Search the blog:

Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Interview With Judy Langer

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

If you closed your eyes and thought about qualitative research, what moderators might come to mind? I have had this discussion with a few folks in the research community and a name that makes every list is Judy Langer. She is clearly a professional researcher, she has written a book on qualitative research and she was a founding member and first president of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association. All I can say is WOW!

I hope you enjoy getting to know Judy Langer a little bit….

You have been in the industry for 30+ years. How did you first get started?

I always say I decided to go into market research after I was already in it. I majored in political science (“government”) and took undergraduate and graduate courses in public opinion (“voter behavior”) that I found fascinating. It appealed to my desire to understand people more than playing with color wheels in the psych course did. My grad school teacher at Columbia wrote a nice letter for me to public opinion firms so my first jobs were at Harris and then Roper. Naïve person that I was, I finally realized that both firms made their reputations on public opinion research but that their “bread and butter” was doing market research. After some time in quantitative research, where I always felt like a misfit, I bumbled into qualitative research at a now-defunct firm, MPi, headed by Emanuel Demby. Their philosophy was that all researchers should do focus groups and depth interviews and that every large quantitative study should be preceded by qual. It was instant love for me. Wow! This is fun and so interesting! I’ve been doing qual ever since.

Continue reading “Interview With Judy Langer” »

Interview with Jim Rys

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I have met some very interesting people. Jim Rys falls into that category for sure. In two years he will be a 40 year veteran of this great industry. His background includes working on the client side in a number of different industries including insurance, retail/catalog, and financial services.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Jim Rys a little bit.

How did you first get involved in the research industry?

I fell into it. Soon after my return from Vietnam and discharge from the Army, I went job hunting. A recruiter thought my talents and experiences suited me for a career in market research. Within a couple of weeks, I landed a couple of job offers. I took the one from Sears because it seemed most promising. It was in catalog circulation planning and research. I ran with it and never looked back and second guessed my decision.

What do you believe is the number one issue in the research industry today?

I think that it’s finding technically skilled researchers and grooming them to be consultative. Today, market researchers need the technical and consultative skills and business knowledge that will earn them the trust of both the decision-makers and implementers (shakers and movers) within their companies.

What does a successful research project mean to you?

A successful research project is one that produces actions that benefit our business.

How much interaction does your research group have with the C-level at Assurant Health?

We’ve earned a seat at the table by consistently providing high quality research that addresses issues of paramount importance our business. Our clients trust us and the insights they and we derived from our work. They feel that it’s in the best interest of both of us to be collaborative.

What are the most effective ways to communicate with C-level executives?

Communication with C-level executives is most effective when it matches their styles and preferences, is interactive, and suggests and results in decisions that favorably influence the business.

When you are hiring research professionals what are some of the things you look for in potential candidates?

I look first and foremost for professionals who fit culturally. Secondarily, I test their research and consultative skills and their aptitude for learning. Finally, and especially at more senior levels, I want them to have health insurance industry knowledge based on experience.

What advice would you give someone entering the research industry?

Work both sides of the business but be sure that your work on either side includes involvement and face-to-face contact with clients. Avoid situations that don’t improve your skills or knowledge.

What are your thoughts about global outsourcing?

It’s usually beneficial economically, but third parties need to be forced to meet or surpass our performance standards and accept our monitoring and measuring to be certain they do.

What would your friends in the industry be surprised to know about you?

My friends would be surprised to know that I have “neat feet,” literally and figuratively. I know how to dance and have made great use of that talent in my life.

About Jim

Jim Rys is Director, Market Research for Assurant Health. He started his market research career in February, 1969. Since that time he has sold and serviced more than 150 market research engagements across many industries including utility, telephone, newspaper, shipping, clothing, toy, and agriculture.

Jim is involved with the American Marketing Association, the Advertising Research Foundation, the Marketing Science Institute, and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jim enjoys golf, tennis, soccer, cycling and skiing; is an outdoor enthusiast; and an avid reader.

Interview with Harry Heller

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I always remember starting in the research industry in the 80’s and recall names of researchers that everyone was talking about – almost a sort of buzz. Bill Neal, Kevin Clancy, the late Robert Schulman and Dr. Harry Heller. Dr. Heller has been in the industry for 30+ years. It would take too long to list everything he has done, but it is very safe to say he has accomplished a tremendous amount. I hope you find this interview with Dr. Heller interesting and appropriate to your business. I know I did.

How much did it mean to you when in 2003, your peers at the Market Research Council elected you to the Marketing Research Hall of Fame?

