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Keeping Your Resolutions

By Kate Camp

While most, if not all, of us made New Year’s resolutions on December 31st, far fewer will carry through on those promises throughout 2012.

Our resolution at the MREB is to help our members have more impact on the business and we’re determined to maintain it through our 2012 initiatives. An article by Forbes Magazine offers 6 tips for attaining your New Year’s resolution. If you’re looking increase the overall strategic impact for the MR function, below are a few tips to help you follow through on your goal.

1. Get Specific

To know where you’re going you first have to determine your current status. It’s hard to write realistic, achievable goals if you’re unclear as to where you currently stand. Having a clear way to measure improvement, and knowing your success will be recognized helps maintain motivation throughout the year.

But what if your current perceived performance and current actual performance differ? The Business Impact Diagnostic can expose areas for improvement and differences in perceived performance across the organization; the report provides a great jumping off point for discussion as to specifically where you want to improve.

2. Write it Down

Formally documenting your goals ensures that you don’t deviate from the original plan as the year goes on. This exercise also forces you to choose specific wording as to your goals rather than keeping them nebulous. Check out the MREB’s new vision statement which outlines our 4 key aims: embedding insights, inspiring innovation, facilitating customer understanding, provoking action.

3. Make Time

We talk all the time about the value of a strategic research portfolio. In an ideal world we’d be able to execute our 2012 agenda exactly as we mapped it out at our initial planning session. Unfortunately, we live in a world where ad hoc requests frequently cross our desk, and we simply don’t have the time or resources to fully commit to all of them.

Make more time for important projects by rejecting low value requests using Norwich Union’s Project Prioritization Scorecard. Using the objective scoring system will both allow you to say no to projects with little strategic value, and educate internal partners as to why these requests don’t make the cut.

 4. Move Past Doubt

Worried that your goal is unachievable? Breaking your big goal into bite-size pieces can make it feel more manageable. The MREB has identified 5 skills that are crucial to achieving more strategic impact: insight, consulting logic, influence, communication, and synthesis.

The idea of improving your overall skill set enough to achieve greater business impact can seem daunting; so take it piece by piece. Pick the one skill you think is most challenging and sign up for a 1-hour webinar training session on the topic (or view the previously recorded webinar on our event replay page.) In one hour you’ll have made a solid step of progress towards your ultimate goal.

5. Get a Partner

Getting your objectives accomplished are simply easier when there’s someone to cheer you on, or, in the business world, when you have the support of your peers. While getting that support requires having solid data and logic to back your presentation, winning over colleagues also takes some softer skills.

The MREB has discovered that driving action with business partners depends on engaging both their emotional and rational concerns. As researchers, we tend to be pretty strong in the rational department, but we can sometimes overlook the emotional influencing component. Check out our work on Closing the Researcher Influence Gap to learn how to employ the same relationship skills used by consultants to increase your impact.

6. Be Still

Working hard toward your goal is important, but you don’t want to burn out! So whenever you feel stressed take a little time to engage in an activity you enjoy.

Feel guilty taking some time for yourself at the office? You can have the best of both worlds by linking your fun activity to a work-related topic (for example, check out these past MREB blog posts on the topics of bizarre ways to get aheadusing gossip to your best advantage, and a TV commercial designed for dogs.) They’re all lighthearted, but also relevant to Research.

Segment Online, Even With Limited Data

Posted on  20 February 12  by 


Segmentation studies are all too often a nightmare for market research departments. Mismatched stakeholder expectations, high costs, difficult to measure ROI, etc., can cause sleepless nights for already overwhelmed researchers.

Now, try conducting a segmentation study with all these problems in mind – but without any demographic or attitudinal data. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, many market researchers trying to segment their online audiences share this dilemma. The concealed nature of the Internet – where anonymity reigns and privacy is valued – means that little personal information is available unless visitors provide authentication information. Since most websites do not require visitors to log-in, lack of data is a major obstacle.

The good news is, there are workarounds. Online segmentation may never look exactly like traditional segmentation but when done effectively, it can still be useful for any companies operating in the online space. The availability of free web analytics tools such as Google Analytics makes behavioral data accessible to all web teams at a basic level. With some know-how and creativity, even limited behavioral information can yield interesting insights.

MREB Members, learn more about how to effectively segment online consumers here.

For additional resources, read our research brief on integrating data analytics with market research or our full study on operationalizing segmentation studies.

2 Ways to Get Executives the Information They Need, Fast

Posted on  15 February 12  by 

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Patience may be a virtue, but it’s one rarely seen in the corporate world. Executives have always wanted to have the information they need right when they realize they need it – and if they could have it before then, even better!

Exacerbating this desire for instant information are some recent developments.  First, executives report that the overall increased pace of change creating more truly urgent decisions – and it’s not the case that urgent decisions are less important than non-urgent ones.

