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My guest today is Kylan Lundeen, Head of Marketing at Qualtrics. Qualtrics was founded in 2002 and is a subscription software for collecting and analyzing data for market research, customer satisfaction and loyalty, product and concept testing, employee evaluations and website feedback.
On November 11, 2018 it was announced that Qualtrics would be acquired by SAP. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2019.
Prior to joining Qualtrics in 2013, Kylan worked in Turnaround & Restructuring Services at DVC while getting his MBA at Stanford.
Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Babita Earle from Zappi.
I’m doing great. Thank for you being on the Happy Market Research podcast.
IIeX Amsterdam. This is my first time here.
What do you think?
It’s amazing. I feel like I miss my wife. It’s such a romantic city.
Yes, it is beautiful. Amsterdam’s great actually. Somebody asked me the question why do they have it here every year? I don’t know why, but I’m not complaining, because Amsterdam is a great city.
Yes. It’s absolutely the case.
The first time in Amsterdam for you?
Period, yes. That’s right.
You must go to the Rembrandt exhibition.
You’re the second person that’s told me that.
Yes. The Rijksmuseum is an amazing museum. If you get some time, you should go.
It’s fairly close.
Walking distance, yes. Amazing.
What do you think, two hours is enough time?
I think so if you stay focused, just go to that part of the museum because there is obviously loads to see there. But you’re here and they’ve got the famous piece, I can’t remember what it’s called? But, it’s definitely worth going to see.
I was thinking about the Van Gogh Museum, was one I was toying between which one I would go to.
I went through that decision process myself, the Van Gogh and the Rijks and I went to the Rijksmuseum. There is a centenary exhibition for Rembrandt, so I wouldn’t miss it.
Thanks for that pro tip. Tell me a little about what’s going on with Zappi.
What’s going on with Zappi. Lots really. For us right now it’s event season, I guess it is for most of the research industry. Last week I was at Quirks, London. It’s the first time Quirks did a big event in Brooklyn. It’s the first time they ran the event in London. We had a number of presentations there. Again, the theme was very much around technology, automation, aJile. I took a slightly different approach. Very similar to what you’re doing here, but I did an interview, short presentation. But also, an interview with a lady from (02:23 unclear) One-on-one interview. Somebody who’s really thinking differently. We did that and then obviously we’re here now. Then we’re going to be in South by Southwest, which is going to be really exciting, in a few weeks. Where we’ve got a bunch of really great clients and brands coming to join us. Then we’re holding our own private event coming up soon on the April 4, in London. Part of the whole Zappi Insiders’ piece. A lot of events, marketing, content. I think the thing for us right now is there is… Obviously, we started in 2013 wanting to automate the world of market research and there is a lot happening in that space now. It’s finding out voice which is different and what that is. We’re very much moving towards the learning side of the industry and how a single platform and standardization and scale, can really drive a better understanding of data.
You moved, it was ZappiStore and then rebranded to just Zappi. What was the rationale around that?
Store, you’re right. You can see we dropped that. We started out to be an app store of the market research industry. Building apps for research agencies out there to drive revenue through our platform. That’s changed now. Rather than building any old products on our platform we’ve got a real focus in specific areas and specific enterprise-based solutions. Rather than building a large quantity of unstructured apps on our platform. Also, when we started, it was very much how can we open up the SME market as well? But actually, where we’re at now we think there’s more demand on the bigger scale, the Pepsi’s of this world.
Of course that being one of the marquee accounts for you guys early days, right?
Yes. Exciting for us, last year we announced a strategic partnership with Pepsi. Where they have got a really amazing strategy to truly digitize their insights function. Some of the stuff that we’re hearing back today and we’re the platform of choice that they’re working with. Yes. A lots happening. We’ve made some progress, but there is still lots to do.
Lots to do. That’s the understatement of the century.
We’re learning. That’s the thing about our business, we’re always learning. As we learn, we keep or we adjust, or we just lose things that aren’t working.
You guys have done a great job of scaling the business. Great growth year over year, et cetera. Lots of challenges and I did that. I know that a business at one million looks different than five, looks different than 20, looks different at 50 million. As you guys have been scaling the business successfully, what have you seen as one of the more material challenges?
I guess when you’re going through a growth period, as we have been, you’re really focusing on sales and driving revenue. Because you need that to invest more in the business. Then you get to a point where you’ve got this organization and that organizations come together maybe in a structured or unstructured way. Then you take a step back and say let’s think about our people, let’s think about our culture. Let’s think about how we work together. I guess we’ve gone through that newborn stage and gone through the teenage stage, but maybe early adulthood in terms of just maturing in terms of our proposition to the market. Just really knowing who we are because you try lots of different things. There is a lot of focus within the business around how we bring in new revenue, but also how we drive repeatable revenue. But then also, how we work as a business, and our culture, and our people. Looking after ourselves as a team.
I love that focus on culture. I recently interviewed the CMO of Qualtrics and in that conversation, we were talking about this exact subject. He sees the superpower of Qualtrics being their ability to intentionally drive behaviors through enforcement of culture. It creates a self-policing, people know they’re a good fit bad fit, quick, early in out kind of thing. Then on top of it, one of the things they did was intentionally drive it’s okay to fail. In the context of success. The actual example he gave on the interview which I thought was clever is, every week they have an award. It’s the biggest failure award. I’m sure it’s better words, but something like that. Then one person had a project, client calls them and they happened to be in the restroom at the time. They were muting the phone, et cetera, trying to navigate that difficult conversation at that point in time. It didn’t happen as successfully as he thought. Catastrophic. The point is that, in these I think high performing companies are predicated on high-performing culture. Do you guys have a specific way? Or how do you install that cultural norm inside of Zappi? Because you’re adding a lot of headcount.
Yes. It’s a very good question. A challenging question. I think we know. Your culture is going to be organically developed from the people that are in the organization. We have our beliefs around inclusive listening. We do have the culture of failure is fine as long as you learn from it. Nobody is going to be let go because they’ve really messed up on something. As long as you learn from it. There are a number of things that we do. We hold each other accountable for our cultural beliefs and we’ve gone through this process recently around introverts, extroverts. How are we more inclusive of the introverts within the organization and let the extroverts encourage them to listen more. I wouldn’t say there is a set process. It’s more around having the courage, courageous honesty to bring these topics to the fore and have a conversation about it. We have a culture of flat channel, so it’s about learning from other organizations. We take a lot from the Netflix culture within Zappi. There is a big part of that that’s fed into ours. It’s learning from other organizations, then as a group deciding what’s important to us and then having a view of, what do we mean by courageous honesty? Holding up really good examples of that, as well as not so good examples of that. It’s work in progress, but there are a number of different things that help us drive that culture. I also believe that it’s about bringing in different viewpoints. There is always going to be different viewpoints of one cultural value and how it should be executed, what it means within the organization. Having a diverse viewpoint on your culture and how it should be embedded within the organization is really important, especially when you’re working in a global organization as well.
Once you move to multiple, especially to your point that are in completely different time zones, there is a ton, it’s all about the intentionality. As much focus as you have on sales which is always paramount, you honestly need to put resources in that space too. Because it is the way the organization ultimately will deliver to the market and brand its performance over time. It’s all about that consistent delivery.
Yes. We have teams in Cape Town. We have teams in the US, different parts of the US. We have teams in APAC. Actually, through this journey, we’ve had some really interesting input from those different markets of their perspective on certain situations. Where, I would never have considered. It’s really opened my eyes to how somebody in Cape Town would see our culture versus somebody in APAC. It’s challenging to get a culture which is global. How do you get that truly global culture that works for everybody? Growing at the same time.