It was one of the most exciting things that happened to me in my career. It happened about 40 years toiling in the business I love. Starting at ad agencies and clients and then on to research companies, the final one at which I was CEO. I always tried to explore how research can be improved by designing new ways and approaches of collecting data and analyzing results. We utilized attitude segmentation when it was an emerging technique, developed ways to “derive” importance in addition to asking respondents to report on what is important (often biased,) and became interested in what makes a brand successful. While our clients liked these approaches and succeeded using them, it is hard to know what your expert peers really think. That is because a lot of research (especially on the supply side) is conducted in silos — we know what our team does, but not what everyone else is doing. So in the MRC are a majority of the 85 top researchers telling me they think I belong in the Marketing Research Hall of Fame. One benefit, my rookie card is selling for $1,000 on EBay.

Who are some of the people you look up to in the market research community?

There are two types of people I respect, those that exceed on the technical aspects of research and those that exceed on the business side. On the technical side are some people many researchers may not remember. Let me reintroduce Russ Haley who developed the early approaches of attitude segmentation using factor analyses of items and people and Ernest Dichter practically invented qualitative research. (I once had a 3-hour dinner with him before an AMA meeting he was speaking at and I was chairing. His creativity blew me away.) Ted Dunn probably contributed more to measuring mass communication than anyone else in the industry. On the business side two of my peers jump out. Jay Wilson took Roper Starch from a company in trouble to one of the big success stories and he became a leader in our industry and on of my mentors, Seymour Lieberman, had his own small company in New York City, but when he had employees that were entrepreneurial, he would fund them and help them manage a division of his company. After Sy retired his successor companies have gone on to greater things – now known by their Lieberman Research acronyms, LRW and LRE.

Continue reading “Interview with Harry Heller” »

Two Minutes with Steve Schlesinger

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Steve Schlesinger is a second generation researcher and 24 year veteran of the Market Research industry. During that time he has been very instrumental in building Schlesinger Associates and has given back a tremendous amount to the research community. He is currently on the national MRA Board and a member of a number of other associations. I hope you enjoy a few minutes of getting to know Steve.

MD How did you 1st get involved in the market research industry?
SS My mother had started as an executive interviewer in the early 60s. She worked her way up the ranks and eventually started her own company. You could say that I grew up in the business with dinner conversations about the industry and the types of studies my mother was working on. Of course, she had a clipboard and pencil in my hand by the time I was 17 years old. After college and grad school, I started helping her with a number of studies and the fun began. It has now been over 20 years and I am still excited to come to work every day.

Steve Schlesinger
Schlesinger Associates

MD What do you think is the biggest challenge the industry is facing today?
SS Respondent cooperation is the biggest challenge from our industry and has been for a number of years. It is imperative that all companies within the research community address this issue. It seems that we have struggled to communicate to the public the importance of research and distinguish ourselves from the telemarketers and spammers out there. It is our internal goal over the next 12 months to create local initiatives to explain the importance of the research process to prospective respondents – a true grassroots campaign. Initiatives have included better explanations of the research experience, literature to promote the importance of the affects of research and the distinction of research versus sales.
MD What does client service mean to you?
SS Our view of client service is a partnership with our clients. We work to anticipate their needs and respond to their requests in the most timely manner possible and with a can do attitude. We believe that our business is based on our quality and service and growth is dependent on both of these being at the highest level. On a daily basis we measure our client’s satisfaction with a three prong approach;

  1. customer satisfaction survey on-site with moderators and viewers of the research
  2. customer satisfaction survey one week after the study with the project manager for the specific study and
  3. self evaluation from our staff. These three processes enable us to constantly review our service level and implement suggestions for improvement.
MD What does an average day look like for you?
SS My day typically starts around 5 am with answering emails, mostly from Europe and Asia. Then a one hour workout, quick shower, drop the kids at school and off to my office. I am usually there until 6 or so and then home for dinner with my family. After dinner, it is usually some family time and then back to the computer to clean up emails and paperwork. It ends with some reading (pleasure and business) or TV and off to bed by midnight.
MD How do you think qualitative research will change in the next few years?
SS Technology will surely have an impact – with increased broadband, the ability to interview people in a home setting or off a PDA will exist with greater ease. These will be the ethnographies of the future. The use of online focus groups will also benefit by the increased broadband, enabling researchers to have better video images and access to certain respondent pools.The timelines for projects will continue to shrink, as they have been and the specifications for studies will become more difficult, with more use of segmentation tools (algorithms). One of the trends that have stayed consistent is the desire to talk to low incidence respondents. This trend will continue and companies providing recruiting services will have to be creative in how they find these respondents.

I also believe there will be some consolidation within the facility businesses.

