement Strategy was a finalist in the 2010 MREB Leadership Awards.

While conventional supplier management practices are adequate for collecting accurate and timely data, they typically leave insufficient time for in-depth analysis.

To deliver breakthrough thinking with limited budget, our team at American Express needed to tap suppliers’ insight generation capabilities. This posed two challenges:

•             Challenge #1: Vendors are not close enough to the business to be thought partners

•             Challenge #2: There is a lack of time for analysis and insight generation

To meet business partners’ need for guidance, we shifted from a client service to trusted advisor approach, which requires more time for insight generation and consultation. While the standard vendor partnership delivers on the goal of timely, accurate data, it presents problems for more strategic aspirations. Read More »

Develop a Rigorous Training Program

Developing a rigorous training program is necessary for success in any endeavor.  The Packers would not have won the Super Bowl last night if they did not have a successful plan for training their team, no matter how good Aaron Rodgers is.  Similarly, the musicians in the New York Philharmonic were not just born with their talent, they have had to train, and continually hone their skills.

The same is true for successful Market Research teams.  Without continued development opportunities, the skill level will stagnate.

But the question becomes, where do you focus the training efforts for the team?  How do you know what skills are most necessary and most lacking?   The skills needed for success in the Market research world are constantly changing and it can be hard to keep up with this evolution.  Imagine how football players would react if every year the goal posts were extended just a little farther.  Thankfully for the NFL, they aren’t, but sometimes in market research it can feel like that is the case.

As we’ve been hearing across the membership, it is no longer enough to only have the core research skills covered on your team.  Strategic consulting and influence skills are no longer a “nice to have,” but a need to have for researchers to excel.  (MREB members can look at our Market Research Talent Development Trends research brief to hear more about the changing needs of market research teams.)

In our discussions with members we continually hear that for training to be effective you must first make researchers understand their skill gaps, and motivate them to want to learn said skills.  In this changing world, it can be difficult to identify individuals’ strengths and weaknesses.  Football players get input from their coaches, teammates and self evaluation.  Market Researchers can similarly turn to their managers and business partners as well as their own self assessment.

Successful ideas where we’ve seen this across the membership include: role playing on business issues with senior level executives, challenging researcher assumptions on insight generation, and 360° feedback with research-specific competencies.

What have you found to be important in the realm of training?  What’s worked for you?  Do you follow the NFL’s example by having a “training camp” or are development efforts more self-led?  Leave a comment below to continue the conversation.

Excel Tip: A Better Way to Analyze Survey Data

While we’ve often compared results in traditional stacked bar charts, see how in-cell panel charts can help you better visualize survey data. The panel chart shows data for multiple variables in an appealing format.

Getting Good Ideas From Bad Social Media

By Kirsten Robinson

Social media has given consumers a platform to publicly say whatever they want (a sometimes scary thought.) In 2010, Twitter users sent an astounding 25 billion Tweets.

Does one of those tweets have the rare seed to fuel company innovation? Maybe. But there’s an awful lot of dreck.

Starbucks and Dell offer a different and much more active model for finding new ideas. Here are 2½  lessons we learned:

1 Don’t be passive: Communities that thrive over time do more than passively listen. They give participants a psychic reward by demonstrating their impact. I know for myself that nothing is more exciting than seeing my own idea take flight. Let people know (again and again) how important they are. (See Using Engagement Strategies to Increase Research Participation for more.)

2 Don’t be average: Ask a hundred people for new ideas and you’ll get all the average answers. Ask 10,000 people and you’ll get all the average ideas – and a headache trying to find the one spark of innovation. But when communities interact and build on ideas their hit rate goes up dramatically. (Companies like Spigit are fast developing collaborative crowd-sourcing) (To go straight to the source for these rare creative types see Specialist User Screener)

2.5  PR is good: Generating customer and consumer engagement isn’t a big responsibility for Research. But it is a great reason to maintain a community. Both Starbucks and Dell get a lot of PR mileage while extracting some new ideas. Two for ones are a nice deal – and a lot easier to sell to skeptical senior managers. (More companies invest in social media PR than social media research.)

Here are some examples of how companies are using social media to gather consumer knowledge or source customer information: Read More »

How to Win Over an Audience

By Anthony Bell

Storytelling is a vital career skill, says this executive coach. Be it an investor pitch, interview, or simple elevator introduction, connecting with your audience is essential. When creating your own story for internal clients, you have to grab interest. To do so, you must gain instant attention, engage your audience’s emotions, make it personal, and dare to inspire. The MREB’s sister program from Finance & Strategy highlights four key elements to incorporate into a narrative to get the most impact:

Mreb Members,  learn how Continental Airlines uses storytelling as an employee engagement tool or take a look at the seven qualities of good stories and discover how to embed insight into the story narrative.