Congratulations on your success. If somebody wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?
LinkedIn, Facebook, call me. Email me or come and see me. I’m based in Camden in London. I think too much is done digitally nowadays. I’m a great fan of meeting people for coffee or a drink or a glass of wine.
The coordination of it, maybe email would be a great way to do it. You mind sharing your email?
It’s Babita, B-A-B-I-T-A dot Earle, E-A-R-L-E at ZappiStore, we’ve still got the store in the email address, dot com.
Thank you so much for being on Happy Market Research podcast.
My guest is Rob, Ignite360. What year did you start Ignite360?
January 2011. So it’s just been over eight years now.
What day in January?
January 1st. 1/1/11.
[laughs] That’s awesome. Super easy to remember.
Very, very easy. Yeah, good anniversary to celebrate.
Yeah, so what exactly do you guys do?
So, we’re a full-service insights and strategy firm as there are so many. What really sets us apart is the depth that we go and bringing empathy between our clients and their consumers or their constituents, and then delivering all of that through compelling story.
Do you use technology? Is it predominantly services around that?
Yes, it’s some tech; a lot of face-to-face, in-person; 101 interview groups. We combine often qualitative and quantitative, depending on what our clients are looking for. I often talk about our clients coming to us for, what I say, are the higher degree of difficulty problems, things that C-Suite might be looking for, those natty problems that they need to really spend some time thinking through. We tend to be their partner to go through and solve that.
CEO Summit 2019, Insights Association – what’s your one big take-away?
First of all, it was amazing. I came in, first time here, came in with no expectations. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. I have a client that here that kind of put it on my radar. And I thought, “Oh, let me go check this out.”
Really appreciated the honesty, the openness, the vulnerability of the other CEOs. Something I went through when I was starting my company is you realize that that saying, “It’s lonely at the top,” is true. It’s very difficult to be CEO of a company. You can’t even… Your most trusted partner in crime does not understand everything that you’re going through. And I’m also the owner of the company, so there’s that added layer there. So being able to network and meet people and hear like, “Yeah, Ok, we’re all going through very similar things.” I’ve been able to talk through some of our business challenges, what we’re thinking about and see how that’s lining up to what other people do. For us, particularly, it’s around business development and what habits and practices other people have to grow their engine.
The business development piece is kind of interesting; I’m pulling that out because in business there’s operational development, there’s HR, there’s legal, there’s all these tranches of expertise. As you know, given your founder status, you have to be an expert in everything.
And we all know that’s really hard. Oh, and you also have to be a really good researcher,
Absolutely. First and foremost, yeah.
Right. So, in that framework, it’s great to be able to pull information from other people who might have more experience in any of these other areas so that we can get shortcuts in our business and not have to go through the 101 learning stage.
We resourced intentionally against that when I brought my COO in. She’s a functioning COO: client-side, agency-side, goes out into field, does research. But she is so brilliant at systems and processes and so when we came in, she joined us in 2013. Pretty much everything before that was like the Wild West. And I look back now, and it’s amazing to me that we got stuff done and that we didn’t have more problems or issues than we did. But Lisa came in and really put systems and processes into place, which we still follow to this day and continue to evolve. There’s no sacred cows in what we do; so we’re always at process improvement. One of our moderators has a very rich background in HR organizational development and 0leadership development. So, he said, “Hey, I can help you with the HR piece; so that also transformed how we were thinking about HR and got us into a great solid place there. I’ve got awesome lawyers. Biz dev is covering that area that’s like…
Kind of the missing piece. My broader point is every CEO has, myself included… I have opportunity to level up different aspects of the organization. What’s nice through these conversations, even like the one with us, I can learn from you and on how you doing I say, “Oh, yeah, I can apply that to my business.” And it’s going to give me some sort of return.
Absolutely, and everybody is taking a slightly different approach and you have to listen to what people are doing and take it in for how can I apply this and what they’re doing for me. Some people are more comfortable saying, “Oh, I can take on the legal stuff myself and just work with an outside lawyer or finance. The person I hired was finance person ‘cause math is not my strong suit. I always believe you play to your strengths. Sitting up writing invoices wasn’t going to be my passion or something, but you need that. And there are people that love doing it.
Are coming back next year?
Oh, hell, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. South Beach in January is not…
Not the worst place. Even though let’s be honest. I have been in the conference room the whole time. In fact, for those that don’t know, we are literally… Beautiful set of glass doors that open up along the length of the conference room.
And have a sheer curtain drawn so that you can kind of see the pool, but not really.
There might be something blue. There’s a little bit of a shimmer and a light that kind of comes through but it’s, it’s … you know you’re…
Allegedly, there’s an ocean and some crashing of waves.
They told me I had an ocean front room and I had air-conditioners.
You had air-conditioners. I’m looking out on the avenue, and I’m on the third floor, but that’s not why I’m here.
That’s not the point, right? Exactly, exactly. And the value’s so great. A lot of people in conferences, I notice, will sneak out and take advantage of the scenery. Not in this one.
I don’t see people sneaking out. Honestly, it’s been hard to get work done. And I’ve had to let… I didn’t realize… I mean I knew it was small, intimate group, but that makes it really hard to slip out.
Larger research conferences, you can just skip half the day and no one is going to miss you, but here you feel, you know…
And you also…
You want to be in the room; you want to be talking to people.
What about the value?
Alright, great. You’re getting ready to leave today, head back to San Francisco?
No, I’m going on to New York. I’m sitting in on some in-homes tomorrow. I’ll be going home Friday. Then I’m off to QRCA speaking there next week on dismantling judgment.
If someone wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?
You go to our website www.ignite-360.com. And you can reach me directly; I’m Rob@ignite-360.com.
Perfect. Rob, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Thank you. This has been great.
Thanks so much for tuning in to the Happy Market Research Podcast. We hope you enjoyed these episodes.
If you’d like to get in contact with any of the CEOs that I interviewed at the CEO Summit, the contact information is located in the show notes.
Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Camille Nicita, President and CEO of Gongos. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.
I have Camille with Gongos. It’s an honor to have you on the podcast today. We’re here at the CEO Summit, Insights Association. You probably don’t even remember this, but we were at a conference at the same time. I can’t remember where it was, but it was ages ago right when you first started. You had a customer – Dunkin’ Donuts, I believe. Do you remember that?
We’ve actually never worked with Dunkin’ Donuts.
Oh, you’re kidding. Crap! Maybe it wasn’t Dunkin’ Donuts.
I’m trying to think. So, how many years ago would it have been?
It was a LONG time ago. Right around I want to say like 2005, 2006, no?
Oh, Best Buy, maybe.
And did you do a custom panel for them?
Yes. And it was at TMRE.
Yes, that’s right. That’s right. TMRE.
That’s it, for sure.Best Buy, Dunkin’ Donuts. Best Buy should probably be selling Dunkin’ Donuts.
So, I tried to do (they would probably agree with you.)… So, I tried to do a custom panel business at Decipher back in like 2001 and 2002 for a company called Intuit, which you know. And it just didn’t go well at all. And the reason it didn’t go well is, while the technology itself wasn’t particularly difficult, the systems and the processes and the engagement part of it were really, really, really hard, right? And I was listening to your presentation; I’m like, “Holy, crap! They’ve cracked the nut; they’ve figured out how to really nail that.” So maybe you could tell us a little bit about your company and maybe the couple-minute sort of overview of where you started and where you are.
