Versta Research Newsletter

Dear Reader,

Every market research professional has a dual role.

We are all vendors to clients (even corporate researchers have internal clients they serve). And we are all clients to vendors (even supply-side vendors have their own chain of vendors).

Two years ago, we were inspired to reflect on the vendor side of this dual role, with lessons learned about how to be a great vendor. In this newsletter, we are inspired to reflect on the client side of the equation with a feature article on Seven Lessons Learned from Great Clients. Nary a day goes by that I do not reflect upon these lessons, because keeping them front and center makes our work so much better.

Other items of interest in this newsletter include:
We are also delighted to share with you:

… which highlights our recent work for Wells Fargo about marriage equality and the shifts in financial planning for LGBT Americans..

As always, feel free to reach out with an inquiry or with questions you may have. We would be pleased to consult with you on your next research effort.

Happy summer,

The Versta Team

Seven Lessons Learned from Great Clients

Previously we wrote a feature article on the Nine Habits of Great Market Research Vendors, which got some surprisingly strong reviews from industry colleagues, vendors, and clients. It was inspired by what we have learned over the years from our various suppliers—some great, some not-so-great.

There was one thing that nagged at me while writing the article, however: I want great vendors, but maybe I’m not always such a great client. Sometimes I don’t follow up on phone calls, or share information quickly, or offer feedback so they can improve. It feels easier (to me, at least) to be a great vendor than to be a great client.

So how can I be a better client? Look to our own great clients. Many of them stand out as exemplars of managers who bring out the very best in their vendors. I find myself continually thinking back to important moments, conversations, or turning points with specific people who have improved our work. More than ever I find myself sharing stories with our employees about what I’ve learned from our best (and sometimes our worst) clients that I could not have learned any other way.

So here is a companion list to our previous article about vendors, with an emphasis on some of the most valuable lessons we have learned from (and for which we deeply admire) really great clients.

Seven Lessons Learned from Great Clients

1 Clients know their business better than we do. It may seem obvious, but vendors sometimes believe otherwise. As much as we know about research, great clients continually demonstrate their deep intuition about what will work and what won’t work—what will yield the most meaningful data given how it is used internally and how it must be sold to managers or markets. When a client idea strikes us as odd or unexpected, we remind ourselves of how often we’ve seen unexpected ideas yield research findings that resonate far beyond what we anticipated.

2 Vendor expertise matters only if we make it useful. Indeed, vendors know a great deal about research, but fancy expertise matters only if it uniquely useful to our clients, which is never easy when research needs, projects, and problems evolve so quickly. Advanced degrees and years of experience get noticed and add credibility. Beyond that, however, our past and our training is only the beginning point for them—it is merely a hopeful sign that we can learn quickly, apply and adapt our expertise, and answer their specific strategic questions.

3 Be there when needed, be gone when not. Sure our clients love responsiveness, high touch service, and they value a personal relationship that makes working together rewarding and fun. But they also have jobs to do, careers to build, teams to manage, organizations to navigate. Even if the research we’re doing is central to their work, we are not needed or wanted at every turn. Sometimes we can help them most by staying out of the way. We feel satisfied that we have laid the foundation for their success; now it is back to our desks to get ready for the next round.

4 Meetings matter. Research vendors like us spend a lot of time “doing and making,” which requires long stretches of uninterrupted time to get work done. Meetings may disrupt the flow of work, and can sometimes feel like a burden. Our clients, however, have taught us how important meetings are, as well as the importance of being prompt and prepared and ready to pitch in. Meetings are efficient ways to align information and set expectations. They build relationships and buy-in from internal clients and vendors alike. And at the end, they provide opportunities to share credit and thanks. Meetings help us and our clients deliver much better work.

5 Sharing information helps everyone. Perhaps the most common characteristic among clients I admire is that they generously share information—about them and their organizations, about the work we are doing and why we are doing it, and about how we are doing in meeting their needs. They offer debriefs (usually without us asking) on proposals and projects, telling us where we scored and where we missed. The information provides crucial insights for us to do our best work, and it helps us to improve for the next effort. It inspires openness on our end, too, so that we are communicating clearly and consistently about what we are doing and how.

6 Doing it over makes it better. Even if we think a deliverable is perfect, sometime a client disagrees. The great ones do not hesitate to tell us when we’ve missed the mark, and in what ways, so that we can give it another shot. Rewriting a questionnaire outline, reformatting a report, simplifying an analysis, digging deeper to answer newer and more interesting questions—of course it involves unexpected time and effort, but the payoff of doing something over again can be huge. It makes the research more relevant to the people who need it, and that makes the research better.

7 Share credit and say thanks. This is something I do with our employees, but sometimes I forget with our vendors. But for my own sake I should, because when our clients acknowledge the quality and importance of the work we’ve done for them, it thrills us and doubles our motivation to work even harder on the next one. Great clients share credit all around, like when I recently thanked a new corporate colleague who helped us fix an error on our blog. How did he respond? He asked us to additionally acknowledge two of his team members who were involved as well.

Being a client to our vendors, and a vendor to our clients, gives us welcome opportunities to learn deep lessons from both. What we have learned from clients is that we help them most by continually adjusting and re-evaluating our work to complement their own expertise and how they need to share our work internally. All of it has cultivated a deep respect for the jobs that they do.

So, thank you to all the great clients who give us the opportunities to do the work that we love, and for the lessons you have taught us. Every time we work with you, we improve as a vendor, and we learn how to become a better client to our vendors. Ultimately you make the work that we deliver better all around.

Stories from the Versta Blog

Here are several recent posts from the Versta Research Blog. Click on any headline to read more.

Hurdles to Using Big Data

The hype is dying down and presumably big data is everywhere. But how many of us in marketing and research are actually using it? Not many, and here’s why.

Research Tip: Turn Your Data Into Stories

The goal of great market research is to provide answers substantiated with data. To make it really shine, your goal should be to Turn Data Into Stories.

No, Crowdsourcing Hasn’t Replaced Focus Groups

Crowdsourcing offers a valuable complement to other qualitative methods, but it just ain’t true that it’s replacing focus groups, as our colleague Kathy Doyle explains.

What You Lose with Online Concept Tests

New research shows that consumers process information differently depending on how they view it (screen vs. paper) raising issues for online concept tests.

The Coolest Chart You Probably Never Use

Sankey charts are an intuitive and dazzling visualization of crosstabs. They are ideal when you want to show how people “flow” from one category into another.

The “Disney Experience” of Market Research

My experience at Disney World was so refreshing: No pesky research requests for survey feedback at every turn! Here is the thinking behind the magic.

No, You’re Not a Data Scientist

Market research is not data science (and never will be) because even though our work is grounded in data, we must go far beyond it by turning data into stories.

Make an Infographic Something to Explore

One secret to creating great infographics for market research is to offer something the reader must explore. Here are three simple techniques for achieving that.

What Is an Accessible Survey, Anyway?

Before jumping into the technical issues of designing ADA accessible surveys, here is an intuitive guide to understanding what makes online surveys accessible or not.

Who You Are Missing with Online Surveys

New research shows that even though one in ten Americans have no Internet access, not including them in surveys has little or no impact on survey findings.

Help Wanted: Smart Researchers Who Interpret Findings

Feeling cautious about venturing beyond our data reflects deep intelligence, which is exactly why we must venture beyond it with meaningful interpretations.

Versta Research in the News

LGBT Survey for Wells Fargo: From Marriage to the Baby Carriage

Versta Research conducted a third year of research to document important trends in LGBT financial concerns now that marriage equality is established nationwide.