MD What’s next for Schlesinger Associates?
SS We have plans for continued growth both domestically and internationally for the next 3 to 5 years. It has been our goal to add one to two new facilities each year and we hope to continue with that model. In the fall of this year, Kim White joined our company in the role of client development director. Kim’s role is to get in front of existing clients and prospects and look for new opportunities to grow our business. We are also launching a couple of new services in the coming year – stay tuned, we are very excited about these.

Thanks, Steve.

Over the past few years I have really gotten to know Steve and what he is all about. From my standpoint Steve is a rare breed. He is a solid business person, client focused, funny, and the owner of basically a family owned business. The interesting thing is that he never treats the staff like they aren’t related. They are all family. He has truly built a special business.

The research industry is truly great because of companies like Schlesinger Associates and people like Steve.

Please post any questions or comments for Steve.

Here’s a picture of Steve his staff just sent in:

Interview with Regina Lewis

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Over the past 23 years I have met many talented people. Our industry is filled with people who are bright, creative and solid researchers. I had the privilege of meeting Regina Lewis seven years ago.

Regina is such a special person. I am sure everyone has been associated with people who every time you speak with them or see them you gain a little more respect for them. They seem to get smarter or funnier or on the mark with an industry trend that you didn’t think about or frankly didn’t see. Regina is that person to me. She is clearly a leader at Dunkin Brands and in the research industry. In fact, she is one of the best presenters in the research industry.

Regina’s background includes being a teacher as well as working on both the client and vendor side.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Regina Lewis a little bit.

MD How did you start your research career?
RL While I flirted with research during various marketing internships while in school, I truly began my marketing research career upon entering the Communications program at UNC-Chapel Hill with the goal of earning my PhD.

I was drawn to that program for many reasons … but primarily because I realized early into my Marketing career that what I really cared about were the reasons *why* people make certain choices. Immediately upon beginning this second level of my graduate work, I knew I had found my niche.

Regina Lewis, PhD VP, Consumer & Brand
Insights Group Dunkin’
Brands, Inc.

MD What advice would you give entry level staff looking to get into the marketing research industry?
RL I would advise them not to be picky, but rather to dive in and get their hands dirty doing *something* that could advance them in the insights field. Whether through working at a field data house or by managing the day-to-day duties at a facility, the most critical thing is that entry-level people become exposed to others in the field. As is true of all things in life, the creation of an insights career is all about networking.
MD What do you think is the number one issue that the market research industry is facing today?
RL From the client perspective, the number one issue facing the industry today is a decline in research precision. While my team manages a significant budget, we increasingly work with only a handful of boutique suppliers whom we know we can trust. I worry a great deal about issues revolving around sample quality, data quality, analytics quality, and much more.
MD What are your key factors in selecting a research partner?
RL My team seeks out scenarios in which we work hand-in-hand — directly — with research specialists whom we consider to be smarter than ourselves. We are not interested in companies who are generalists; rather, we seek out companies who are the *best* — and truly ground-breaking! — in segmentation work, pricing work, re-concepting work, what have you. While we are not seeking “thought leadership” (the buzzwords of the day!), we are seeking to learn and strengthen our methodological core.
MD What is your funniest marketing research story or memory?
RL Hmmm. Perhaps when I designed what I considered to be the most clever diary study ever … only to see it fall apart because members of my 16- to 18-year old respondent pool could not figure out how to Fed Ex their recorded musings back to me. I had provided the envelopes and everything … but how were they to know how to use a Fed Ex drop off?!
MD How important is research with the c-level at Dunkin Donuts?
RL Our Dunkin’ executives know that our business over the next 10 years is going to live or die by our willingness to let our consumers guide us. I’m in a very, very fortunate place.
MD What is the biggest challenge that Dunkin’ Donuts currently is facing?
RL How to take a Regional powerhouse not only National, but International! Whether around menu, concept, packaging or brand, challenges abound. It is my team’s job to steer the ship.
MD What are the three most important skills you try to teach everyone on your research team?
  1. Collaboration. By this I refer not only to the ABCs of client management, but also that magic that makes managers across functions want to be seated at our table.
  2. Optimism. Unless we believe that we can make the business stronger — every day — why should our internal clients believe we can do this?
  3. Organizational Savvy. We can’t change the game without understanding the internal, as well as the external, playing field.
MD In some ways you are a client and some ways your division is a vendor supporting your internal brands and clients. How does your team handle the different situations?
RL We are never a “vendor.” We are experts and a partner to every single department of our organization who shares passion for our brands and our customers. It is true that there are situations in which internal clients haven’t learned to think of us this way, but those situations are now few and far between. How do we handle tough times? By building important, strong coalitions of supporters throughout the organization, through confidence that our moral compass is pointed true north, and by leading by example.

Regina thank you so much for your insight. Clearly you have given everyone who reads this a different perspective and a number of things to think about.

Feel free to post your comments and questions for Regina.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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.