Sure. Thanks for asking. So, let’s see where do we start. Gongos is what we call a decision intelligence company. At this stage in the game, we are going on our twentieth year of business. Gongos started in 1991 as a traditional marketing research custom, ad hoc, qual/quant business. And we were very, very successful at that for our first 23ish years, but about five years ago is where we sort of evolved into this decision intelligence business, which is still very much rooted in consumer insights. That’s the core to what we do, but over the last 5-6 years, we’ve build other capabilities around that insights function to really help where we saw pain point with our clients, which was in sort of moving insights farther up the value chain: I should say farther up as well as starting them farther back in the value chain, so ensuring that our clients are really leading with a customer-centric strategy to fuel their growth.
It’s interesting hearing how McDonald’s framed it yesterday. Matt did a great job of asking two questions. I tweeted about that. Of course, I’m going to forget right now. But I think it was centric to like what is…
Curiosity was the centric – that’s right. One was an internal question of, basically, “Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Get to know the customer.”
Well, and empathetic approach. I think we heard somebody else yesterday talking too about (I think it was General Mills.) I can’t remember the gentleman’s name, but the guy from General Mills talked about, for a week, making their executives live on the budget of a typical customer.
I love that.
I do too. I mean it’s such a… In order to truly be a customer-centric organization, you’ve got to walk in their shoes.
Brands have gone through this massive evolution in five years. In five years, what a CEO cares about has completely changed. I’m not going so far to say that they didn’t care about the customer before, but it was much more of a competitive… I remember terms like “Share of wallet,” “Share of mind”… is all about “How do I get more from that.” It’s almost like we’re pirates in the brand space, and we want to take the customer’s wealth or mind share. And now it’s really changed to a partnership. And that was one of the things also that stood out at McDonald’s.
Reciprocity. And we’re firm believers in the companies that are doing it right in seeing way are trying to build reciprocal relationships with their customers. And they’ve got a great platform to do it because they have more customer data than they’ve ever had before.
No, and customers know that they’re giving you information. When I scan that loyalty card, I’m not a dummy, right? I know you’re figuring out who I am, what I’m doing. So great! In exchange for that, give me a great product or service. You know who I am; you know what I want. There’s no excuse for not innovating with the customer in mind these days.
Absolutely right. Do you have the Amazon card?
That’s the perfect example ‘cause it has really good rewards on it; irrespective it’s got fantastic rewards on it. But the value there is (and it’s not expensive), and the value there is they know more about me, right, outside of the Amazon experience. So it just gets bigger, right? It just kind of gets bigger, bigger.
And better and better.
That’s true actually.
To me, that’s the expectation, right? If you’re going to continue learning about me, great. My expectation now is in exchange for that we have more… I’m going to help you grow as a brand ‘cause I’m going to be loyal to you, but you help me in my life and cater to my needs.
Totally. And partner like the McDonald’s guy said about, “How can I add value to you?” The “2 for 4,” or whatever – that kind of framework feels like a valuable exchange.
It really does.
More of a partnership. So, I wanted to touch on one point that I found very interesting in your presentation and that was – you guys went through a material journey in… that wasn’t really cast as rebranding. It was almost like revision, right? And that took four years?
Yeah, four to five years. We’re still on it and probably always will be.
What I thought was interesting is that you took that much time and the patience surrounding that in order to do it right. We didn’t really top dive into that. How do you get into that psychologically because most CEOs, they’re like, “Ok, tomorrow…” [laughs]
“We’re going to do this!” Right. I think somebody said yesterday, “Ok, it’s Friday. When you come back on Monday, this is what we’re going to be.” That doesn’t work so well. The talk that I gave yesterday I think that we call it “business-model transformation.” I could easily also be relabeled as the “art of urgent patience.” And I think that’s exactly what you’re referring to. As the CEO, I know where we want to go. I can see it. But you can’t… And I’ve got an urgency, a sense of urgency, but you’ve got to meet people where they are. Just like we’re asking our customers to meet their… our clients to meet their customers where they are, we had to meet our employees where they were for this work out correctly. We went through various ups and downs – the cycle of anything that’s great. You know you go through those pits of despair and back up to feeling really good about it. We did that multiple times over the last four to five years, but I don’t think we, with our company and our culture, could have done it any other way to lead it to the success that it has been. Has it taken a while? It has. It’s taken discipline and perseverance, but we had goals that we knew we needed to meet. We kept those in sight, and we checked in every quarter to see where we were against those goals. So that makes you feel like you’re making forward movement even if it does take four to five years. You know?
I do, and I think a lot of people, CEOs specifically and their teams that don’t have the experience, will have a strategic objective and they will plan on it, “Ok, it’s going to be Q1.” You’ve got to understand that your staff, they’re three months behind.
At least, right. And you just have to keep banging the drum and, eventually, their feet are going to start moving, right? But you just can’t go.
You can’t just go. I mean a good metaphor for that. I started running recently, had never run more than a block in my life. And they had a group of people that talked me into doing a marathon relay last year. I only did the three-mile stint but still, having never run, to do three miles for me was a big deal. In my head, I wanted to get out there and just go full steam, just run, run. But here’s the deal: you do that, you get cramps, get a stomach ache; you get leg cramps. Same as this journey to end-change management. You start out full steam, and you’re not bring your body along with you. You’re just causing more disruption than you are benefit, and the path actually becomes longer to get there ‘cause you injure yourself, you feel sick. So it is really the art of urgent patience.
Yeah, they actually call that “negative split.” So, when you’re running your last half should be faster than your first half.
Yes, exactly, but it’s so hard as an athlete to tell yourself that’s Ok.
Totally, and I love that analogy because there’s 400 meters, there’s 1600, there’s 5k’s, there’s 10, there’s halves, fulls. In that framework, you got to bring the right mentality and plan in order to realize a win in that – or a completion in my case. [laughs]
And so much of it is a mental game. It’s not your body giving out; it’s your mind sending your body signals, right?
That’s 1000% true. Most people don’t quite… Yeah, it isn’t the limiter on the body most of time. It’s usually the…
Same way with business though: it’s your mind, right? And it’s messaging in a way that gets people figuring out what their reasons to believe are, meeting them where they are, and bringing them along with you.
If someone wants to get in contact with you or someone else at Gongos, how would they do that?
A best way is email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will you spell that please?
Perfect. Camille, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Anders Bengtsson, CEO of Protobrand. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.
Beautiful morning here in Miami. CEO Summit, Insights Association. Very excited. I’ve got Anders Bengtsson. Did I say it even remotely correctly?
Yeah, like sort of. [laughs]
Of Protobrand. Tell us a little bit about what you guys do.
Protobrand is a boutique research firm, full-service research firm, technology-enabled, helping companies to uncover how people think at a deep level about brands, ads, and new products. So, I’m not just focusing on the functional side of things but the emotional, the symbolic, the experiential. So, when we talk about System 1, the automatic brain (the non-conscious brain), that’s where we have technique and measurements for uncovering those.
How do people work with you? Do you have like a survey system? Or what is the actual function?
Yes, our technology platform is called Meta4 Insights. And that’s a technology platform. You can think of it as a survey platform that allows you to do a quantitative survey on line bit with advanced System 1 measurements. It actually gives you both data that is immediately quantifiable but we also collect data that is text data. So think data that would normally be collected in a face-to-face interview can now be collected online. Then we quantify that data with AI-powered text analytics.
