- Don’t be a creative writer. Unless written as simply and concisely as possible, I wouldn’t recommend translating an American version of a survey or discussion guide for research in other countries. It is so natural to include idioms, clichés, jargon, slang, euphemisms, and wordiness in our communication that we may not even be aware of it. Just last month I was working on a project in Germany and the concept included the phrase “take it to the next level” (translated, of course). Given the confusion it caused in the first group because it simply did not make sense to consumers, we decided to drop the concept idea altogether.
- The more the merrier? When conducting global research, budget and resource discussions inevitably lead to compromises. While it would be nice to include 12 countries in your concept test, it’s generally not necessary. There are many exercises researchers can go through with their business partners to identify the countries or markets that MUST be included. These exercises range from evaluating sales data to identifying consumer groups most likely to offer differing opinions. And, a silver lining to narrowing the focus of the research is that resources are freed up and more time can be spent understanding feedback.
- Are you positive it’s all positive? I’ve done a bit of research in Italy and am generally impressed with the overly optimistic consumer attitude, which is quite similar to consumers in Mexico and Brazil. I read an interesting study by Nielsen on Consumers And Happiness recently. Although it’s a bit outdated (2008), Nielsen’s observation that Latin Americans are “the world’s most optimistic consumers…the most confident and the most likely to be in the mood to shop” is worth noting. This is important for research because findings are often more positive than in other countries and so it becomes even more important to surface the negatives and focus the conversation to gain actionable insight. To do this, researchers must often listen for what’s not being said and understand the difference between “exceptional” and simply “good” as described by the consumer.
As a global researcher, I’ve logged more than my fair share of miles in the sky, especially over the past few years. But, as much as I travel, I am still learning how to do it “right”. I think of a good trip as one that is relatively stress free and leaves me as healthy as when I started. Below are a few tips I use to keep myself on track:
- Do you really need all that stuff? It can add hours to your trip if you have to check a bag. I make most trips with a nice sized shoulder bag plus an international carry-on, which is (sadly) a bit smaller than what most American’s use as a carry-on. This allows for speedier airport escapes and easier travel between airports, trains and hotels. For some good packing tips, be sure to check out Melissa Maker’s video on How To Pack A Carry On Suitcase.
- When in Rome…do they speak English? Read about the countries you plan to visit online and try to figure out beforehand if they’re likely to speak English. If they are not likely to speak your language, and vice versa, consider ways to best enable communication. For instance, when traveling in Japan, print directions in local language (Japanese kanji characters) to facilitate communication with taxi drivers. You should also ask the hotel for a cab card, which is a business card with the hotel name on it, both in English and in Japanese kanji. And, consider traveling with a tour guide book, which will generally contain common useful phrases as well as cultural insights and references to aid in your travels.
- Attack of the killer phone bill! After a hefty phone bill, I investigated my travel communications options and came up with several ways to save. First, it is much cheaper to rent a phone in other countries than to turn on international roaming on your US plan, and this can be done in advance over the internet. And, did you know that you can send messages from iDevice to iDevice for free, from anywhere on the planet with Wi-Fi access? This is essentially free texting. Most iPhone users are aware that sometimes their messages are in blue callouts and other times they are in green callouts. The blue callouts are indicative of iMessaging (free in the US, and free over Wi-Fi internationally), and the green callouts are for actual texting. Skyping (video conferencing) is also free and you can Skype message (like text messaging) to/from any device that has Skype downloaded on it.
- Hydrate. We all know we’re supposed to drink 8 glasses (64 ounces) of water per day to stay hydrated and healthy. This is even more important when traveling. It’s surprisingly easy to get dehydrated during travel, and this can lead to tiredness, dizziness and headaches, among other things. The cabin air on planes is lacking in humidity, and drinking strong alcohol and caffeinated beverages can also contribute to dehydration. When traveling, I always consider water over other drink options, and aim for 80 to 100 ounces a day. It’s a bit risky for finding a public restroom, but better than the alternative wooziness and headache.
- Global Entry is your friend. For $100, 15 minutes of your time, and your willingness to give up a set of fingerprints, you can apply for a pass that gets you back in to the US without waiting in customs lines. The Global Entry pass is good for five years, so it’s essentially $20 per year to bypass that torturous line at the end of a long trip.
What tips do you have for keeping travel stress free and enjoyable? I look forward to your comments.
We all know it’s “good” to give back. Since we don’t all have money to spare, we may choose to donate our time and share knowledge. It’s all philanthropic, after all. Or is it? Volunteering can actually help you more than it helps others, if you are open to the sort of opportunities it can provide.
Having volunteered for a local nonprofit marketing organization for more than five years, I’ve become keenly aware of these opportunities and their potential impact on careers.
