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Archive for the 'Guest Bloggers' Category

Vacation – is it really vacation? By guest writer Debra Semans

Friday, August 21st, 2015

As the earliest leaves begin to drop onto my lawn and the school bus is making test runs, I think back on the summer and those lovely vacations I took. Or did I?

Well, I did take about five days off for my son’s wedding. But, as much fun as that was, we were so busy it couldn’t really be called a vacation. And I was still responding to emails at least a couple times a day. We did get to the beach for a long weekend. But, yes, my husband and I were checking emails and worrying about internet speeds the entire time?

Sometimes it seems that vacations are almost not worth the bother. You kill yourself getting everything done before you leave, then you work while you’re away, and then you work hard to catch up when you get back (no matter how much you worked before or during!)

We’re no different from most employed Americans: a recent Randstad USA Employee Engagement study found that:

  • 49% feel stressed when they return to work after a vacation,
  • 46% worry about work while they are away,
  • 45% don’t believe their bosses help them disconnect when they are away from work,
  • 39% don’t believe their boss encourages them to take their allotted vacation days,
  • 38% believe taking fewer vacations makes them look better to their boss, and
  • 36% have had to cancel vacation plans due to work.

This is no surprise to any of you, I know. And in spite of all this, I remain committed to taking vacations, because I believe we all have to recharge our batteries – at least a little! So next month, we’ll be setting off on a road trip and in December heading back to the beach between Christmas and New Year.

So, help me out. What tips can you offer?

  • What do you do before you leave to make sure you can disconnect?
  • Do you work while you are on vacation and, if so, how do you keep it within limits?
  • How do you deal with the stress of coming back from a vacation?
  • What electronic devices go with you and which stay at home?
  • How do you manage your boss around taking time off?

I look forward to reading your comments.

One of my favorite apps is a parking app by guest writer Alan Lampert

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

I have been spending quite a bit of time in South Florida and I’m curious to know what others think of Parking Meter Apps.

I was staying in North Miami Beach recently where you can park overnight at a meter from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM for free. It was a weekend and I didn’t need to be anywhere in the morning. I set my cell phone alarm for 7:55 AM, woke up, used the app (Parkmobile) to put 2 hours on the meter and went back to sleep. This app also doesn’t let you add time to the meter if it is later then the time that the city requires you to feed the meter. Try to add an hour to a meter that only needs 20 minutes and the app won’t let you waste your money.

How many times have you fed a meter you didn’t have to because you weren’t sure and didn’t want to chance a ticket?

I spent the Fourth of July in Ft. Lauderdale. They use a different app there – PayByPhone. Same deal, set up an account, list your license plate, add a credit card and you’re good to go. On both apps, you get a text warning that time is running out so if you’re running late and need more time, just “Tap To Add”!

Both apps do charge a convenience fee; it’s about 30 cents per transaction and they email or text you a receipt – your choice.

How much more convenient can meter parking get?

So I ask you:

  • Have you used an app like this to park?
  • Do you use a different app than listed here?
  • Do you like them?
  • Are you worried about Big Brother tracking your whereabouts when you use the app?

I look forward to reading your comments.

You Won! My question is…What did you do about it? By guest writer Debra Semans

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Last week, Merrill wrote a post about winning. Many individuals reported winning golf tournaments, awards for volunteerism, and other personal endeavors. What I want to know is: What Do You Do About the Business Awards You Win?

Many, many times in my career, I have walked past a case of awards won by the company where I worked or was visiting. And never have I ever seen any attempt to capitalize on those awards by linking them to your brand promise, to your strategic direction, or even to employee engagement. I assume you have to make some effort to get into the running for those awards. If you do, then aren’t they important enough to leverage in communications?

I participate in judging the entries for the Georgia State University Marketing Roundtable MAX Awards for marketing innovation that leads to strong business results. I would hope that the winners of the MAX Awards would take that back to their customers, employees and shareholders as evidence of delivering on their brand promise and corporate strategy.

But do they? In my career, I have never experienced this. So tell me…

  • What do you do with the business awards your company wins?
  • How do you communicate about your awards – and to whom?
  • Do you try to connect the award to your business strategy or brand promise? Or do you just communicate the fact of winning it?
  • How do you display the actual reward or trophy?
  • How do you display the award on your website and print materials?
  • How do you reward or recognize employees for winning awards?

I look forward to reading your comments.

PS – I am a 30+ year market research veteran. I am an experienced writer on marketing and marketing research topics, generating content for marketing your business.

Business Leaders: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help (By Guest Writer, Steve Henke)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

As I write this, I’m at about 30,000 feet – somewhere in the air between Oakland and Denver – on my way back to Nashville. I’ve just spent the last 3 days at MRA’s CEO Summit in Napa Valley. What a great event… kudos to the MRA staff (David, Amy, Jenn & Jess) and hosts like Merrill Dubrow and Steve Schlesinger.