Interesting. So, there’s definitely the sentiment, kind of the NLP element integrated in.
Yeah, you get sentiment. So coding of large amounts of text data is still a semi-automated, like a semi-manual process, if you will. There are analysts that are involved: they’re looking at what themes emerge and things that belong. So it’s not just a one-click button yet, and I don’t know if text analytics ever will. But at this stage, it helps us code large data sets very precise from hundreds or thousands of respondents and identify salient themes, the sentiment, and the meaning behind it.
Yes, I mean it’s interesting Microsoft had their announcement of the support behind Augmented Intelligence, the new kind of AI framework where we thought of AI as solving all the problems and automating everything but really it’s doing part of it really well. A human being has to go in and finish the job.
We’re not there yet where things are fully automated. I think… so what we’re doing right now is to leverage automation and AI to the extent it’s possible without compromising the outcomes and to still make outcomes meaningful and help decision-making.
So, where are you guys based?
Boston. Perfect, I can tell by your accent.
[laughs] Yeah, my Swedish Boston accent.
So, CEO Summit, day 3. What are your thoughts?
It’s been two great days, and I’m looking forward to the third day. Lots of great networking with like-minded and not like-minded CEOs. We learn from each other. And I think it’s been… The speakers have been really great and really making me think about my job and where I want to take Protobrand and make me thinking in different ways about that. So, that’s always helpful.
Yeah, do you have a specific take-away so far?
I think the take-away is that some things haven’t changed that much. If I go back to Day 1, Diane Hessan from C-Space talked about when she launched the company and how, at first, it was just a technology that she wanted companies to subscribe to. Then she found out that she had to build services around it. I think that’s still to this day very much true. Corporate clients in America are not ready for software in market research. Software-enabled services. Services are part of it. We’re not there yet where they just go and buy a piece of software or an automated service.
Yeah, I think that was probably one of my favorite pieces. (They’re summoning us in.) How many years have you come to this?
This is my second time.
The second time, last year being your first. Are you going to come back next year?
Yeah, for sure. That’s a quick answer; that’s like a System 1 answer.
Recommendations for other CEOs that maybe have not come? What would you see as the one big value they would get out of it?
I think that when you come here, you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, who you’re going to talk to. You don’t have a planned agenda. Like you know if you go to other conference, you might I’m going to talk to so-and-so-and-so. Here it’s more organic: it’s things just happen. Last year, I came here, and I ended up talking to, sitting next to a dinner with Dave from [unclear], and after that, we initiated a partnership with them. Those things happen, and you can’t necessarily… That wasn’t something that was planned.
Right, yeah, totally. I think the opportunity to do networking. I literally have a few customers that have come out of this. But it’s interesting that the context is such where it’s… it doesn’t feel… there’re no sales. Wow! 1 + 1 = 3 and the old cliché. If you’re dealing with CEOs, then you can cut right to it. It does actually function in a lot of ways as a pipeline. Although I would say absolutely that should not be the objective. It’s much more of a care and nurturing framework versus what you’re going to see at a different Insights Association or Quirks or whatever show, right?
Absolutely. And then the other aspect to this, I think, is this is a summit where we share good stories; we share stories around, you know… we struggle. All companies struggle at some point. It’s not all success stories. We learn from success stories, but we also learn about turn-around stories. I think that’s the honesty, you know, in terms of how people share their stories, I think, is huge.
So, if someone wants to get in contact you, talk about your services, how would they do that?
Go to the website Protobrand.com. You’ll see our leadership team. You can find my LinkedIn profile and just reach out.
Anders, Protobrand. Absolute pleasure. Thank you much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
This is Jamin. I’m with Tim Hoskins, Quester. He was one of the presenters here at CEO Summit in Miami, 2019. I’m honored to have him as a guest. Very inspiring story. How many years have you been going to the CEO Summit?
So, this is my fifth year.
Fifth year? Ok, so what keeps bringing you back?
You know every year I walk away learning something different, whether it’s a big idea, formulating my own strategies and big bets, using every single person here that is well-respected in the industry as almost a sounding board to toss ideas off, see their reactions, their facial expressions, get advice. It’s also a great time of the year to just re-energize you, what you’re embarking upon for the rest of the year.
So, strategic view? Is that part of it? And then it sounds like maybe some real tactical, some practical things you’re able to take back home?
Got it. So far, we’ve had a great set of guest speakers. Is there one highlight for you? I know we’re halfway through the conference only.
I think that the session that we just listened to with Camille and the way that they transformed their company, not out of something they had to do but something that they saw into the future and what they wanted to do.
And how many…? That took years, right?
2013 is when they started it.
And so, five years and that’s Gongos Research? Or just Gongos? Yeah, Gongos Research. I’ve actually been a big fan of that company. I remember when they very first… I literally remember when they started.
I want to pull out something from your talk that I thought was really interesting. And that is the development of self-awareness as a CEO ‘cause we go through really difficult… we go through great seasons, and we’re really smart during the great seasons.
And then, as they say, even a turkey can fly in a tornado, and then, all of a sudden, when the difficult times hit. How did you stay motivated during the difficulties of being a CEO?
I think a big part of it was we looked at the data that I shared and just the rapid growth that we had from 14 to 15, 15 to 16, 16 to 17, and even 17 to 18. At some level, you become very, very confident of who you are as a leader when you have those metrics and that growth. When we ended up having our setback in 2018 in January, hearing that news, it was a time of self-reflection. It really was a time where I had to look myself in the mirror after hearing feedback from our employees, from some of our clients, and ask myself, Was I the leader that I thought I was. Am I the leader that can take the company through kind of the turbulence that we’re going to embark upon? And, if not, what type of a leader do I need to become? What are my values?” Even reassessing some of those values. And taking a good hard look into the resources that are available. I think that every good leader pulls in from many different inspirations to formulate that solid foundation to build upon. I would say that in 2018, I became the leader that the company needed, right? And it’s also I can look back on it and say, for the first time ever, I actually became the leader that I wanted to be as well selfishly.
So, we have quite a few CEOs that tune into this show. What is one hack or skill, thing that you would recommend they apply to their business to create positive business outcomes?
So, I’m a big believer in founder’s mentality and Tim Urmston introduced it to me and I saw the profound effect it had on his company and just talking with him and seeing from the outside looking in. For us personally, just being able to understand what does it take to get to scale insurgency. And then layering on top of that how do you motivate all of your employees to get on board and move in the right direction together? As human beings, we all need that kind of solid piece of motivation that we’re all working for. And I think that, as a business, we put things out there like mission and values, and we assume that, because everybody nods their heads and shakes their head in that room that everybody is on board. But, when they go about their daily lives and their tasks, do they always have that in mind? And if they don’t, that means that it’s not a mission; it’s not a value that everybody really resonates with. Founder’s mentality helped us get back to the company and what made us successful back in the early days. And that was fun. We kind of recentered who we are and who we want to be and that remains the focal point for every single day and all of the decisions that we make in the moment and for the future.
One of the challenges as a CEO is there is so many different initiatives that we feel like we have to be driving all the time. You might have a major customer loss, or a major customer win, or a major opportunity that presents itself, all of which seem like they take a lot of focus. Given the speed of those things happening in business today, it can take our… you know we could talk about something that really important like core values and then two weeks later, think everybody’s on board and start talking about this new big opportunity in front in of us. Really, they might not even have heard that we’re talking about core values over that period of time. It’s important that we apply the discipline of, even though we see what needs to get done, that we apply the discipline of pulling back and going slow so it lets everybody catch up.
