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Archive for December, 2006

I’m So Bored. Now What Do I Do?

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Yes, it’s the end of the year. Yes, there are very few people in your office. Yes, you can only talk to your friends so often and none of your clients are around! Yes, you are bored—in fact very bored and have no idea what to do.

Here are six suggestions:

  1. Clean up your office. Chances are that your office is full of files that are from years ago that you somehow have been collecting and you no longer need.
  2. Update your day-timer and Outlook calendar. It’s time to update the 2007 conference schedule and important dates (like your spouse’s or clients’ birthdays, wedding anniversary, kids’ birthdays and anything else that you want to remember)
  3. Catch up on your mail. Take advantage of a little down time to get caught up on all of those magazines and research newsletters that you have been putting off and are in the big pile on the back of your desk
  4. Go to your website and really analyze it.
  • What is missing?
  • What services should we highlight?
  • Why don’t we have any white papers?
  1. Go to this site and try and solve the daily USA Today Sudoko. I always enjoy doing this. I found it gets my mind really thinking and the wheels cranking
  2. Go to YouTube and watch a video that is of interest for 5 minutes

I hope one of these helps you in your state of boredom.

I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas.

Be Careful about this Dance

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Over the past few years I have been looking at thousands of sales résumés and interviewed hundreds of potential new business development (sales) candidates. The next step after that process is an offer, acceptance and then magically you have a new employee.

Sometimes this can happen when you have a new employee—especially at a higher level.

The first 7-8 months everything they say is new, so in some ways you are focusing on every word, you need the revenue and frankly you believe you have fixed the problem and the cavalry is on the way. After that first phase you can have 3-4 months of the relationship in which you sort of start to scratch your head and think:

  • Does that make sense?
  • Can they really do that?
  • Is their pipeline really believable?
  • They haven’t sold anything, and frankly I am not sure they will!

At that point you are onto the third phase which is 3-4 months of:

  • What happened?
  • Where did I go wrong?
  • Where did I miss the boat?

And unfortunately……..

  • How am I going to end the relationship with this person?

This to me is the 16 month dance! Three phases, a lot of wasted energy and time—which unfortunately has led to missing an opportunity to increase your revenue and in reality cost you a lot of money!

Yes I have danced!

Yes I have made those mistakes!

Sometimes you don’t see it coming and frankly did everything right but couldn’t change the end result. As I play back a number of situations in my mind, I probably couldn’t have changed all the end results, but could have changed the time it takes to get past phase three.

Remember the dance when you are reviewing résumés. In my opinion, if you are looking at a candidate in a sales capacity and they have a number of jobs that have roughly a 16 month timeframe, they probably have danced! Most successful new business development people don’t change jobs that often for one main reason.

The reason is simple: Money! Most successful salespeople like money. If they are having success and they have a reasonable compensation plan, they won’t leave that quickly because if they are selling, they are making money, and typically don’t want to start and try to ramp up again with a new company.

  • Does this sound familiar?
  • Have you danced?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

I’m a Regifter. Are You?

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Raise your hand if you like to get gifts.

Keep your hand up if you have gotten a gift you didn’t like…where you actually said out loud, “What were they thinking? Why did they give me this? They don’t know me at all!”

For the record, I am typing with one hand since my hand is still raised.

The question is, “What should you do about it?”

  • Do you return the gift to the store?
  • Do you toss it away?
  • Do you keep it in a drawer and take it out when the person who gave you the gift comes to your house? For the record I believe most people have done this (including yours truly).
  • Do you do something else?

Or do you do the unthinkable………

  • Do you give it away? Do you wrap it up and regift the poor little defenseless item?

At this point, most people are probably either chuckling or are appalled that people actually consider this—and more importantly do it.

Before I go on, I will let you in on a little secret: Research has shown that 40% of people have regifted because they wanted to save money or time or felt the new recipient would like the item.

When I first thought this and asked myself the question “Do I regift?”, I immediately said no, but then needed to think about it and actually the answer is yes.

Here are a few tips on regifting:

  1. Don’t give the gift back to the person who gave it to you! Don’t laugh this happens.
  2. Always rewrap the gift
  3. Make sure you have taken off the tag that says “To Merrill from ________”
  4. Only give items away that are new and still in their packaging
  5. DON’T ever regift handmade items!

So when do I regift? Good question. When I replayed that question in my memory banks, I have come up with a few times:

  • Bottles of wine – since I am not a big drinker, I will regift wine
  • I also have regifted photo albums, so if you have received that in the past from me….. I’m terribly sorry

Are you a regifter?