Second, information seems to be everywhere. Need advice or information? You can ask Google, or maybe poll your friends with a Facebook status update. Now, you may wince to hear these sources in reference to a business decision (and rightly so!) but the point is that people expect to be able to access the information they need quickly – social media and the internet have trained us well.

MREB research into executives’ decision-making processes confirms that when faced with urgent decisions, they rely on their gut instinct when they can, or skim multiple sources and make the decision with what they can access quickly, regardless of the quality. Waiting for Research can be a drag.

We’ve seen Market Research functions tackle the challenge of informing urgent decisions two ways:

  1. Improving their anticipation of urgent requests by focusing scoping on unarticulated and emerging needs;
  2. Improving their reaction to urgent requests by aggregating existing knowledge into “good enough” information in a short time-frame.

MREB members, learn more about focusing Research scoping and execution for fast delivery.

5 Tips: Working with People you Can’t Stand

Posted on  14 February 12  by 

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With all the Research team members, supplier contributors, and business partners that we deal with every day, we are all sure to run into a few people with whom we find it difficult to work.  An HBR blog recently outlined a few tips for working with people you hate, and I found a few of the recommendations rather actionable:

  1. Manage yourself first: don’t think of how they behave, think of how you react
  2. Don’t involve others: resist the urge to “commiserate” with others, being negative can hurt your own reputation
  3. Work with them more: spending more time with the person may actually help you understand him or her better and develop a better sense of empathy
  4. Provide feedback-carefully: share your thoughts if you can outline specific behaviors that the person can control in terms of how they impact your working relationship.  But if you suspect the conversation will not go over well, do not broach the topic.
  5. Emotionally Detach: when you have little control over the situation, neutralize the negative feelings by ignoring them

We’ve done the research, and we know that your team environment impacts the quality of your insights.  If you don’t feel supported by your team you cannot embrace the creativity needed to generate great work, so it’s especially important for researchers to figure out how to connect with their colleagues.    Here’s how we can help:

Insight – Don’t Just Generate, Activate

Posted on  13 February 12  by 


Over the past few weeks, we’ve written about how to improve business impact when it comes to Research skills.  The first that we talked about was insight.  Sure, it’s important that Research functions generate sound insights that promise business impact.  But what if no one does anything with them?

At one of last year’s in-person member meetings, several heads of Research named insight activation as one of their most significant challenges.  And as we got deeper into discussion, here’s what they wanted to know: How do you know when you’ve gone far enough?  Who’s ultimately on the hook for ensuring insights are activated?  I’m not sure anyone will ever have the answer to that question – but we certainly have some points of view on increasing the likelihood that your business partners actually do something with the recommendations that you deliver:

  • Screen your insights:  It’s easy to critique others’ insights – especially if your function’s done a good job building a common understanding of what good insight looks like.  When generating insights, ensure that you’re pressure testing your own work as well.  Test your insight output against a standard set of criteria that should be present in any strong insight similar to what we’ve seen members do at Lilly or Nestlé
  • Create clear, targeted communications that tell business partners what to do with the insight: Make sure that business partners understand what the insight means for their world by creating prescriptive, targeted communications that highlight what the insight means for their function, product, or BU.  One of our insurance members has created a set of four simple filtering questions that enable researchers to cut to the chase when sharing insights with different stakeholders.
  • Equip business partners to own the insight: Get the broader organization focused on insight by giving business partners easy-to-use tools , templates, and training to use as part of their day-to-day.  Some companies even work with Marketing to build insight competencies into cross-functional performance expectations.

Interested in learning more?  Join part two in our Next Generation of Research Skills Webinar series this upcoming week (Insight Skill Development).  We’ll cover insight generation and activation – and also highlight some new work we’ll be publishing later on this month.

Tell Business Partners: Your Knowledge No Longer Applies

Posted on  7 February 12  by 


How well do your business partners know your customers? They’re likely to say they understand them well – after all, years of experience builds a “gut instinct” that is valued in business leaders, and has probably served them well in situations over the years. But what about when that instinct is outdated, or just plain wrong? It’s hard to teach people when they think they have nothing to learn!

We’ve covered a few techniques for breaking your business partners’ pre-conceptions, but have one other idea to share.

One popular training technique, one that I’ve personally sat through in countless L&D courses, is teaching information, then asking the student to use that information in an exercise. This technique can be highly effective. Unfortunately, it fails when a student can complete the exercise based on what they already know – and can completely check out of the “learning” aspect.

A smart solution to this problem is to place the exercise in a new context, one where the “student” (sub in “executive”) can’t rely on what they already know. This effectively neutralizes their existing understanding and requires them to learn anew. 

Telecom NZ exemplified this approach in their segmentation workshop with executives. Sure, a telecommunications executive might be able to design a telecom product for young customers off the top of their head – without learning about the behaviors and attitudes of that segment – but can they design a cocktail for them without learning the same? (I might add – not only does this new context require executives to learn, it strikes me as a little more fun!) So think outside your industry!