Absolutely. And you know I think that the other thing that happened is that we became, as an organization and as a company, so enamored and so motivated and so focused on growth that some of the other areas that are so… the building blocks to sustain growth and to fuel growth, we thought that everything was moving in the right direction because growth was happening, but this was the… it was one of the most challenging years, but it was the best year, and it was the best thing that ever happened to our company since I’ve been there.
So, Merrill has this great saying: “Profits hide problems.” I think you’re right; revenue in a lot of ways we think of it the cure-all for business, but, listening to your story… For listeners that might not have the context, you had a major customer loss or contraction of revenue and that caused you to refocus the business and, while year over year, it doesn’t look great, if you think about December over December, very positive growth trajectory.
Absolutely. And even in our projections and conversations that we’re having with our clients about where do we fit in within our learning plan, we have more opportunities, and it’s going to fuel significant growth this year. While we look at 2018 as something that was challenging, it was absolutely necessary to prepare us for the next three, five, ten years plus. I believe that, in hearing from our clients and hearing from my colleagues, we all have that solid foundation to build on, and we have the right metrics and KPI’s in place to make sure that we’re not just looking at growth, we’re not just looking at month over month, year over year, but we’re looking at all the different facets that fuel growth and sustain it as well.
So, Quester, AI company. Maybe could tell us a little bit about what it is you guys do.
Absolutely. Quester is a strategy, a research and consulting company. Our wow-factor or the unique factor is that around early 2005, between 2005-2010, we started developing the industry’s first and only Artificial Intelligence Backed Moderator. The respondents are actually engaging in chat-based or voice-based conversation with AI versus a human moderator, which allows us to scale qualitative into larger sample sizes. But where a lot of clients are leveraging us is taking traditional quantitative and qualitative phases of research and combining them together into one hybrid solution.
That sounds fantastic. And one of drums that I’ve been beating over the last 24 months, really two years, is… you think about what research is, quantitative research, specifically a survey, is a conversation at scale. If you and I were a small flower, let’s say, we don’t need to do a survey because we’re talking to our customers every day. But, if we have 100 flower shops, all of a sudden, we got to do a survey because it’s a conversation at scale. What’s interesting about artificial intelligence and machine learning and sentiment analysis and all the fantastic technology that’s come about in the last decade, is you can take qualitative data and process it so it literally is a conversation at scale.
Absolutely. And I don’t… everybody is enamored by the technology in our approach, but so much of the magic in what we do really is on our analysts; we have a team of quantitative analysts, marketing scientists, as well as linguistic analysts. We do things with qualitative and unstructured data. We quantify it in a way where businesses and consumer insights departments can present a finding that is qualitative in nature, unstructured in nature, but present it with the same confidence that they do quantitative information because they’ve talked to a representative sample size, they’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of their consumers. Now the insights look a bit different because it’s not just a data point with no depth. It’s a data point with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories, to support it. And that’s really the magic happens because our clients are finding that it’s… yes, here’s the strategy that we need to move forward with, but here’s the context (the full consumer context) that provides those guardrails to strategy implementation. That’s kind of the area we’re getting into more and more is not just stopping at the insight production but taking it all the way through insight execution.
Very interesting. My guest today, Tim, Quester. How do people get in contact with you?
You can call me: 515-509-1975 or email me at email@example.com.
Tim, thanks very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Anne Brown, Principal of Gazelle Global. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.
My guest today is Anne Brown, Gazelle Global Research Services. Anne, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast with me today.
Oh, this is fun.
Yeah. We’re at the CEO Summit. You’re picking up our conversation. Your husband – a Freedom Rider, and yesterday, of course, was Martin Luther King Jr. Yeah, right, so…
Do they do any celebrations or?
My husband usually… Unfortunately, my husband had a stroke about a year and a half ago, but he usually works with the African American men of Westchester. And they usually do a whole day of presentations and talking to the youth in Westchester where we live and that kind of thing.
Got it, got it. How exciting!
Yeah, it is pretty cool.
Such an important part of America. It’s going to be interesting to see, as this generation turns over, we will… We’ve got a whole other generation and a coming up and with all the political climates, things like that, it’s going to be an interesting time to see how the leadership steps up in these roles. But I don’t want to get too political, but…
Well, my husband is also on the Speaking Board for Facing History. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them, but they’re a wonderful organization. They started out of the holocaust, an organization for holocaust survivors. Now, they’re a teaching organization. So, he’s on the Speaking Board. Yeah, it’s a very interesting time to see how we’re going to bring our youth, how are they going to grow, how is diversity going to play into the lives of our future leaders.
Totally, totally. Now, how many years have you been coming to the CEO Summit?
A lot. Maybe 8 or 9.
8 or 9 years!
I’ve attended 8 or 9, not straight. I missed a few here and there, but yeah.
So what keeps bringing you back?
Oh, it is just an amazing, sharing experience with your peers. The joke is what you hear you know, “What happens at the CEO Summit stays at the CEO Summit,” which is so true.
Which is really, really funny ‘cause it’s the absolute opposite of Vegas because we’re literally stuck in a room. There’s a pool three feet away from this beautiful glass wall, and they have decided to close the curtains. So we might as well be in an interior dungeon, right?
True. I opened mine though. See that one that’s open there. I opened that one.
Yeah, I was rebellious. The sun’s coming in; I’m going to see the water. [laughs]
You’re going to see it a little bit. Oh, that’s great. So, Gazelle Global Research Services, what do you guys do?
We’re a global operations business. So we do everything, except design and analysis. We work internationally in all methodologies. Of course, we’re a sample provider like many of the sample companies today. We also do data processing; we translate into about 100 languages; we code in-language, recommend hosts, you know.
Got it. What are you programming on?
Are you really?
So we were an early beta site for Decipher, but we weren’t ready. You know Kristen makes fun of me. She said, “Oh, yeah, you didn’t buy it from me.”
I know. I actually know that story. I do. [laughs]
“Why didn’t you buy it from me?” We weren’t ready!
Timing is really important.
It is, yes. We love Decipher now.
That’s true. So, big take-aways? This is Day 2 of the conference. What’s your favorite thing?
My favorite thing is the communication and the freedom of speech that we have between all of us where we just share the roundtables. My roundtable was great today. I mean it was a really good sharing experience, sharing of ideas. I also liked Jay where he talked about…
It was sort of like a Meyers-Briggs but totally different, right? The personality profile.
Yes, I really like that because I think we all need to step away from hearing about what wonderful insights we have and how we got them and procurement. We need to sometimes put that aside, and we need to talk about something different. And I just thought that was a wonderful experience, something that we should all be using.
Did you take the test?
And did it seem like it fit?
It did. At first, I was like, “What are these letters?”
Just a little bit of background. Jay created – I think he created, right? or he works for that company, CEO of the company. He’s created a personality profile test, and it’s used by Merrill Dubrow’s company M/A/R/C Research as well as many, many organizations. And it’s employee profiling both at the entry (People are applying for jobs.) and then, as people are promoted inside the organizations. And what’s really interesting, a key take-away from Merrill, is that he asks his key clients to take the profile survey. And then he matches his staff to those accounts based on the profile characteristics. Hiring decisions are made on this. There’s a red – yellow – green. Red, of course, being, “Don’t hire”; Green “Can’t write the check fast enough.” It’s super applicable, which I think is probably one of the strengths of the approach.