If so, what items do you regift?

I look forward to your advice and comments!

Travel Tips

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

With winter around the corner, that probably means a number of things, including flight delays. Here are nine travel tips that might help:

1. Take early morning flights to ensure better on-time performance.

  • Early flights are statistically more “on time” than those later in the day. But if you want to really try to make sure you’re there in time for your meeting, fly out the day before.
2. Pack some snacks for a few reasons:

  • Food on airlines isn’t great
  • There are more weather delays in the winter months and sometimes you’re on the tarmac for hours, when no food is available–even for purchase
  • See the first bullet
3. Know flight patterns.

  • I find this to be a huge advantage when there are flight cancellations or if my schedule changes and I need to take an earlier or later flight.
  • If you are aware of this, it gives you tremendous flexibility.
4. Make effective use of standing in line.

  • If you have to change flights because of a cancellation at the airport, stand on line for sure, but try to make your reservation on your cell. You might be done in a few minutes and can step off the line without the inconvenience and pressure of waiting.
5. Know where the plane you are boarding is coming from

  • If you know where the plane is coming from it gives you the ability to track that flight and be up to date with information that could impact your departure time.
6. Ask and you might receive – Be nice all the time and you never know what you might get:

  • An exit row
  • A window seat instead of an aisle
  • Maybe even first class
  • Boarding an earlier flight for free
  • Clearance as a stand-by earlier than the airline rules state

And if you don’t get anything at least you were nice which doesn’t cost you anything!

7. Make your bag unique.

  • Try to buy luggage that doesn’t look like everyone else’s luggage. If nothing else, a ribbon or a couple of colorful stickers might be enough to make your bag stand out, if your bag does turn out to be LOST!
  • If you’re forced to describe your bag to airline personnel, you want to be able to say a little more than just “it’s black and has wheels.”
8. Time change –

  • Remember that your phone will change to the local time where your BlackBerry and computer don’t change
9. Remember to bring all of your chargers – including:

  • Razor
  • Cell Phone
  • Computer
  • BlackBerry
  • Toothbrush

I hope you find at least one of these tip helps. I look forward to continuing to build a list for people to share.

What are your tips?

Research Interview with Larry Gulledge

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Two minutes with executive Larry Gulledge, who will be retiring from the marketing research industry after 30+ years.

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to meet Larry over the years, trust me when I say he is a special person. I worked with Larry at Elrick & Lavidge. He has the intelligence, heart and spirit that EVERY company desires. Our industry will be lesser without Larry being part of it.

MD How did you get started in the research industry?
LG I began my career with Equifax who had a small internal unit that handled special data collection assignments for some of their clients. I identified those special assignments as marketing research and began including the capability in my sales calls on both prospects and clients. Over time I began to successfully sell a few projects at the same time that Equifax decided to organize that small unit into a separate profit center. With success comes growth and that small unit, with Equifax funding, purchased Elrick and Lavidge where I spent most of my marketing research career.

Industry Executive Larry Gulledge

MD Do you have any favorite sayings? If so what are they?
LG When feeling pressure my most common saying is “Remove the stressor.” What this really means is address the problem NOW. Don’t let problems linger. Confront them as early as possible in the most positive manner you can, realizing of course that many times there is nothing positive about what is stressing you but you “stick out your third vest button” and keep moving. “Sticking out your third vest button” is a saying that I picked up from my late father-in-law who was a very successful salesman following his Air Force career where he reached the rank of Colonel. In his day you wore vests and the third button was located at your chest level – so “sticking out your third button” to him meant that you were proud and purposeful in all that you did.
MD What does the research industry look like in the year 2016?
LG We’ve seen a lot of change in the previous ten years and I suspect that we will continue to see change. The past brought us mergers and technology. The future will bring more of each. I once wrote an article that included a future scene where a shopper finished paying for a purchase and then placed her hand on an electronic pad that was sensitive to her emotions and was able to measure her level of satisfaction with the transaction. Her “rating” was immediately stored in a database and then reported at the store, district and corporate level in aggregate with other scores. Who knows – by 2016 maybe this will be realized
MD What do you think is your biggest success during your 30+ year research career?
LG Making it 30+ years in research while remaining happily married for 46 years.
MD Monday morning quarterback – was there a time you zigged instead of zagged?
LG Oh, yes. Many times. In this business I suspect we have all “zigged” when we should have “zagged” and probably more than once. But I have no major regrets. I feel blessed.
MD What would you say is the best part of the marketing research industry?
LG The people, of course. What a wonderful, professional, intelligent and handsome group of associates we work with every day and the grand relationships that are forged. But I also have to include the variety and importance of the work that we share ranks high as well.
MD What do you think is the biggest challenge the industry is facing today?
LG Whether working on the client or supplier side, a very big challenge is increasing respondent cooperation/completion rates. Cooperation fees, much like what is paid to qualitative respondents, may be required on quantitative studies if we are to avoid the self-selection bias that we continue to experience on CATI and Web studies. We need to address and ensure that sample validity; confidence levels and reliability are not being compromised. Our clients continue to stress their need for “faster, better and cheaper” performance from their suppliers. Although technology has enabled us to be faster and cheaper I’m not so sure about the “better”.
MD What advice would you give entry-level people entering the research profession?
LG I don’t give advice unless asked but since you did here are a few remarks that I would include in my advice to an entry-level associate. My advice to a more senior/experienced associate would include these as well as several other suggestions:

