Versta Research Newsletter

Dear Reader,

Though most of us think of ourselves primarily as researchers, perhaps the role of consultant applies just as well. As Peter Block, the author of a now-classic book on consulting says: “You are consulting any time you are trying to change or improve a situation but have no direct control over the implementation.”

Getting our research implemented is one of the toughest issues we face. If we succeed, it is one of the most satisfying.

So in this newsletter we summarize insights from three corporate researchers in our feature article, Three Paths to Getting Your Market Research Utilized. These researchers spoke at a recent conference in Chicago, and we think you will find their ideas as provocative as we did.

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

This section features, among other news, information about our upcoming presentation at the Advertising Research Foundation’s annual conference in March.

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 New Year!

The Versta Team

Three Paths to Getting Your Market Research Utilized

The best thing about the annual Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC) sponsored by the Marketing Research Association (MRA) is that it focuses on people using research. Rather than being focused on tools and technologies and the latest methodological trends (all of which are essential to our work) it focuses on how to get internal marketing and corporate clients using the research we produce.

That is what we want most of all, right? To know that the internal consumers of our work are actually using it. To know that we’ve turned data into stories that are understood. To know that our tools and toiling make a difference, that our research matters, and that our clients are better off for it.

Ultimately, the internal users of research are always on the corporate side, which is what brings me again and again to the CRC. How do corporate researchers make it happen?

Three presentations by corporate researchers from the recent CRC conference were especially useful in answering these questions. We’ve summed up their insights with a memorable acronym:




I promise you, these aren’t empty platitudes, for each presenter described real organizational structures and processes they were putting in place to make sure that research was integral to how their companies were making decisions.

Here is a brief look at these three components of becoming an ACE market researcher who succeeds in getting research used.

ADVOCATE for the Customer

One approach to getting research used is to transform the research group into being the champions of customers within the company. This is what Neal Kreitman did at OneMain Financial. Kreitman, vice president of market research, realized that nobody else in his company had a better big-picture view of what customers were saying, or how satisfied they were, and whether they were likely to stay or leave. So who better to advocate on their behalf than him? And with data at hand and analysis skills at the ready, who better to document the bottom line importance of doing so?

He began with a do-it-yourself customer journey map, laying out the customer touch points with an eye toward documenting customer perspectives from the moment they first consider OneMain Financial to the moment they leave. Then he slotted his group’s research into the map, building new efforts for areas not yet explored. Everything fed into the journey map: brand tracking, satisfaction tracking, focus groups, ethnographies, pricing studies, you name it.

“If you take the customer’s perspective . . .
it’s very easy to see where the problems are.”

“If you take the customer’s perspective and look at what they’re experiencing,” Kreitman said, “it’s very easy to see where the problems are.” Kreitman’s team would then triangulate with other research and pull in additional perspectives. On the employee side he explored how front-line loan specialists were interacting with customers at branches—what were their frustrations, and where did they see customers being shortchanged? On the competitor side he looked at what other customers were saying.

Then “advocacy” came to the fore when Kreitman created a Customer Experience Council at OneMain composed of managers from across the company who are committed to enhancing customer experience. The council now reviews what the research team is finding, vets recommendations, brainstorms new ideas, and implements customer improvements throughout their organizations.

COMMUNICATE the Research Stories

Another key to getting research used within organizations is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how many corporate research teams actually hire an employee solely for research communications? That’s what Tribune Company does, as described by Andrew Ladd, the Tribune’s director of strategic research and insight.

The Tribune has a “research communications strategist” as a full time member of the research team, responsible for creating content based on research findings, facilitating development of research collateral like white papers or video interviews, creating infographics to share findings with management teams, writing internal news releases, and so on.

“Insights start at the presentation.”

Ladd reminds his research team that a presentation of findings is just the beginning, not the end. “How research survives beyond the presentation and outside the deck, determines its impact,” Ladd says. “Insights start at the presentation.” From there, the communications strategist takes the lead in curating and disseminating both primary and secondary research.

As part of this, the research team has an intranet news website with daily news briefs, a bi-weekly “trend watch” newsletter, a monthly email update to top leadership, webinars, training decks, and so on. The team is moving beyond just doing and delivering research. They’re pushing it out in consistent, multiple, and re-purposed ways so that the insights they develop become “socialized” into the very fabric of the larger organization.