I think what made it a great event for me – besides taking place in Napa! – was the overriding theme that business leaders need to learn to “ask for help… and be willing to accept it.”

It started with the keynote speaker, Phil Terry, a Harvard MBA and consultant who evangelizes and facilitates peer-to-peer networking groups amongst professionals. Take a look at his company, Collaborative Gain.

The peer-to-peer idea then came to life in the breakout sessions. After each speaker delivered their presentation, all of the attendees would break up into small groups (5-6 at each table) and have an open and honest discussion about the topic just presented.

All of those table participants… each with a different background and experience set, each providing different perspectives and ideas… the roundtables were incredibly helpful and eye-opening. And a little humbling. To sit around with a bunch of other senior-level professionals willing to share their experiences and expertise showed each of us just how “in the box” our thinking can become… and how a fresh, objective perspective can really open your eyes. By the way, there are some really smart people in our industry.

The experience got me to thinking… shouldn’t each of us have access to some sort of “advisory council” as a frequent and consistent resource? Outsiders who challenge us and keep us striving for more? Smart, objective professionals who provide their unique perspectives?

If you don’t have a Board of Directors or if a relevant peer-to-peer group isn’t available to you, I would challenge each of you to consider establishing some sort of advisory council to have as an on-going resource. Meet 3-4 times each year. Share ideas, plans and financials. Be open to feedback and criticism. But mostly, use it as a way to do something we don’t do often enough… to ask for help.

  • Are you truly comfortable asking for help?
  • Do you have a board of directors?
  • Do you think you will set one up?

P.S. Think of it this way: if 2 heads are better than 1…then 5 or 6 would be remarkable!

I look forward to reading your comments!

I Wear Women’s Shoes, and it’s Merrill’s Fault! By Guest Blogger, Ed Sugar

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Yes, you read correctly, I wear women’s shoes and I have the host of this esteemed blog to thank for that.

Back in January of 1994, MD and I were in Dallas for an American Marketing Association meeting and found ourselves with a free day to play in the Metroplex area. I believe this was MD’s first visit to the Lone Star state and high on his “bucket list” was to purchase a pair of “real” cowboy boots.

I had never owned a pair of cowboy boots and was quite intrigued by the thought of purchasing my first pair. The minute we walked into the store I knew exactly what I wanted: a black pair, with the sharpest-tipped toes available. Since the British Invasion of the mid ‘60’s I had always wanted a pair of sharp-tipped, pointed boots or as they were commonly know in Los Angeles…”cockroach killers”.

When I asked the sales person to show me a black pair of boots with toes as sharp as nails, he gave me a cockeyed look and explained, “Only ladies boots come with sharp pointed toes.” Yep, my choices were non-existent in the men’s section, which consisted only square and round-toed boots. Sharp, pointed-toe cowboy boots are made mostly in women’s sizes and are regarded as “riding boots”. But this quest was not going to be denied because of some silly country western tradition. Thus, I insisted on trying on a pair of ladies boots and ended up purchasing this lovely pair.


My taste for cowboy boots is an exercise in style over comfort. I now own two other pairs of women’s cowboy boots (one grey, the other brown), both with sharp-pointed toes.


I fit into a women’s size 10, which can be tad tight at first, so they take a bit of time to break in. My podiatrist is always lecturing me that wearing boots like these are horrible for my back and hips, so I tend to wear them just on Sundays for church or for semi/formal events that last no more than 4 hours, where there are ample opportunities to sit.

So, I’m curious to know:

  • Do you think I’m crazy to wear women’s boots?
  • Are you a fan of country western apparel? If so, what strikes your fancy?
  • Do you wear clothing that is made specifically for the opposite gender?

    I look forward to reading your comments!

Attention Researchers! A Quick Interview with Global Leaders by Guest Writer, Ed Sugar.

Monday, October 20th, 2014

This past summer, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with two extraordinary individuals in today’s market research profession; Kara Mitchelmore, CEO at the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association of Canada and Finn Raben, Director General of ESOMAR. I thought it would be interesting to share with my fellow stateside researchers just a few of the issues these two leaders are facing as our industry continues to rapidly change and evolve.

Q. What is the one thing that differentiates Market Research in Canada/Europe from the United States?

  • Finn: Well, firstly, Size!! The US is the single largest MR market in the world, and the growth that it recorded in 2013 is the equivalent value of the total Canadian MR market!
    The other element which differentiates us from the US market is our attitude towards Privacy, and the enforcement of regulations relating to it. In the US, Privacy is (primarily) regulated by the FTC, as a kind of consumer right, whereas in Europe it is viewed and regulated as a fundamental human right, and so it is much more likely to be enshrined in law.