1. Display a sense of urgency in all that you do.
2. Remove stressors as quickly as possible.
3. Act and dress professionally even when casual.
4. Develop business literacy – understand how your efforts contribute to bottom line results.
5. Listen more – don’t be a know-it-all in meetings.
6. Work to improve your communication skills.
7. Smile more.
MD As you ride off into the sunset and start retirement, how do you plan on spending your free time?
LG My wife and I plan to travel. Initially we have a couple of health issues to resolve that will take up the first 3–4 months of our new life but then we plan to travel. I hope to write but we will see how that develops.

Larry, thank you so much for your thoughts, and thanks for a lifetime of contribution to this great industry.

Not good bye, just so long.

Questions for Larry can be posted in the comment section.

Did You Ever Thank a Stranger? Well Now Would Be the Time!

Friday, December 15th, 2006

USA Today's 2006 All-USA Teacher TeamDo you know Nancy Yacavone Karpyk or Susie Stevens? What about Nancy Elliott, Patti Ball or Randy Cook? Well if you don’t know those people you must know Darrell Woods or Paula Moore?

Yeah, probably not. Let me let you in on a secret: I don’t know them either. Those seven people as well as thirteen other strangers to me are all part of USA Today’s 2006 All-USA Teacher Team.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

To me you are some of the most important people in the United States. You, as well as other teachers, are so important in today’s society teaching the current generation of students.

I tend to be very quick at math and I can trace the reason why all the way back to second grade. My teacher at the time was Mrs. Hartwell. She had the class play a game called “around the world”. Basically what would happen is the first two students who sit next to each other on one side of the room would stand up, Mrs. Hartwell would then show a flashcard with a math equation on it. The first person to shout out the correct answer would win and move on to face the next person. This would continue until three people made it back to their desk. The winners got cup cakes. Yes, I have a sweet tooth (thanks, Mom) and needed to win. Most of the time I was in the top three and enjoyed every bit of the prize.

Clearly I didn’t know at the time that Mrs. Hartwell and the game “around the world” would stay with me for 37 years.

I am sure all of us know teachers. My mother-in-law taught sixth grade for over 35 years until she retired a few years ago. We have a close friend of the family named Keri who is currently a teacher. When you listen to their stories, they all possess the same passion and desire for the teaching profession and absolutely love it!

Today is “Thank a Teacher Day.” Thanks Yacavone, Susie, Nancy, Patti, Randy, Darrell, Paula, Bev and Keri.

I look forward to your comments and other stories like “around the world.”

Would You Pay $160,000 for a Truffle?

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Ok—so now I have your attention. In case you missed it last month, a tycoon paid over $160,000 for what may be priciest truffle ever. No I am not making this up. Gordon Wu and his wife outbid connoisseurs from France and Italy to win the 1.5-kilogram Alba white truffle from an international auction on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which hosted the Hong Kong part of the auction, said Tuesday.

It got me to thinking that if I ever was in a position where money didn’t matter. What would I do? Here are a few things:

What would you do?

P.S. Chef Bombana prepared the giant truffle for a five-course banquet hosted by Mr. Wu. Proceeds from the auction—which also featured five smaller truffles weighing 220 to 520 grams sold to other Hong Kong bidders—will go to Mother’s Choice, a Hong Kong charity that cares for pregnant girls and organizes adoptions.

Dinner with Four Researchers

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Often you read articles asking “If you could meet anyone in the world who would it be?”

Well close your eyes… … Please… …

If you could have dinner with any four people who are or have been in the research industry, who would they be?

