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Archive for August, 2006

To Certify or Not to Certify, That is the Question!

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

The research industry is very important to me. The research community might have reached a new era with Professional Researcher Certification (PRC). A number of industries have certifications and perhaps it was time that our industry has one.

A few months ago, the The Marketing Research Association (MRA) added PRC. As a result, myself and hundreds of other researchers across the world are certified. The entire process was very easy and if you have any questions about what category to be certified under, Elyse Gammer or Jennifer Cattel can help you. Their contact information can be found at the MRA Headquarters Staff Page.

It could be said that there are a few reasons that I got certified:

  1. I am on the national MRA board and wanted to support the organization.
  2. I truly believe that the industry needs more standards. Certification really plays into that.
  3. I was scared to let the grandfathering time limit lapse and have to take the test!

I will admit it was a pu pu platter—a combination of all 3!

On the MRA site, part of the definition of PRC is:

“The Professional Researcher Certification was developed as a powerful professional tool for researchers of all levels of work experience and education. It is the goal of MRA to encourage high standards within the profession in order to raise competency, establish an objective measure of an individual’s knowledge and proficiency and to encourage continued professional development. Additionally, it is the hope of MRA that these certification standards will increase consumer understanding of research and foster premiere professional standards in the industry.”

Joan Burns knows all of the ins and outs of the PRC program and hopefully will post a few reasons as to why this is important to you and the industry.

Here is what I know for sure: prior to the Grandfathering deadline, you simply submit your application and résumé. Your application then goes before a review committee. If you are qualified, you will be certified. If you wait until after the deadline, you must submit your information and you will be required to past a test.

The date for becoming Grandfathered is February 28, 2007—less than 200 days away! I won’t tell you that you should sign up, but I will tell you to seriously look into it and make an educated decision.

I look forward to your thoughts.

The Greatest Form of Flattery

Monday, August 28th, 2006

They say the greatest form of flattery is being quoted. I remember how I felt a few years ago when I was at a research conference and Kevin Lonnie quoted me during his presentation. Yes, I was surprised. Yes, I was honored that he thought I actually said something relevant and wanted to share that with attendees at his session. And yes it made me feel good.

In the past few years I have used quotes during presentations to the M/A/R/C staff, at conference presentations and when I present to Omnicom on Madison Avenue.

Sometimes the quotes work; sometimes they don’t.

I really like using quotes to reinforce ideas and drive points home. Here are a few of my favorites:

“The name on the front is more important than the name on the back.” — Herb Brooks
“Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” — Peter F. Drucker
“What works works, what doesn’t work doesn’t work, even if you try harder it still doesn’t work.” — Joe Caruso
“Insanity is doing the same thing day after day and expecting a different result.” — Ben Franklin
“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.” — Wayne Gretzky
“Evaluate what you want — because what gets measured gets produced.” — James A. Belasco

Do you like these? What are some of your favorites?

You can’t raise the bar in your sleep

Friday, August 25th, 2006

A few weeks ago, while presenting at a conference in Chicago, I had the opportunity of staying at a Westin Hotel. Since I usually stay at Marriott properties, I hadn’t stayed at a Westin for many years. When I got to my hotel room I was very surprised to find a number of different things:

  • A flat screen TV
  • Monogrammed towels
  • Double nozzle shower heads

It started me thinking about all the changes that the Westin Hotel has made to increase the comfort of their guests. In essence, they have raised the game to a new level.

If you and I relate this experience back to the services we provide and the relationships we are building with internal and external clients—have we all done the same as the Westin?

  • Are we—perhaps through IT—developing systems that make us and our staffs more efficient?
  • Are we supporting the Marketing Sciences group in developing new analytic directions and products targeted at current and future client needs?
  • Are managers seeking new ways to enhance standard methodologies to drive differentiation from competitors or move company brands ahead in the marketplace?
  • Is the administrative support staff doing enough to support the rest of the company?
  • Is your senior team working together to make sure your strategy is appropriate for putting your company or department in a position to be successful?

What have you done to enhance your services and deliver more to your clients?

Where Have All the Interviewers Gone? Should We Care?

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

In the past few years, online research has exploded. In fact, last year online research revenue in the United States—according to Inside Research—was $1.184 billion vs. $1.227 for Qualitative research. Only $430,000 separated these two different methodologies, which is amazing since online research has only been around for a fraction of the time of qualitative. There is no question that Gordon Black was correct when he stated at a conference presentation that online research would change the market research industry forever. He was laughed at back then. However, I have a feeling all of those chuckles are long gone.

Ok, so we know online research is here to stay…but who cares! That’s old news! Well let me take a different approach today and start with a quick story.

In 1984 my mother came home from what she called the greatest experience of her life. People listened to her for two hours (clearly something that my two sisters and I didn’t do at an early age). Then they fed her and she got paid. She said, “I was part of a focus group and the facility was looking for interviewers.” Low and behold, I applied, got the job, and 22 years later the rest is history. During that time I was a phone interviewer, I interviewed in malls and truck stops, and even did door to door interviewing. In essence I got into this great industry by ACCIDENT! When I share my story with others in the industry they have similar stories.