Here are the top five things I’ve learned from volunteering:
5: Nuggets are gold. If you walk away with any new or usable information from an encounter – either with another volunteer, at a meeting, in doing an assignment, or just reading an email, you are richer than before. Seek and cherish the opportunities to glean knowledge, and be sure to share in return.
4: Delegating is GOOD. Recruit help. Sometimes it’s easier to oversee a small group of volunteers than to do it all yourself. And, as an added bonuus, this falls under “manager training” on your resume.
3: You are allowed to fail. Volunteering can offer a safer environment for testing the waters, taking risks, trying new things, learning from mistakes… And a good organization will meet failure with support, learn from it, and move forward boldly with the new learnings. Capitalize on this.
2: You WILL meet people. Expanding your network is never a bad thing. And, if you’re open to it, you just might make a friend or two!
1: It can be about YOU. Volunteering can be custom-fit. You have it in your power to mold your volunteer role into THE perfect opportunity for you. Focus on your résumé by exploring possible careers, taking on new challenges, developing leadership skills, building technical knowledge… imagine the possibilities!
What’s been your biggest take-away from volunteering?
Now, I’ve accepted it and publicly admitted to it, so I can move forward with change. Like so many of the marketing professionals I know and encounter, I need more life in my work/life balance. I am the only one who can do anything about that, and it is well within my power to do so.
Establishing balance can reduce stress, circumvent ineffectiveness and burnout, and ward off that not-so-positive attitude. We all know this, yet we prioritize work at the expense of our personal lives, rarely if ever, stopping to reflect on the bigger equation. When we spend time on work this weekend, we are actually trading away our personal lives for work…for someone else’s buck…for someone else’s life balance. Hmmm…are we not as important?
At least part of the reason We do this is because finding balance isn’t easy. It takes work and commitment on top of a priorities adjustment. Somehow we convince ourselves that spending more hours “on the clock” equates to better performance in the eyes of management. But, is your boss really aware? Does management truly recognize the hours we spend on our own time as “above and beyond” or have we set the expectation that we are willing to work the jobs of more than one person?
I offer you a few of the things I am now focused on because my personal life should get at least as much respect and attention as my professional life:
1. I am now scheduling personal time. Yep, fun and relaxation, workouts, lunch, coffee, TV, etc. are now on my calendar because I work my days to that calendar and if the time is blocked, I will stick to the schedule.
2. I am learning to say “no”. As it turns out, I don’t always have to be the hero. And it is okay to allow room for someone else to step up. This one is hard for me because of my personality, so it will take practice, practice, practice…
3. I am setting more personal goals, including blogging more, getting fit (and losing those darn stubborn ten pounds), reading several books and FUN articles in my not-necessarily-work-related pile, and planning a much overdue vacation.
Remember, balance will improve your whole life – personal and professional. So tell me, what do you do to add more balance to your life?
Image used under creative commons by James Jordan
As much as I advocate for market research (um, every day), I also know there are many reasons NOT to move forward with a research project, and they are not always so obvious. A few I am specifically mindful of are:
The Decision Is Already Made
Will the concept launch before the research results are in? Will the ad move forward despite the findings of the research? Is it impossible at this stage to change the packaging even if it’s what the customer wants? In every research consultation, I ask my clients “what will you do if the results we get are the opposite of what you’re expecting?” If the answer is “nothing”, then I know the decision has already been made and we can move the discussion in a different direction.
The Answer is Already Known
There are two types of market research – primary and secondary. Primary research is research that is tailored to specific needs, like ad testing or customer satisfaction. Secondary research is basically the collection and utilization of data/results from previous research efforts conducted either internally or externally. A good example of this is the data collected by the government in the US census.
Before going out to conduct your own research, you should consider whether your question has been asked before and where the answer(s) could be found. By starting with secondary research, you can avoid wasting resources to gather information that already exists.
The Cost Outweighs The Benefit
This is self-explanatory. If a $50,000 research project could save the company up to $50,000, then the research may not be worth the effort.
It Will Alienate Customers (Or Potential Customers)
Alienating customers is never a good thing. And let’s face it, surveys just aren’t always as fun for the respondent as we would hope, especially if poorly executed. Before conducting that market research project, ask yourself if it could incite an undesired response. How wise would it really be to ask your customers if they’ve heard of the completely bogus lawsuit against you?
It’s Just Nice To Know
Is the information NEEDED or just WANTED? If a study’s primary objective is to deliver some nice to know information, it may not be a good idea. Generally, people (your customers included) will tire of giving you feedback. There are only so many surveys a person will tolerate in a given period of time, so it is always best to minimize the number of studies you conduct. Reserve research for the need to know and respect your respondents’ time.
So, before taking a ride on the research bandwagon, ask the tough questions. It may just save you a few pennies and other resources that can be reallocated to that ever-elusive but oh-so-needed segmentation study.
What tough questions do you ask?