MREB members, learn more about Telecom NZ’s workshop and other gut-busting experiences.

5 Skills to Build to Improve Impact, Part 5: Synthesis

Posted on  7 February 12  by 

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The last in our series on skills to build to improve impact, this week let’s talk synthesis.

  1. Insight
  2. Business Problem Solving
  3. Influence
  4. Communication
  5. Synthesis

Synthesis takes a particular skill set to do well, broad knowledge and an ability to see connections across disparate sources of data, and also required dedicated time/resources—this is NOT something you can effectively do off the side of your desk.  Consider a typical 10 to 11 week synthesis project.  If you have that kind of time you can create a story that resonates in the business for two years or more, as long as you consider the following:

But what about when you have less time?  You CAN address immediate concerns with synthesis in a week or less, it just takes a different approach.  Rather than having a single researcher focus on a project, assign specialized roles, delegating each task to the person who can make the best contribution in the fastest time. 

Motorola Mobility created a quick-fire synthesis process that can be completed in as little as one day by relying on specialized roles and a core information library.  MREB members, read more about their team responsibilities and synthesis approach.

Country Profile: Conducting Research in Russia

Posted on  6 February 12  by 

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Have you ever looked at yourself in a funhouse mirror – the type with curves in the glass that found at a carnival or fair – you can recognize the general outline of yourself, but it doesn’t really look like you. For market researchers working in new overseas markets, the experience can be similar. Although the basics of the market research discipline and general habits of customers and consumers may be recognizable, the details are vastly different.

The Market Research Executive Board recently conducted research on Russia’s markets and strategies for conducting a successful Market Research study in the region. Many things that a market researcher may think he knows look very different when viewed through the international looking glass in Russia.

Market Differences: Russian markets vs. western developed markets:

1. Big vs. Bigger

  • The United States and Europe are big markets that cover a lot of geographic area, but Russia is a huge country, with a land mass 1.8 times larger than the United States. Market researchers in Russia should focus on Moscow and other large cities which house most of the population and have the necessary infrastructure to support research and product launches.

2. Rich adults vs. rich kids

  • In western countries, market researchers find that wealth and spending increases with age. Because the market economy is so new in Russia, younger customers have grown up in the market economy, while older generations lived under the Soviet Union, leaving older generations not on the top of the consumer spending/market curve in Russia. 

Differences in research practices: Market Research in Russia vs. western developed markets: Read More »

5 Skills to Build to Improve Impact, Part 4: Communication

Posted on  31 January 12  by 

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We have made it to part 4 of our 5-part series on skills that researchers can build to improve their business impact:

  1. Insight
  2. Business Problem Solving
  3. Influence
  4. Communication
  5. Synthesis

Effective communication is about the audience and the goal, not the data.  The Extreme Presentation™ method, developed by Dr. Andrew Abela, has researchers move from finding the right problem to building compelling slides to ensure effective communication.  This approach integrates a few  essential elements of effective presentations:

  • Logic
  • Rhetoric
  • Graphics
  • Politics and Metrics

In addition to powerful presentations, you can bring voice-of-the-customer metrics to life through proactive outreach tactics.  Researchers at WellPoint use a knowledge marketing plan to drive action from insights by breaking down areas where beliefs need to change into specific teaching points and communicating them over time.  Using a publications calendar to organize release dates will connect existing insights to related corporate initiatives, providing the right information to the right people at the right time.

MREB members, read more about the Extreme Presentation™ method and how you can create an internal knowledge marketing campaign like WellPoint.

Don’t Know Much About … Anatomy?

Posted on  30 January 12  by 


“Anatomy” is commonly defined as the bodily structure of an organism (or the study of such). Human or animal bodily structures are of little interest to the Market Researcher (aspects of the human psyche is a different matter!), but what about the structure of a Market Research organization as an “organism”?

The diagnostic tool commonly referred to as “the Anatomy” is one of the MREB’s most popular survey tools and a touchstone for successful functional management. And the Anatomy has just had a facelift: what was once the Anatomy of a World-Class Market Research Function is now the Anatomy of a Business Impact-Focused Market Research Function.

Ok, so we changed a few words in the title… but what are the implications of that change?

 Instead of being a diagram of all activities of a Market Research function, the new Anatomy is a diagram of the activities that deliberately position a function to create business impact (as identified through MREB research). It more clearly defines what a function needs to do to impact business decisions. See for yourself, in this comparison of the major categories:


While the previous version allowed you to learn the best-practice ways of approaching all activities, this version is more focused on the best-practice ways of approaching the best activities for value creation – it’s basically a double-whammy of “best”!

Members, visit the Anatomy resource center to learn more about the 20 attributes that underlay the major categories above, and to see the resources that can help you improve in each. Interested in running your team through the diagnostic in order to identify which area you should prioritize for improvement? Contact your account manager directly or through the resource center.