Back to online research. Clearly what online research means is less interviewers, both on the phone and in malls. What it also means is less coders since most coding is now automated and takes a fraction of the time. After doing a quick count around M/A/R/C Research, I believe over 50% of the staff started their research career as an interviewer, coder or programmer. Clearly less of these jobs are now available. So……….

  • How are people going to get into our industry?
  • In 2006 and beyond what is the entry level job?

I have asked a number of people in the industry their thoughts on this subject and no one has any answers. So for an industry that has also seen a tremendous amount of reduction in staff on the end user front and is starving for new talent, I am very concerned.

Am I alone?

Sometimes You Just Need to Tip Your Cap

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Early on in my career I would take losing very, very hard. I can remember working for Field Facts in the 80’s and not being awarded projects and how disappointed I would be—in fact most times I was really mad! There were times that I thought I sent a great proposal to a client and for some reason we weren’t awarded the project. Common reasons projects weren’t awarded:

  • The client decided to go in another direction
  • They felt the competition’s level of experience was better than ours
  • Perhaps they connected with the other company better than with us
  • The winning company had a better price

In essence the client said thanks but no thanks.

Life has changed for me. Perhaps it was experience, maturity or just luck that I decided to really understand and learn from coming in second, so frankly, it wouldn’t happen again.

But there are a few things that I would NEVER do when I have come in second:

  • Never bash the competition
  • Never tell clients they made a mistake by going with another company

These days I will write a note or send an email to the client, wish them luck and always follow up in a few months to see how the project is going. Clients always seem to appreciate that gesture.

Anyone who meets me for 5 seconds knows that I have a strong Boston accent. They can look at my license plate, my right wrist or come into my office and see who my favorite team has been for years. I am clearly passionate about the Boston Red Sox.

The past five days have been very challenging for me. The good news is that I got calls and emails from people I haven’t spoken to in a few months. The bad news is it was about the Red Sox who decided to do something that hadn’t been done since 1943! They lost five games in a series to the Yankees – oh by the way it was in Fenway Park. As I write this, the last game ended less than 18 hours ago and the losses still sting.

I won’t go over all of the statistics—which are very impressive if you are a Yankees fan. The NY Yankees were the better team. They did all of the little things right: They were able to kick it into another gear when they needed to, Joe Torre made the right moves when his back was against the wall… I could go on and on but I won’t.

Boston Massacre!I just hope the Boston Red Sox learn from what happened this past week—as I have done in the past—and try to salvage the 2006 season.

This morning – I tip my hat to the NY Yankees team and Fans. Congratulations! You were the better team!

Where does the time go?

Friday, August 18th, 2006

The number 900 means something special to me. I truly believe that people have a few extra minutes a day. clock

The question is: do people realize they have a few minutes to do something they normally wouldn’t do? If they do –

  • What do they do with that time?
  • Do they make a decision to try and make it part of their day?
  • Do they block out a few minutes to take some time for themselves?

So the number 900 is the number of seconds it takes if you only spend 15 minutes doing something different every day. What do I do you ask?

  • I call someone I used to work with
  • Get in touch with an old college friend
  • Get to know the staff a little bit better
  • Say “what if” on a new strategy for the company
  • Google a subject that I know nothing about
  • Review a few research sites to make sure I am aware of events that are happening in the industry

The 15 minutes a day I am talking about is very, very important to me. I look forward to it each and every day. If you think you don’t have any extra time, think about the old adage “if you want something done, give it to someone who is busy”

You have 15 minutes a day – you just might not realize it!

Woof, Woof they really get it right!

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Last Saturday I noticed that we had very little food left for our little Yorkshire Terrier, Boston – yes that is right we named our 3 pound ferocious dog after a city that we love. My journey on this hot (102 degree) summery day was to go to a pet store and buy our little hungry pup a 20 pound bag of Science Diet, small breed, small bites food. Of course walking into a retail store these days can be a frightening experience for a guy who doesn’t know exactly what he is looking for. I wanted this to be a very quick trip, so I could focus on getting back into my pool with my kids.

Much to my surprise the second I walked into the store I was greeted with not only a big hello but a question of, “How can I help you?” Of course having only been in the store for 10 seconds, I said yes I can use all the help I can get. Janet, the customer service person, knew exactly what I needed, escorted me to the exact isle, pointed out the product and was so nice she would have carried it to the front of the store for me if I wanted that service as well. Being a big strapping guy, I declined that part of service. As we were looking at the product, Janet mentioned that they had a special promotion and handed me an instant $5.00 off coupon and also told me that the cashier would give me a receipt that would have detailed instructions on how to either mail in or go online and register for another $5.00 coupon. Being quick with numbers I upgraded to the 40 pound bag of food for a great deal and basically for a few extra dollars had enough food for little Boston until 2008.