For me this was fun and a little bit of a challenge. But here goes with my dinner table guests in alphabetical order:

John Boni – John become my boss when Quick Test purchased Field Facts in 1988. He taught me a great deal and I still quote him almost daily. Unfortunately he passed away a few years after he retired. John was a special person who treated everyone with respect. He was able to get the most out of his staff and have people reach levels that they didn’t think they could. One of my favorite stories is when I left Quick Test in 1991 for the last time he said “we are even”. Not knowing what he meant I inquired and he responded, “You worked hard and we paid you for the job. We’re even.” John, I still miss you. Thanks for everything!

Eileen Campbell – Eileen is the Chairman, Millwood Brown North America and President, Global Development. I have never had the privilege of meeting Eileen but did see her present at a conference a few years ago. I was on the edge of my seat listening intently to every word she said—which is rare for me. She was a fantastic presenter and her thoughts and style for me were second to none and filled with passion and substance.

Bob Lavidge – Years ago I worked for Elrick & Lavidge and had the opportunity to meet a giant in the industry. Bob spent over 50 years in the industry and in 1966 was President of the American Marketing Association. From 1992 to 1999 he served as the founding chair of the American Marketing Association Foundation. One of my favorite Bob Lavidge stories is when he told me about the first audit he ever did. They rented out a high school gym and actually paid people to bring in their trash, dump it out and record what they had. For me, it was always an honor to work for a company that bore his name. Bob, I hope you are enjoying retirement in Arizona.

Sandy Schwartz – Sandy is one of the industry’s most intelligent people for sure. He is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word and sees so many things that few people can. His listening skills are incredible and his spirit and energy are phenomenal. Sandy has been a good friend and mentor for many years.

Together, the four people I would invite probably have over 140 years of experience in the Marketing Research Industry.

For those of you who know me very well know that I am rarely at a loss for words but, I would sit back and enjoy the interaction from these past and present industry leaders and clearly would learn a tremendous amount.

Who would you invite and why?

Happy Feet: Was it a Bait and Switch?

Friday, December 8th, 2006

One of the things that I like to do with the kids is actually go to movies.com and watch the upcoming trailers for children’s movies.

Since we would be in Florida for Thanksgiving, I had promised to take the little ones to see Happy Feet. They couldn’t wait! We had watched the trailers on the computer so many times and also saw the previews on TV day after day. Yes, they were excited and—oh by the way—so was I. Yes, an adult was excited about a kid movie!

So there we were in Florida on Thanksgiving Day with popcorn, a fruit punch and candy for each child sitting comfortably waiting to see the 11:30 show.

The first hour or so was very cleverly done—although there was a scene with an ugly terrifying seal with large, piercing teeth. Ok we got passed that. The computer animation was very clever, the songs were great, and the dancing penguins were very, very, very cute.

What I didn’t know was all of a sudden the movie sort of changed gears. The movie was now about a darker side—about pollution and humans (aliens they are referred to in the movie) encroaching on the birds’ habitat and basically taking away all of the food from the little and cute penguins and potentially putting them at risk. There is also a penguin that has a plastic six-pack holder that is around his neck and is choking him for a large percentage of the movie.

The movie has been very successful in terms of the box office, grossing over $100 million dollars in the first two weeks.

So clearly the marketing of this movie was great. But…

  • Was it too great?
  • Was it to the right audience?

Let me say that I am NOT a movie critic and at this point I am a parent who is a little concerned that I took a 3 and 5 year old to this movie. Had I known what the movie was about, I probably wouldn’t have taken them to the movie. I would have waited until they were older.

I am not saying don’t see the movie. What I am saying is enough people have seen it so far that I am sure you can find someone who can fill you in on the movie so you can make a better and informed decision for you and your family.

I realize that trailers don’t want to give away the entire movie, and I respect that. But I must admit I felt that this movie was about much more than that. What they had been promoting was not what I saw and I did feel that there was a little bit of bait and switch.

Maybe I am worrying for nothing since a 3 and a 5 year old probably didn’t understand what was going on anyway.

I would love to hear from parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents who have seen the movie.

Two Minute Fun Exercise For Sports Fans

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Ok, here is what I want you to do. You need to have a pen and paper for this exercise. Think about the four major sports: Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL), and write down the first team that comes to your mind when you think about each league.

Ok time’s up……

Pens down.

Here are my answers:

The interesting thing is, my choices weren’t based all on my favorite teams.

The reason I chose the dreaded Yankees is probably because of all of their great players, championships and history at the stadium.

The Cowboys are America’s team for me and not just because I live in Dallas, maybe it is because of the star at midfield or because I liked Coach Landry.