I just thought it was amazing, and I also thought, “Well, OK, no wonder I don’t get along with this person.” [laughs] “Of course, I’m not going to get along with them, you know.”
Have you thought about having your husband do it?
I haven’t, I haven’t. [laughter] Maybe I should. I don’t know. But, yeah, I was thinking about it: Of course. No wonder why I don’t get along with them, you know. Here’s the explanation after all these years.
Insights Association’s Meryl and Steve have done a great job of creating a culture of transparency. I can’t think of more frank conversations in my entire career, right, my entire career, where people are talking about the true failures and struggles of leadership and then how they’re either learning from those or fixing them for growth.
Yeah, that’s why I keep coming back. Every time I come, there’s always something; there’s always a take-away; there’s always a learning experience; there’s always someone that I meet. It’s just…
Price of admission.
Yeah, totally. What did you think about the Facebook presentation today?
I thought it was interesting. I thought it was a wonderful way that she reached out.
It was a really unique presentation. In fact, I’ve never heard a presentation. She actually opened it up, which I respected a lot, saying, “I need your help to solve some big problems.” Then she proceeded to articulate the specific problems that she was having AND the rubric by which she judges vendors, which I thought was… I’ve never had that level of transparency before. I was quite literally open hand to the industry saying, “Can you help me? These are the problems that I’m dealing with.”
I don’t really do much with the neural part of the business. But I was… It was eye-opening really. “Oh, yeah, of course, it’s never going to work.” The way we’ve done it traditionally is never going to work now. I thought it was eye-opening. You know there were certain players in the room who were racing to the phone to call their team and get crackin’ on this. It was certainly in the wheelhouse of several of the people in the room. I thought it was great. I think that kind of sharing is something that you would never get anywhere else. The other part of it is that this is not a hard sell here. There’s none of that. There’s a listening… the environment of listening, the environment of understanding, the environment of sharing. And I think that’s why she felt the freedom to be so open because she wasn’t going to be attacked by people who… It was very thoughtful; everyone was very thoughtful in terms of how to respond to her. I think that’s something that’s… that we’re missing in the sell cycle that we have today where companies have teams of sales people who just about attack perspective buyers.
Totally. So interesting, so interesting. So, what types of companies do you work with at Gazelle Global Research?
Full-service research firms. 99% of our business is full-service. Occasionally, we might… once every couple of years we might work with an end-user if they happened to work with us in the past, and they just want to do something quick internally. They might come to us and say, “Hey, you know please help me with this.” My favorite one, which we don’t do anymore so I can maybe say it, was working with a company that sells a toy at Christmas time. It was so much fun. So it was an end-user. It’s a very famous toy that gets sold at Christmas time, and it was loads of fun doing it over the years. But rarely do we work with end-users.
Got it, got it.
Full-service research firms. You know we’re the operational arm. A long time ago, when Gazelle was a niche business, the person that was instrumental in getting us started said, “I want to do what I do best, which is design and analysis. I don’t want to do the part that you do. It dilutes my business. I have to invest too much in that area, and you can do it as well as I can. And I can just stay focused on the customer.
The added value of the core value of the…
I’m a clearinghouse really for many companies. I have the experience; I get a better price; I know where to go; people respond to me quicker.
Yeah, ‘cause you’re operating at scale. You’ve got the connections.
If you do one job in Brazil in a year, you think you’re going to get… I mean they take long even responding to me. Do you think, when I do 10, 12 in a year, do you think you’re going to get the same response time?
Totally different, totally different.
And I also know… I also have a better understanding of what things should cost and how to get things done. So that’s why. We’re there to make our clients lives easier. I know a lot of people feel like they have better control if everything is done in-house, but I really don’t think they do. I don’t think they always get the best value, and I’m not sure that they… I mean sometimes we see on the data processing side, we see things that are programmed so poorly. They don’t get it.
I think that’s interesting: the whole like penny-wise, pound-foolish principle. In this space, logistics are – just being truthful – logistics are the material part of the delivery. And having experts that have the connections in order to… and the experience to optimize QA, quality, quality, quality. Is it the right companies that you’re subcontracting to? Just getting rid of all that headache from somebody so that they can focus on the client and the analytics and helping the client adopt to those… integrate those insights into the business, that’s the added value and really why the customer is really paying the mark-up on those insights.
There’s also the offshoring versus the U.S. based that comes into play here, but I do contend… I mean I do understand why the very large conglomerates offshore because they have a huge chuck of money that they’re saving and, when you have that many zeroes, you have to look at it. But, when you’re a small firm, offshoring is ridiculous because the amount of time that you’re spending, the learning curve, the back and forth, the time spent in that communication when the time zones aren’t the same, it doesn’t make sense. I think that’s a reality that is… I don’t know that everyone has grasped that reality. I mean I do think that for the conglomerates there’s no doubt that they have to have those businesses in place offshore. Then, of course, there are certain jobs that really should never go offshore.
That’s right. Yeah, totally, totally. So, there are definitely use cases and, to your point, scales of business and things like that as to both but, generally speaking, I think the more in-country you can do – whether it’s in Latin America or Europe or Asia or North America – the better off your data is going to ultimately be and your overall experience. ‘Cause that’s a painful, painful, painful… can be a very painful experience. All the pain is always right in that silo of the processes.
Anyway, so, Anne, if someone wants to get in contact with you or your business, how would they do that?
firstname.lastname@example.org. 212-686-8808. I always answer my phone; I make a habit of answering. I think it’s the right thing to do. The thing about us is that we’re always there for our customers. So I’m available.
Anne Brown, Gazelle Global Research Services, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Yeah, this was pretty happy. It was fun. [laughter] Thank you.
Hi, my name is Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. We are live today on site at the CEO Summit in beautiful Miami. My guest today is Mendy Orimland with Prodege. Tell us a little bit about Prodege, who, by the way, I’ve worked with for many years?
Ok, oh, wow. Well, thank you for bringing me here. I know we were just hanging out near the pool area, and you grabbed me, “Hey, come talk for a bit.” And happy to do so. I’m actually a native; I’m from Miami; it’s my hometown. Raised…
Yeah, yeah. Always great to be back, and it’s my first time at the Insights CEO Summit. So excited to be here.
Prodege – So, we operate several different business units, but, since we’re at a market research event and I’m responsible for the market research business at Prodege. We are an online sample provider, data-collection provider, and again so excited. Thank you for having me.
So, CEO Summit 2019. This is Day 1, right? What are some of your big take-aways?
Yes, so what I really enjoyed and I think that some of the other events don’t necessarily capture the following component. I loved hearing people’s stories about their businesses and how it got started and the pain they went through and challenges and what they had to overcome. Oftentimes, we look at businesses that are already established and giants. People don’t realize that it was zero to one at some point. At some point, they had to go from zero to one. And sharing that is very inspiring. Diane was fantastic; Michael did a great job. So, for me, that was fantastic.
That was Michael McCrary from PureSpectrum and Diane from C-Space?
Right? C-Space now owned by Omnicom, I believe.
So, Prodege is a big company, a really big company. You guys have had a tremendous amount of success. How long have you been there?
I’ve been here almost nine years.
Have you guys had any struggles? Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to tell us a little bit about how you coped during a difficult time in the business.