EDUCATE to Enable

How does the research group at Adobe Systems get research used and adopted by business teams? By teaching them to do it themselves. “People are doing their own research anyway,” says Darcey Merriam, who leads an ongoing effort to integrate market research into the innovation process at Adobe Systems, “So let’s enable them to do it well.”

To achieve this, the research group experiments with narrow hypothesis-based studies that can be done easily, quickly, and with inexpensive tools like crowd-sourced respondent recruiting and DIY survey tools. A research project might involve five qualitative interviews done over a few days, or a quick micro-survey over the weekend to decide whether an idea is worth testing on a bigger scale. (For more ideas like this, see our newsletter about last year’s CRC called New Approaches for Faster and Cheaper Research.)

“We’re educating business teams and helping them do research in small, lean ways on their own.”

With a keen feel for how smaller research studies work, her team then shares the approaches with the product innovation teams, and offers up its methodological expertise to help. They’ve created a library with sample materials, guidelines of best practices, “how-to” manuals, and tips for simple research analysis that anyone can do.

“We’re not really evolving research,” said Merriam. “Because research is research. We’re evolving our role. So we’re educating business teams and helping them do research in small, lean ways on their own.”

The presentations highlighted here reminded me a lot of Peter Block’s excellent book, Flawless Consulting, which is coincidentally sub-titled, A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. Research can be great, and it can use all the latest innovations and tools, and be full of brilliant insights. But technology and expertise will not sell research. Getting research used requires soft skills and relationship building—things like Advocating, Communicating, and Educating. It takes both technical know-how and building relationships to become a true market research ACE.

Stories from the Versta Blog

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

How to Calculate an NPS Margin of Error

You can’t use the typical z-test for percentages on Net Promoter Scores, so here are the formulas to calculate margins of error and to test for significant differences.

Scrolling vs. Paging on Mobile Surveys

Mobile surveys demand that we continually reassess survey best practices when it comes to question layout, recruitment, and answer scales. Here is the latest.

Versta Research Tops Quirk’s “Best Of” List

Our newsletter article on How to Create Spectacular Infographics was reprinted by Quirk’s in October and it ended up on their list of most-read articles for 2014.

Cool Christmas Drawings with R

One reason R is becoming so popular is that it has powerful graphics and data visualization capabilities, as illustrated by this fun drawing of a Christmas tree.

Online Surveys Reach 87% of Population

If you have to do a phone survey, be sure to include cell phones in your sampling frame. Here are 3 recent improvements to cell phone sample that will help.

Train Wreck Infographics

If your infographic has too much data and not enough story, it’s probably as bad as most research reports. This example (from a surprising source) illustrates.

Seeing Stories Everywhere

Human brains have the amazing capability of creating meaning and stories out of even random and unconnected bits of data. So why is market research so boring?

Telltale Signs of a Pointless Poll

The Wizard of Id reports that 99% of people are tired of pointless polls. Here are ways to know if your PR-driven survey is more pointless than newsworthy.

Math for Journalists

Turning data into stories is a challenge for journalists, marketing and PR people just as it is for researchers. Here is a free online course that can help.

How to Label Your 10-Point Scale

Besides boosting validity and reliability, anchoring the midpoint of a zero-to-ten scale with a label will decrease item non-response and improve data quality.

Don’t Bare It All with Your Data

New research in social psychology shows that too much data weakens presentations not because of overload, but because weak data lessens the impact of strong data.

M.I.T. Engineer Flunks Stats

The head of a prestigious university devoted to math and science seems not to understand how statistics allows us to make strong inferences from small samples.

Versta Research in the News

Affluent Women Enjoy Making Money

Versta Research conducted a survey of affluent women for Wells Fargo, which was recently featured in stories by Bankrate, Forbes, and other news media outlets.

Homebuyers Addicted to Technology

A new study for Discover Home Loans documented how recent homebuyers use technology and online listings, and was featured in Time and on other news sites.

New Research on Employee Productivity

Versta conducted a new survey for Fellowes documenting current challenges and trends in employee productivity at the workplace.

Versta Research to Share PR Insights at ARF

Versta Research will present at the Advertising Research Foundation’s annual Re:Think conference along with Wells Fargo with a paper entitled “Sync Your Message with Social Change and Quadruple Your Earned Media.”