In the NBA the Celtics are clearly the only choice for me. Based on class, championships, the parquet, announcers and everything about the team.

In the NHL I still would choose the Montreal Canadiens. They had great players and it just seemed that every team measured themselves against the Canadiens for so long.

I wanted to share the opinions of over 20,000 people who answered these questions in an online survey two months ago that we completed. Here is a chart by sport, broken down by gender and age.

MLB (Click here for the Complete List)

Total Male Female
Total 26340 100.0 % 9586 100.0 % 16752 100.0 %
NY Yankees 4306 16.3 % 1579 16.5 % 2727 16.3 %
Atlanta Braves 2401 9.1 % 750 7.8 % 1651 9.9 %
Boston Red Sox 2137 8.1 % 706 7.4 % 1431 8.5 %
Chicago Cubs 1683 6.4 % 612 6.4 % 1071 6.4 %
Detroit Tigers 1300 4.9 % 483 5.0 % 817 4.9 %
Arizona Diamondbacks 300 1.1 % 92 1.0 % 206 1.2 %
Florida Marlins 231 0.9 % 90 0.9 % 141 0.8 %
Washington Nationals 177 0.7 % 78 0.8 % 99 0.6 %
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 130 0.5 % 38 0.4 % 92 0.5 %
Toronto Blue Jays 58 0.2 % 30 0.3 % 28 0.2 %

NFL (Click here for the Complete List)

Total Male Female
Total 26053 100.0 % 9598 100.0 % 16451 100.0 %
Dallas Cowboys 3267 12.5 % 1045 10.9 % 2220 13.5 %
Pittsburgh Steelers 1747 6.7 % 606 6.3 % 1141 6.9 %
Chicago Bears 1601 6.1 % 655 6.8 % 946 5.8 %
Green Bay Packers 1549 5.9 % 566 5.9 % 983 6.0 %
New England Patriots 1187 4.6 % 484 5.0 % 703 4.3 %
Baltimore Ravens 325 1.2 % 118 1.2 % 207 1.3 %
Tennessee Titans 292 1.1 % 81 0.8 % 211 1.3 %
Houston Texans 279 1.1 % 102 1.1 % 177 1.1 %
Jacksonville Jaguars 219 0.8 % 68 0.7 % 151 0.9 %
Arizona Cardinals 161 0.6 % 52 0.5 % 107 0.7 %

NBA (Click here for the Complete List)

Total Male Female
Total 22284 100.00% 8483 100.00% 13797 100.00%
LA Lakers 3941 17.70% 1287 15.20% 2654 19.20%
Chicago Bulls 3534 15.90% 1219 14.40% 2315 16.80%
Boston Celtics 1792 8.00% 884 10.40% 908 6.60%
Detroit Pistons 1460 6.60% 559 6.60% 901 6.50%
New York Knicks 1456 6.50% 592 7.00% 864 6.30%
NO/Okla City Hornets 167 0.70% 42 0.50% 125 0.90%
Charlotte Bobcats 143 0.60% 68 0.80% 75 0.50%
Memphis Grizzlies 80 0.40% 26 0.30% 54 0.40%
LA Clippers 76 0.30% 31 0.40% 45 0.30%
Toronto Raptors 20 0.10% 15 0.20% 5 0.00%

NHL (Click here for the Complete List)

Total Male Female
Total 17725 100.0 % 7347 100.0 % 10376 100.0 %
Detroit Red Wings 2277 12.8 % 941 12.8 % 1336 12.9 %
Boston Bruins 1377 7.8 % 609 8.3 % 768 7.4 %
Chicago Blackhawks 1273 7.2 % 586 8.0 % 687 6.6 %
New York Rangers 1238 7.0 % 562 7.6 % 676 6.5 %
Philadelphia Flyers 1198 6.8 % 466 6.3 % 732 7.1 %
Florida Panthers 195 1.1 % 81 1.1 % 114 1.1 %
Nashville Predators 165 0.9 % 49 0.7 % 116 1.1 %
Vancouver Canucks 104 0.6 % 58 0.8 % 46 0.4 %
Calgary Flames 53 0.3 % 26 0.4 % 27 0.3 %
Ottawa Senators 26 0.1 % 13 0.2 % 13 0.1 %

It was not a surprise to see that respondents agreed with me on the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. I was shocked to see the Detroit Red Wings were number one in hockey and was a little surprised that the Boston Celtics were third behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls.

  • How did you respond?
  • What were your surprises?

I look forward to your comments.