  • Kara: Yes, I would agree. The benefit of the FTC approach is that breaches and fines can be more quickly implemented, but the downside is that it will always be based more on interpretation, rather than on a prescriptive law. There is currently a debate going on in the Canadian Government regarding privacy, which could see a shift in how privacy will be regulated in the future.
    That said, the closer alignment between Canada and Europe on these matters, means that there is less misunderstanding of the requirements of the different countries in Europe, and allows us to facilitate our members global operations in a very streamlined way.

    Q: In your opinion, why should anyone join an Association these days?

  • Kara: This is a great question – and one which we (both) struggle with daily!
    Being a part of an association essentially offers members a way to distinguish themselves from others –through the multiple networking opportunities to meet your peers, the professional development opportunities to build your expertise and knowledge, and the adherence to recognized international standards. We need members and the industry at large to understand the importance in belonging to and working with Association members as it shows a commitment to quality and high standards.

  • Finn: Indeed! Bearing in mind that membership is a voluntary choice – and thus the adherence to standards (and the associated disciplinary systems in case of a breach) is also voluntary – is a clear signal to peers on both the supplier and buyer side that you are willing to invest more in your business (and the industry) to provide high quality work. From an ESOMAR perspective, we also try to connect international researchers, facilitate a global exchange of best practices, and with partners such as the MRIA in Canada and others elsewhere, provide a resource for formulating guidelines (be they on emerging methodologies or nascent legislation) that aid clients and agencies alike.

    Q: What is the biggest challenge to your association today?

  • Finn: In a catchphrase: “Future-proofing”….those who are current members, or who have had prior experience or exposure to what we do, know our value – but does the next generation? And are we “fit for purpose” for that next generation? This is true of both client-side and agency-side, and often times, our (extensive) “bite” is considerably less well known than our “bark” – yet it is this very “bite” which demonstrates to our members our association’s wish to enforce the standards we all sign up to, as well as our efforts to ensure those standards are current and topical.

  • Kara: That’s true – Remaining relevant to the industry is key, so that buyers of research recognize and require (insist?!) that their supplier MR professionals have membership, in order to qualify to respond to RFP’s. Membership for them should be an added “value” – an added insurance, if you like – that their supplier company operates to the highest standards, and has willingly invested in his/herself and their company, to demonstrate a true USP.

    • Do you have any questions for Kara or Finn regarding their organizations?
    • Any thought on global market research or the future of our profession?

    I look forward to reading your comments!

  • Guest Writer, Ed Sugar, Writes a Farewell and Welcome Letter to the Research Community

    Monday, August 11th, 2014

    One of my pleasures in life is volunteering with organizations that promote Marketing Research. For the past four years, I have had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors for the Marketing Research Institutive International, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of fulfilling the essential educational needs of market research professionals worldwide. Through a not-for-profit partnership with the University of Georgia, MRII is the driving force behind the Principles of Market Research, the Principles of Mobile Market Research, and the Principles of Pharmaceutical Market Research, the premier online certificate programs in the industry. Visit the MRII here. Come October 1st there will be a new face atop this highly respected organization as Don Marek retires and Reg Baker becomes Executive Director.

    Don has achieved more than I can recount over the last eight years, following nearly thirty years as a corporate researcher at AT&T. He is a past President of the St. Louis chapter of the AMA, served as MRA President in 1998-1999, and received an Honorary Lifetime MRA Membership. Throughout his career, Don has always been a willing conference mentor, eager to engage newcomers. He is, quite frankly, one of the nicest people in our industry.

    So, how do you replace a legend? MRII decided the best way to do that was to bring in someone who has a broad understanding of current and likely future MR industry trends and challenges. Reg Baker has been active in the industry for over three decades and is a widely recognized expert in quantitative research with a special focus on new technologies and methods. Formerly President of Market Strategies International, Reg is active in ESOMAR, CASRO, and AAPOR, regularly presents at conferences worldwide, and blogs and tweets as “thesurveygeek”. He is also the lead author of MRII’s Principles of Mobile Market Research, timely and essential education for tomorrow’s MR professionals in our increasing mobile world (learn more about this exciting new course HERE Reg recognizes the important role that MRII can play in helping the industry adopt and integrate new ways of conducting market research, mobile being a current example.

    • Do you have any memories of Don to share or would you like to congratulate him on his well-deserved retirement?
    • Do you have any thoughts about how MRII can help market researchers cope with the dramatic changes the profession now faces?

    I look forward to reading your comments!

    P.S. If you’d like to reach out to Don directly, you can contact him at: dmarek@mrii.org and if you’d like to reach out to Reg directly, you can contact him at: rbaker@mrii.org

    Guest Writer Janet Savoie Says, “Roombas for Everyone!”

    Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

    I love Robots! I bought a Roomba not long ago and the little guy has changed my life. For those of you not familiar with the Roomba, it is made by a company called iRobot. They make robots that will wash or vacuum floors and they offer a variety of models and prices. At first I was skeptical, but after doing some research and listening to my daughter rave about hers, I decided to take a chance.

    I now set him loose to run around my house every day. Some models actually allow you to program a time for him to begin the daily cleaning cycle. At the appointed time, he takes off and when the dirt bin is full or his battery is getting low, he finds his way back to the charger on his landing pad. He doesn’t climb or fall down stairs and he knows the difference between carpet and hard floor and can transition from one to the other effortlessly. Sometimes he gets stuck under beds and calls out for help but the best thing he does is clean the rugs, hardwoods and even the bathroom floors to perfection. I just ordered the floor-washing Roomba and can’t wait to pass that chore on to a robot.

    I have been doing some research on other types of household robots. For those of you who don’t like to clean litter boxes, aquariums, pools, or windows, there is a robot that can help. Are you responsible for mowing the lawn or cleaning the grill? You too can spend your weekends doing what you love and let the robot do that work!

    I always loved the cartoon the Jetsons. They had a Robot named Rosie (which by the way, is a popular name for Roombas) who cleaned their house and back in the 60’s this seemed like something way out there…but now, I think we are getting closer to that and I am all for it! It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that the older I get, I want a clean house but I don’t want to spend my precious energy and free time doing things I hate.

    • Have you heard of the Roomba?
    • Would you buy one?
    • Have you bought one?
    • How do you feel about household robots?

    I look forward to reading your comments!

    What’s In A Title? By Guest Writer Christine Cook

    Monday, March 12th, 2012

    There are many different kinds of titles.  There are social titles, academic, professional, hereditary, etc.  Let’s examine professional titles for the purpose this blog. 

    There are the more trendy titles like a CEO who is an Energy Officer vs. Executive Officer, a Back-Up Generator vs. Vice President of Sales and a Community Catalyst vs. Social Media Manager, etc.  The latter titles in each category are actual or partial titles of some of my co-workers. 

    Now let’s think about the importance of a title.  Some people could care less about title and hierarchy while others find it very important.  Maybe there is a reason for this?  For example I have had a Project Manager send an e-mail and get no response, yet when I send an e-mail with the same information to the same person I get a quick reply.  I’m a CEO but not an “Executive” – I’m more an “Energy”, “Experience” or “Entertainer” type.  I am also an owner of a company but I typically don’t claim this.  When asked what I do, I respond, “I work for a marketing research company” because I do.  No one works for me, they work for the company I happen to own and so do I.

    So I’m curious…

    • What is your title?
    • Do you like more conservative or trendy titles? 
    • Does your opinion change if someone has a traditional or a unique title?
    • What is the most unique title you have come across lately?
    • Do you think that people respond differently to people with “higher” titles? 

    I look forward to your comments.

    Christine Cook is the CEO – Generator – Florist at INGATHER RESEARCH AND INNOVATION RESORTS.    You can check out Christine’s blog on her website at www.ingatherresearch.com

    Get Your Butt Off Twitter And Talk To Your Coworkers! By Guest Writer Annie Pettit, Ph. D.

    Monday, May 2nd, 2011


    I confess. I am addicted to Twitter. I check Twitter every day, several times a day, when my fingers are covered in dirt because I’m gardening, when my fingers are covered in dough because I’m baking. I’m so addicted to Twitter that I speak to my husband in 140 character sentences and send him bit.lys when I have more to say. I’m so addicted to Twitter that I forget my co-workers have voices and faces and can instantly react to my extremely important and inane comments.

    In the Twittersphere, everyone I interact with has an opinion about social media research. I can mention the tiniest thing about how great social media research is and my so-called friends blast me with how sentiment analysis sucks and sampling is irrelevant and you can’t measure anything near as good as you can with a survey. In return, I blast them with comments about how I admire neuroscience and eyetracking and all that new-fangled stuff I really want to get my hands on.

    But when, for some strange reason, I end up talking to people who aren’t online very much, the reaction is completely different. “What is sentiment analysis?” they ask. “How can you learn anything from crazy, unrepresentative people tweeting about what they had for breakfast?” they ask. Sometimes, I even have to show them how to turn on a computer, show them what a Facebox is, and show them what a Tweeter is.

    Sometimes, I’m forced to shake away my veil of denial and remember that I am not a representative researcher. While I may be representative of social media researchers, not every researcher is online engaging in the world-wide focus group on the status of market research in 2011 and beyond. So this is my challenge to you.

    • Are you caught up in the world of social media like I am?
       
    • Do you agree with my point of view?
       
    • How will YOU bring your online research conversation into your offline research world?

    I look forward to reading your comments.

    Annie Pettit, PhD is the Chief Research Officer of Conversition Strategies, a boutique market research company that specializes in social media research.