Yeah, I think the struggles that I personally had within the business and the business had was actually the opportunity. So, when we actually first decided that we’re going to make a play within the market research industry and become a sample provider, a lot of naysayers, “No, no, you can’t.” I actually saw that as an opportunity. Let me elaborate on that for a minute. So, I happened to stumble upon the industry. I wasn’t necessarily… I haven’t been doing this for 20 years; it’s just a few years. And the thing that really inspired me personally was when I attended some of the industry events. And speakers got up to present something that sounded somewhat innovative; the reaction from the audience was negative, was received as negative. That was my perception, whether true or not. It just didn’t seem like the industry was embracing new tactics and innovation. That’s when for me the lightbulb moment. And, again, it’s an opportunity but a struggle because you have to overcome that barrier if a lot people are not necessarily embracing opportunities.
I love that. So, how did you overcome it?
I think it’s pretty simple. I know that people look for big answers when it comes to that. If you have a strong product, you can overcome anything.
It’s as simple as that.
Do you remember one of the early customers? Who it was?
Yes, I’m not sure if they would want to share their name on it. But, once we had our first customer, it really went very quickly. I also think it was an opportunistic time. The industry was… People were talking a lot about transparency. So again, not a lot of innovation but a lot of transparency. And I think a lot of companies appreciated the transparency they received by working with us, and we took advantage of that.
I’m hearing a lot about data quality in the last… I don’t know, my whole life honestly, it’s been about data quality. But it feels like it’s trending up again in the last six months or so. Do you have any thoughts on? Is a material issue, and, if so, what’s Prodege doing around that?
Ok, when you say “trending up,” in a positive or negative?
In a concern around… It’s almost like, if you think about a graph where have quality and price. We all know what the graph looks like, right? So, as you lower price, then, of course, you impact quality, at least conceptually. So the concern that I’ve been seeing a lot and hearing a lot by major brands like including Microsoft and Google is concern around, “Gosh, we really like the fact we’re paying whatever ($3 or $4 a complete) but we’re concerned that there’s not enough incentive that going to the respondent; therefore, they’re drawing a conclusion in their head, perhaps falsely, and they don’t know if it’s true or not: Is it a legitimate or a bad player that’s taking up a portion of the surveys?
Sure, sure. This is actually a topic I actually really enjoy talking about. I don’t get the opportunity to speak a lot about it often, but there’s a secret weapon out there or a secret topic that people don’t talk about often. It comes up in a way of passing, but they don’t realize how powerful and true it is. And you touched on. As it relates to recruitment and you have the pricing and the quality. There are so many different recruitment sources out there. So a panel provider who provides respondents (people – I’m so glad we’re finally calling them people today.)
Right? We are calling them people. There are so many different ways to recruit people to anything, right? So, you have different online sources; you have radio; you have television; you have all these different things. And there’s different price points that companies pay to bring them in the door. The reality that we face today is when there’s tremendous pricing challenges, and there’s a lot of players in the market research industry in the sample space. So all across the board, it impacts how much panel providers can spend on recruitment. And the rest is history. It really how much can you spend? And that’s what you’re able to bring in the door. I always like to use analogy. It’s a silly one but… You know there are different automobiles, different types of cars out there, right? At the end of the day, some people love quality; they love a Lexus. How much added value does it provide? In terms of price point, why is it so much higher than a Honda Civic? And, at the end of the day, you can’t get a Lexus at the same price as a Honda Civic. Why? Because to engineer the car, the dollars that go into it just cost more and, ultimately, you have to spend more to get that. Now, I’m not going to sit here; I’m not making a pitch that people should spend more anything. I think people should just be aware that these are ingredients that all come into play when it comes to getting a survey complete. You, as the client, make the choice. It’s your choice. The beautiful thing about today (I know a lot of people complain), the beautiful thing is there are options out there, yeah. You have a lot of optionality. Take what works for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all anymore.
Love it. Yeah, I think that’s a really good way of framing it. Do you think there’s going to be an increase in transparency of the amount of the CPI that goes towards the person in the way of incentive over time? Do you think that’s going to improve or increase?
I love that one. So what you get… I think what panel providers are asked quite often is “What do you do about incentives?” “What are you paying these people?” I actually think the question is really more, “How much are you paying when they come in the door?” Not the incentive on the panel, on the survey complete. Now, I don’t think people would share the answer to that because again that is a company’s proprietary information. They don’t have to share that with anyone not because they’re hiding anything, because that is what they do as a company. So I think, at the end of the day, it’s not just the incentive: incentive is one piece; it’s one ingredient, one piece of the puzzle. Recruitment matters, and it matters a lot.
So, what do you attribute to the massive success that Prodege has had in the market? I mean you guys have become a dominant force.
Oh, thank you.
I mean in the panel space. So, what do you see as sort of that ingredient that you guys have brought?
Ok, I think there are a couple, a few components. One of things that I think has really helped us a company, if I be very, very honest here, is we didn’t come into this with baggage. No prior baggage that came along, right? We were able to kind of pave our own way. Oftentimes you hear: “You have to do it ‘cause this is how we’ve been doing it for all these years. And oftentimes, depending on the stage of a company, it’s challenging on how to deal with that because it’s true. You’ve been doing things for so many years. It’s hard to change; it’s very challenging. I don’t think people should ever make fun of that. It is a huge challenge but, for us fortunately, the time we entered we didn’t have any prior baggage. I also came with just fresh lens and said that if we just stand behind our product and the quality of the product, I do think at the end of the day, it will prevail and it’ll trump ahead because I always said the thing that I focus on the most, which I know many people probably say this, but, as a company, the quality of work, there’s no cutting corners and no comprising. That’s the one area we want to sell. It comes at a cost, but I think it’s a longer term approach. I think we had the luxury of being able to take that approach.
I think that the point that you’re making about the long… adding value to the customer we heard this today with Cleveland Clinic, massive healthcare company. Adding value is the key component to building a successful partnership over time, right? ‘Cause it’s all about brand, which is just performance over time. So it does not surprise me that you’ve had the amount of success that you have in that framework.
And I’d add one thing that I think is super key, a key ingredient. I know what I don’t know. Again, I didn’t grow up the space of market research. We had an idea; we had a business concept; we thought we could do something. And, I went out and I was fortunate enough to hire and find really good staff and a really good team. The team is absolutely incredible, and I give a lot of thanks to them for allowing us to do what we do. Without them, again you can have an idea but without the team behind it… And the expertise that they bring to the table has been tremendous.
CEO Summit 2019. Mendy, Prodege, thanks so much for coming to the Happy Market Research Podcast.
I’m here at the CEO Summit with Mike from Cint. Mike, welcome to the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
This is the CEO Summit. Have you been here before?
This is my first time. Amazing. The talent in the room. I’m very lucky to be here, in fact.
Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your journey and to Cint.
Yeah, wow, very interesting. So I originally was a calculus teacher,
For high school, junior high, college?
I was at a prep school where I taught 18-year olds, and then taught a little bit of junior college, and had one class at a Cal State University.
I can’t believe I just said junior high by the way. Anyway, go ahead. Sorry.
There’s probably some kids out there.
Maybe, yeah. Two.
Ironically, given the news today (I’ll let you talk about that later), I was brought to the industry in 2011 by a friend who I played golf with. He started explaining to me the nuances of the market research industry. It blew me away that people actually got paid to take surveys. It was the first time that I… you know. So that tells you the knowledge level that I had coming into this industry, but it’s been an amazing journey. So, over the past eight years, I kind of went from… it was nice actually coming in with no experience, had fresh eyes, came in on the ground floor, and just sort of started working my way up through the industry. And I don’t need to say this to you. So much has changed just in the eight years I’ve here. It’s amazing being in the room with these people who’ve been in this industry 20, 30, however many years they’ve been in, and seen the things they’ve seen. Just my exposure in the last eight years has been really incredible.