Forgive me if I am still a little skeptical at this point to see if all this would come together. Too many times I have heard stories of friends who NEVER got refunds and got extremely frustrated with the entire process. When I got to the cashier, Samantha not only instantly deducted the first $5.00 coupon and restated word for word the exact same thing that Janet said 5 minutes earlier. I then drove home, jumped in the pool, and an hour later went online to register for my other $5.00 coupon. I must admit it worked like a charm. The registration process was simple and in fact they sent me a follow up email within 24 hours with the status of my refund and thanked me for my business.

  • How many times do you go into a retail store any day of the week and can’t find a person to help you?
  • How many times are you charged the wrong price at the register?
  • How often do you get an answer of “I don’t know” from someone who works at a store?

I almost forgot: the cashier also asked me if we were part of their frequent buyer program. Before I could answer she said let me have your phone number and I can check right away. Two seconds later I was pleased to hear that we are part of their program so not only did I have a great experience, completed the journey, saved money, I got additional points towards other savings in the future.

Thank you PETSMART! http://www.petsmart.com/ps/main.jsp You made my life much easier.

  • Thank you for training your staff!
  • Thank you for having a consistent message!
  • Thank you for taking the time to make sure your systems and procedures work
  • Thank you for doing it the right way!

Yes you have our business, yes we will refer friends and family to your store and yes when I present at conferences I will tell this story again and again.

Today’s question is: who else gets it right or wrong?

Are you a Hazie, Lazie or Crazy?

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Bill ButterworthI was reading the newspaper last weekend and stumbled onto an interesting article that I thought I would share. Bill Butterworth discusses workaholics and the need to understand that a 40-year-plus career is a marathon they’re running at a sprinter’s pace. That’s a race no one can win.

Sadly, they drag their families down with them. And when workaholics flame out, their employers simply say: “Next.”

Bill Butterworth introduces readers to the Hazies, Lazies and Crazies.

Hazies think that their workaholism creates a better life for their families because it means more money. They forget that their presence is essential to family life. Hazies need to focus on a Priorities Triangle: attention (tasks), connection (relationships) and reflection (quiet introspection).

Lazies lack the self-discipline to bring their lives back into balance. They live each day with a litany of “You don’t know what it’s like to . . .” But you don’t have to work long hours if you work smart hours. Lazies need the Endurance Triangle: forecast (to-do list), focus (work the plan) and fun (relax and recharge your battery).

Crazies throw themselves into a task to the exclusion of everything else. Crazies need the Pacing Triangle: learning (what can I learn if, for example, I go to a parent-teacher conference?), labor (how can I?) and leisure (am I taking care of myself?).

As I was reading this article I was hoping there was another category–something like nice guy that works hard. I always thought that if you work hard, work smart, pay attention to the details, never stop learning, continue to push yourself and exceed your goals, the rest would fall into place. Since I need to choose between the three choices I think I have Hazie tendencies.

During the Q&A at a recent conference I was asked what my greatest challenge is day after day. Without hesitation it is balance. I find it very difficult and always challenging to balance a wife, two little ones with a third on the way, work, traveling, playing sports, reading, attending sporting events and of course cheering on (LOUDLY) my Boston Red Sox.

Please give this some thought and let us know what you are. In addition it would be great if you could share some tips on balancing your life.

The Definition of Leadership

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Recently I presented at a conference and the title of the presentation was “Definition of Leadership, What does that really mean”?

Clearly this is a topic that has and can be discussed forever. I thought it would be interesting to base my definition on the letters of the word leadership.

Here is my definition:

Risk taker
Set goals
Hire well

This ten letter word is important to so many people and means something different to most of them.

Take 5 minutes today and let us know: What does it mean to you? What is your definition?

Eugene Never Stopped Learning

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

I was watching the entertainment channel about six months ago and heard a great, meaningful quote. Penn Jillette, the magician, was being featured and he was describing his career by saying, “it is always exciting to accomplish something you couldn’t a year ago.” I jumped up off the couch, bumped into a small table, stepped on some of the kids Lego’s (very painful), found one of the kid’s crayons and wrote down his quote.

I recently finished the book, “Chasing Daylight” by Eugene O’Kelly.


The book is about a person who was sitting on top of the world, and one day out of nowhere he become terminally ill. One of the stories he shares is that he always played golf with his wife early evening…they were chasing the daylight by seeing how many holes they could finish before dark. He also enjoyed skiing, but over the years didn’t go that often. After many, many years of playing golf and skiing, he describes the differences between the two sports and has come to the conclusion that golf is a much less forgiving sport in that if you have a bad turn, you can still have a great ski run versus golf where a bad shot can ruin your game. This lesson took many years to discover and Eugene goes on further to state that he wishes that he had skied more. He then goes on to say “here I am a 54 year old dying man still learning.”

Penn Jillette and Eugene O’Kelly have had an impact on my life. You are never too old to learn, all of us should be looking at ways to get better. As you read this posting the year is 60% over. Have you learned something new? Are you reading more? Working out longer? Skiing more? If not – you may want to start.

Also, I think a sub-message is one of being open-minded. Learning can happen anywhere and at any time.

Open your mind and open yourself to new ideas, people and thoughts. You may just learn something.

Please let us know your comments.