Global Research Tips

photo by mllemire

As a global market researcher, I’ve conducted research in dozens of countries across the world, both online and in person. And, with every study I learn something new to consider for future studies. Below are some key research tips I wish I had known before leading my first global study. I hope you find these helpful.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Although it’s a bit outdated (2008), Nielsen’s observation that Latin Americans are “the world’s most optimistic consumers…the most confident and the most likely to be in the mood to shop”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.
What tips do you have for successful international research? I look forward to your comments.

Solutions Oriented Research

Tips For Happier Globetrotting

photo by mllemire

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Market Research in the Mobile World 2012

Targeting forward-thinking market researchers, stirring up conversations on the future of the industry, Market Research in The Mobile World is THE conference to attend, especially if you’re tired of that stodgy message that “market research has to prove its ROI” touted year after year at other conferences. This conference is about embracing change and driving change in the industry as a response to that change. It is NOT about cutting the edges off of traditional market research, repackaging it, and calling it good to go for mobile!

The conference is happening NOW, so if you missed attending this year, I recommend following #MRMW on twitter and reading the feed and/or the plethora of blog posts inspired by speakers, attendees, and sometimes just the titles of the sessions themselves!

Some of the thought-provoking ideas I’m walking away with so far include:

- What if norms don’t mean anything enymore because the world has changed so much? (asked by Lenny Murphy or @lennyism on twitter)

- Why do we think mobile means making sacrifices? Utilizing the right method to meet objectives should mean no sacrificing. (postured by Annie Pettit – @LoveStats)

- Every sentiment tool has errors. Sentiment analysis is just about meaningless unless emotion analysis is included. (David Johnson – @decooda)

- Mobile isn’t a channel for research, it describes people. (Roxana Strohmenger, Forrester)

- Research shouldn’t feel like research, it should be fun, engaging, enticing… (Brandon Beeken – @wayin)

- If you don’t know what to do with the data, it doesn’t matter how big or little it is. Research is not about the data, it is about understanding the business and its issues. (Gayle Lloyd, Hillenbrand)

Sadly, I’m not available to attend Day 2 of the conference, but I will certainly be following the conversation on twitter to catch the highlights, and I’ll read every blog post I can stemming from the conference!

If you attended the conference, what were your key takeaways? If you blogged about it, please share!

STATS! What I Learned Today on Twitter

When I got to work this morning, I went through my usual routine: inbox sorted – check; voicemails heard – check; Tweetdeck opened – check.

And there it was – payoff for less than two minutes of “tweeting” this morning. 23 (that’s twenty-three) Social Media Facts to Share with Executives. Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Gimme the facts and figures and I’ll make ‘em count in my research!

Did you know that Facebook accounts for almost 9% of ALL website visits in the US? And by 2012, half of the Internet users in the WORLD will have a Facebook account?

And bonus!  Here are some phone stats:

  • 63.2 million people in the US own smart phones, and that’s up 60% over last year (ReachLocal)
  • 79% of smart phone users use their devices to help with shopping and 74% have purchased as a result (ReachLocal)
  • The mobile web is expected to surpass desktop internet use by 2015 (ReachLocal)

And how about these cool stats on communities?

  • 78.6% of consumers have joined a company’s community to get more information on the company (Universal McCann)
  • 71% of community members say they are more likely to purchase from brand (Universal McCann)
  • 66% of company community members note that the community has made them more loyal to a brand (Universal McCann)
  • 63% of corporate community members note that they will recommend brand to friends/family (Universal McCann)

Kudos to Jeff Esposito for sharing, and kudos to all the tweeps (that’s twitter users for those unfamiliar with the Twitter lingo) who helped spread the word on this and other useful information that keeps me relevant in my world of research.

Here are a few of my other great stat finds of the day:

If you’re not tweeting, you’re missing out on these and so many other relevant stats, and other great information… or at least you’re searching harder!

Philanthopy Or All About Me?

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?

HELLO – My Name is Michelle and I’m a Workaholic…

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

Just Say No To Research!

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?

Tech Envy

Anxious for weeks before it came out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Blackberry Bold 9700. I’ve been a Blackberry addict since I bought my first one in 2003, and like many of you, I’ve worked my way up though the next gens year after year, tossing the old and embracing the new as fast as my pocketbook would allow me. Last year, that next gen was the Bold. I loved it – with its high res screen, mega great camera, and sleek style, it was so much more than I had imagined.

And then there was the Bold 9700. No trackball. Need I say more? *so nice*

And now the Droid X is taunting me. With its gargantuan screen and apps-a-million (including some highly addictive games), the Droid X takes mobile social to the next level. The Gowalla app is a dream compared to the one I muddle through on my Bold. The Twitter app has so much more functionality. The Foursquare app… The GetGlue app… you get the picture.

I now have non-Blackberry envy! An impossible thought less than a year ago when I was forking over my hard-earned cash to maintain my early adopter status in the world of Blackberry. Did I mention that I did NOT qualify for an upgrade at that time?

I am a clearly a tech-junkie. An addict. I have no self control. Even now I’m scheming to defect from AT&T and join the Verizon crowd, shiny new Droid X in hand. I will be Miss Mobile Social then!

And yet I know with the new year will come a plethora of nice shiny new mobile phones that will seduce me one by one. Maybe I should consider a second job…

Is the price of early adoption really worth it?

Should Market Researchers Be Social?

Many of my market researcher friends and peers are baffled at the amount of energy I put into being social online. And perhaps I do spend too many hours each week on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, GetGlue, iLike… (you get the picture). But, in my defense, social media is taking the world by storm. Business are clammoring to get in on the action and those who aren’t at least considering how to utilize social media in their marketing strategy will be left in the dust by their competitors. This is viral. It’s word of mouth. And what business doesn’t want their customers touting their products/services to their friends, family, doctor, grocer, lady on the street with the dog in the sweater…?

There is a point to this. As a market researcher, who are your clients? Among them are Marketing, Brand, Marcom… Departments responsible for reaching out to the marketplace to establish awareness of the brand with targeted messaging. And these clients, if they know what they’re doing, engage market research to help them test and strengthen that message. As a market researcher, it is my job to understand the best ways to do this. And that means I have to know what the options are. With more methodologies in my toolkit, I can be more effective. (Sadly, focus groups cannot be used to answer every question.)

So how does social media play into all this? It’s simple. When the VP from Brand comes strolling into my office with ideas about using Twitter to field a survey, I can fully engage her in the conversation. In using the service, I am naturally aware of both the opportunities and limitations of such a methodology. And, in having the discussion I am poised to offer suggestions for other methods. I am the expert, after all, and my clients expect push back from me. They expect me to be in the know and offer viable recommendations.

So, simply put, it is my job to stay relevant. And today that means starting a blog. And later I’ll tweet about it.

What will you do next to stay relevant?

(image used under creative commons by Kristina B)