Cint has gone through some transitions.
Talk to us a little bit about what you’re seeing as one of the big trends in market research.
I think that everybody has seen that technology can play a major role with regards to the sampling process itself. The model that existed in the beginning of putting a lot of effort, money, whatever it is into building a panel and that cost for acquisition that people were putting in, trying to then recoup and get an ROI on that was fine for a while. Price compression and just the way we’ve been able to deliver a sample has really put a lot strain, I think, on a lot of the traditional panel owners. And us as a company, starting 20 years ago, I think at a really advantage I guess, if you will, in terms of how we operate, where this exchange model was pretty future-proof.
It should be mentioned that actually started in 1998 and was the leader in the sample (I don’t know if this is the right term) sample marketplace, right?
Yeah, I would say credit to Bo Mattsson, our founder, who had this vision of an exchange model. It’s funny I mentioned that I started at Cint in 2011. We had a real tough time explaining that model to the industry here in the United States.
And what’s funny about it is, if you think about just work flow. When I started Decipher, this was the premise: is that as a researcher I spend a lot of my time doing certain functions. In those days, it was like things like term and tally sheets. I’m not going to get into what that is, but it was a real pain in the ass.
As we’ve evolved through technology, the surveying is actually not the hard… The programming of the survey is not the hard part now. The hard part has become the fielding and the mapping the terms and the quotas in your survey to the actual the actual sample that you’re getting from your suppliers. And that takes… That still is a lot of baling wire and rubber bands, it feels like.
Yeah, and I think it’s the job of technology to make that easier. We talk about ourselves as being in the supply chain management business.
That’s exactly it.
The supply business, it’s still a part of what we do, but truly, if we’re going to bring value to our clients, what we’re doing is we’re going there, making them more efficient. We’re taking their supply chain from an antiquated place to a more modern place where they’re not having to do those things and use bubble gum and scotch tape to try to cobble things together.
It’s almost like the principles we learn in B school from lean manufacturing and adopted, of course, by Eric Ries, the lean startup and now maybe it’s time for lean research.
Listen, it is. It’s happening already, right? There’s companies out there, PureSpectrum one of them, looking at making the whole, entire research process being automated. I think that the traditional way of doing research in the past was expensive, cumbersome, took a long time. The modern consumer has changed compared to five, ten, as far back as we want to go. And things are changing so quickly that companies need the ability to be more agile and move quicker than they ever did before. So, getting that feedback, those insights as quick as possible is of the utmost importance now.
So, thinking about Cint specifically, what are you guys offering that is bringing value to the market and people are really grabbing it, customers are grabbing it. And it’s ok to brag.
[laughs] Thank you. Probably the biggest thing now is… You know for a long time our entire business was about an open-exchange model where somebody could come to a really great user interface, DIY tool, be able to get sample. We’re moving more to a place of allowing companies to create their own marketplace: Choose the suppliers that they want to choose with the own rates they want to dictate with those suppliers and then Cint just becomes, in essence, the plumbing system, the piping that allows for that sample to easily be transmitted from the supplier to the client themselves. It’s really about creating a solution for them that makes their life easier.
My guest today has been Mike with Cint. Mike, thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Yeah, I really appreciate it, Jamin. Thank you very much.
And thank you very much everybody that’s tuning in. We are going to go have some cocktails.
This is the first interview of the Insight Association’s CEO Summit 2019. Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Michael J. Vigeant, CEO of GreatBlue Research. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.
This is episode 202 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, and I’m your host Jamin Brazil, bringing you a special episode straight from the Insights Association’s CEO Summit in Miami. We hope you enjoy these interviews. They’re conducted by some of the speakers as well as fellow CEOs.
This is Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. We are live today. Well, not really live I guess when you hear this, but a few days afterwards at CEO Summit in beautiful Miami. GreatBlueResearch is here with me. Michael, welcome.
Jamin, great to see you again, buddy.
Yeah, we met each other last year at this CEO conference. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about your business.
So, GreatBlue is a full-service market research firm. Our goal is to help you solve business problems, identify market opportunities, test product services, and figure how you can make your business better.
So, give me an example of a customer… kind of how they engage with you guys. What does that look like?
So, it’s everything. We work a lot in the utilities marketplace: so, everything from identifying whether solar or investing in solar cultures or electric vehicle services or programs make sense for a particular utility. We work with some major product developers across the US, taking products from concept to store shelf and everything in between: so, testing prototypes within users; Identifying where there is feature benefit improvements that could made, but also designing packaging and store-shelf looks and feels, and quick startup guides and making sure they’re logical and doing what they’re intended to do. So, lots of different things.
Yeah, so, sounds like quite a few different things, which is good. So in other words, you really adapt the overall solution to match – it’s the right shoe for the right foot.
Yeah, typically, it has everything to do with making sure that the product or services is meeting the needs of that end-user. Sometimes, that end-user, we’re measuring engagement and satisfaction; sometimes, we’re measuring the need, and how well they like a product or service, and what they might spend for it, or what would prevent them from purchasing or utilizing a particular service or product. So, it can be any number of things, which is what keeps it interesting and fun for our team.
So, predominantly, primary research, right?
Yeah, awesome. You have been at this conference at least one other time.
This is actually my fourth.
Fourth time. So, tell me a little bit about what’s the benefit of the CEO Summit for you as a CEO.
Yeah, so, you know when I think about my evolution, I’ve now owned the business for going on ten years. And, when I start to think about my growth as a CEO, as an owner, it is this group of people specifically that I really rely on for information, not just professionally, but personally. We share. Last year was a big growth year for us not only for the business, but how I was transforming my business internally, how I wanted to be off the road more, spending more time with my family, giving that ownership and that authority and that push to my team to go out and own the space that I had for so many years – and what I say internally – is getting out their way. It was the people here that helped me learn how to do that. And so, the insight that’s had here and the conversation that are had here, not just during the sessions, but at the bar or sitting by pool or having a coffee over breakfast – it’s all those things where folks can open up the vest and they let you in. There’s a lot of transparency, a lot of honesty, not necessarily trading client secrets but we’re trading industry secrets. And what happens there is that the industry remains strong and gets stronger and gets better, and, as a result, we all win.
So, give me… You’re a successful CEO with a decade of experience under your belt. Give me one CEO hack, or tip, or trick that you would like to share our fellow CEOs that are listening to the podcast.
For me, it is really asking my staff this question: when do I get in your way and how can I get out of way? That is probably the biggest piece of advice that I can give. I think it shows them that I’m vulnerable to them. I want to help them; I want to be there for them, but I also want them to stand on their own two feet and fail, and own their failures. But that I have their back to do it. So that’s been a big transformation because my predecessor, the gentleman that I start working for when I first entered this industry 20 years ago, said the business will only grow when you’re doing things that I don’t know about. So part of that was his way of getting out of my way. So, I have to pay that forward. So that is probably my biggest piece of advice, and all big decisions I make over a Dairy Queen blizzard.
I love it. [laughs] So, if people want to get in contact with you, what is the best… what’s the website or the best way for them to contact you?
Sure. My email address is Michael@GreatBlueResearch, and our website is GreatBlueResearch.com. Happy to have a conversation; see if there’s something that we can do. If we can’t, we’ll point you in the right direction of someone that we know who probably can.
Michael, GreatBlueResearch. Thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.